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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The last time I saw a doors so rusted that the mirror fell off was early model Gran Torinos on a trip to Toronto in the summer of ’79.
Brilliant! You paint an amazing picture of the likely owners of these cars. White has an absolutely staggering amount of rust, something I don’t really see here in warm Brisbane
Or out here on the West coast. I forget just how ugly cars are capable of getting.
What a great description of the differing paths that these two cars traveled. Blue is like the person who ate right, worked out and saved his money. White reminds me of what someone said about one of my deceased relatives – that she started with a strong constitution and gave it a run for its money.
I’ve always loved 78-87 era Cutlasses, especially the 1980……the 78-80’s were already tough looking cars, something about its grille and the dual headlights on each side really makes it sharp looking.The one in the brochure with the burgundy red exterior and interior, with the buckets and console, damn near gave me a boner.
I thought the sedans were good looking as well.
In general I tend to have “Motivational Issues” on Friday, so I probably spend an inordinate amount of time on CC or other non-work-related distractions, but I have to admit that I do look forward to the Joseph Dennis post every Friday.
White’s owner should be caned for allowing him to deteriorate to that degree. There’s just no excuse for a still operational vehicle to look like that. There should be a hotline one could call to report such atrocities, like the 800 #’s for DYFS or the ASPCA, etc.
My first car was a Datsun two ten from Ohio that had alot of rust.i remember the floor was so bad that you could see the asphalt from inside.on the bright side in a car with no ac in tucson at 55mph i could feel the wind going up my shorts that felt like Xmas.
If I could change the wheels on Blue to Super Stock, I would be in Gearhead Heaven!!
Nice write up! Made my morning
Very nice chronicle. I always think the same. How is it possible to cars of The same vontade be in so different condition? Man can destroy not even Nature, but fine cars also.
Before White goes to the crusher, Blue could use its left front bumper filler and a can of rattle-can, matching blue paint.
Amusing that, with all the body damage and rust, the bumper fillers are intact. While not as bad as the self-destructing ones fitted to Cadillacs, those are not entirely robust (as the missing one on blue shows).
Very good! Some cars are lucky, some cars ain’t.
Loved the old Supremes…my dad had an ’83, in one of the best colours I have ever seen on that model, or practically any other. I believe the official name was Jade Green, it was a sharp silvery-green that sparkled, complete with (of course) colour-keyed mag wheels.
Walking to school, one wet morning as the rain had paused, back in the 80’s, a Cutlass Supreme just the like one you mentioned, drove through our cul-de sac for a brief minute. I could never get that car and that green color out of mind. Maybe the the wet road surface enhanced it but every once in awhile that imagery pops into my head.
That really was a gorgeous shade of dark celery green. Imagine buying a car today in that color with a matching interior.
I’ll be visiting some friends in Edgewater tomorrow, and I’ll be scanning the streets like crazy thanks to Joseph’s great posts.
For whatever reason, cars just jump out in front of Joe’s camera, much like puppy dogs jumping around at the animal shelter. I don’t know how he does it, but he does it quite well.
Jason, thanks, and this is true. Even here in Flint and just yesterday (and I mean just on the street and not at the show), I’ve seen a mint ’73 Riviera, an early 80s C3 Corvette, and a third-gen Eldorado.
And CJC, welcome back to the neighborhood!
Differing situations indeed…classic versus beater. Though white is to be commended for still being an operational vehicle with that much body damage and rust. Kind of staggering; those of us in milder climes just don’t see rust that bad (and even in harsh, salty climates, seeing rust at that level is probably a throwback to another era). The blue, on the other hand, looks stunning. I even like the white-letter tires (not usually a fan but they just look right here) and LOVE those alloys. Factory option but not a common one.
Wonder what’s under the hood of each? 231 V6 and 260 V8 were the common choices, but the ’80 brochure also lists the 305 V8 as being optional. Which is a Chevy engine, and I really can’t explain that considering the full-sizers had the in-house 307 as an option…?
Chris, I confess that when I had first photographed Blue, those alloys left me scratching my head, as I didn’t recall having seen them before. But I like them! Many buyers apparently preferred the body-colored SS III’s.
Wow! That white one was probably a pretty typical midwest beater 20 years ago…can’t believe it was still cruising around in 2011!
On another note, I think the last paragraph sums things up rather nicely–Cutlass as metaphor. A+, my friend. 🙂
@Aaron65 “Cutlass as metaphor”.
If I ever start to think I can cut down on my exercises and careful dietary choices, the top photos will set me straight.
Thank you Joseph.
Actually the story may be of a middle aged gentleman and his wife whom bought his and hers matching cars new at the same time. Unfortunately his wife became ill and passed on only a couple of years later.
He used her blue car as a pampered fair weather garaged queen. When the winter settled in and the salt trucks came out, his car was the winter beater. It was to keep her memory alive.
Very cool to see that old blue Cutlass still on the road despite then I have a soft spot for the 1981-87 models. ^^;
Here a 1979 or 1980 Cutlass Supreme who was used in 1990 for a scene of the French-Canadian movie “Ding & Dong, le film”.
Interesting clip. The Cutlass demolishes a Renault Alliance while suffering no damage itself.
Very nice story. My wife inherited a little newer version of one of these, an ’85 with 25000 miles, which we are giving a good home to. It happens to be white, but its life is much more like Blue.
Thank you, and your Cutlass is gorgeous…t-tops and everything.
I find it interesting the divergent paths cars take over the course of their lifetimes. When I converse with my cars (does anyone else do this or have I revealed to much?) I make sure they know how lucky they are that I found them while they were still with close relatives of the original owners, and I think they appreciate me and my faithful care because they have very rarely ever let me down. This is especially poignant in light of how many cars of this era I saw meet their ends at the hands of my high school classmates. Many went from ‘blue’ to ‘white’ or worse in very short amounts of time.
One of my all time favorite personal coupes. The profile picture of Blue reminds me how perfect the proportions are on these cars!
The different “paths” these cars took illustrate their broad appeal back then. Their strong sales volume meant people from many different walks of life purchased them new, but also the reason why many ended up like White.
Everyone, thanks for the kind feedback and I’m glad you enjoyed this one! I’ve been MIA from CC today, as I’m in Flint for a car show. I’m sure there will be some interesting finds.
As for these 1978 – ’80 Cutlasses, these were probably my very first favorite cars, ever. I discovered these pictures when going through 5 y/o archives, and I had forgotten I had found two of them in the same month and year!
A very well written description of the possible lives of two cars that began almost identically but diverged widely over the course of 36 years. I wrote a similar fictional history several years ago about two almost completely identical red 1972 Coupe de Villes (Coupes de Ville?) that I spotted in different cities:
Thanks, and yours was a cool piece, Robert! I hope you don’t feel I plagiarized, friend – great minds think alike. 🙂
Now blue is beautiful, but poor white has some serious rust!! I was always told that because white stays the coolest it is the most prone to rusting out. Guess this upholds that theory.
Cool write-up, Joseph. The fate of a car always lingers in my mind as you see older cars drive by you down the road. They were obviously well-cared for, as they are still running around. But what will happen to them if they get in the wrong hands? I think the good thing is that now because the prices have skyrocketed for older cars it is tougher for them to get destroyed.
Love the stories – this place rocks.
That white Cutlass (“The Chicago Cutlass” we’ve all heard about?) looks like a lifetime of substance abuse and waking every morning with a visit to the vomitorium has taken its toll. It is truly a sad representation of the GM brand. I wonder how many miles White has accumulated by now. I would not qualify this one as a survivor, more like a resident of palliative care.