(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 let’s 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, let’s 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?