(first posted 3/17/2011) We’ve given both Ford (with its 1965 LTD) and Pontiac (with its 1964 Brougham) lots of props for being pioneers of the Great Brougham Epoch. But Oldsmobile deserves a healthy dose of credit too. Its 1965 Ninety-Eight Luxury Sedan was the first step up, smack into Cadillac territory. But like the Pontiac Brougham, that was not where the real action was. The Great Brougham Epoch was all about bringing it to the masses, and Olds ended up being the master of that with its long-running favorite, the Cutlass Supreme. And here’s where that all started; well, the 1966 version of this car, that is..
Here it is, the first Cutlass Supreme, available only as a four-door hardtop in 1966, and nicely appointed. With the possible exception of the well-appointed 1965 Pontiac LeMans sedan, this is the very first mid-sized “Brougham”, and the first to carry a specific name to point that out: Supreme. Something about that name and the Olds formula must have really resonated with Americans. The 1966 Cutlass Supreme came standard with a brisk 320 hp four-barrel premium-fuel 330 CID Rocket V8. A three-speed manual was standard, and the Jetaway two-speed automatic and four-speed manual were optional, although it’s a bit hard to imagine anything but an automatic in a Supreme.
Although we’re here to mainly focus on the Supreme, we can’t ignore the two-door coupes totally. The big news for 1966 was of course the new ‘tunnelback” styling on all GM intermediate coupes. I’ve already suggested where that inspiration came from, at least in part. That, combined with GM’s coke-bottle look and a Toronado-inspired front end made the ’66 Cutlass family certainly look more voluptuous.
The evolution of the Cutlass was like watching the neighbor’s little girl grow up: the ’61-’62 was like the bright rambunctious ten year old all excited about her science project: a turbo-charged aluminum engine! By 1964, she had shot up, but not yet out. But by 1966, she was quite fully developed indeed, playing basketball in the driveway, and you better not let her dad catch you staring at her too long. And I’m a little worried where this line of analogies will eventually take me to in the eighties.
Yes, the ’66 and ’67 coupes were lookers indeed. You can all argue endlessly the pros and cons of the Cutlass versus the Malibu, Le Mans and Skylark, but this one rides pretty high in my book. It’s hard to beat the ’66-’67 GTO/Le Mans, but then one can’t stare at the same girl forever. Variety is the spice of life, and the Cutlass makes a nice number two, at the minimum.
And I know the 442 is the sexy one in the family, but we’re going to have to practice a bit of visual abstinence. We’ve already done a 442 CC, and I look forward to another one, but the whole main thrust of CCCCC is to document the Cutlass’ rise (and subsequent fall) to the top of the sales charts. The 442 had little or nothing to do with that. And that goes for the Vista Cruiser too, which has earned its own CC here. So lets move our eyes on to the really big story of the Cutlass in 1966-1967.
The Supreme came only in the four door Holiday hardtop body style in ’66, and as a variant of the Cutlass line. But that would soon change.
In ’67 the Cutlass Supreme became its own separate line, which included coupe, hardtops, sedans and a rag top. All the ’67s also got a new grille and a few other retouches too.
And in a foreshadowing of things to come, the ’67 CS (I’m going to be using that abbreviation a lot from now on) coupe jumped to the top of the sales stats, for the whole F-85/Cutlass family, that is. With 42k sales, the ’67 CS coupe had a long way to go to genuine domination, but it was a start.
Since we’re perusing the Olds brochures, how about a look at those engines? The Cutlass came well endowed in that regard too. The standard engine was the 320 hp four-barrel high-compression 330 CID (5.4 L) V8. No options, except a low-compression version for regular gas lovers. Standard engine on the Vista Cruiser was a 250 hp version. And the F-85’s standard engine now had the smooth 250 CID (4.1 L) Chevy six instead of the odd-fire Buick V6. Good call, although I don’t remember anyone getting their knickers in a twist over this Chevy engine in an Olds like they did some fifteen years later.
Speaking of wagons and F-85, lets do take a quick look at them, especially when the copy reads “These Olds wagons look trim as majorettes”. That’s just what came to my mind too. Every time I see one…and what does that make the Vista-Cruiser?
And the lowly F-85 coupe: “just as trim as a stripper”. Yes, that would have been my father’s Oldsmobile, had he indulged in such things as mid-premium brands.
Let’s wrap this pinch-hitting chapter up with a look to the future. This ’67 CS may be a four door, but it already embodies very much the feel and styling cues that made later versions so successful.
Stylish, but in ways that aged well, not just trendy.
The Goldilocks size. The coupe-style formal roof-line. The slab-sides largely unadorned. A confident poise.
Stout engines. Better than average build quality.
An attractive interior, and nicely-appointed.
Although compared to the loose-pillow velours to come, this looks almost spartan.
And that name, of course. All of the ingredients in the recipe for future chart-topping success are here so proudly on display. But who would have guessed that in 1967?
Any of those cars sitting in your driveway in the late 60s screams to the neighbors “We’re doing alright, thank you!”
Most of the ones in my neighborhood were some horrible color, like Seafoam Green, some awful tan, or whatever that misty blue was called. One neighbor had a ’67 red two door, and I liked it, just for the color choice alone. When it was about 3 years old, his daughter took it to school one morning, and it never came back. She fell asleep and put it into the side of a bus when she never stopped at a busy intersection. The replacement was another Cutlass, a red with black topped Supreme. I really liked that car, and tried to get my mother to order a duplicate ’72 model, but my mother got hers with a white top. At least it was red. It was the first car we had with a remote trunk button, I think. This car would end up being my car for most of my first two years of driving. It had numerous issues, both electrical and mechanical, but by the time I traded it in on the first car I bought myself, a ’74 Road Runner, the bugs were pretty much resolved. The ‘Runner had it’s early issues too, but they were resolved within a month of buying it, and it was a lot quicker than the Cutlass was, especially after some mods.
I remember a tan coloured one from the USAF base near my Grandparents,I didn’t like the colour but it was a whole lot better than the barker’s egg brown ones.Still a nice car though
It seemed as though Olds starting hitting its stride around 1966, after stumbling around in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The new Toronado helped renew the division’s reputation for engineering innvoation, but the Eighty-Eight, Ninety-Eight and F-85/Cutlass/442 were where the real sales action was.
In 1972, my parents bought a mint 1967 Delmont 88 Holiday sedan with 19,000 miles on the odometer from an elderly neighbor. That car was tough as nails, and pretty quick, too. In the late 1970s, my friend’s family bought a 1967 Cutlass Supreme Holiday coupe for his sister, and it was far more reliable than their brand-new 1978 Plymouth Horizon.
That Delmont 88 made my parents “Oldsmobile people” right up until the marque’s bitter end. My mother had lusted after 1960s Pontiacs, and my father tended to be pretty tight, but after that Delmont, they regularly bought one-year-old or brand-new Eighty-Eights every 5-6 years.
The Cutlass Supreme may have been the first signal that Americans were ready to accept slightly smaller cars. It was handsome, well-trimmed, reasonably well-built and pretty quick, too. When I was a kid, a fair number of us would have been happy with a Cutlass Supreme as the family bus (a 442 or, better yet, a Hurst Olds, would have been ideal, but good luck in selling our middle-American suburban parents on THOSE cars).
The Cutlass Supreme always seemed classy in a way that other intermediates were not. It also wasn’t as stodgy as the full-size cars, which had a garnered a definite “mom-and-dad” image by the late 1960s.
Even the 442 and Hurst Olds seemed like fast cars for buyers with some extra money and a little more taste, as opposed to the other muscle cars.
I always thought this generation of A-body looked pretty good as a sedan (as opposed to the ’68-’72 cars and other intermediates of this vintage that awkwardly adapt styling intended for coupes) and I really dig the “Holiday Sedan” CS hardtops shown here. The ’67-’68 Olds front clip, with the parking lights between the headlamps, is an interesting look, too.
All told, ’66-’67 is my favorite Cutlass. Or any A-body for that matter. The coke-bottle styling, tunneled rear glass and all-around good proportions and detailing. Later cars started to go cheap inside, and models like the Cutlass Supreme, which is so classy and understated here, dipped ever-deeper into the realm of faux-luxury cheesiness.
I didn’t know any Olds people growing up. My parents were Buick devotee’s and the neighbors were strictly Chevy, Ford, Pontiac. Exciting.
That is until my older brother bought his first car, a ’69 Cutlass. It was white with black vinyl interior and the ever present evergreen tree air freshener that stunk. (thinking about that aromoa co-mingled with cigarette smoke and the heater in the winter can get me nauseated.) But that car was cool and very fast!
As I recall the engine and exhaust had a distinctive Oldsmobile sound that can be described as a muted rumble of sorts.
I dug that car. A few years later my first car was a ’69 Buick Wildcat that i paid $300 for. Ugly as can be but also very fast and could cruise for days at high speed.
why oh why do we have to have b pillars? i really miss the ’60’s styling that allowed open windows with nothing between them. i’m sure it all has to do with safety but can’t somebody figure out a way to put this feature back into modern cars?
Get t-boned in a four door hard top and you’ll know why.
Or have to realign the doors.
Or have to yell over the wind roar at 70 mph.
Or the rattles, squeaks and body shake and flex.
if they can make convertibles work, than a pillarless hardtop should be a piece of cake….
I remember a particular accident on my corner in the winter of ’73. A ’66 Caprice 4 door hardtop got t-boned by a ’68 Pontiac, and that beak on the Poncho stuck itself right in the shut line between the front and rear doors, the forward motion of the Chevy caused the whole stub B-pillar to rip out along with the door, which was laying on the road in the snow when all came to a rest. And there were occupants in the back seat too, lucky they were never ejected.
They worked great for a couple of years then doors drooped on the hinges and rubber seals perished.When you got draughts water leaks and noise hardtops don’t seem so great all of a sudden
“How to go Elegant without going overboard”
I think that was probably as accurate as American Automobile Advertising ever got. Cutlasses did stay rather restrained always, from the original 1961 coupe, and if you didn’t fall victim to half vinyl roof brougham hell, even the Colonnade era coupes were restrained and not particularly baroque hell. You can even say the initial W-body coupes were tasteful before they added all that cladding
I wonder where this is gonna warp to when we get to the Cutlass (Calais, Ciera, Supreme, Salon) era of the 1980s.
Ooh…. and random Craigslist find: http://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/cto/2261563094.html
I kinda want it. Anyone wanna loan me $7K?
Paul, just wanted to say how much you have opened my eyes.
As a child of the 70/80s, never had much time for these cars. They looked ugly, and the 1980s GM cars in particular I hated. There was this time looking at the catalogue for the Olds Tornado, but that is another story.
But you’re really getting me to appreciate those late 60s, early 70s cars. I can see how much CAFE/oil crisis/EPA gutted GM — after creating these beauties then getting smacked around they just gave up.
My wife’s family almost always had Oldsmobiles. Her mother passed away two years ago. One of my wife’s favorite pictures of her mother is the one where she’s driving her then new 1966 Cutlass convertible up the driveway of her childhood home. It was a sunny day and the yellow and white Cutlass sparkled. Good times for my wife and her mom. Rest in peace, Nancy.
Being the nieghborhood and wife’s family mechanic I tried tio manitain three or four of the mid to late 60s Cultass and 88 those 330 and 350 would never run right! Missing , rough idle “hesitation” .
We always had similar problems in our shop with 1960’s “high performance” cars. The hardest ones to get to run right were always the early 1960’s Cadillac’s and any mid-size with a highly tuned motor. The Olds 330 was indeed the hardest to get running right. Even the with the highly optimistic power rating (more than 1 hp per cubic inch) these were peaky motors for the day. Combined with aggressive cams and the fact a carb really can’t distribute fuel equally to each cylinder and added with ignition points, it was even hard to set these cars up when they were new. With 50,000 miles on the clock, it became a lot harder to get it all to work together without stalling and backfiring.
We must have been lucky, our 64 Cutlass with the 4 bbl high compression 330 was always smooth as a baby’s butt. Always started right up too, hot or cold. Maybe my mother just had a really good mechanic.
It was easier in the USA due to the climate. Here in Soviet Canuckistan cars tend to lead harder lives. Old V-8’s with points HATED the Wet Coast and in other areas, the engines would often have to be set up for winter and summer.
I also suspect your mom was paying someone competent to wrench. Shade tree mechanics were an epidemic in those days, half-drunk goobers with a socket set from Crappy Tire. Then there are the mechanics who insist they know more than the engineers at a car company. My rule was unbendable: set’em up like the factory said. If you want to play engineer, go do it somewhere else.
My 65 Cutlass 4bbl 330 was very easy to tune and made significantly more power than my friends 327 powered Chevelle or my lil brothers 289 powered mustang. My car in crisp 60* air could more than chirp its radial t/a’s in a full throttle 1st to 2nd gearshift and that’s with the standard 3.07 rear end and non built turbo 350 transmission.
What a car, what a shape, especially the Cruiser Wagon! Once I had (only) a 1980 Custom Cruiser with an original V8 5.7 Litre DIESEL! Langsam und sparsam fahren OR slow and economic drive it was. I know that these diesels hadn’t been rated well in the U.S. but for Euro conditions…it was an optimal solution…to drive a full sized Oldsmobile. The diesel fuel consumption was olnly 8.5>>9 Litres/100km. With an original 3 speed automatic its affordable speed was only 110-120 kph…in order to avoid the notorious cylinder head gasket blow out. Then one day a lad offered me a too good price so I couldn’t resist and the Olds had gone from our family.
The Cutlass Supreme’s greatest strength was its mass appeal. Like the brochure says, it was “how to go elegant without going overboard”. It’s appeal wasn’t limited to blue collar or white collar. It always had the most attractive styling. Premium looking, without the Buicks’ overwroughtness or Pontiac’s in-your-face styling. Cutlass Supremes were very popular in my family during the 1980s.
This was about the time period when GM had the no cost option of back window rust that appeared before the loan was paid off.
Overheating from the early demise of fan clutches on air conditioned models was never detected until wayyyyy too late thanks to the dashboard devoid of all gauges except for a speedo and fuel gauge.
Old’s 2 speed automatic transmission was no match for Mopar’s excellent 2 speed Torqueflite alternative.
Still, I can see how the well appointed, near luxury interior could sway buyers.
2 speed Torqueflite? Uh, no. All Torqueflites were 3-speeds, unless you were thinking of the 50s era PowerFlite, which is way out of the scope & time period of the discussion at hand.
Some of the ST-300s of this era had a Switch-Pitch Stator in the Torque Converter, which helped them somewhat. It was like having an extra half a gear.
I am on record here as being one of the loudest beaters of the “GM and its damned 2 speed transmissions” drum, but if anything could make a 2 speed auto livable, it would have been one of those premium gas Olds V8s putting out nearly 300 horsepower. Still, the THM would have been better.
When I was in High School in the mid ’80s, a friend had a ’68 Cutlass with the 2 speed. I am certain I have been in faster cars since, but suspect that it still may be the smoothest acceleration to highway speeds I have experienced.
On the other hand, I don’t remember ever discussing gas milage with him. 😉
I’m guessing that was a typo.
Yes, My typo, my bad. I meant THREE speed torqueflite. Fat fingers, small I-phone keys, reading glasses off.
An aunt and uncle had a 66 Vista Cruiser. I recall child-safety locks in the back doors. You could not pull up on the lock posts, but there was a slit that the driver could stick his key into so pull them up. Aunt Peg just left a butter knife in the back seat so the kids could let themselves out.
A neighbor had a matching pair of 66 Cutlasses – a Vista Cruiser and a 4 door hardtop. Same color even. They always backed both cars into the garage. I think they were a little strange.
Oldsmobile set one other trend in the 60s – the full rear wheel cutout. I didn’t like it that much at the time, but the trend took and remains with us almost unabated to this day. As for these, I never thought the 67 was that attractive, with 2 exceptions – the Vista Cruiser (of course) and the 4 door hardtop.
I started looking up those locks. Had no idea they went back as far as the 62 Pontiac. I never saw them on another car besides Aunt Peg’s VC.
My friend’s parents had a 1960 Chevy wagon with those lock buttons, it gave the kids in the back seat something to do, trying to pull the button up without a key.
Ditto with my uncles 1962 Rambler Classic station wagon.
Love those 66s and 67 Cutlasses! Smooth and fast, truly the pick of GM’s intermediate litter. I’d like to go buy one right now.
Just one question, what is the point of spotting a car with non-matching primer, as shown on the 67 here? Is it to change insignificant blemishes into major eyesores? The Cutlass demonstrates a particularly silly approach, with a big splotch on the rear fender while true rot on the lower front fender remains untouched. Shake and spray goes with bondo like ice cream with cake, but I would argue for just leaving it alone.
Most people have no idea that primer absorbs moisture like crazy. Once you prime it, paint it. Or else, you will have moisture-laden primer that will cause all kinds of problems with moisture under the finish coat.
Truthfully, most people have no idea what they are doing with rattlecans when it comes to car touch up. With some practice, you can get some really nice spot repairs that way, almost invisible. But most people don’t seem to want to practice.
Reminds me of my Uncle Bob. His 65 Pontiac had a big rust hole on the lower front fender (as did they all in the upper midwest.) His solution was to mix liquid touch up paint in with the Bondo and trowel it in. Sanding? Naaaah. Everyone in the family thought he was a genius. I saw a turquoise car with turquoise putty in the fender, but I will admit that I am pickier about that sort of thing than most.
“Most people have no idea that primer absorbs moisture like crazy. Once you prime it, paint it. Or else, you will have moisture-laden primer that will cause all kinds of problems with moisture under the finish coat.” And there’s those people that will spend the money on new sheet metal but never get it painted. UV rays eat through e-coat like a knife through butter and soon every horizontal surface has very rough surface rust and the vertical surfaces turn the flattest black imaginable. Dumb.
I liked these OIds Cutlass’, but I often found the track looked to narrow for the body. I’d take a Cutlass over a Chevelle during these years, more interesting and less common. But I do also agree the Pontiac had the best styling for 1966-67.
Can we make the Cutlass Supreme the official vehicle of Curbside Classic?
Sweet car. As noted earlier, the lines on these A body 4 door sedans and hardtops did not improve with the next generation.
It’s also interesting that Olds really led Buick into the luxury realm. Perhaps Buick felt they were already there, being the penultimate GM brand, but the Luxury Sedan and the Cutlass Supreme were years ahead of their Buick counterparts. Or maybe because Buick was still reeling from the relaunch of the Limited in 1958…
It’s particularly interesting since (or because?) Olds and Cadillac were frequently paired in smaller markets.
Agree with R. S. on his opinion of the next generation 4 doors.
Although the ’68 thru ’72 2 door hardtops and convertibles had a certain flair to them; the 4 doors were dogs-on-wheels.
These were very plush for the time, a little hard to see in the subject. Brocade and carpet on the doors, this was also the Caprice and entry level 98 Town Sedan interior for this year. These were a bit rare among intermediate Oldsmoblles, a bit shy of 31,000 cars of 190,000 built for ’66. Maybe not a surprise, the Cutlass hardtop coupe was the top seller at over 44,000. The future was indeed being cast. Intermediate sales were not terribly far behind the 88 full size.
I spent a lot of time in A ’66 98 Town Sedan and it was a smooth reliable runner for 14 years.
I must admit that this article has given me reasons to respect this generation Cutlass.
Once again, a logical, well written and thoroughly researched article by P. N.
Always wondered how GM could give us the spectacular ’66/’67 Cutlass/F85, LeMans/Tempest, and Skylark/Special but make the Malibu/Chevelle so damn bland.
If anybody is interested in buying one contact me 813546-4514
I got one of these. Wondering. What’s it worth. Everything’s there. Could use a paint job. With that what’s it worth everything works great no rust ???? Anybody know.?
Hi, a lot of Olds folks responding. I am looking for some door panels in any shape and other interior parts for my 67 4 door if anyone knows of any.