CCCCC Part 8: Cutlass Supreme And Brougham Coupes – Absolute Supremacy

(first posted 4/21/2011)     What a coup! Here they are, America’s sweethearts, that jumped right to the top of the sales charts. In 1976, the Cutlass line was the number one selling car in the United States of Oldsmobile, with almost 650k units sold. And those sales were driven by this formal coupe, available in three versions: plain Supreme, Supreme Brougham, and the Salon coupe. They alone accounted for some 425k in sales. Imagine that: a coupe selling in as many numbers as all of Camry sales.

Yes, the late seventies and early eighties were the glory days of the personal luxury coupe. And yes, this third installment of our Colonnade segment of CCCCC is the last of this bunch; there are three columns on a Colonnade, you know.

Regrettably, I do not have a Salon coupe for your visual edification. The Salon was the sales laggard of this trio, while the CS (brown car) was the big seller. Why? The price/value relationship, of course. At $4670 ($16.6k adjusted), the base Supreme coupe was about the cheapest way to look like you were staying ahead of the game of life, if only just barely so. Therefore, it was also the biggest seller of the bunch. Of course, that base price got you a 105 hp 3.8 L Buick V6 without air conditioning and pretty much any other amenity. Although by the mid seventies, automatics and assisted disc brakes and power steering had become standard equipment. None too soon.

As this picture shows, the Supreme wasn’t all that Supreme. The seventies were known for its inflation, and the name “Supreme” was not left out. Back in 1967, the Cutlass Supreme really was; ten years later, those infamous hard plastic lower door panels have appeared. Looks more like a Chevelle Malibu. Hopefully, the neighbors are going to be impressed with your CS from a safe distance, and aren’t going to walk over and stick their noses in its window.

If one ponied up the extra $300 bucks or so for the Supreme Brougham, the benefit was mostly in better interior appointments as well as a standard 110 hp 260 CID (4.3 L) Rockette V8. The 260 was one of that genre of utterly emasculated V8s that appeared in the wake of the energy crisis. Never has a V8 felt more like a weak chested six, or a half-way decent four, of those times, that is.

Trying to fathom a 4.3 liter V8 making 110 hp in anything but a seventies context is simply impossible. But two bigger V8s were also available: the 350 (genuine) Olds V8 made 170 hp, and a 403 CID Rocket was also optional, with a mighty 185 hp on tap. The prior year, one could still order the big 455 in a Cutlass, but that motor was now no more.

In case you’re wondering what this CS Brougham coupe is up to in its old age, it has become a “jumper”. That’s what the owner told me before he drove, not jumped off. But I think he is serious, given its stripped interior and its high-riding stance. If anyone can clarify the sport of jumping, I’m all ears.

How did I know it started life as a Brougham? The seats, of course. They have that distinctive “loose-pillow” construction that was all the rage for quite a while. This is a pretty early example of that; does anyone know when the loose-pillow first appeared?

It’s obvious that “jumping” is a serious undertaking, given the extensive modifications this Brougham has been subjected to. But that fine upholstery pattern is still intact, able to withstand all the jumping its owner can dish out.

Whatever jumping is, it appears that this participant does it with a higher calling. Perhaps it’s his way of getting more elevation: Closer to Thee, Lord, let me jump…

I suspect that there’s something a bit warmer than a stock engine under the hood of the Supreme jumper. And I apologize for the sun ruining this shot of its business end. When the sun comes out in the winter around here, everyone is just dazzled, including my camera.

So let’s take a less celestially-affected look at that waterfall grille, which is disturbingly similar to that of the 1975 Imperial. Now that’s a change, GM stealing design ideas from Chrysler. When was the last time that happened?

It’s time to bid the Colonnades adieu. Enough is enough, and I’m not sure I want to see a Cutlass Colonnade for quite a while again. Frankly, the odds of finding one aren’t all that hot anymore. But if I were to find a Salon…or a 442…

Chapter 9 Here