What the hell is a colonnade anyway? And what’s it got to do with a car? Those were the second and third thing that popped into my head when I first saw the all-new ’73 GM mid-sized cars. The first: Holy Shit!
And that’s what came to mind again, when I first encountered this Cutlass.
GM had pulled a few surprises on me before (1970 Camaro), but these surprisingly big and drastically different cars were totally unexpected; there was no style continuity with their predecessor. In one fell swoop, GM doomed the hardtop style—which it so proudly invented in 1949—to the ash heap of history.
For you younger readers, let me clarify: it was a very different world back than in terms of advance knowledge of redesigned cars. The makers famously tried to keep their new models under wraps, literally, until the assigned release date. Brenda Priddy was still spying on her big brother and extracting blackmail from him. Yes, there were the very occasional spy shots in Pop Science and such, but maybe I wasn’t reading them by then.
Let’s just say that the first time I laid eyes on a Colonnade Coupe was in a print ad for a Cutlass Coupe. That goes for the 1970 Camaro as well: imagine having zero idea about what the 2010 Camaro was going to look like until you saw it in an ad one day…Holy Shit indeed. The element of surprise at anything really new or different long went out of the car business.
These picture may not do full justice to just how different the new Colonnades looked and felt compared to their predecessors. But how radically different the back seat passengers felt was indisputable: like shit. Sorry, but that word just keeps popping out today.
The sloping roof line, which forced ones head forward, and that giant rear window to burn your neck were bad enough, and brought back memories of similarly unpleasant experiences in the old GM “bubble” hard tops of yore, except for one or two very big differences: that huge middle column (a colonnade is a series of them) was right where you might just possible want to look out at the world. And the fixed rear window, which was almost totally behind one anyway, was fixed.
It was all part of a plot to force everyone to by the highly optional and none too-cheap Comfortron Air Conditioner, one of the early automatic jobs with the thermostat (just like at home). Well, the federal roll-over standards due to take effect in September of 1973 undoubtedly played into the equation too. It didn’t ban hardtops, but it was going to be cheaper to use a B Pillar to meet them. So we know which way Detroit went. Mercedes never stopped making hardtops, and some of the Japanese did until 1984.
Order up enough options though, like the highly recommended 455 V8 with 250 (net) hp, automatic, AC, and and a few other goodies, and not only would the Cutlass coupe’s roof evoke the ’59 Caddy, but it would weigh about as much too (4,800 lbs). Really great timing, these bigger, fatter 1973s were: within a year of their arrival, the first energy crisis would unfold. I bet “Holy Shit” was said more then once at GM headquarters, as the OPEC oil embargo took effect.
Of course, Detroit had been meditating with the “large is better” mantra for some years. The 1971 GM full-sized cars were huge, and Ford’s all-new 1972 intermediates were also very substantially larger in every direction, especially so in terms of weight, having shed its Falcon-platform roots sprouting a genuine frame. The 1972 Torino’s underpinnings would go on to be used in really huge cars, like the Lincoln Mark IV, so it was a hefty affair.
Comparing a 1973 Torino (with the 5 mile bumpers) shows that it was a full inch longer than the featured ’73 Cutlass Coupe, and weighed more to boot (3942 lbs to 3840 lbs). And it Colonnade cars didn’t grow in wheelbase at all; the regular coupes were still at 112″; and the four-door sedans had 116″, along with the stretched-front Grand Prix and Monte Carlo.
The momentum at the time was bigger, heavier, quieter, and ever-greater isolation from noise. But it’s not like these cars were any bigger on the inside. The truth is, the Colonnades, as well as the new Ford Torino had terrible space utilization. The front was just ok; but the back was abysmal, on the coupes. Expect plenty of explitives from any full-sized passengers asked to ride back there.
A Nova or Falcon undoubtedly had as much useable space. This shot is from a Cutlass Supreme, but the dimensions were the same either way. The only advantage for the Supreme was the lack of that sloping hot glass roof; maybe that’s why they outsold the regular coupes by such a huge margin.
“Mid-sized” coupes that weighed up to almost 5,000 lbs, with 7.4 liter engines, that had about as much interior space as a 2800lb Valiant and sucked gas like a truck was hardly a sustainable trajectory; but it took the OPEC gas crisis to make that painfully clear.
The solution: down-size the engines, not the car (that would take several more years). In 1973, the Cutlass had a 180 hp 350 V8 as standard, and the 455 was optional (and not at all uncommon). By 1976, the Chevy 250 six sporting 105 hp was now the standard engine, along with the infamous 260 cubic inch V8 (4.3 L) that trumped the six by a full five hp. Yup, the 110 hp chicken-shit Rocket, notorious for its feeble torque. But a five-speed stick was now available, to help jack up the EPA mileage more than any real driving pleasure.
The driving pleasure with the Colonnades was in their handling. GM had decided to get a bit mores serious about its cars’ handling, after decades of complaints from auto journalists and others as well as the growing competition from imports, who made suspension quality a top priority. The Colonnades had new front suspension geometry that improved precision and control even when the going got a bit bumpy. Not exactly all that brilliant in the standard form, due to the weight and still too-soft shocks. But GM’s very low-cost suspension upgrade (FE2 in the Olds) included a rear stabilizer bar and a general firming-up that was quite the step forward.
The golden days of genuine performance were truly over, but if the six and 260 V8 were just not going to cut it, the 350 and 455 V8s were still available, although with reduced power output: 190 hp for the 455 (7.4 L) The 442 was strictly an appearance package with the FE2 sport suspension; engines could presumably be anything from the 250 six to the 455.
I’m quite fond of this particular example, and not just because it’s the only one of its kind still around. There’s several Cutlass Supreme coupes, and we’ll get to them soon, but these regular Colonnade coupes are getting mighty scarce on the ground. It was a regular driver until quite recently, and it now shows off its monkey-bottom from the far end of the driveway.
But it’s busted up face and general demeanor suits it well: I don’t give a shit what you think.
That word notwithstanding, that was the exact phrase I used when I first saw the 1973 GM models. I said things much worse back then, too! You’ve said all I said in the past about the death of the pillarless hardtops, and frankly, I’ve never gotten over it, as they spoiled me. Interestingly, I have never owned a hardtop – only sedans and convertibles. Go figure. Oh yeah – the doors were a mile and a half long, too! I would have to say the death of the hardtop was the deadliest sin of all!
The Collonade cars were always my favorites. The 73-74 Monte and Chevelle/Laguna were on top but the 73-77 Cutlass line was a tight second, especially the 442 and Hurst versions.
I don’t think there is a more polarized appeal of any bodystyle in the GM catalog though. It’s gained more interest lately but as recent as 1998 (when I was building my 73 Chevelle) people were either love or hate it.
File me under “totally indifferent”. While I understand how other people care about the various distinctions between the big 3’s full sizers and midsizers from this era, I can’t summon up either any interest, or any ability to tell them apart. Just another interchangeable detroit whale to me. (for reference, I was 10 in 1973)
This is the era that showed locals down under how good the locally produced cars really were. US cars of the era were bloated, gas hungry, not very fast. softly sprung and handled like a dog on lino. The end of the US vehicle export industry.
They were heavy and slow more due to emissions and safety regs not by design. The 73+ cars actually had a much improved suspension than earlier models. They may not have been as quick in a straight line but they out handled and out braked their predecessors by a great margin.
+1 they did at least have that going for them, as this C&T clip shows:
But, I really only like the Styling of the 1973 Cutlass models out of all of the Colonnades. And I just remember my dads having that melting black plastic dash that I’d always stick my hand on and get my hand stuck, and then start crying because I couldn’t free my hands (oh those days of 2 year olds riding in the front seats with no seatbelts… no this wasn’t 1965… it was 1985.)
The other thing I remember is the back seat, even as a child didn’t seem that much roomier than our Camaro. When we looked at replacing it with a 1990 Lumina I felt like I was in a family room with all that space. So much space that I sat on the back floor playing with my hot wheels during the test drive.
True. For such big cars, GM knew how to make them handle. GMs of this era had a real substantial edge over the competition in that regard.
If I recall correctly, Motor Trend chose the 1973 Monte Carlo as its “Car of the Year” based largely on its much-improved handling.
Both the Pontiac Grand Am and Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon were early attempts to incorporate some of the elements of European sports sedans – more subdued but upscale upholstery, better handling, comfy bucket seats – into a regular Detroit family sedan.
From the vantage point of 2011, we all wonder “What was GM thinking?”. In the fall of 1972, when these cars debuted, the competition was the Ford Torino/Mercury Montego, Plymouth Satellite/Sebring/Dodge Coronet/Charger and AMC Matador. Compare a Colonnade car to any of those, and you will see why the GM entries were a huge success. Only the Fords were really competitive in any way. The Chrysler and AMC intermediates, in particular, looked very old and tired parked next to the new GM offerings. In my hometown, it seemed as though the only people who bought Chrysler or AMC intermediates were rather old people who bought them because of brand loyalty, not because those cars were really sharp or desirable.
In 1972 Ford introduced larger (bloated), plusher, more softly sprung Torinos and Montegos with body-on-frame construction. The Ford offerings were designed in the belief that buyers would be stepping out of full-size cars into something a little smaller and less expensive. The goal was to give buyers the ride and amenities of the big boats in a smaller (for the times) package. And it worked – the Torino outsold the Chevelle/Malibu for the first time since the latter debuted in 1964. Today collectors revere GM’s 1968-72 A-bodies, but they were looking a little tired by 1972.
The 1973 GM intermediates fought back this challenge from Ford, and pretty much destroyed the Chrysler intermediate offerings in the process.
The GM intermediates were popular right up until their final model year. In 1977, the Cutlass Supreme was the second-best selling car in the country, right behind the all-new, downsized Chevrolet Impala/Caprice.
It’s also worth noting that the Colonnade cars were originally scheduled to be introduced as 1972 models. The bitter UAW strike in the fall of 1970 pushed back the introduction of these cars by a year.
As I kid, I remember being awed by these cars. They seemed so different and new. And, to a 10-year-old in 1972, “new” was definitely better. They made everything else seem old hat. In particular the Olds Cutlass Supreme/Salon and Pontiac Grand Am were really sharp in my eyes. I would have thought that I’d died and gone to heaven if my dad had rolled up in one of those cars instead of our 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 Holiday sedan. I didn’t even care about the lack of rolldown rear windows on the coupes, because I knew that, if my dad did spring for the Olds or the Pontiac, it would also have air conditioning…which was still a big status symbol in early 1970s smalltown Pennsylvania. So I’d really be in heaven!
(The ironic thing is that our next new car DID have air conditioning. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a 1973 Gremlin! Perhaps that’s why I’m not so hard on the Colonnades!)
I just knew, from reading Motor Trend, that those cars were great, because they handled better than a typical Detroit car…of course, neither I, nor my friends, had any idea of what “handling” really meant. If Motor Trend said so, that was enough for us!
Never mind the relative quality of the Colonnade cars to that 1967 Olds!
Thank you; I was a bit pressed for time today, and am going to spread my thoughts on the Colonnades over the three of them, but you summed it up perfectly.
And yes, like you, I was awed to, even if I was ten years older. They were just so startlingly different. I was a bit perplexed as to where GM was going in this Super-Sized direction…what was going to be next?
The Honda Accord.
“Geeber” has the best info here. Sure, the Colonnades were not true muscle cars, but they sold well and have their own cult following.
These cars from a style standpoint are some of the better looking of the malaise era sleds….but I disagree with Geeber on the contemporary Satellites/Roadrunner. Those somehow came out actually looking better after the 5mp bumper debacle. The bumpers on those didn’t end up looking like steel girders, and the 4 eye lights with the recessed center grille is actually pretty sharp to my eye. Granted a ’74 Roadrunner is a bit of a downgrade from a ’69 but its still a sharp car in its own right. Same goes for the ’71-’74 Charger. They bloated up but they still look sharp and up to date. The Colonnades might have been more up to date, but that doesn’t always translate to ‘a whole lot better’. All opinion of course, and you know what they say about that…
Ha! I remember driving around in my 76 Cutlass s coupe and my 2 year old standing on the front street without a seat belt, too and that was on 1982!! Enjoyed reading your story!
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention – now that you brought back another sad memory that ticked me off was the horrible body-leading work done to the fixed side glass surround as you so lovely pointed out on the rear 3/4 close-up shot of the rear side glass! Thanks a lot – again!
I seem to remember seeing in some obscure “Catalog of American Cars” (or something like that) a reference to a “Mileage Maker” option for the LeSabare coupe that shared a platform with this car. It was supposed to be a 3.8V6 model with a three speed auto and a 2.10 rear-end! That had to be dog slow around town.
You’re probably referring to the Buick Century Special. The V6 wasn’t available in the LeSabre until the downsized ’77 model appeared.
No, Buick released a V6 B body LeSabre late in 1976, just to say ’20 mpg highway’. But was slow as molasses,
And very few V6 LeSabres were built in 1976, final year for the 1971-vintage body that was way too heavy for them. Heard that someone on the engineering staff went to the head of engineering at Buick with the suggestion of producing this car to give Buick gas mileage headlines and was nearly thrown out of the office but in the did give some consideration to the idea, and made it a reality. Remember this was 1975 when gasoline cost more than double what it did in 1973 and “fuel conservation” rather than horsepower was an important selling point. At the same time, Buick was chosen to pace the Indy 500 again in 1976 and planned to use a Century with T-tops as it did in 1975, but instead of a Stage 1 455 in the actual pace car (the production replicars all got 350 V8s) the ’76 Pace Car would be powered by a turbocharged 231 V6 rated at 305 horsepower compared to 330 for the previous year’s 455 – though no production turbo V6 was offered by Buick in 1976 the Century Pace Car was available as a production replicar with normally-aspirated 231 V6s or 350 V8s and the turbo did become a production engine in 1978.
While the Colonnade style kicked off with the ’73 model year, the pictured version above is actually a ’76 Cutlass S, but with a Supreme trunk tacked on. This was the first year of the rectangular headlamps and the S model with a waterfall grill.
By 1976, the Cutlass line was the undisputed king of the sales hill and top of the Colonnade heap.
Most were Supreme models with the Landau roof (let me be the first to invoke that word!) that was typically a different color or shade than the rest of the car.
At the time. these cars were the elegant definition and creator of the personal luxury category…and they owned it.
The subsequent Cordoba’s or Torino Elite’s couldn’t hold a candle.
You’re getting ahead of the CCCCC game: the Supreme Landau is yet to come.
don’t forget the Opera windows.
Colonnade, landau roof’s, opera windows, red velour…ugh!
What the hell is a colonnade anyway?
Sounds like the name of a citrus-flavored laxative to me. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist. After all, the word “sh!t” appears 6 times in this article. 🙂 )
Actually Colonade (typo in the fifth paragraph) is the horrible electrolyte stuff they make you drink gallons of before you get a colonoscopy.
I couldn’t resist either, must be the chicken wire. What’s the point of that chicken wire grille anyway? Not very functional. I think he’s making a statement.
It’s Latin for “obnoxious B-pillar.”
More like Chicano, for busted lowrider project or Mexican school bus.
what a magnificent old bruiser!
My offsprung took one look at this car and was astonished. He could not believe what passed for “mid size” in the outrageous 70’s. Imagine his surprise when I told him that this car was the Toyota Camry of its day – The “must have” status symbol for two car suburbia. And Olds sold a LOT of these. IIRC , they led the sales charts for like 5-6 years running. It would have been hard to go more than a mile in any direction in the mid 70’s without seeing half a dozen of these in all manner of trim , hauling around young (and not so young) families. Olds found the sweet spot in the market in those years- Just upstream enough from Chevy to ask (and get) enough of a premium to make some serious coin on what was a permutation of the GM mid size “A”body,but no cannabilization even further upstream. I believe that this is when GM got fat and happy and began to lose its grip on the vast middle of the market.
Make mine a Cutlass Salon with styled steel wheels and a half vinyl roof…
I hate these cars. The Cutlass is probably the best of the lot and not a bad looking car before the quad headlight facelift for ’76. The Supreme looked better, with its more formal roofline and opera windows; The base Colonnade roofline is awful and looks out of place with the ’76-’77 car’s boxier flanks.
I maintain that the ’73 A-bodys were the all time worst redesign ever. But look at the competition: The ’71-’78 Mopars were barely competitive with the old A-body, and the ’72-’76 Torino was cramped, woozy-handling rustbucket.
To me, the worst redesign ever was the all-new 1986 E-Body cars (Eldorado/Seville, Riviera and Toronado). The second worst was the 1988 W-Body cars, which replaced the old rear-wheel-drive coupes and sedans with new front-wheel-drive models.
Both of those redesigns resulted in a major drop in sales for the new cars.
In particular, the sales decline for the new E-Bodies was catastrophic, and pretty much wiped GM out of the luxury market. The W-Bodies guaranteed that first Ford, and then Honda and Toyota, would dominate the mid-size family sedan segment.
I used to hate Colonnades. For some reason, some of them have grown on me. Not so much the Cutlasses though, which at any trim level seem to be uncomfortably trying to split the difference between sports and luxury. I’ll take a 1973-74 Buick Century Gran Sport any day.
I thought these were the coolest cars ever. Especially the Cutlass Supreme. Of course, I was 10 years old at the time and my favorite shirt was this 100% polyester shirt that had a sunset screen across it.
I owned a ’76 Supreme, but I’ll wait for your expose.
The bungie cord holding down the deck lid just makes the car. I also like the screen installed in front, cheaper than another grille. The next cash for clunkers run should bring this baby out for a trade in.
“Really great timing, these bigger, fatter 1973s were: within months of their arrival, the first energy crisis would unfold….”
No! It was a whole year later in October 1973, not 1972. GM’s mid sized cars sold great in 1973. And, these cars didn’t get hurt as bad as the big cars in 1974. Back then full sized cars were ‘bread and butter’ and plants had to be shut down as buyers rushed to smaller cars. The Cutlass Supreme still sold OK in 74-75, from big car trade ins.
Point is back in the day, GM’s intermediate size 73-77’s were a huge hit. Olds dealers wanted to keep the larger A/G body past 1978, in fact.
We just sold our 1975 Buick Regal Collonade last month. I loved these cars. My neighbor was a top female ( unheard of in 1976) at Murphy Olds in Hamburg NY. She had a 76 CS as a demo car. Her mom bought it and her brother bought a 76 Cutlass S, of which is still parked behind the chicken coupe on their farm in Eden, NY. I had a 77 442 in the 80s and to this day, still dream of that car. I’m so surprised at the car shows how many “experts” ask me “What the hell is a Colonnade?” I can only tell the difference between a 77 by the all rectangular AC vents vs the rectangle and circular ones of the 76 and sloped grill of the 76 vs squared off grills of the 77 S model.442 model excluded. Awesome writing, Paul. I’m a CC addict.
Funny how you mention the secrecy surrounding new cars back then in 71 my father was one of a tour group hosted by GM and the NZ govt to view the new 71 HQ Holdens and they were left with their cameras through the whole time on a promise not to develop the films untill the cars were released for sale, yeah I knew what they looked like before any other kiwi kid had seen one and the first wagon in the country was in our driveway quite exciting at the time.
Great find, in that I’ve not seen one of these waterfall-grille “S” models in ages upon ages. (What with the condition of the car and this piece being three years old, I doubt this one has been seen recently either…) These were always one of my favorite colonnade models, along with the Grand Am with its Endura nose. A nice counterpoint to the squared-up and traditionally-roofed ’76-’77 Supreme.
The sloping roof line which forced your heard forward and that giant rear window to burn your neck were bad enough, and brought back memories of similarly unpleasant experiences in the old GM “bubble” hard tops of yore
So that was the real allure behind the notchbacks – the near-vertical C-pillar and tiny rear windows shielded your rear passengers from the rays of the sun.
I was 10 years old in 1973 and I wasn’t quite sure what to think of the Collonades when they first came out. My fourth grade teacher bought a brand new Malibu coupe, and I thought it looked kind of strange next to the new Impala Custom coupe my dad bought around the same time. Still, they grew on me, and the Cutlass coupes were (and still are) my favorite of the Collonades, with honorable mention to the Monte Carlo. We bought a ’77 Century 4-door in 1980 (only 21,000 miles on a 350-2 barrel and actually owned by a little old lady). It was a nice car to drive, but when they put in heavy-duty shocks and springs the handling improved markedly. I found that it took curves very nicely at around 75 mph, and even with the smogged V8 we unintentionally laid rubber. A nice car, but give me a Cutlass Supreme or Salon coupe with a 350-4 barrel and I’d be happy.
No way did these weigh 4800 lbs, in any configuration.
The heaviest mid-sizers at the time were Ford Elites and Mercury Cougars, and with a 460 and enough options, THEY could.
The GMs were much lighter, the pudgiest ones might crack 4000.
I wonder who owns that old busted Cutlass. I’m going to imagine that it is driven by either an ageing punk rocker, creepy uncle, or hipster.
Or a meth-head. Specifically, the toothless hillbilly with the baseball cap, sweatpants and no shirt who they seem to bust in every second episode of COPS.
I swear, the guy is a paid actor.
As time marches on I find myself having to adjust my best GM designs list to make room for these sheer-look Colonnades near the top. Too bad the El Camino never got sheered it would have been drop dead gorgeous and sold like crazy. Just look at how well the 80s El Caminos did with their sharp lines and quad headlamps. That look came off even better in the Colonnade size, as we saw with the Cutlass Supreme.
The 73-77 Colonnade coupes with the formal roof line (Cutlass Supreme, Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Regal) were nice looking cars. The companion coupes of the Colonnades (Chevelle/Malibu, LeMans, Century, and Cutlass Coupe) with those large triangle side windows were not good looking cars, though the Pontiac Grand Am with the vented side windows looked good. GM could have given those coupes and the sedans a slightly more formal and squared off roof lines, still differentiate them from the other A-bodied coupes. Unfortunately, this was the same time period when GM messed up the hardtop sedans with those hideous C-pillar windows on the B & C cars. It was a poor send off for the large GM cars of the time. At least they got it right with the first round of downsizing.
My personal colonnade was a 75 Buick Special coupe. White with a red half vinyl roof, little opera windows instead of the full size quarter windows. All of the power robbing options and that wonderful V6. The thing could not get out of its own way. It was said that the V6 was derived from shortening a 350 down to 6 cylinders and I’m telling ya, it ran like a V8 running on six cylinders. The car looked sharp, but was by far the worst car I ever owned.
Was it parked in a bad neighbourhood? In its current state, Mad Max and demolition derbies come to mind.
You know, before seeing this again today I would have sworn that I liked the slab-sided Colonnade Cutlasses more than the earlier swoopy-sided ones. But not I’m not so sure.
Spent most of my childhood as a passenger in my parents 1973 Monte Carlo and then drove it to high school when my Dad forewent his ‘Vette and commuted in my Citation. I hated driving the Monte. It was a huge beast of a car and seemed to me the uncoolest car in the world at the time (1980’s).
However, the 1973’s have grown on me and I think now before GM went to the stacked quad square sealed beams that they are exceedingly attractive, particularly where 1970’s styling later went.
The author has clearly never sat in the back of a colonnade car. They are, by today’s terms, big cars. Even someone 6’1 would never touch the ceiling with their head. And the back window was so far back that you’d never get a sunburned or hot neck. They put that much thought into the design of these beasts. Yes, the view through the opera windows was a little lacking, but you get get a very clear view over the shoulders of the front passengers.
The most amazing thing about the FWD X-Bodies is that in less external space, the passenger space was tremendous. Even more than the colonnades.
I think the more formal roofline of the Supreme/Salon/Brougham models looked better on these.
My family spent many hours driving late 60’s and early 70’s Cutlasses around, from ’71 on, we had at least two and most of the time 3. I remember when I got my license and my dad told my sister that I was going to get her car, a blue ’71 Cutlass Supreme, and she would be getting a new car. She took one look at the brochure for the ’73’s and said, “Oh god it, it’s so ugly!”. I agreed, and was very happy to get the ’71. My mom had a white over red Cutlass Supreme, and she liked it a lot, even though it had numerous issues. My sister picked her color, the awful bronze that looks a lot like the wedding pic at the top of this article. It would be the first of many bad color choices. I don’t know why, but she picked the bronze ’73, and then the shit brown ’79, and the next three, all some bad shade of brown or beige. Almost as soon as the ’73 was delivered, I wrecked the ’71, and I was given my mom’s ’72 and mom bought a loaded ’73 Supreme with the most toys I had ever seen in a car at that point. The ’72 spent a lot of time in the shop, so I drove the pimped out frosty blue (Yuck) ’73, and I have to say, I liked the ’72 so much more in every way, especially after it got it’s issues resolved and I added a rear sway bar to improve handling. I thought the Colonnade cars were just awful looking, almost as bad as the Fords of the same era.
As I mentioned in another entry on the Pontiac variety, I am not a fan and the worst offence were those horrid federal bumpers – the only digestible versions were the ones offered by Pontiac and Chevy with the Duraplast (?) fronts. I was 11 when they came out, growing up in Israel but we only got a few that year – 1973 was a war year, remember, during which imports were (in the main) confined to military vehicles or trucks… However I have a distinct memory of these things later through the decade, very flashy when new but deteriorating quickly to end up in the hand of shady third and fourth owners (the car featured would have not looked out of place in the worse parts of south Tel Aviv (hint: there are no nice parts in south Tel Aviv)). They still seem to be unloved by the old car fraternity, people skip over them in favor of even the downsized later (!) models…
Well it did not take long to find a pic of an unloved one, lol, this one languishes in Eilat. I dread to think hat the interior looks like after being exposed to the Death Valley-like temperatures prevailing in that area (Pic by Daniel Eliasi)…
Nice article Paul, the Cutlass is my favorite Colonnade.
By the way, may we assume you’ll use the other six words that George Carlin said can’t be used on television in your next article?
Originally, the Colonnade was planned originally for the 1972 model year but they got delayed to 1973. Just imagine what if GM had introduced them for 1972 as planned and faced the all-new Torino/Montego?
My second and last new car purchase was a 1976 Buick Century with the Regal formal colonade roof and the cow catcher grill. At the time our second car was a 1971 VW Type 3 fastback. It was disappointing to see how much and how easy it was to load stuff into the VW but not the Buick. The fit and finish was terrible, then the tires had to be replaced because of sidewall separation, replacing spark plugs on the 350 v8 was a nightmare since there was no access to the rear plugs. Comfortable car for two people but so big so inefficient. When our first child came along my wife quit her job to be a stay at home mom and we no longer needed the second car. I was lucky to find a Japanese businessman who wanted a used car for his wife. Lucky because at the time his company dictated that they buy American while in the US. I have never bough another new car since the Buick and I don’t see me buying new again ever!
And the swoopy fastbacks were conceived at the height of Muscle Car era, where sporty was in.
There were also threats of roll-over regulations, so GM added thick B pillars and dropped ragtops.
The operative phrase for mid size cars in the 70’s was ‘comfort for two’, these were not meant to be ‘family cars’, so back seats were small. But, lots of parents dumped their plain big cars for style, and crammed kids in the back. This is before child seat laws, etc.
I remember The day my brother told me that I needed to get over to the Oldsmobile dealership to see the new 76 cutlass S colonnade Coupe. What a beautiful car that was! the following day I went back and ordered a white 76 cutlass S coupe, Lime green pinstripes, and the interior was green with white swivel bucket seats. I even ordered the V8 455, Power windows power locks etc. etc. car came to $7200. I kept the car for eight years and traded it in for a Honda… I’ve been driving a white Honda accord Coupe ever since …. And only because it reminds me of my Oldsmobile muscle car. I certainly miss my Olds Cutlass…wish that I could find it but who knows where it’s at, could even be in the junkyard. Check out the photo I included. That’s my little sister standing in front of my pride and joy!