Street Scenes VII: GM Central

420 East Park Row, Henry IL, circa 1985-86

It goes without saying that the Midwest was much more resistant to the rising tide of imported cars. Even today, there are many domestic cars here in Northwest Illinois and Southeast Iowa, though with many more Camrys and Corollas in the mix. But in the mid-’80s, this was Cutlass Country.

302 S. Dirksen Parkway, Springfield IL, 11/10/87

For the middle-aged, upper middle class, Protestant businessman or woman in Des Moines, Kansas City or Galesburg, nothing said you arrived like an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham coupe. It said, I am comfortable but do not want to shout my success to everyone. As a kid in the Quad Cities in the ’80s, I saw a LOT more Oldsmobiles than Cadillacs. One of our neighbors, a middle-aged couple with no kids, had a beautiful 1983 or ’84 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Regency in triple midnight blue. It was very sharp. Hard to believe Olds stumbled so badly starting in the early ’90s, huh?

900 State Street, Quincy IL, 6/4/92

As successful as Olds was, really, ANY GM brand was doing quite well, thank you. A-bodies such as the Celebrity above were common as dirt. Even today, sixteen years since they were discontinued, I see Centurys and Cutlass Cieras everywhere. It is common for me to see 5-10 every day.

116 N. Chestnut, Champaign IL, 8/2/91

Here we have the least successful A-body, the Pontiac 6000. There is a lot of talk about the 6000STE here at CC, but I haven’t seen one in years. However, one of my Dad’s best friends was a real Pontiac nut. He had several Firebirds, including a dark blue ’84 and white ’89 Trans Ams. The white one was not a Turbo, but otherwise looked just like the ’89 Indy 500 pace car: white with gold lacy spoke wheels and a tan interior. Anyway, in 1985 he traded in the T1000 his wife drove for a white over gray 6000STE. I rode in it a couple of times and it was a nice car. I haven’t seen one since.

Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority, Route 9 East, Bloomington IL, 12/9/85

See any foreign cars here? Well there is a Nissan 300ZX next to that ’78-’80 Monte Carlo, but American iron make up most of this airport parking lot. In the foreground we have what appears to be a Ninety Eight LS, judging from the non-wire wheel covers. I see at least two other Oldsmobiles too.

401 S. Chicago Street, Milford IL, 11/16/95

Fast forward ten years and we still have a majority of Big Three cars in view. Bonus points in this photo for the matching white and blue Luminas!

While American makes were still doing pretty well in the ’80s, not everyone was going that way. To prove it, let’s conclude with this photo of a first-gen Accord. Early Japanese cars were pretty reliable, but did not care for road salt. If you zoom in, our mint green Accord appears to be Bondoed up on the front fender. Still, it looks pretty good for being a 12-13 year old car at the time the photo was taken.

I-70 Exit, Montrose IL, photo circa 10/30/91