COAL: 1985 Olds Cutlass Supreme – What’s in a Name

Note: None of the images in this post are of the actual car

In 1961, the first Olds Cutlass, then called the F-85 Cutlass, was introduced.  It was such a popular name that over the years there were cars called Cutlass, Cutlass Salon, Cutlass Ciera, Cutlass Cruiser, and Cutlass Calais.  But there was only one Cutlass Supreme and that is the topic of this COAL.

I have to admit that I was not a big fan of the 1970’s vintage Cutlass Supreme.  They were gas thirsty cars with big engines that did not have comfortable interior space.  However, the general public did not share my observations and the Cutlass Supreme was the best selling Olds for many years.  The downsized Cutlass introduced in 1978 did catch my eye with its thrifty 3.8L V6 and good interior space.  I resisted the urge to buy one until 1988.  In 1984, my neighbor’s son bought a new Cutlass Supreme with the V6, half vinyl roof, and rallye wheels.  It was champagne colored with a brown cloth interior.  Whenever he’d have it in the drive for a wash, I’d wander over and check it out.  I liked what I saw, but not to the point of buying one.  Other things had priority.

In 1988, I had heard that my state held periodic auto auctions in the state capital.  Although primarily the means through which local taxi companies purchased the old police cruisers, there were also more civilian looking cars sold.  I decided to attend the next one and see what I could buy.  I was into car flipping at the time, so was always on the lookout for cheap wheels that needed little work and that also had good resale potential.

First on the list that day was a 1985 maroon Cutlass Supreme.  It had the 307 Olds V8 and about 50,000 miles.  Cloth interior, automatic transmission, AM radio, air conditioning, and not much else.  No power seat, windows, or locks.  Plain steel wheels with full wheel covers.  Since most of the audience in attendance that day were interested in the police cruisers, I didn’t have much competition.  A few bids later and the car was mine!  It was a good price and the car seemed to be in good mechanical condition, although you weren’t allowed to test drive them.  A few cars later, a similar Cutlass Supreme went for a higher price.  Most likely the result of bidder’s remorse on the first Cutlass.

Once I got the Cutlass home, I started to look it over in detail.  The engine ran well and all of the fluids looked good.  The first thing to go was the AM radio.  I found a factory AM/FM cassette radio with equalizer that made a vast improvement in sound and versatility.

This radio was simple to operate as compared to aftermarket DIN units that have tiny buttons.  My next focus was the tires.  Two of them were in good shape, but the other two were nearing the end of their useful life.  A co-worker had a 73 Chevy Nova that he wanted to get rid of and said it had good tires.  I went to look at it and he was right, the tires had decent tread left.  Not only that, they were the correct size for the Cutlass!  Let’s talk price, I said.  His response was that he wanted the car gone and that if I wanted the tires, I’d have to take the entire car.  Price?  Free!  My response? Sold!!  I didn’t really want the car, but the price was right.

What I didn’t realize at the time of the Nova acquisition was that the car had a 350 V8.  Wow!  Couldn’t get the engine to start as the starter was bad.  Upon talking to a different co-worker a few days later, it turns out his son was looking for that particular engine.  $400 and you get the whole car as is.  Sold!  Hooked up my tow bar and moved it to his house.  They were thrilled and later told me that they changed the starter and the engine ran fine.

The trunk of the Cutlass was a decent size, except for the intrusion of the spare tire.  It would have been better if the spare was under the floor, but there’s not much anyone could do about it except take the spare out entirely.

The Cutlass was a decent car with style and power.  With the lockup torque converter, it got much better mileage than the other V8 cars I’ve had in the past.  Only rust issue was near the end of my ownership.  I went to close the driver’s door and I heard something rattle.  Closer inspection revealed that the door had rusted out where the door skin met the frame at the bottom.  A little bit of welding later and it was repaired.  The only mechanical issue I encountered was failure of one of the A/C lines.  I knew someone who could re-weld the aluminum part of the hose assembly and it was as good as new.

I had planned to hang onto this car for a while, but soon had the opportunity to sell it at a profit.  On the flipper side of my life, I had sold a 1978 Chrysler Cordoba.  The folks that bought it soon realized that they really didn’t like it and wanted to sell it back to me.  They had seen the Cutlass and asked if I was interested in cash and trade.  I gave them credit for the Cordoba at the purchase price and added $1500 for the Cutlass.  I was soon able to sell the Cordoba at the trade in price, so in the end both cars were gone to good homes.