The Colonnades were literally a huge surprise, and on so many levels. As I recounted in the last chapter of the CCCCC, their appearance left quite a few jaws hanging. They were just so utterly unpredictable, and had very little if any family relationship to the rest of the GM line. The prior A-Bodies were trying so hard to be little B-Bodies. No more; and the starkest contrast was with the four door, one of the most compelling and original sedans in US design history. Even Europe took notice.
The key to putting these cars into proper perspective is to toss the terms “intermediate” or “mid-size” out one of those frameless windows right from the start. This car measures 216″ long. That’s a mere nine less than the famous 225 inch length that led to the name Electra 225. And it’s four inches longer than a 1977 Caprice. Yes, the Colonnade made a very nice full size car, in the early-mid sixties idiom.
The Europeans saw it and accepted it that way too. I remember reading a review of a Cutlass sedan like this in auto motor und sport that was rather flattering in almost every respect except its fuel consumption and ergonomics. And why not? The Colonnade four door had a decidedly continental flair to it, with that delicate and graceful greenhouse.
And with the full-on handling package as all Europe-bound GM export came equipped with, it acquitted itself quite well indeed. Europeans could still muster a bit of awe at the effortless power delivery of a four-barrel 350 backed by a THM 350. Of course, their test was of a 1973, before the energy crisis made it that much less palatable in its thirst. But in every other way, I can assure you that this Cutlass sedan with the right options was still able to make a very positive impression on the increasingly chauvinistic Germans.
Of course, GM didn’t bother to send the Colonnade coupes over there. Their remarkably poor interior space utilization, visibility, and affected styling would have made them a laughing stock. The Europeans could accept the Mustang and Camaro for what they were, but when it came to giant coupes with cramped rear seats, the Europeans just didn’t get it.
Maybe my continental roots colored my response to the Colonnades too, even before I read that review. I was rather impressed by the sedan indeed, and the Cutlass version was the best of the bunch, over the long haul anyway.
The Pontiac Grand Am was very dramatic, without a doubt. But a bit over the top, too, especially for a four door sedan. Very American, despite its pretensions about “foreign intrigue”. Foreign? Huh; Germans might have had a chuckle about it, while dissing it for its American excess. Anyway, Americans by then knew that foreign meant Mercedes, but don’t tell Detroit that. How long did it take before all those “Euro” badges finally disappeared?
No, the Cutlass, which was also cultivating a bit of Euro flavor with the Salon version, was much more in the true international spirit: no phony baloney. The only bone to pick was that even the sedan didn’t have terrific interior space, but then it was only a “mid-size” American car.
That would soon be fixed, when the Colonnade sedan’s 116″ frame reappeared (in slightly modified form) under the down-sized B-Bodies in 1977. Didn’t that make it odd: the full-size cars were now shorter than the mid-sized ones, for that one year of overlap in 1977. But the much more rectilinear and upright new B-Body had as much interior space as the old full-sized cars, and all was good. And the Olds 88 went on to being the most acceptable big American car in Germany too, especially with the diesel engine. They loved that; seriously. A big Ami strassenkreuzer mit Diesel and decent mileage. What’s not to love?
Well, the Colonnade sedan may have been the Europeans’ choice, but it sure wasn’t back home. The Cutlass Coupes outsold the sedan by more than four-to-one. Sedans were out; coupes were in, unless you had made the transition to foreign cars, like a Mercedes. I can tell you that in California in the mid-late seventies, a clattering Mercedes 240D conferred a lot more driveway or valet parking status than a Cutlass Salon with its array of international flags on its flanks. They weren’t reading auto, motor und sport in LA; except me.
Before we dive back to current reality, let’s also put the this car in relationship t its competition. Once everyone got through the energy crisis of 1974, GM roared ahead in that decade, to its final big market share peak of 1978 (48%, if I remember correctly). GM’s design superiority was on full display, especially with the mid-sized cars.
The Torino looks like it its diet has consisted of Big Gulps and Big Macs for some time. And the Satellite? It actually aged better than the Torino thanks to being less fussy, but its fuselage styling was very old hat by then. It does look a bit melted though, like a stick of butter left out in the sun. The Olds sits right up on its capable suspension, and looks like it’s still ready to take on the world.
You sure don’t see alot of the sedans, but they do (still) look good. I wonder how this Olds would have looked with MB European-market style bumpers. Not so chunky.
Paul, will we be seeing that T-Bird at some point? Now, that is definitely still a good looking car! Always loved the rear quarters and taillamps on that car. Smooth.
Yes. When we get to the AB chapter of the one I owned.
I spent many, many hours behind the wheel of exactly the same car, which was being used as a taxi. The really were the high point of GM design. The interiors were great and tough and the 350 Olds block with THM350 was a fabulous combination. Even with the base suspension they handled very well. These cars had style. The only fly in the ointment was the trunk was rather small, especially with a full sized spare in it. That and the 12 mpg around town! These things struggled to get 20 mpg on the highway and only then if you keep speeds low.
They also drove exactly like the B-body, which is not a surprise since they were the same chassis.
I too spent a lot of time behind the wheel of several of these, in coupe, sedan, and even wagon form. Never cared much for the style of the interiors, but otherwise these cars are a good choice for a “practical classic”. They still feel pretty good on the road, if kept in good repair. I like the swoopy, dramatic styling of the Pontiac and Buick versions best but the Olds is very pretty and much more tasteful.
These sedans were such slow sellers (compared to the two-doors) that–unusual for GM–crash parts that were unique to them were quickly dropped. About 1980 my dad took on a light front-end crash on a ’74 four-door, and soon found out that the grille panel and grilles were no longer available. Thankfully, the fenders and hood were shared with the two-door, so we adapted a two-door’s front bumper, grilles and grille panel to give the car a slightly unique look.
The 4-door’s original bumper was still good and it’s still up in the rafters of my dad’s shop. I’ll be happy to give it to anyone who wants it. Just come over and help me wrestle it down. And bring a couple of friends–that sonavagun is HEAVY.
I am a big Oldsmobile fan but DANG that Pontiac is very alluring in that color combo. Green and tan, BABY! I wish every car was available in either a forest or emerald green.
Me too! Dark green is my favorite color on just about any car. I wish it would make a comeback on new cars.
I still say the bumpers absolutely ruined the look by 1975, the 1973 Cutlass Sedan bodies were gorgeous. Considering they were about the size of a 1964 88, it’s impressive how slinky and svelte the original 73’s looked.
I don’t know. The front bumper on the ’73 still sits proud of the body, and I’m not sure how I feel about the grille design that extends below the bumper…it probably would have looked better without a 5 mph bumper if these cars had debuted in ’72 as planned.
At the rear, the look is certainly cleaner than the later cars, but I’ve also never cared for taillights that are integrated with the bumpers, so I kinda like the bulkier look of the later cars better.
We recently gave away my dads 75 Salon Coupe to neighbors up the street that have a 73 Supreme coupe. I just feel there’s just so much hanging off the 75s that’s better integrated on the 73s. Plus it’s more feasible to find the 73s without the brougham hell half vinyl top.
My cousin that’s a little bit older than me had a 73 Cutlass S sedan around the same time said Salon coupe became my first car. Given (in theory) both were 350/THM cars his seemed less asthmatic (especially less prone to vapor lock in hill/mountain driving) and probably couple scoot over 20mpg in a constant 65mph cruise (I averaged about 14-18, but I have a lead foot).
I think what is most amazing is how well both drove for being such massive and overweight cars.
’75 was the first year of the electronic ignitions (no more points to adjust and change!) and the catalytic converter.
The example above does sit rather tall and athletic for a 36 year old car. The ’75 version of the Cutlass and Regal were the most handsome before the switch to the rectangular head lamps.
The Torino otoh, you can feel the wallow from viewing that photo. Our neighbors had one of that vintage and I recall the hood dipping on turns like the Titanic and you would physically need to prop yourself in your seat to not slide.
What can you say about the Plymouth, except probably a superior drive to the Torino.
Most people who post here are enthusiasts, so we prefer better handling to a soft ride.
In the 1970s, though, if there was some way for people to ride in and drive a brand-new 1974 Torino and Satellite without them being able to see the badges or nameplates, most people would have overwhelmingly chosen the Torino, based on its “plush” ride and much better interior finish.
I always thought Chevy had the bumpers spot on with the 73-74 Laguna. Though I didn’t really like the sedans too much. It looked (to me at least) like the rear doors were an afterthought.
That W body Grand Prix in the background of the last shot has a lot of similarities to the Cutlass.. Never really saw that before.
Okay, in all seriousness though, that’s not at all a bad looking car. Even though I happen to prefer the Torino 😉
This reminds me of the Corgi Kojak car; a Brown 4 door Buick with a clip on gumball and a miniature Telly Savalas and a cop leaning out the window to shoot at a chasing bad guy.
Lord, I almost had a stroke when I saw this. As a kid I loved the show, and the Buick and the phone. Telly is one of my favorite persons of all time, baby. Great actor, and a really nice guy in real life. He tipped well, and treated cast and crew with respect and consideration. I get cranky when I hear ” Kojac with a Kodiac,” don’t disrespect my hero!
I still have mine, although miniature Kojak wandered off decades ago, never to return. Always loved that so typical 70s bronze color – which curiously is coming back in modified form – I’ve seen it on VWs lately. Can Sherwood Green Metallic be far behind?
Never got the companion Starksy & Hutch Torino, though – even then, I didn’t like Torinos – as Paul notes above, they really looked bloated, and Ford steering in those days – and well into the 80s – was dangerously willowy.
I agree that these are head and shoulders above the Torino/Montego. As for the Plymouths, somehow they say “cop car.”
The one dumb little thing that constantly bothers me about the Colonnade sedan design is how the B-pillar looks like it ends in midair, not connected to anything. It’s an optical illusion, but take a look at the side view, and doesn’t it look like the B pillar stops about a half inch above the doors. I wonder if there was another way it could have been designed, or is this a necessary artifact of having frameless side glass.
That pillar is dictated by the styling concept more than anything. Look at the ’72-’76 Torino sedan. It also has frameless door glass, but its “pillarless hardtop styling” minimizes the look of the B-pillar. But GM made a lot of hay out the A-body’s beefed-up rooflines because of expected rollover legislation, so they exaggerated the size of the pillars, hence the “Colonnade” name.
Look at a 1971-76 Cadillac Fleetwood…it has virtually the same center pillar design.
I was still in a child seat (if that’s what you can call those contraptions in the 70s) when this was new, but I was already a car nut. That car seat had a steering wheel and was in the middle of the front bench to give me a commanding view of the road. My mother says at three I could rightly tell my dad the make of car based on the head/taillights at night…but that was easier back then, I imagine.
Even so young, these cars caught my eye, and it was largely the much more modern greenhouse. Those thin pillars really set it apart. That, and Kojak drove the Buick, and that lent it some mojo at our house.
I remember a friend’s dad had an exact Kojak replica, same color as the Corgi toy, right down to the dog-dishes. It was fun to cruise in “Kojak’s car”.
I also remember there was another guy in the neighborhood had one. This was at the height of the CB radio fad. He was a big heavy-set bald guy and he spec’ed it out in Kojak trim and put a CB in it. Guess what his handle was?
I’ve got mixed feelings on the Colonnades. I despise the base model coupes, but I’ve got a soft spot for the formal roofline Cutlass Supreme, Grand Prix and Monte Carlo. But the sedans…that’s a tough one.
The airy greenhouse and relatively clean lines are quite the departure from typical ’70s Detroit faire; the bloated, junky Torino and badly aging Satellite just don’t compare. The proportions are better than the awkward ’68-’72 A-body sedans. And this is certainly a more appealing product than the ’78 aeroback sedans.
But it’s also such a generic, boring design. It’s what your child would draw if you asked them to paint a picture of “a car.” And that clean, airy greenhouse is probably a big reason the sedans bombed compared to the coupes…where are the thick sail panels and opera windows? It’s totally out of step with contemporary themes. Yeah, I guess it has some Euro flare, but people who wanted that in the ’70s were already turning Germany for the real deal; It’d be another five years before the various faux-Eurotrash Detroit sedans took hold in flyover country.
Thanks for featuring this — the Colonnade 4-doors are so underappreciated (not that I would trade my ’76 Monte Carlo for one or anything!) What a creative design, different from everyone else (on the 2-doors and 4-doors) and to me, they’re the heart and soul of the ’70s as cars go.
Although I don’t think they were totally out of step with contemporary car design — it is interesting to note that while the 2-door Colonnades were almost immediately copied (Cordoba, Elite, Cougar) the 4-doors’ unusual roofline wasn’t flattered with imitation. That’s OK — it makes them all the more unusual and fun to see now.
They’re so rare I stopped to snap a photo myself when I saw a Malibu a while back here in California, with a baby seat in it, no less!…. http://flic.kr/p/7DNXuv
I’m sorry, but from the perspective of someone without nostalgic tie-ins to that era… That is a truly hideous automobile. It may be better than its abysmal bretheren, but oh lord – I’ll take an Exner caricature over any ’70s mid-size. Hell, I’ll take a -bus- over any ’70s mid-size.
I recently read a comparison of 1975-ish midsizes. The Torino took bottom honors – out of five stars… Braking: 1. Acceleration: 1. Handling: 0. Visibility: 0. Mileage: 0.
It had a tiny interior, had handling that was so bad as to be dangerous, couldn’t stop in a straight line, you couldn’t see anything under 30′ away, and at 5100lb it did 0-60 in 16 some seconds, with 160hp out of a 7.5 liter V8. And it got 6mpg city.
The others were marginally better, but that’s damning by faint praise. This era was utterly without redeeming feature, a wretched melange of everything bad you can do to an automobile. Handled well? Be serious – we’re talking about vehicles that rolled more than a playground socer ball and came to howling stops, rear brakes locked and with 30 degrees of yaw… And -that- only if you could muster the 220+ lbs of pedal pressure required to do it.
Issuing any praise at all for these morbidly obese attacks on vehicle design is like praising the optimal form of medieval trepanation – you need both like a hole in the head.
Yo Spock…no sentimentality in your nostalgia?
This place would hardly exist without rose colored glasses.
We forever romanticise the ’50’s and ’60’s when in reality those cars were inefficient, polluting death traps. But hey, they looked good.
By the time this ’75 Colonnade came around, all Americans wanted was a soft, quiet Interstate cruiser. And that’s what they got. It took the Japanese and a few energy crises to finally shake things up.
PeriSoft, why do you come here? You made fun of us and our nostalgia back on old TTAC, told us if we dared to drive one of these around the block with our child in it we were committing child abuse, so why are you here? I’m looking for an honest answer, not just being a smarta$$.
+1, yesterday on TTCA there was a commentator ad homonym attack to another comment, paraphrasing: you must be a frequent commentator on “that Niedermeyer Blog,” without any other argument. They are a tad catty over there. CC is much more civil and respectful, without silly comment baiting. We can civilly and friendly disagree, with logical arguments. And thanks Paul, I like how you re-post old forgotten articles I’ve never seen, giving us Greenhorns a chance to comment with the old masters.
I’m not defending the Torino but get your facts straight. No 460 ever made as little as 160 HP, the minimum figure was 195 for a single exhaust station wagon model. The heaviest ones tipped in at around 4600 lb, and certainly didn’t take 15 seconds to reach 60, no more than around 9.
Of course there are better designs by orders of magnitude, but that wasn’t the point. And yes, car design in the 70s by comparison to the 50s and 60s stunk. But I think there may be a couple of things others appreciate that explain why people can find redeeming value in this car.
1. Context is everything. Judging a car outside of its original context may give a very objective understanding of its merits and flaws, but completely misses what makes it significant in its place in history–and without that, one misses entirely what CC is all about.
That brings us to another thing, nostalgia. Of course people are nolstagic, and of course that causes them to wax nostalgic about a car–this is a fundamental of the human existence, a large part of CC’s appeal, and it is what drives the larger segment of the car restoration/preservation world as well.
Goodness, without these two things, there would not be a Model T or a stripped down 67 Impala family sedan following at all, because outside of their contexts and stripped of nolstagia, they are duds.
The four-door versions of any Colonnade car have just about disappeared around here. They don’t even show up at car shows. One could be forgiven for believing that GM made only intermediate coupes in 1973-77.
The center pillar was inspired by the design of greenhouse of the 1971 Cadillac Fleetwood. Safety concerns and air conditioning were driving the hardtop into oblivion, so GM attempted to add a bit of style to the sedan with that center pillar design, which first appeared on the Cadillac. In 1973, the Cadillac nameplate still had some firepower among car buyers, and styling cues lifted from any Cadillac model were considerd to be a good thing.
The three-window greenhouse looks a great deal like the one that appeared on the 1960 Valiant! Exner was ahead of this time!
These cars were definitely ahead of the Mopar and Ford competition. I will say that, at that time, most people preferred the Ford intermediates to the Dodge Coronet and Plymouth Satellite. The Plymouths and Dodges looked very plain, their quality was suspect and the styling was tired by 1973 (after only two years on the market). Chrysler interiors were also very cheap compared to the Fords.
If there was one area where Ford was ahead of GM in the 1970s, it was in interior trim and finish. Fords were generally better than the GM competition in this regard.
And, like it or not, more people wanted a super-plush ride as opposed to razor-sharp handling. The Mopars tried to have it both ways – the famed torsion-bar suspension had been softened for a plusher ride by the early 1970s. The result was handling that wasn’t as good as the GM cars, and a ride that was harsh compared to the Fords. Plus, Chrysler always seemed to skimp on the sound deadening. I remember riding in my neighbor’s 1971 Dodge Coronet sedan and being amazed at how noisy it was on the highway.
This Cutlass, along with the Grand Am, was my dream car at that time. How happy I would have been if my dad had pulled up in the driveway in one of those cars. Unfortunately, their virtues were lost on him. And a fair number of GM executives, too, as the Grand Am disappeared after 1975, while Olds pushed the Supreme over the Salon versions after 1975.
By any metric, the GM Colonnades were the style leaders. The Torino? Plug awful. The Cryslers? Yeah – cop cars, lots of cop cars. ‘Nuff said.
I brought this up once before – on the coupes, at least near the end of thier production, the leading work around the fixed rear window was awful – crude sander marks and cracks in the rear corners on base Chevy models with no window trim.
Oldsmobiles were the finest, followed by the Grand Am in my opinion. Olds was almost at the top of their game here, especially when the quad rectangular headlight models came out – everyone wanted one, and a buddy of mine traded his Jeep CJ5 in for a gorgeous coupe; mist blue, white vinyl top, white interior, as he was preparing for marriage (got married two weeks after I did). Even though I was still smarting over the death of the pillarless hardtops, this car was stunning and it even impressed me. I was grateful for the A/C, as I was stuck in the back seat a couple of times as our group hung out together for a little while longer.
If that’s a current photo of the Torino, that is one well-loved car.
People love to bash Torinos for being sloshy drivers, but I’ll take exception. At one point my mother had a ’77 LTD II and I had a ’78 T-bird–both basically squared-off and gussied-up Torinos. On both I tossed the factory shocks and replaced them with the best Sears shock absorbers (Sears had good shocks in those days). Let me tell you, that made a huge difference to those cars for minimal money.
OTOH, at the same time my dad had a ’78 LTD, and nothing could help that floaty ride. The other two cars felt like race cars by comparison.
That Torino will be making its full appearance here before long.
Karl, I had the same experience with my ’81 Escort as you did with the LTD II/T-bird: replacing those flabby factory shocks made a significant difference. Its cornering (which I pushed hard) was almost neutral, no doubt due to the trick IRS.
So this impressed me, along with its perpetually notchy shift, how under-engineered that car was. The Euro Escort hatchback looked better, too, though the U.S. wagon looked great.
Of the 3 intermediates pictured, the Satellite looks best to me now: nice & clean. I could never warm to Colonnade styling in general, only the coupes were close to decent. Even G.M.’s light trucks of the era were styled to this idiom, & I don’t like them either.
When I think of driving an Olds 350 with a THM350, the only thing that comes to mind it torque. Smooth, creamy, velveteen torque It’s torque that comes on off the line and stays for the party. It is like a soft-ice cream dispenser, oozing gobs of creamy, uninterrupted torque. Did I mention this powertrain had torque?
This was the pinnacle of GM powertrain design. They were never better than this. There is something to be said about the era of non-lock-up torque converters. No mechanical interference with ultimate smoothness. Big rubber mounts isolating everything to a frame, itself isolated by big rubber mounts to the body. There was simply no vibration, only the roar from the huge engine fan.
These cars drove beautifully in city traffic as they were roomy, had good visibility and a/c that could run a meat packing plant. Remember the compressors on those babies? Heck, they were about the size of a 45 gallon oil drum and took like 50 hp to run but man, oh man, could they quick freeze the interior of that car in like five seconds.
The torque party ended at about 65 mph and there really wasn’t enough horsepower to push such a big hole in the air, but this car would cruise up the biggest mountain at 65 and back down again in such frigid perfection you’d have to wear a parka in summer just to drive the thing and that was with the a/c on low setting….
Ahhh, the memories….
It’s funny to think that very few of the sedans are still around, there seem to be lots of coupes still around. I was in middle and high school when these cars were new and seemed like background noise, they were everywhere. I have to admit though, I really prefer the coupes to the sedans. When I was in university, a friend borrowed his father’s Cutlass Salon with 455 for a weekend, it was a 10 MPG speed fest of sorts. But my heart belonged to the mid year Cutlass coupes…
A couple of my neighbors had this generation of Cutlass, and the Pontiac version, in wagon form, was popular with my mother’s friends in suburbia. I still see some of these cars around now and then; they’ve held up well over time. As for my family? Well, we had the Torino, and not even the Gran Torino, just a regular ’73 wagon, which was junk. I think we got that one in ’75 or ’76, and my dad hasn’t bought a Ford since. (So I will have something to say about the Torino when that CC rolls around.)
I had a new 73 CS 4 door, reddish brown with tan vinyl top and tan interior – it looked great. Bought just after grad school. Got a four door because I was in real estate and was told I needed a car to haul people around. I rarely used the back seat. In fact I used it so infrequently that the rubber window seals melted and stuck to the glass! GM repaired/replaced them under warranty. It seems that they got the problem corrected because I have had it again and never heard of anyone else having it either.
This was a wonderful car. I should have kept it for 10 years. However, I got a bad case of the “wants” and traded for a used Mustang convertible. Not a smart move at all but the Mustang was lots of fun.
I’m guessing they don’t take kindly to nitpickers around here, but according to the 1975 Oldsmobile full line brochure, the Cutlass sedans were actually 215.7 inches in length. I only questioned the 220″ stated in the article because I owned a ’75 Buick Century “Free Spirit” Indy 500 pace car replica. it was 209.5″ and though it was a 2 door, I didn’t think there would be almost a foot difference between it and a 4-door.
No, no; we love nitpickers here. I just checked my notes, and I see what happened: I also wrote down the length of the ’77 Olds 88, which is 220″, right below the 216″ length of the Cutlass (I got it from the same brochure as you). I just looked at the wrong one when I was writing the article. Thanks, and I’ll fix it.
I’m sorry I am just now getting around to commenting on this, I was out of town for a few days. Anyways, I always liked the front ends on these, as the round headlights seemed to make it well, friendly I guess! Plus, this car and I share a birthday, so of course I’m going to have a soft spot for it 🙂
I am surprised though that no one has mentioned that the 6000 SUX of Terminator fame. I believe it was based on the 1977 version of this car.
You mean Robocop.
Question regarding GM engines….
Since Olds, Chevrolet, Buick and Pontiac all had 350 cubic inch and Buick, Pontiac and Olds had 455 cubic inch engines (Chevy had a 454), was there a GM edict that said that no engine could be larger 350 or 455 depending on application? The exception being of course mighty Cadillac with the 472 and 500.
When someone would say, “Olds 350” or “Pontiac 455” those are different engines from one another—why would these “different engines” have the same displacement? Chevy had a 454 and Cadillac had a 472 so there was THAT differentiation but as for Pontiac, Buick and Olds I scratch my head. As for the whole different engines from different division thing i always thought it a waste of time. Did people REALLY care? Something tells me GM thought people did. I remember in the 70s when it came out that GM was using engines made by other GM engines in different cars. My friend’s Buick LeSabre had a Pontiac 301, my Buick Riviera had an Olds 307. Oh the humanity.
GM people do and did care. I can’t confess to knowing all of the differences but I know that Olds engines were precieved as making greater torque for the same displacement than the engines of their division-mates. Chevy engines generally emphasize hp at the slight expense of torque. (I’m talking about the 1960s and 70s here.) Buick I believe was usually known for smoothness. Pontiac… can’t say that I honestly know. The Pontiacs that I have the greatest lust for have Olds 403V8s under the hood. I know that a 307 Olds engine was torque-y-er than a Chevy 305V8, athough part of that was that the Olds always came with a 4brl carb.
Torque on the Buick too. The Buick 350 has a longer stroke & shorter bore than the Chev 350.
Division independence was emphasized to the point that the various styling studios were not allowed to check out each other’s work, at least according to a Popular Mechanics article from the early ’70’s. Each relied on support from the central GM studio in terms of common body engineering, etc, but even the 1970-81 Camaro and Firebird were only 25% interchangeable, as opposed to 75% for the 1982-92 models.
GM’s deadliest sin by far, IMHO, was removing that independence, first in assembly, then in powertrains, then everything else. It might have been costly, but it resulted in far better product.
My worse misunderstanding of GM (abetted by friends who thought they knew) was overestimating the integration of the company. I even owned GM stock for awhile (thanks, Grandpa!), but annual reports never made it clear to shareholders either.
As GM nerds here have told me, the divisions were a lot more independent, for better or worse. I have learned firsthand that a lot of “stovepiping” exists in large corporations, and we should never assume the left hand knows what the right is doing just because they have the same logo posted out front. Management talk of “synergy” may be optimistic hogwash.
The year, 1974. The Car, Cutlass S. My issue…my date for the night and the new for ’74 seat belt interlock system that no one told me about when buying the car used in about ’85.
The car starts when picking her up, won’t start when leaving the date due to her being unbuckled in the passenger seat. After having her stay in the seat while I (the man and mechanic) checks under the hood. Starts after the required hour of head scratching once she gets out to call her Dad to let him know we’re stalled and now late. Her Father wasn’t happy….and it happened EVERYTIME I took her out. Thanks Olds.
P.S. Miss you…….(Oldsmobile…NOT my date OR her Dad)
I own a 75 cutlass 4 door with the 455 engine, its in great condition, anyone know how much they are worth
Not sure how I missed this the first time around. I spent many hours at the controls of this car’s sister, a 1974 Pontiac Luxury LeMans sedan. My mother tried to buy a Cutlass Supreme 4 door, but when she was looking late in the model year, the dealer was out and would not be getting any more. So, it would appear that the 4 doors sold pretty well in the upper midwestern US.
I did drive my stepmom’s 74 Cutlass Supreme 2 door, and I can tell you that the Olds 4 bbl 350 was quite a bit more fun to drive than the 2 bbl Pontiac 350 on our LeMans. Both of them were very good handling cars.
At the time I griped about some cheap trim details that were not as nice as on earlier models, but you are right that these have aged very well.
Speaking of the 1975 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme 4 Door Colonnade Hardtop Sedan, this is how the same exact but a 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme 4 Door Colonnade Hardtop Sedan measured up against the similar sized Downsized RWD B and C-Bodied Delta 88 and 98 Regency 4 Door Sedans. Not much of a significant size differences between the 3.
Now here are their clearer photos as shown on this photo montage compilations.
If only it was possible to get the Cutlass with the wonderful Grand Am interior, which contained the fully instrumented dash board, deep bucket front seats and slanted-to-the-driver console and floor shifter stolen from the Grand Prix!
Those profile comparison shots of the three midsizers is telling. Funny thing: I could tell which cars were the midsizers in the 60s, but it became more difficult in the 70s, at least for me. I was young yet and hadn’t connected all the nameplate dots. But I thought that the Satellite was a full-sized car. It sure looked like one to me. I thought Chrysler had more than one full-sizer, actually. And while I knew the Torino was lesser somehow than the LTD, I didn’t fully grasp that it was supposed to be a midsizer.
But I was clear, for whatever reason, about the GM nameplate hierarchy. I remember well the cars that preceded these. The market might have grown weary of them, but I thought they were super cool, the two-doors anyway. So it’s no surprise that the Colonnades were a shock and a letdown.
But yes, in proper context, these were the best mid-sizers available.
My 8th grade teacher had a 1976 Cutlass Supreme 4-dr. in brown with a tan top and interior. I always thought that car was so rare and even somewhat odd because 90% of the Cutlasses I would see back then were coupes. What was even stranger was that the sedans used the same rear end/tail lights as the 1975 Supremes but the grille/front end was the same as the 1976 Supreme coupes!
These now shows the Coupes and Wagons along with the Sedans. It goes without saying that the Cutlass/Cutlass Supreme Coupes were the shortest measuring at 210.0″ with 112.0″ wheelbase while the longest was the 98 Regency 4 Door Sedan measuring at 221.4″ with a 119.0″ wheelbase.
What’s funny is the shortest of these A-bodies is the Chevelle at 209″ for the sedans, the coupes are 203″ long.
True the Chevrolets were always shorter than their other GM Cousins during the 1970s. The Chevelle Colonnade 2 Door Hardtop Coupes in 1973 measured only at 202.9″ (slightly longer than the 1975 Chevrolet Nova Custom at 197.7″) and the 4 Door Colonnade Sedans were 207.0″. Due to the advent of the mandatory 5 mph front and rear bumpers, the coupes increased in size to 205.9″ and the sedans to 209.7″ (give or take a millimeter of an inch for both models) which more or less stayed constantly the same in size measurements through their final year in 1977.
It’s also funny how they chose to show the cars lined up against each other in profile in this ’77 brochure, emphasizing rather than hiding the fact that the mid-size cars were as big as the full-sizers!
Here’s a German market ad.
One of the relatively rare cases where the 4 door version looks much better than the 2 door with exception of the Cutlass Supreme and Regal. The best example of this was the 1975-76 Ford Ltd 2 doors, with that weird, little fixed side window. My father bought one new, a surprise as we had always has 4 door cars up to then. When asked why, he said it looked sporty. Go figure.
“Old hat” or not, even though it screams “Cop car!”, the Satellite is by far the best looking of these 3. The color in the pic is probably the worst one available at the time, but the color of the Cutlass is almost as bad. There is a dark blue Satellite that must belong to someone pretty close to my house, as I see it almost every Sunday morning coming home from work. It’s got the spotlight on the side, so I would guess it is an old cop car. It’s in great shape, and has a lumpy idling 440 in it, if I recall. There was some kind of old car show at a local store’s parking lot this morning, and there it was, along with a Challenger pace car replica, and a bright green Dart 340, a red Nova with a healthy small block and some others. The Sat wasn’t part of the show, but he would have fit right in.
Here’s the ‘convertible’ version. For sale here in Aus.
What a great flashback! I was in high school when the Colonnades came out and the 4 door Cutlass still looks the best to my eyes. But after all these years I can’t remember if I ever drove any Colonnade. One of our high school driver training cars was a ’73 Satellite, and though it may not have had the looks, it did have better moves than I remember for the GM and Ford intermediates of the late ’60’s and early ’70’s.