Curbside Classic: 1999 Oldsmobile Silhouette: Not “The Chrysler Of Minivans”


(first posted 9/19/2013)     I think by now it is well known that I am both a minivan lover and an Oldsmobile lover. So naturally, one would think that the Oldsmobile Silhouette is my favorite vehicle of all time. In reality…not so much. For some reason, the Olds Silhouette never did it for me. I spotted this 1999 Silhouette back in July, and it only reinforced my feelings.

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GM couldn’t seem to find a happy medium when it came to styling an attractive minivan. The original 1990-1996 “Dustbuster” Silhouettes were far too out-of-this-world, to say the least.


GM took a complete U-turn for its second-generation 1997-2004 Silhouettes, making them the blandest vehicles in the segment. For me, these second-generation Silhouettes leave a lot to desire.

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Maybe it’s because of how similar these were to their rebadged siblings, the Chevrolet Venture and Pontiac Montana (née Trans Sport), although Chrysler’s minivans also didn’t look all that different from each other.

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More likely, it’s because I can’t help but compare the Olds on every level with its prime competitor, the Chrysler Town & Country. The 1996-2000 Chrysler minivans are my favorite minivans of all time and to my mind, nothing else can stand up to them.

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Especially when you compare the interiors of these “luxury minivans”, the Town & Country can’t help but look and feel a notch above the Silhouette in terms of design and material quality.

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The 2001 model did bring a few upscale touches, including available two-tone perforated leather and a dose of faux woodgrain accents. However, the dash still carried the same unappealing square shapes and hard plastics of its less expensive siblings.


One unique feature about this van that I can compliment is the availability of a teal-color leather interior. Also available on the first-generation Olds Aurora, I haven’t seen this color in any other contemporary car.


Like Chrysler, Oldsmobile did make cloth seats standard on its lower trim models, including the one I photographed here. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but Olds did use different (and higher-quality) cloth than Chevy and Pontiac. IMG_2122

The exterior styling of the Oldsmobile also looks far duller than the more sculpted lines of the Chrysler. Now, I fully understand that styling is not high on the wish list of most minivan buyers; regardless, to me this is as bland as a small vanilla ice cream cone.

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The two-piece headlights always looked behind the times, especially combined with GM’s horrible orange running lights that never seemed to burn at the same intensity on both sides.


While not awful vehicles, overall these GM minivans were uninspired, and they fit all the minivan stereotypes that turned the majority of the car-buying population away from this style of people hauler. For me, what’s even sadder is that they slapped an Oldsmobile badge on this vehicle. I want to like this one, but I just can’t.


The Silhouette may have been famously dubbed “The Cadillac of Minivans”, but when it comes to minivans (well, at least those of the late 1990s), the Cadillac name simply doesn’t command the same level of esteem as”Chrysler”.