COAL- 1998 Oldsmobile Bravada- The First Joint Venture!



Upon getting married in June of 1998, we were now DINKS- double income, no kids. Life was good, and we were happy newlyweds.  We went on a honeymoon to Jamaica and upon getting back we started merging bank accounts and such. We did not live together prior to getting married, so we were going through the transition of sharing a house and everything else.  Mrs. C is an interior designer and we were in the process of renovating parts of our house, built in 1947. All was good.

Four years earlier, I had been involved in a broken engagement five months before I was to be married to another woman.  The jilting hit me hard, but it was the best thing that never happened to me and there was no looking back, no regrets.  I met my future wife about 8 months after all that drama and 20 years on, I tell everyone who will listen that by far, I got the better end of the deal, hands down.


The Right and Wrong Purple Car is a Matter Of Perspective

My wife brought into the marriage a 1995 Pontiac Grand Am V-6  that she had bought new just as we met in the fall of 1994. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the car. She drove it a fair amount and it had 60,000 trouble-free miles on the odometer. But it had one attribute I just couldn’t overcome: it was purple.  No doubt, there have been some desirable purple cars over the years. More recently, there are Dodge Challengers and Mustang’s that were available in purple, and they look right as rain on those cars.   As you’ve seen from my other cars so far, I do not suffer from vanity issues. At the most basic level, a car’s mission is to get you from point A to point B and the end of the day, does it really matter?

But this one did not feel right when I was driving in it nor being seen getting into or out of it. An old New York times article back then stated that 60-70% of Grand Am buyers were female. I really cannot  say what attributes about the car made it so appealing to the ladies, but one thing was  certain in that it definitely didn’t appeal to me.  I knew I wasn’t being rational, but it had to go.  We had the money, and well…why not.  I slowly begin planting the seed to sell the ‘Dam with the notion that she would be primarily driving the new car. I had my still fairly new-to-me 1994 Pontiac Grand Prix which would be my daily. In the ‘Tradin Times the Grand Am went and a nice guy who was a mechanic bought it for his fiance in short order.

Gen 1 Aurora Nixed By the Mrs.

20 years on I cannot recall  what drew us to the Bravada over the Blazer or anything else in the GM stable. The SUV craze was in full swing and I guess maybe it seemed the trendy thing to do at the time.  We had my brothers GM employee discount and the lease deals in the fall of 98  were pretty good. It was $378 per month, zero down, 18,000 miles per year,  a substantial chunk of this which would be offset by our car mileage allowances. In those days, the now defunct GMAC would send you a check if you didn’t use all the miles in the lease term. It was our first lease and we didn’t want to have to worry about mile overage and wanted to take trips in it.  I  suggested we look at a Gen 1 Aurora, a car I still find quite handsome to this day.  It was only slightly more per month, and I was excited about having my first ever V-8. But the Bravada felt right to my wife and a deal was done at Al Dittrich Oldsmobile in Waterford, MI.

Old (1981-1996) and New (1996-2004) Logos

The Bravada was introduced by Oldsmobile at a time when brands like Oldsmobile and Buick were suffering major structural problems. Among these problems were an aging demographic, look-alike cars, product overlap with other GM divisions, lack of a clear and specific mission,  and most importantly, declining sales. The sheer economics of giving adequate resources to all of their brands to keep them viable was becoming untenable.  To their credit,   GM really tried to pump some new life into Oldsmobile with cars like the Bravada, Achieva, Intrigue and the Aurora.  If you are of a certain age , you remember the TV commercial slogan, “This is not your fathers Oldsmobile”.   The brand was even given a new logo.  In the new logo, the rocket pierces the oval, suggesting it was going in a new direction, outside the boundaries.  The first Bravada debuted in 1990, took a hiatus for 1995, then came back for 1996.  It came in just one trim level for 1998: loaded, and  stickered at just under $31,000.00. This was not a small sum in 1998 (nor now), and it equates to over $47,000 today.

The Bravada’s Lux Interior

Speaking of look-alike cars,  nobody would confuse the Bravada as anything more than a slightly massaged and nicer Blazer. Though not luxury car by any stretch, the Bravada marked the first “nicer car” either of us ever had. It had leather seats and all option boxes checked.  Built alongside it’s platform mates in Moraine, Ohio on the GMT330 platform, it did however receive a few things its brothers didn’t, despite the same 4.3L Vortec V-6 under the hood for all.   Unique to the Bravada and new for 1998 was an all-wheel drive system called “Smart Track” (Blazer and Jimmy were 4WD). It received no skid plates, so serious off-roading was discouraged in the owner’s manual.  For the 1998 refresh on the exterior, the Bravada received a new front fascia with the new Old’s logo.  The interior was upgraded with seats similar to the Aurora’s and new faux wood trim.  It was the only one of the three platform mates to have a console shifter.

There was really no drama to speak of with the Bravada in our 3 years of leasing it. It was the first brand new vehicle I’d had in almost 10 years. It didn’t go back to the shop for any reason and required nothing but basic oil and fluid changes. Gas mileage wasn’t great, but in 1998, gas prices were under $1.50 per gallon for a good part of the year, so it didn’t matter. It was comfortable, adequately powered and we enjoyed the room and utility of the truck. I also liked taking it out in fresh snow, where with it would willingly plow through tall drifts with ease . I cannot recall the last time I’ve seen a Bravada in these parts. Sadly of course, we all know how things turned out for the brand.  The 90’s new product infusion failed to significantly move the needle for Oldsmobile, and in December 2000, GM announced the brand would be shut down. In April of 2004, the last Oldsmobile Alero rolled off the line in Lansing, MI , ending a proud history that went back to its founding in 1897.

While this wasn’t always the case with us when we leased, we turned this car back in and were assessed no damage or abnormal wear charges. The mileage excess meant a $700 check was coming our way.  This car transitioned with us into our new home in the winter of 2000. And most notably, it also brought home from the hospital our first born, Adam, in April of 2001.  I absolutely cannot believe it, but he is now a senior in high school. Leasing worked out for us this time, so we thought we’d do another one, hopefully the payment would come in a bit less expensive than the Bravada. A new model was out at a sister GM brand that I already had my eye on . It would be something I always had wanted.