CCCCC #11: 1980-1987 Cutlass Supreme Sedan – The Oldsmobile Seville

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(first posted 6/23/2011)       There were benefits to being GM. Rush out on stage in a bold new outfit, and get laughed right off it? No problem, just run back to the costume department, where they’ll find you a tried and proven one, and the master seamstresses will nip and tuck it to fit your size A-body in a flash.

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The 1978 Aeroback A-Bodies (CCCCC Part 9) were a royal flop; it didn’t take long for that to become self evident. Some might have even foreseen it.

But adapting the 1975 Seville’s tried-and-proven Saville-row tailored suit was a quickie fix. And a fabulously successful one. For eight years (1980-1987) we were given the chance to amend our sins for not having bought one of the originals. And very many did.

“The Little Limousine” is what I remember it being called; was it in an ad or a review? But that sticks in my head, although it’s less honest than just calling it a Little Seville. But what’s honesty got to do with this business?

Of course “little” may not have been the right word, exactly. The A-Bodies did have six inches less wheelbase than the Seville’s 114″ stretched Nova X platform, but from the looks of it, that was all in getting the front wheels out front. The passenger compartments were more similar sized; with the nod undoubtedly going to the A-Bodies for better interior space utilization.

This interior is from a genuine Brougham edition of the Cutlass Supreme, and it is a cushy cabin indeed. No wonder folks kept buying them for so long, despite the lack of opening rear windows. By that time, everyone had their A/C, and didn’t care anymore. Not really a spacious car, but adequate. And although the Cutlass RWD platform was getting a bit long in tooth towards the end of its career, it was a more modern and space-efficient design than its competitor in the evergreen RWD not-too-big brougham market, the Chrysler Fifth Avenue.

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For good measure, here’s a peek into the cabin of a mere Cutlass Supreme. The upholstery is generic grade, and the plasti-wood rearranged, but it’s still not an unpleasant place to sit; kind of like a doctor’s office waiting room. Where’s the magazine rack?

Yes, these Cutlass Supreme Seville mini-me sedans were everywhere, if you actually looked. They were as much of the backdrop of the street-scape for so long, it seems odd to realize that not every sixth car is one anymore. Familiarity can breed contempt.

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But fear not: there’s still a healthy sprinkling of them around, as this little sampler shows. Like most cars that get built a long time, the later ones seem pretty solidly screwed together indeed. All of these have a Volvo-esque perpetual youthfulness to them. Or maybe their owners are Cutlass-proud.

Engines: let’s forget about them today. Did anyone who bought one of these really care about what was under the hood, as long as it was unobtrusive? Nah. Any slightest pretense of performance and sportiness had long been purged from the Cutlass Supreme playbook. Soft and silky; cushy and whooshy; that’s all that counted. A quiet and sedate ride to the dentist’s office or supermarket.

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Not surprisingly, the 1981 Seville pretty much had to ditch that look it had started in 1975, as it was absolutely everywhere. So what did the GM stylists do? Give it a flowing fastback, with a little bustle; not all that different from the Aeroback Cutlass in its general outline. What goes around, comes around. Well, that turned out not to be such a hot idea, unless you’re a Wayne Kady fan.  Live and learn, or not.

What else is there to say? Hmmm; your turn.

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Chapter 12 Is Here