Curbside Classic: 1973 Oldsmobile Omega – “The Compact Olds”

(first posted 10/16/2012)     As if Oldsmobile wasn’t already selling enough Cutlasses in the ’70’s, someone at GM must have felt that the brand needed a smaller car that would bolster both their sales and EPA ratings. In what would later become a hallmark of GM engineering, Oldsmobile followed Pontiac’s pioneering badge-engineering of the Chevy Nova, added a few unique trim pieces and thus made an “upscale” smaller car. I find it hard to believe that any vehicle with a standard inline six and three speed manual transmission could be considered “upscale”, but people must have bought them on their badges alone.

This particular example (complete with a lovely patina) was found on the streets of Lexington, KY. Could it be anything else but a mid-70s X-body, given that not much was (or could be) done to change the Nova’s chunky C-pillar shape? At this point, at least Cadillac was spared having one of these shoved down their dealerships.

From this angle it doesn’t look half bad. If you squint, you can even see hints of the ’73 Cutlass that was just around the corner. Behind this grille you might have found a Chevrolet-sourced inline six, rated at an even 100 hp, or an upgraded Olds 350 with a healthy 180 bhp. If you coupled the latter engine with the four-speed, you might have had a somewhat interesting ride.


The evenly spaced vertical bars mark this as a ’73. Prior to a significant 1976 refresh, the Omega’s biggest annual change was a different grille. They had to change something, so what better?


Rust can appear even in Kentucky, although I’m not sure if that speaks more to weather conditions in the upper South or GM’s build quality.


You could have your 1973 Omega in one of three styles: a two-door coupe, four-door sedan, or two-door hatchback. This one’s a top-of-the-line four-door sedan. It’s surprising that this four-door Oldsmobile was the poorest-selling model of the three, with about half the sales volume of the two-doors.

It was the ’70s; as Olds knew all too well, coupes reigned Supreme.

Hatchbacks were hot, and that helped the Omega’s popularity. The Omegas gave Olds things the Cutlass line lacked, including a six, a lower price and a hatchback. No wonder the frumpy sedan didn’t sell well.

Don Jacobs is still in business, although (as you would correctly surmise) they’re no longer selling Oldsmobiles–only Volkswagens and Hondas. Good choices.

A couple of interesting Omega links: The Omega Owners Registry, based on a Pontiac Ventura site, ; and , if you’d like to see a few original Omega advertisements.