The 1986 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser that I acquired three years ago and have written about here periodically, serving purposes that changed radically over time, has been a faithful servant during the time that I have owned it but has now moved on to a new owner. This plain and simple old wagon rapidly found its way into good hands, better than mine at this stage in its life, and it should have a long life ahead of it with someone who knows and appreciates these big old full size cars.
The Oldsmobile had been a highly useful and generally reliable cargo hauler and occasional road trip vehicle during the time that I owned it, but I realized earlier this year that the time had come to let it go. After using it heavily for several major moves for two years, a year had passed since I had used it to haul anything that could not have fit into a car trunk, and the time and attention that I have to put into automotive projects need to go into another vehicle (more on it in another COAL later). As a result, I reluctantly decided to list the Olds on Craigslist and see what happened.
What I found after listing it for $700 was an interesting cross-section of the cheap old car market. The first serious inquiry came from two young Subaru enthusiasts in their twenties, who were too young to remember these wagons when they were new — they had not been born yet in 1986 — but thought that this one looked promising as an interesting and inexpensive parts hauler. Several inquiries soon followed from people who said that they were looking for cheap daily transportation, including one who wanted the car for his daughter who had just had a child, and there was no way that I was going to sell the Olds to them even if they offered more than my asking price — they all seemed mechanically uninclined, and I would not have felt right selling a 30 year old car to any of them to rely on to drive to work and transport their kids. One of the last inquiries had “Demo derby car” as the title of the email, and I didn’t even bother to read that email.
The right buyer emerged within a few days of the start of the listing and bought the car on the spot when he saw it several days later. Sean was exactly the right person to take over ownership of the car: a GM mechanic since the early 1990s, who cut his teeth on these cars and the just-introduced LT-1s, and now works for the state of Maryland maintaining police cars and other state fleets. He knows more about B-Bodies and Panthers than I ever will, and he intends to fix up and improve this survivor. Whereas I would only occasionally use this Olds and manage its gradual decay, Sean will actually be able to make something better out of it. So I was able to watch the Olds pull away and recede into the distance with the satisfaction of knowing that good things will happen to it. I encouraged Sean to keep me informed about what he does with the car and to post his own story here if and when he feels like it, so it is likely that this Custom Cruiser will appear here again. I am looking forward to seeing what lies ahead in its future.
COAL: 1986 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser — Here To Stay
My Global CC: The Gambia Cruiser, Part II — All Systems Nominal
My Global CC: To The Gambia, In Your Grandmother’s Oldsmobile
Today is becoming a very melancholy Friday. First my jealousy is piqued because I can’t make the Nashville trip, which is obviously shaping up to be an epic and enjoyable time for all, and now I’m faced with having missed the opportunity to purchase the quintessentially perfect road trip Cruisier for said trip. My day is just *%#$ed now;)
*So glad to hear this old beast found what sounds like the perfect new home, even if it is with someone else.
Having gone through this a few times, it is always gratifying when you find that buyer who will appreciate the car every bit as much as you did and who will love it just as much, if not more. These stories do not always turn out as happily.
Robert, I will miss seeing the Custom Cruiser occasionally driving around Northern Virginia, but I completely understand your realization that it’s time to part ways with the car. That inevitable gradual decay is a hard situation to deal with; I have similar feelings about our ’95 T-bird.
Many years ago I sold a Saab Turbo under somewhat similar circumstances – I loved the car, but it had several looming repairs that I was unable (financially or mechanically) to deal with. I sold it to a Saab mechanic, and felt much better letting it go to someone who could more effectively deal with it.
I do look forward to hearing about your new COAL in a future article!
That’s a nice progression. Obviously one can’t call it an ending. So far all of my vehicles stepped down in ownership quality when they left the house. But then I never had a 30 year old vehicle to sell. Hopefully we hear about it again.
Never got the door moldings to put back on?
FYI those “Oldsmobile Disk” wheel covers are some of my favorite hubcaps of that era.
Sounds like you found the right person for the car, glad you took the time to sell to the right person -eh he also spells Sean correctly 😛 I recently sold a 1988 Cavalier Z24 convertible to a lady who said she was going to drive it through winters (in Wisconsin) and I think 100 miles each day… It wasn’t in tip top shape, just surprising to rely on a 28 year old car (convertible no less) to take you through cold winter on long distance.. Hopefully it has kept going for her!
One of the last inquiries had “Demo derby car” as the title of the email, and I didn’t even bother to read that email.
God bless you, Sir.
Years before I bought my ’79 Lincoln, I was talking to a nice older fellow at a show with a ’79 Collector’s Series and some dolt walked by who reeked of white trash and said “I had one of those in a demo one time”.
It went off about as well as a loud fart at a fancy dinner party.
The thought of that car going into a demolition derby is pretty horrifying! Good job on finding a good home for her. I did essentially the same thing when I sold my 76 Vega several years ago. It still had the original “dura built” motor, and i sold it to a guy who said he planned on keeping it that way.
Well done in taking the time to find an owner who will treat this survivor as it deserves to be treated! I, too, look forward hopefully to seeing it posted here again someday.
Back in the early 1990s my mom’s Chrysler was stolen, and we got her a ’85 Olds Custom Cruiser as an inexpensive temporary replacement. It was brown, kinda beat up and not very attractive overall, but I went over it mechanically and thought that it should last her for a while. One time she was rear-ended by a van and the Olds suffered almost no damage, but the van had to be towed away. It was the perfect beater. I thought for sure that nobody would ever possibly want to steal this thing, but a couple of months later it too was stolen.
Kudos to you Robert for being picky about the new owner of this old beast. Having a car that has survived decades only to be destroyed in a matter of minutes in a stupid demolition derby makes me sick. These and any other old car for that matter can never be replicated. People seem to forget that. Once they’re gone, they’re gone!! I can only imagine the nice vehicles that have been destroyed due to demo derbies.
I enjoyed following this Olds over the 3 years you had it. I’m glad it served you well and I hope the new owner transforms it back to its original glory. That would be a true happy ending to this story for sure.
I am glad to see that the car went to a good home. I enjoyed reading about your car as it looks almost identical to my old Custom Cruiser wagon that I owned. Unfortunately my car was destroyed by a fire (not caused by the car) about 6 years ago now. I had a 403 Olds that I had planned to swap into it (also destroyed by the fire) but had lost interest in the car due to other projects so I never got around to it. It still served as a semi-regularly used car right until the end. It was a great car that I owned for almost 12 years.
Here is one of the later pictures of the car, probably about a year before it got destroyed.
So sad Bill. Every time I hear your story it makes me sad. Your CC was in such nice condition, too. Looks like it was ultra loaded too – lamp monitors and cornering lamps! Unusual without the woodgrain, at least here in R.I. most were ordered with the paneling.
Well to be honest the car was the least of my worries after the fire, as we lost our home and possessions too, but at least no one was hurt. Yes it was loaded, every option except the tow package, limited slip differential and load leveling shocks (I did add airlift air bags). It was a rare B-body that had dual power seats and recliners on both sides and I loved the lamp monitors. It was a contrast to the 1984 Parisienne wagon it replaced, also sans woodgrain, which literally had no options. The original owner installed an aftermarket radio because he was too cheap to by one from GM.
Most of the wagons around here had woodgrain too, but our family always bought wagons without as my father was convinced that it held moisture and would promote rust. I guess I just followed what he said, but I think there is some truth to his thinking.
My 1976 Dodge Aspen went to a buyer who spotted it at a Mopar car show and was amazed at its still-new looks. He said he appreciated it as an unloved part of Mopar history, offered a price I could not refuse, said he would restore it as stock (it needed very little cosmetic work but the 318 was leaking from the rear main seal and the police-package suspension upgrades would have to be undone, if he really wanted to) and promised to keep me informed as to what was happening. I have only heard from him once in 14 years, to tell me he had driven it to its new home in the Central Valley of California and that it handled like a sports car (so the suspension probably didn’t get downgraded). It’s still registered in the same town, as near as I can tell through a former police co-worker.
I hope you hear more about your Oldsmobile wagon than I have about my Aspen.
Since it is a 1976 it has to be smogged in CA. So use the site below to see all the tests the car has done over the years. You’ll know quickly if it is current, sitting on non-op, or even moved out of state if no records are found.
The $700 is quite the bargain for that wagon. Out here it would have been priced around $4000, give or take, and then sat for some time before getting a bite.
The last classic car I sold went to a young guy and his girlfriend who said they wanted to drive it and do it up, the perfect customers, I’d kept that old EH Holden alive and well for eight years or so having been given it by the original buyer and all it needed was another motor and a radiator rod out, the buying couple turned up in a very rusty HK Holden that ran quite well and seemed very happy that the engine would swap straight in, I hope they are still driving the old girl.
I always enjoyed keeping track of this one. I’m glad it’s going to good hands. Though I’m always learning more about how to fix my old GMs myself, I often wish there was a guy like Sean around when the job was too much for me…even the best intentioned mechanics don’t always know these cars.
Glad it didn’t end up in Africa, demo-d, or the other possible outcomes you described. Just seeing these on the road brightens my day, thanks for sharing so much over the years about yours.
A car I missed during my rounds of CL. I live in Maryland and would have snapped that car up quickly
I hope the new owner will take care of it.
Glad to hear she’s gone to a new home to be appreciated. I picked up this ’85 Caprice a couple of months ago as a project and it’s seen a couple trips into DC so far. Unfortunately I didn’t think to snap a shot of it in similar settings as yours. She’s a little rough around the edges and needs some cosmetic work…mechanically it is very solid, but so far been fun to be back in an ’80s B body wagon.