Curbside Fiction: Two 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supremes – A Tale Of Two Brothers

1980 Cutlass collage CC

These fraternal twins rolled off the assembly line in Arlington, Texas, in 1980 with healthy self-confidence and immediate acceptance.  They were stylish, square-jawed, sporty, and good-looking in a way that made many of their peers and competitors, both domestic and foreign, envious.  They were as popular as the Wrigley Doublemint Twins, and unlike their shunned, hunchbacked Cutlass Salon cousins (the less-attractive ones in the Oldsmobile family), Americans couldn’t get enough of the Supreme and Supreme Brougham.  They had won the mainstream personal luxury contest, hands down.

However, the paths of these two cars diverged almost immediately.

1980 Cutlass Blue 2

Blue was originally purchased new by a suburban couple in their late-fifties who were downsizing from a ’74 Delta 88 Royale.  They had been loyal to the Oldsmobile brand for close to twenty years, having moved up from a ’53 Chevrolet Two-Ten to purchase their first new Olds, a ’60 Dynamic 88.  At the time of that trade-in, the man of the house had just been promoted to management and felt it was the right time to move up from a Chevy.  Now close to retirement age and with an empty nest, the couple had been looking for something both easier on gas and which also afforded a little extra garage space in which the gentleman could work on his weekend carpentry projects.

1980 Cutlass Blue 3

With the mister and misses both having lived through World War II and understanding the value of a dollar and also taking care of one’s belongings, Blue was maintained beautifully, and washed and waxed regularly – even in the winter.  Life for Blue was easy, fun and predictable until the man of the house passed away around the turn of the New Millennium.  His widow still really loved Blue, which reminding her of her late husband, their lives together, and also just for having been a decent car in her favorite shade of blue.

1980 Cutlass Blue 1

The husband had been the primary driver in their household, and Blue spent an increasing amount of time in the garage as the lady’s eyesight continued to deteriorate.  When she finally passed away within two years of her late husband, their eldest son sold Blue in an estate sale to an eager, young gentleman in his thirties who couldn’t believe what a deal he gotten for such a nice, older “Cutty”- a nickname Blue was not used to, but grew to accept.  Blue endeared himself further to the new owner by resembling the car his parents had owned when he was a young kid, down to the color and alloys.

White was not as fortunate.  Things had started out well enough, after being purchased by a dapper, single gentleman in his early thirties.  He was a very image conscious guy, and he liked White’s looks and upscale image – both of which he had hoped would make him popular with the ladies.  He accessorized White with a sheepskin steering wheel cover, a Playboy bunny air freshener, and a set of Olds-logo mud flaps.  Initially, White was regularly treated to meals of premium unleaded, but by the time the effects of 1981’s economic recession had taken hold, his owner’s wallet took a big hit as well, and it was back to regular grade gasoline.

1980 Cutlass White 1

Despite his reduced income and increased living expenses, White’s owner still found the resources to keep a somewhat busy social schedule.  Disco as it had been known had just been laid to rest, but nightclubs were still very much alive in the underground.  The gentleman found himself in singles bars and dance clubs pretty much every, single weekend, and sometimes even on “school nights”.  It’s never a pleasant task to wash and / or vacuum a car with a hangover, so White’s weekend maintenance often took a back seat to the owner’s other activities, which sometimes included recovering from the night before.  White’s owner also worked a decent amount of overtime to try to maintain the appearance of being fairly well-off.  White’s gradual and long-term neglect manifested itself in the form of bad acne – rust spots that resulted from unrepaired paint chips and body damage by the time White was just five years old.

1980 Cutlass Brochure ad

Combined with the cigarette burns on the interior door panels and front seats and the accompanying smell of stale smoke and air freshener, the lack of upkeep torpedoed White’s resale value when he was traded in for a new, leased Thunderbird.  White immediately went from the dealer to auction, then languished as a “Dealer’s Special” at a privately-owned used car lot before being purchased by a recently-divorced, single mom of two who bought White as a work transportation car.  Like White’s first owner, she was also in her thirties, and to her, a Cutlass was still a “nice car” – even in White’s less-than-cared for condition.

White was listed for sale in the classified ads of the local newspaper after White’s second owner had gotten remarried after several years.  The lady’s new, blended family required the ability to haul more kids than White had room for.  A tall, thin gentleman who appeared to be in his fifties – with a long, gaunt face, a white shock of hair that covered his forehead, and thick-lensed, plastic-framed glasses came to their house by bus to make a cash purchase.  He spoke very quickly and tersely, and showed direct, no-nonsense mannerisms in his speech and body language that one would expect of a college professor, a scientist, or merely a person with limited need or use for unnecessary social interaction.

1980 Cutlass White 2

As it would appear by his manner of dress – baggy khaki trousers and a plaid flannel shirt with a few missing buttons, White’s third and final owner seemed to care little for appearances, including that of his car.  He let White’s Super Stock II wheels become caked with brake dust (even refusing their sale to an interested buyer).  Five years into his ownership, he mounted a carrying bracket to the White’s roof with which to haul “treasures” found in flea markets and on curbs back to his house.  As the owner continued to amass things in his small house and garage in nearby Rogers Park, White continued to accumulate a truly astounding amount of dents, rust and battle scars as the years rolled by.  All the same and even in light of his terrible condition and posture, he just continued to soldier on – never letting his appearance betray his usefulness at his advanced age.

When I spotted both of these Cutlass Supreme siblings in May of 2011, it was hard not to think of how our own human choices, and sometimes just life itself, can lead to vastly different circumstances down the road for two individuals born of the same environment.

Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.

Blue was photographed on Sunday, May 8, 2011, and
White was photographed on Thursday, May 26, 2011.