Start dancing. Start pushing the envelope. Start dreaming in color. Start Something…
This was the opening line to the 1999 Oldsmobile Alero advertising campaign. It was meant to evoke images of excitement, of something new and Intriguing (pun intended) going on at Oldsmobile. The new Millennium was just around the corner and it seemed as if Oldsmobile was finally back on track with cars that would appeal to middle America again, just like the Cutlass did in years past. Or so it seemed…
Taut, athletic styling that hinted ever-so-subtly at having upscale European influence. Comfort and Convenience features that were on par with the competition. A driving experience that would be completely different from what customers had come to expect from GM. New names, new shapes and even a new logo. No, it was not Your Father’s Oldsmobile, but thankfully it was no longer one of the mediocre-at-best Oldsmobiles that replaced dear ‘ol Dad’s. At least on paper.
General Motors had high hopes for the new-for-1999 N-Cars, the Oldsmobile Alero and Pontiac Grand Am. The styling was based on the 1997 Alero Alpha concept car that was introduced at the North American International Auto Show.
The Alero’s claim to fame was it’s much touted “Active Response System”, which featured supposed torsional stiffness in the body compared to some of Europe’s finest, four-wheel independent suspension, wide, low-profile tires, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and other advanced-for-the-times components. It was not your average small car from the General, and was leagues ahead of the dismal Acheiva.
As soon as the 1999 Aleros were at dealers I had to run out and try one. The salesman put me in a rather plain Alero coupe. It looked great and drove fine, but at the time I couldn’t see paying $18k for a car with no power options and plastic hubcaps, so I passed. Fast forward to 2004, it’s Oldsmobile’s last year and I was heartbroken. That December I found online a 2004 Alero that someone had traded in after having kept it for all of four months. It had 4900 miles on it and due to a mistake in pricing on the website, I basically got the car for half of it’s MSRP! To say I loved and enjoyed that car is quite an understatement. Sadly, after several years and many miles, it started giving me a bit of electrical trouble, so I somewhat reluctantly traded it in on a Chevrolet. It looked almost as good as the day I bought it.
Many of you will recall the CC’s I wrote about my Mercury Mystique and the Buick LeSabre, cars that went on to take the place of the Chevy after I sold it. Well, those cars left my garage for different reasons, and were replaced for a little while by a Chrysler PT Cruiser. The Cruiser was bought because I enjoyed it for it’s practicality. It got traded in last week on another Olds, a car I will once again enjoy because it’s just well, more me.
Did I need another car? No. Do I need a second car?? Hardly. All I know is that I am a sucker for seemingly mundane, yet rarely noticed cars that have just a little something special going on, and for me, the Alero presses all the right buttons.
I spotted this little gem a couple of weeks ago sitting in the rear lot at a Toyota dealer in Bay City, Michigan (that used to be the Oldsmobile dealer that I bought Alero#1 from). It’s a 2001 Alero GL2 Brougham. (Note, it did not leave Lansing as a Brougham, but I took care of that!)
It needed a little TLC, but I could see the potential. Much like Linus said when looking at Charlie Brown’s little Christmas tree, “It just needs a little love”. It only has 104,000 miles on it’s 3.4l V6, and still runs quite well. After replacing a few interior pieces (the girl that had it last was a smoker and was not careful), getting the awful smell out, replacing some broken lights on the outside, and doing a lot of touch up work to the paint, she’s starting to look good again.
I love the driving position. I’m a bit on the short side at slightly under five and a half foot tall, so the power seat and tilt wheel helps me find the perfect spot. You’ll notice that it has a rear spoiler, a feature that I love having. Why? Simple, when I look in the rear view mirror while backing up, I can see that and it gives me a rough idea of where the back of the car is and helps me to not back into things!
And the stereo system; I cannot fail to mention that! The six-speaker Dimensional Sound is pure aural bliss to my ears! Today I took a ride after church out to Tawas Point State Park, where some of the pictures were taken, just so I could listen to my Tritonal CD and enjoy the moment. Truth be told, I have rarely encountered a GM stereo system that didn’t sound good. I’m hoping to switch out the head unit soon with one that has the CD/cassette combo out of another Alero so that I can use my XM Satellite in it. Here’s to hoping that I can figure out how to defeat the Theftlock feature…
So there you have it, my Ruby Red beauty. It was love at first sight and I hope the love affair will continue for many miles to come.
ALERO: START SOMETHING.