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.
ALERO: START SOMETHING NEW THIS NEW YEAR!
Wish the tail lamps were of a size that looked balanced, rather than the lady gaga things it wears….
Now, see, I always thought the tail lights were a good design element on this car. What did it in for me was that the four-door was indistinguishable from a Grand Am, which in my mind had become the used car of last resort for people who couldn’t afford anything else. That association killed my desire.
I definitely understand that. Both the GA and Alero screamed “rental” in basic white, silver or gold, that’s for sure.
Nice looking “Brougham”!
I thought these looked pretty sharp when they were new. As time went on, I think my mind just lumped them in with every other clapped-out Grand Am derivative, which made me forget what a nice design the Olds was. I still think the taillights are too big for the metal they’re on, but that’s a minor quibble.
Oldsmobile really did have its own design language in those days, and it was far less offensive than Pontiac’s. Yes, that is a backhanded compliment. I’ll try to make up for it by saying that the Aurora is arguably my favorite 90s sedan design…and the Alero shares quite a bit of that DNA.
Glad to see you’re keeping it on the road and enjoying it! May your 3.4L carry you well over 200k!
These were a very successful design for my family’s garage. Every single 3.4 had the intake manifold gasket fail and it is an eleven hour job. Our mechanics could do it in seven with practice. Ka-ching!
The strut mount bearings on these things fail once second after the warranty is up. GM sells only the entire unit which is like $500 each, plus labour and alignment. However, there is an aftermarket kit that is only $100. Mark it up 100% and the customer is happy. Ka-ching!
The brakes on these cars are horribly under-sized for the Wet Coast’s hilly roads and cannot last more than 20,000 km. Dealers were charging, get this, almost $700 for pads and rotors on each end. By the way, the rotors on things things are so thin you can’t resurface them, so we got to sell new ones every time! We’d do it for half the money and still make a huge profit. Ka-ching!
ABS sensors: Great money makers, the left front one always goes first. Half hour of labour to scan it (we were generous) and aftermarket part (better than OEM, that is a given) and Ka-ching, $400 gone.
Airbag lights: Right around 80,000 km, electrical problems will start. The worst ones are in the airbag system. Very difficult to isolate and diagnose. Could easy be 10 hours of retail to just find the problem. Ka-ching!
Fine products such as the Alero really helped to make my life a good one but ultimately, they destroyed my family’s business.
As a person who worked in a garage from ’04 to ’07 (right when these were coming out of warranty) I’ll second every single thing listed here, especially the intake gasket.
Hopefully Mr. Bennett’s ride has been through most of that by now.
There are actually quite a few more but you know, people get right upset when I “GM Bash.”
I now stand by the assertion that GM makes, and has always made, the finest cars imaginable.
We bought a one year old 2001 Intrigue (can’t really see any major difference with the Alero except for the tail lights.) Stuff broke down like crazy after the warranty ran out. Ignition lock, rebuild transmission at 45K, the rotors and pads like crazy, etc etc. The car had a habit of not starting, due to security system malfunction. Turn signals would not work properly, bang on dash or wiggle flasher. One hundred and one things went wrong in 9 years and 100K.
At the end the power steering lines rotted away, A/C didn’t work, and car overheated a lot. Car still looked like new inside and out with 108K. Drove like new, to. The wife got $ 1,000 trade on a new RAv-4. She loves the RAV.
The Olds was supposedly a $ 25,000 car. We got ours from a guy I golfed with for half the price. With 50% off, I still considered it a good deal.
The Intrigue was the next size up, the W Body, as in Impala. Although a much more expensive car than the Alero, it is worthy of mention this car was just as bad, nay, even more so, a piece of rolling auto-crap. Typically, in the first year after warranty the dealer would gouge them as the cars had an antique electrical system full of truly crappy parts and no way to diagnose them without going through them one by one. This could take hours and cost a fortune. Everything was routed through, get this, the ignition switch because GM was too cheap to have a secondary fuse block on them. This made the aforementioned switch fry in all GM cars of the era.
After a year at the stealership we got the cars and as Dave C says, perfectly good looking cars were getting major repairs at very low kms.
Talk about whizzing in Mr. Bennett’s Corn Flakes! 🙂
I would have never guessed an intake gasket required so many hours — do you have to remove the heads & machine them or something? Just curious.
The engine in Alero#1 never gave me any problems, other than some piston slap. The car was relatively trouble-free until 84000 miles and that’s when the ABS sensors when crazy.
Oddly enough, Alero#2 is in need of strut mounts. An independent shop quoted me $500 to do it, I’m sure I can find a better deal. I took it across to the Chevy dealership just for giggles and they wanted literally twice as much for the same job! I doubt I’ll be back there, as I’m not going to personally pay for their recent remodel.
Nevertheless, I still like the car. Like I said in the title, it was an irrational choice, but it makes me happy.
If we didn’t buy what makes us happy, everyone would be driving the same silver Camry LE. And what fun would that be?
Yes. Variety is the spice of life (and cars). But even though I’m used to seeing it, I’m always a little shocked by how intolerant and judgmental people are of unpopular/ugly/misfit/unusual cars!
Yeah, having car in the shop, and trying to arrange rides to work is “fun”. So is paying repair money on top of car payments. And depriciation losses from ‘overlooked fun cars that people just don’t get’.
“Fun” certain wears out after the 4 th or 5th repair job on a ‘fun’ car not even hitting 100 k miles.
My list of “fun cars”: Mustang, Contours, Focus, and family members loyal to GM.
You do have a point. My elderly mom still has her 1997 Cadillac Deville. I personally think it’s “cool”, interesting, and beautiful, and it’s been *relatively* reliable, but it’s had many ups and downs over the years, even with low mileage (it’s around 80 or 90K at this point.) Check engine lights, broken A/C, overheating radiators, etc etc. I don’t know it for a fact, but when I see an old woman in, say, a late ’90s Lexus ES or Acura RL., I can’t help but think they’ve saved a lot of money compared to my mom on maintenance and headaches. But I still think the Cadillac has a lot more “soul”!
@Canucklehead: I know you’re a huge Japanese car humper, and Lord knows GM unleashed a load of crap on the market in years past. But acting like Japan, Inc. didn’t unload it’s own loads of crap on the North American market indicates some rosy glasses.
It’s not like Japanese cars in the past haven’t had a huge list of issues. Granted, you don’t live in rust country, and at one time all manufacturers struggled with that issue. IMO, the US domestic brands resolved that problem first. For as many leaky head gasket North American cars, there were just as many fragile trannied Hondas, smoky Mitsubishis, and sludging Toyotas.
I worked for a Ford and AMC dealers in the early 80’s, and a Toyota dealer in the early 90’s; my brother in law was a line mechanic at a couple of general repair shops in the 80’s and 90’s (Sears and Meineke here in the States). We compared notes back then, and we saw that only a couple of the Japanese makes were really ahead of anyone else back then.
What was most telling to me, was the fact that some of the folks were very willing to spend big money to keep their Toyota or Honda going, where folks with other cars (domestic, other Japanese and other foreign, VW mostly) were less willing to pour money into keeping them going. We both witnessed this in our separate observations.
Also, some folks again were more willing to do the (ridiculous in some cases) maintenance schedules suggested by the dealer, which covered a lot of sins that the manufacturer would commit. (How does an exhaust system rust out in two years in semi-arid mid-Georgia?)(or my favorite: if you don’t use “our” branded oil/air/fuel filters, you’ll void your warranty…) Again, many folks who owned other makes would not even remotely commit to following a maintenance program for their cars. My time at both dealerships bore this out.
IMO, owner commitment to the individual unit is what matters most. I get that there were some really bad cars out there, ask me how I know. I’ve opined plenty on here about my 80 turbo Capri, my 83 Trans Am and others. Oddly, the one car (over the 30+ years and 40+ cars I’ve owned) that caused me the least amount of hassle, hands down: My 1987 Yugo.
I think expectations were lower in the ’80s and early ’90s for the imports, given the grief many buyers had gotten from their previous Detroit cars.
Sure, ’80s Japanese cars were rustbuckets after five years, but for that first five years, they typically broke less and generally felt better screwed together than anything comparable from the Big Three. Especially GM. And for people who traded cars as soon as the loan was paid off, that’s really all that mattered.
I grew up almost exclusively with Toyotas and Hondas, and for many years, the attitude of my parents was to dump the cars at the first sign of trouble, if not before. The reputation of those brands probably works against them in a way, because the idea of their reliability has become so engrained that many buyers will have very little tolerance for repairs, etc.
I find that the European owners (save for VW) are the most willing to dump tons of cash into keeping their cars going. I like the Volvo guys who swear to the durability of their cars while listing the laundry list of expensive crap they’ve had fixed. Then there’s the BMW guys who think replacing the cooling system every 100k miles is acceptable because their so invested in the hype.
A good owner can work miracles with a bad car, and a bad owner can quickly kill a good car. It takes all kinds.
I spent the better part of my early life in a garage and I an attest everything that Consumer Reports data supports is exactly what I saw or didn’t see come in my door. My heyday in that business was the 80’s to the mid 90’s, the time when GM in particular did a spectacular nose dive. The “New GM” stuff that came out around 1990 with FWD was absolute junk. These cars were cheap as cheap could make; the actual parts that went into the car were inferior quality. GM was having a hard time competing and this is how they treated their loyal customer base, which had soldiered on during all the X Car debacle. Mind you most of the people that bought this stuff were coming from RWD Cutlass and 88 stuff, so they were not completely turned off like the lower end people already were.
These cars were not cheap nor were they really very durable. Those who bought them went straight to the Toyota/Lexus or Honda/Acura dealers after they’d been fleeced for a load o’ dough right out of warranty. Major things went wrong with these cars and I would know, since I worked as a GM service guy while these things were self-destructing.
So anyone can damn research or science they don’t like but my personal experience puts it right on. Besides, the proof is rather obvious: no Oldsmobile and belly-up GM.
Warning Will Robinson! There is a garage in Canada ripping people off!
Where the FHeck do you get off charging that much for a gasket replacement?
AllData says 6.3 Hrs and GM warranty says 4.6. And if you had reasonable miles on your car when it started leaking than it was covered under warranty. And if you didn’t than most likely the dealer would haved 50/50 it. And as for the strut mounts MSRP in US$ is $126.39 each. My recommendation would be to buy a set of quick struts(mounts,struts and spring installed as an assembly) on line and DIY. All you might need is an alignment. Name one car,one car that didn’t need something replaced over the course of it’s life. Not every N-Car was a rolling money pit like you import snobs would like to believe. You cant tell me your precious JapanInc TLC is inmune to the same parts replacement. You have a timing belt on that gem, don’t you? Good old chains on the born in the USA N-Body. I think your families business failure was due to something else other than Detroits conspiracy to dump POS cars north of the border. Oh and BTW those POS ABS sensors are the same on your over priced Honda. But I’m guessing your the type of guy whose lease is up about the same time as the warranty so you’ll just pass the buck to the next schmuck that buys your car.
You know what’s funny? Step into a salvage yard and just for curiousity sake compare the mileage on everything that you consider is a POS. I think you’ll see that it’s a fair playing field between the imports and domestics. It aint nothing to do with whose name is the car but rather with the jerk behind the wheel. Some people can coax astronomical miles out of a car and than there are those who can’t. It’s not hard to spot them or their car. This website is proof of that.
If I had to have an Alero I would have held out for one of the Final 500 models. To bad I wasn’t looking for a new Oldsmobile in 2004. I would have tried to order a Final 500 with the 2.4 EcoTech and a 5-speed manual tranny.
Here’s a pic of the Made in Lansing decal on the passengers rear window. Most if not all N-Cars made after 2001 were made in Lansing. Before 2001 the build was spilt between OK City and Lansing
Okay I recant:
Cars such as the Alero are a testament to excellent engineering. The astounding success of the Oldsmobile and GM brands have made the Alero a highly profitable part of the full range Oldsmobile line.
“You have a timing belt on that gem, don’t you? Good old chains on the born in the USA N-Body.”
Oh, you mean like the timing chain you had to remove on the Quad 4 to replace the cheapo water pump that inevitably failed? That was pretty worthless.
I’m no Detroit fan, but I admittedly did kinda like this car (and the Grand Am) when they first came out. But, as with every GM car of this era, the component quality was pathetic. Whatever design or engineering merits the cars had were totally undermined by relentless bean counting and, ultimately, weak, stupid, arrogant management. Toyota and Honda have always had their faults, but there was absolutely no contest back then.
The Alero destroyed your family’s business? Haha.. I think not. And I’ll leave it at that.
So this would be Oldsmobiles answer to the PUG 406, Well I guess it might keep up with a diesel if its lucky on a flat straight road but through any corners the Olds will simply fall behind qas for comfort and creature features it wouldnt even come close. Will this bag of bolts do 500,000 KMs without overhaul I doubt it.
Actually, Bryce, 140,000 km is where a GM car of this era succumbs to terminal money-pitism. From 60,001 km to 139,999 km it will only need a couple of thousand a year to keep it running.
TheftLock can be defeated. Google it and instructions will appear on different blogs.
Well, I am actually sitting in the Alero right now. After spending way too much time looking on the comp, I finally discovered that the RDS equipped GM radios such as mine can only be unlocked with some type of scanner that the dealer has. I’ll try and talk to the folks at the Dean again, but I’m not holding my breath. Maybe the salesman at Labadie can sweet talk one of his techs to do it for me. After all, he was supposed to have a light replaced on the car and I did that myself, so we could call it a good tradeoff…
Try this, it’s worked for me, no dealer involved
I did look into it, but unfortunately it only works for first-gen Theftlock radios, and mine is a second-gen. 🙁
My mother in law had an 01 with the quad4. It felt like a low budget accord knockoff. It was fun to drive but all the components it was made of were cheap and it was always having problems related to everything. These cars were all shitboxes… The grand ams were slightly more reliable.
No, the Grand Am was equally bad. These cars were identical under the skin. Even the part numbers are the same across the line.
You hit the nail on the head with “low budget Accord knockoff.” You can tell that Oldsmobile’s designers wanted to make the Alero (and Intrigue) look and feel as much like “imports” as they could, and overall their ideas were quite tasteful IMHO.
Too bad the cost cutters screwed it all up. Playskool interior plastics? Check. Chinese-built V6 with an appetite for head gaskets? You betcha…
I’m not so sure about the engines in these having come from China. I do know that a big deal was made about the 3.4 engines that went into the Chevrolet Equinox coming from China…
I think you’re right. I had assumed all 3400s were the same, but it looks like a unique version for the Equinox/Torrent was the only one to be sourced from China.
Yup, Equinox and Torrent only. They were famous for the bolt on the harmonic balancer coming lose at speed and thus grenading the motor. There were many of them when I worked as a GM service advisor. They were all recalled to tighten the bolt.
I always liked the way these looked – I remember when we first got them (early 1998 in Ontario as 1999 models).
Problem was that they seemed to be badly built. Any that I see now seem to be terminally rusty with paint and other body issues. Add that to these issues mentioned above and is it any wonder that Olds is no longer with us.
Conversely, my last GM-mobile was a 2003 Pontiac Bonneville. Bought it with 180K (daily rental) and took it all the way to 300. The only problem that car ever gave me was that the brakes seemed to wear out quickly. I’d still have it if the transmission didn’t start slipping (that was my fault as I didn’t change the fluid until 230k and should have as soon as I bought it).
Ah, good old Labadie Olds. Several of my family’s cars came from there, including my first new car, a ’95 Achieva. It was actually a great car for the 3 years I had it.
Good luck with the new ride! I always thought the Alero looked great in that Ruby Red color.
Thanks. And yeah, the good folks at Labadie treat me pretty good. Up where I live in Tawas it is almost impossible to get a good deal on a used car, they think the junkers they have on the lots here are worth a serious premium or something…
Man Richard you buy used cars like I buy jeans. Meanwhile my car purchases have been out of necessity. Not that I’m not insanely jealous of the automotive variety that has been in your life.
It has been an unusual time in my life lately when it comes to cars. The Chevy was sold to save money, because the Mystique was given to me by my grandfather. When it quit I replaced it with the LeSabre, a car I dearly loved. I sold it because every time I looked at it, it reminded me of when my dad was so sick. A year ago I did acquire a brand new Escape, courtesy of the sale of my dad’s truck, which provided a nice down payment. The Chrysler was bought to help keep miles down on the Escape. The PT had over 180k and the radiator was ready to fall out, so when I saw the Olds, well, emotion took over. I hope this one will stick around.
1. I appreciate the fact that your C-pillar Brougham emblem is genuine Olds! I’m guessing it’s off a ’78 – ’80 CSB?
2. Nice keychain. Did you have to enlarge the hole on the ornament? I tried doing this but there wasn’t enough potmetal there.
3. I really really wanted to like these cars when they came out. I thought the “Intrigue” television ads were clever. Showing shadows of the car well….intrigued me pardon the pun. I was really hoping the Intrigue would be something special.
4. Darn. Oh well.
I acquired the Brougham emblems from Ebay several years ago. Alero#1 wore them as well as the HHR. I was glad to pull them out and dust them off to use again. The keychain I bought new from Ebay also, very cheap too! This particular one had a large enough hole for the keyring to fit through with no modifications.
I have tons of Olds stuff that I kept from my past Olds cars, including the front plate and the little bear in the back seat.
The Intrigue actually was a nice car, but I found that if they weren’t treated well they didn’t hold up well. Back in 2000-2001 I worked for a small Olds dealer and the owner was fond of buying ex-rental cars for the used lot. Some of the rental Intrigues came across as having been rode hard and put away wet. It was too bad as they seemed to have more road feel than the other W-Bodys.
The styling was right, and believe it or not, much of the basic engineering was good, it was (in my opinion) the beancounters that messed things up.
I was parked next to an Intrigue the other day and was reminded what an attractive car it was. Then I saw that craptastic interior.
The last Oldsmobiles had a lot going for them, but all the corner cutting really hurt. As was (is?) so often the case with GM products, there’s so much potential, but they end up just being more of the same mediocrity. A shame.
I always liked Olds, and liked the look of Alero. Probably would have gone for the Grand Am at the time though. Hey, I was a teenager and the cladding didn’t seem quite so stupid back then. Don’t judge.
As long as you didn’t actually touch the interior plastics, they at least looked ‘richer’ than previous GM efforts. The graining was far superior.
I became a bit disgruntled, though, when the dash and door panels in my GA began to separate at around 20,000 miles – lots of bubbles popped up as the bonding agents between the padding and outer surfaces broke down, despite living in Dallas and always parking the car in either a garage or carport.
I found out part of that problem. The outer edges of the door panels are stapled in place, and if the material comes loose from the staples then the bubbling takes place. I’m looking for it to happen to this car in the next year or so, but at least I know how I’m going to fix it.
Sheez! A fair old bunch of party poopers out there, n’est-ce-pas? Congrats on the new ride, and it looks to be good shape for the vintage and the miles. Also Happy New Year! I think that I’m off to find a cheap Aussie Red (same sort of colour as your new car), and see if my mood improves.
Thanks!!! Glad someone can see the positive side here 🙂
I worked at a Cadillac–Olds dealership in the early 2000s and used to think that these and the Intrigues were nice little cars. For whatever reason, these seemed (to me at least) to hold up better than the Grand Ams–maybe it’s just the demographic that typically bought them. Who knows? A GM dealer can get you the code for the stereo if you get the donor car’s vin # and present a receipt from the junk yard or wherever you buy the thing at.
I know. I found a link on the computer that I am going to try tonight. My GM dealer around the corner, when I inquired with them, just kept trying to change the subject. Mind you I handle almost everyone that work there’s bank accounts, and they know me well. So I’ll just try and do it myself…
You are a braver man than I, and I daily drive a Chrysler LHS. Godspeed, Mr. Bennett.
Ooohhh, A fine Chrysler! Remember, I just came out of a Chrysler, so I’m not that afraid 😛
Let me refrain from the chorus of “oh no’s” and “it’s a lemon’s” and congratulate you on your new car. As a fellow Brougham driver, it’s good to see another one added to the road! I love that ruby red color; too bad you couldn’t get matching burgundy leather when these cars were new.
My Brougham emblem is off of a ’92 Cadillac I investigated at the local u-pull-a-part. I also added red pin stripes to make it Broughamier 🙂
Thank you Tom! I remember you telling me about your Broughamification of the Volvo. Personally, I think it’s classy.
And burgundy leather…what a lovely thought!
Truth be told, I do wish that this car had the Neutral colored interior that Alero#1 had. Oh well…
First of all congrats on the new ride! While I’ve never owned one, I would have liked to. I got to drive a couple of Ram Air Grand Ams back in the day, lots of fun for an inexpensive car.
Back in 2001, we went to replace my trusty Dakota. My wife hated that truck and our kids were young and growing, we needed something more livable for little kids. At the car show that year, we shopped the Intrigue and the Alero. I reaaallly wanted the V6 Alero (with the appearance package), my wife wanted an SUV. She fell in love with the Aztek, and I never bought another new Olds again.
A woman I work with has a 2003 or so Alero, Quad 4 derivative and 4 doors, well under 100K miles. Unfortunately (for me) she says she intends on driving it forever. Judging from the way she keeps it, she will. I’ve plainly told her, if she EVER decided to sell to call me FIRST!
But, I’m not holding my breath…
Thanks. There is a lady who’s banking I take care of that has a Sandstone Beige 2001 Alero with maybe 22000 miles on it. I’ve told her for years that I wanted it, but she refuses to give it up. Oh well…
If you think thats strange, there is a 2 door clean cheapo last of the Acheivas near my grandmothers condo that I have been keeping my eye on for a while.
Congratulations on the new car Richard! I always kind of liked how these looked, and liked the Grand Am looks better when it adopted the doors from these and lost the ribbed door look.
I’m sure the intake manifold gasket has been sorted by now, as well as some of the other typical electronic things like abs sensors etc (all the things people are bashing the car about). Just remember, its a GM so it is a magnet for some of the folks around here. That’s ok though, all I’d like to add is that maybe if the shops who worked on them fixed them correctly the first time they were in then they wouldn’t have been such supposed disasters…
Anyway, nice looking car and I hope you get years of enjoyment out of it.
Richard, you seem like a nice guy and I need to apologize in advance because this is going to be a truly nasty, vile comment that I do not intend to reflect on you or your car in any way
I liked these a lot when they came out and still think they’re pretty good looking. What I really liked, though, was the Intrigue with the Shortstar V6 – I thought that was gonna be a turning point for Olds but it was just another turd in a long line. In fact, it was the last turd Oldsmobile ever plopped out, unless we count the badge engineered last-gen Bravada, which we shouldn’t.
I’ve always liked Oldsmobile best of all the GM divisions and this seemed to me like a really nice, non-ugly Grand Am. The Grand Am from these years was one of the most hideous and obnoxious cars ever unleashed on the American buying public – don’t even get me started on that one…but it’s a good chassis with equipment that should have been reliable and competent, yet it didn’t work out that way at all.
In 2006 I was working for this company that did quick and cheap body work (and windshields, interiors, etc.) on pre-owned lots, but we were based out of the biggest dealer auction yard around here. There were so many Aleros on the auction block, and no on EVER wanted them and they were all falling apart. The 3.4l V6 has the manifold gasket issue but it’s very solid aside from that, the lower spec ones with the last revision of the Quad4 all made horrible metallic death noises no matter how low the mileage. Major electronic gremlins permeated everything – from the engine controls to the safety equipment and down to the interior lighting. It was totally ridiculous how poorly built these cars were – one of the first times the oft-repeated illusion of “the new GM” was smashed for me. At that point in my life I was under the impression that newer American cars were better and catching up to the imports. Maybe some of them were, but definitely not these. The “New GM” was exactly like the Old GM, except even worse.
Now here’s my biggest gripe with the Alero – because all of the mechanical/electronic stuff you could actually rectify if you had enough time, money and patience: would you please just look (I’m sorry!!) at how un-fucking-believably shitty and welfare-spec the interior of this car is?! This was supposed to be a “premium” car from a “premium” brand and it offered the same level of bullshit you could get in a Pontiac Sunfire for half the price?!?!! It doesn’t just look bad either – you could literally take that entire dashboard apart with your bare hands, although you’d hardly need to since it beat you to it most times. Putting your fist through this plastic is about as tough as punching through soaking wet drywall.
Anybody who bought one of these new had to have gotten mind-fucked by a salesman or had seriously low standards for how they spend their money. I’m sure plenty of people fell into the latter camp after years and years of GM ownership. When these were new, they screamed “I’m clueless and I have no self esteem, but my credit is OK” – of course, anything goes with used cars so again, please don’t take this as a dig. I hope your Alero continues to START on the regular instead of replicating the maintenance experience of owning an old British sports car (times OBD-2).
I still think they look kinda nice (from the outside) at least…
Too bad Olds didn’t build something closer to the concept – that looks even nicer, and I don’t remember ever seeing it.
Wow Sean, tell me how you really feel!
I’m not offended. I do wish that the interior had a more “premium” look. However, it is a good bit nicer than a Sunfire though. It’s comfortable (to me at least) and has plenty of features to make me happy.
Maybe I still like to live in the past when Oldsmobile still meant something, but that’s okay. If nothing else this car gives me something to tinker with, as I have no wife or kids, and other than my church activities, not much of a social life. It’s my therapy 🙂
I do recall you could get a beige leather interior in the Alero, as I nabbed the brochures when these cars were new. It was easy, as there was a Pontiac-Olds-Cadillac dealer right across the street from the office, and I frequently stopped in during lunch.
I never saw one with a leather interior in person though. Wonder how rare they were?
I have all the Alero brochures! The two cover shots I featured here were pics of the books in my personal collection. The leather wasn’t all that rare believe it or not. It was part of the GLS trim package. It looked pretty nice, but I prefer the cloth, due to a lack of seat heaters.
I rented an early Alero on a vacation trip in fall 1999. It was a black coupe, loaded, and I’m pretty sure it had a leather interior. We loved it! It definitely had a premium feel at the time. I’m not sure how I would react to one now, but the high trim level did not feel cheap. The black on black scheme always helps class things up, anyway…
Oh listen, I totally get it. I’d buy a car like this – maybe not exactly like this, but I’d buy a 4cyl/5-speed Alero if one came along at the right price and right time. I’ve owned way more ridiculous and stupid cars (on purpose) that I loved. I’m just saying that this was a really weak effort from GM and it’s no coincidence Oldsmobile bit the dust shortly after it’s introduction. It still has it’s merits and charms, though. All things considered, it’s actually one of the more interesting General Motors products from this era, which always counts for something.
Also, while I will gladly trash the living daylights out of GM any time, I’m actually fascinated by and in love with all the automobiles they make. There’s no other car company I have more of an interest in, and Oldsmobile has always been #1 in my book. I’d love to live in 1960 and that’s where my mind is most of the time, but it’s hard (and foolish) to pretend the 70’s-now didn’t happen.
” I’d buy a 4cyl/5-speed Alero if one came along at the right price and right time.”
Be prepared to pull the tranny if the clutch slave cylinder fails. It’s inside the bellhousing,
“What I really liked, though, was the Intrigue with the Shortstar V6 – I thought that was gonna be a turning point for Olds but it was just another turd in a long line. In fact, it was the last turd Oldsmobile ever plopped out, unless we count the badge engineered last-gen Bravada, which we shouldn’t.”
Wasn’t the 2000 Aurora the last Olds introduced?
Well, the Aurora was actually a 2001 model that was introduced earlier in the 2000 model year. The last new Olds introduced the the 2002 Bravada, which came out in the spring of 2001. I got to drive one just before I left the Olds dealer. I remember when I took it for a ride through the little town we lived in, EVERYONE was doing a double take at it when I passed by! It was a looker back then…
Thank you all for the comments. Let’s face it, if we all had the same tastes in cars then this site would be a bit boring. Plus, we all get to learn about so much here.
Is this car perfect? Hardly. It’s a twelve year old car that lives in a Northern climate. Despite my limited mechanical skills and modest means, I intend to breathe as much life back into her as I can. I truly hope to get a number of miles out of her.
I’m taking it on a trip to Ypsilanti Thursday after work for a three day weekend. I figure this will be a good test of how it should be for a while.
No one would ever accuse me of being Mr. Goodwrench! However, in the past week since I have had it, I have done the following: replaced the driver’s door panel (burns on it), the power window and door lock buttons (badly scratched up), the outer trim on the driver’s door A-pillar, replaced the gearshift lever, and a broken tail lamp. All things that were not the car’s fault, but the fault of a careless former owner.
I’m really looking forward to having the dealer remove the dents in it too. If Paul allows, later this year when the weather is better, I will do an update with pics of my much improved Oldsmobile!
Oh, that reminds me, You’ll never hear me refer to it as “my car”, it will always be “my Oldsmobile”, as it just sounds classier 🙂
Okay, saying “my Oldsmobile” instead of “my car” is fine for a start, but don’t stop there. You need to talk to your car and give it a name. The name should contain some kind of tortured, cloying pun. The brougham emblem on the c-pillar is a nice touch, but where do we go from there? That red color is pretty, but will you be able to avoid the temptation to paint “Elaine” the Alero metallic brown, and slap on an aftermarket vinyl top?
Her name is Alexandra Michelle…I like names that roll off the tongue, though I’ll prob just call her Alex 🙂
Oh, and no vinyl tops here…though if I could find a nice wood interior….
Lastly, Olds did offer the Alero in a fetching shade called Auburn Mist during 1999-2000, that would have been a find that would have caused me to get all weak in the knees, and would have helped me become the envy of all on Facebook’s Brown Car Appreciation Society!
No need for justification with me, Richard. Despite my contempt for all-things GM back in 2004 (that’s only grown in the years since) I knowingly and willfully wrote a check for a new Grand Am that I still think fondly of to this day. I made that decision after renting two N-bodies – an Ecotec-equipped Alero coupe, and a V6 GA sedan – during househunting trips to Dallas, and being pleasantly surprised with both.
In fact, my Malibu Blue GA was almost a loaded, like-hued Alero coupe with Neutral leather, but I wanted the 5-speed that was only available on Ecotecs and the only one I could find in the Metroplex was a Pontiac (Aleros in general were hard to find by then.)
Too bad, since I far prefer Oldsmobile’s styling, inside and out; at least by 2004 most of the cladding had been removed from the Grand Am. I only had the GA a bit more than two years, and 28000 miles. It served me well in that time, though despite treating the car with kid gloves, the interior had started falling apart towards the end.
That was a sharp little car, and a good angle you shot it at!
Thanks! Despite its flaws, it really was an enjoyable car to own and drive.
And with that statement right there you just summed up my feelings about these cars!
I should have made you an offer on that LeSabre…
My youngest sister has a loaded 2001 Alero coupe. It has gone 170k so far without needing the intake gaskets done. I don’t know if that is due to luck or my awesome maintenance abilities.
I’ve had to service the A/C system (which was not fun) and the Passlock system was a major hassle that required me to do some creative wiring. Other than those two issues it has been alright.
That LeSabre is now enjoying a comfortable retirement at it’s new home in Central Florida, so you would have to head down there and try to talk the nice couple I sold it to into letting go of it, and good luck with that!
I actually live in Central FL (I just make frequent trips to MI).
So maybe I will end up with your Buick one day.
Ha! That’s too funny! It’s in Fruitland Park, which is not too far from where I grew up in Inverness…
I got the chance to ride in one of these as a kid. We rented a white 4-door Alero on a family vacation to Virginia Beach in 1999. I still remember how comfortable the rear seats were so many years later. I almost considered buying a used 2002 gold Alero coupe I saw at my local Toyota dealership for my first car a few years back; however I was handed down my mom’s ’04 Toyota Highlander instead.
I always liked these cars. I’m glad there was enough differentiation between them and the Hot Wheels-inspired Grand Am. My dream someday is to find a Final 500 model for a good price. Oldsmobiles were common in my family growing up (my grandfather’s exclusive car of choice for at least 20 years before I was born) and I miss seeing them as common sights on the road. This picture is of me in elementary school with my grandfather’s 1997 Eighty-Eight LS.
Richard, I wish you the very best with your Alero. I definitely would have kept my wife’s Intrigue and repaired what I could myself, if I hadn’t already had 3 very old cars, vintage 76,78, and 85, in addition to my new “2002” Cadillac that I bought when 2 years old.
Our Intrigue was a very nice car. Very space age. I used to feel like James Bond driving it. (It doesn’t take much to please me.) I always thought the interior seemed cheap, but held up well.
As I said. when it was traded it needed tires and brakes, was overheating, A/C didn’t work, the power steering lines were rotted, having been jerry rigged repaired. As a casual driver, it would have given decent service, with DIY repairs and TLC.
I’m sure the dealer or some back lot budget dealer sold it for $ 5-6 thousand, after minimal repair.
Again, Good luck with your car!
Thank you. I miss that big teal Eighty-Eight. It’s been almost 10 years but I can still hear the unique sound of the ignition.
This car makes my point about GM cars:
This car has 115,000 km and I am sure it looks and drives just fine. The torquey pushrod wonder works just great with the automatic, what GM did best. Best part is you could be insured and on the road for like $3000.
So what if it needs a little fixin’ here and there, you could probably drive it for another five years and your total cost of ownership would be peanuts.
The first BIG repair, however, get rid of it because there’ll be many more a comin’!
I did test drive the Alero when it was still on sale. The rest of the car looks good, but the brake pedal feel was typical GM brake pedal feel, and that’s a major turn off for me.
The first new car I ever had was an base 02 Alero with the 2.2 Ecotec engine in it. Anybody who has ever driven or ridden in one of these (let alone a lot) knows how sluggish and buzzy they are.
I too experienced many of the common problems with this car others have already mentioned. I never drive vehicles hard, and yet my Alero needed 3 brake jobs within the first 50,000 kilometers of ownership. The brakes on this car were absolute rubbish.
Also, I had the sensor problem with this car as well…after a while, quite a few of the idiot lights came on and would remain on even though there was nothing wrong with what the lights saying was a problem. My mechanic said he could fix the problem, but it would only be a temporary solution as the problem would only repeatedly come back (and sooner than later)…hence why he advised me not to bother fixing it as it was a waste of money. And from what I hear, it is a problem with quite a few GM vehicles from the mid 90s – early 2000s. By the time I sold the car, it was also starting to rust pretty good along the bottom and around the wheel wells.
Although I liked how nice the car looked, it wasn’t quite as good as I hoped. If Olds was still around I certainly would not have been a repeat customer of the Olds brand.
Still, you never forget your first, and this was my first new car. Despite it’s shortcomings, although this car is now sold I shall miss it and will always remember it. It was there through my last year in university, through some good jobs (and a couple of really bad ones too), regular trips to visit a darn good friend who lived 3 hours away and trade school. I traded it in early 2012 for a new Buick Verano.
Alero#1 was giving me the full light treatment on the dash towards the end. I would feel the ABS kicking in for no reason and then “ding ding ding” and all the lights would come on. I would then just put the car in neutral and turn it off then restart it and shove it back into drive. It usually worked.
Alero#2 has a tiny bit of rust starting, but I bought some cans of undercoating and went to town on it, in the hopes that I can slow it down and keep it nice for a while yet.
I was actually pleasantly surprised with the 2.2L Ecotec. While not Honda-smooth, it never struck me as coarse or buzzy – much better than the Zetec my ’02 Focus trade-in had. Pretty peppy for its size, too, especially with the stick; in fact, I really couldn’t tell the difference in normal driving between the four and V6 in the two rentals I had.
Your mechanic was correct: on GM cars of this vintage, replacing sensors and turning off warning lights was a complete nightmare because the antique electric system did no allow for a hand-scanner to find the offending circuit and or relay. The airbag one is the worst on these cars but the ABS one is the most persistent. An ABS light in any of these cars means replacing the whole shabag because if you don’t, dollars to donuts the car will be back with an irate customer a month later. Better once irate when they hear the estimate to one that is irate ten times.
I haven’t spent a whole lot of time working on post-1995 or so GM products, but that’s really nuts. I always thought that if there was one thing they got right during the 1980’s it was their very robust and practical fuel injection and diagnostic systems. I’ve spent plenty of time with those, as well as all other types of 80s-90s EFI and as far as I’m concerned General Motors was making the absolute best stuff for many years until most other manufacturers caught up in the early 90’s. The Bosch K-jet on most European cars was very finnicky, as were Toyota’s early efforts. Honda’s EFI setup was just as good but it didn’t come along until 1986. Ford & Chrysler had pretty durable systems, but I never thought they worked as well or were as easy to diagnose until later on. Even to this day, lots of DIY fuel injection retrofits are based around GM parts from that era.
They were way ahead of the game and really setting the standard for many years with self-diagnostics, crank-triggered ignition, sequential fuel injection, etc. Even the cylinder de-activation experiment was brilliant and forward thinking despite being way beyond the capabilities of the equipment available at the time… so what the hell happened?! How did they screw this up so badly even after industry standards were introduced that were largely based on GM’s own model?!?
I really miss the days of needing nothing but a paper clip and multimeter to sort out an EFI problem.
I rented an Alero once while attending the Detroit Auto Show. It was at that time the best handling American sedan I had ever driven. The body structure was especially solid and tight. The exterior shape was fairly expressive and the interior wasn’t awful. In the gold exterior color the car looked a class more expensive than it was.
As the owner of a quirky, somewhat unpopular American sedan from a now-defunct brand, I congratulate you on your purchase.
As for the Alero, my personal interactions with them have been somewhat limited. My 10th grade biology teacher had one, and I often ended up parking next to her with my CC, because she preferred the student parking lot due to its ease of access (the teachers had to park on a poorly paved strip of concrete underneath trees that negated any recent car wash).
Since I had her for first period, I’d often get to chat with her in the morning before the school day started. And I liked chatting with her, not only due to her personality though, as she was a tall, buxom, fortysomething with raven black hair and an excellent complexion. Just what I needed to…get my day started.
Anyway, like her hair, she had a jet black Alero that was fully loaded. One week she came in late pretty much every morning, and was clearly tired as all hell. I found out the reason: she had been going to the local GM dealer every day due to some electrical gremlins that were plaguing the car. Despite all of that, she still liked the car, but I’m guessing her next vehicle didn’t come from the General. She did own the car through 2005, when I graduated, so I’m assuming those problems were at least solved.
That reminds me, I’ll have to get my mom’s beautiful 2005 Sable LS out one day and shoot it for a story. It has all of 45000 miles on it and not a speck of rust. I picked it out for my parents way back when, and my mom refuses to let go of it!
Oh my…no rust you say? 45,000 miles on it? Can I make an offer? Just kidding, but seriously, I want that car.
In my earlier days at the insurance company, I frequently drove a sage green ’02 Sable GS. It was the only Mercury in the fleet–the others were 2001 and 2002 Taurus SESs and a couple of SWB Caravans. I always preferred the looks of the Mercury, and the interior upholstery seemed much nicer too.
Today ICC has mostly Impalas and Five Hundred/post-2007 Tauruses. For a while Dad drove an ’08 or ’09 Taurus Limited in ice blue with tan leather when he had to go out of town. That was a really nice car. Since he retired, one of the loss control managers has it now.
Apparently having time off work during holidays is too much for some folks! Richard, congrats on the new ride. It’s always fun to have something that you truly enjoy. You haven’t invested too much so if something major does occur, and hopefully it won’t, then you can fix it and be happy or move on and find another petite brougham.
There are a couple cars I’d repurchase if I could, but mostly due to rose-tinted glasses. Of course, I got rid of them before they cost me too much.
I lusted in high school over the Intrigue, 3.8 with Autobahn package. Definitely a Q-ship. Maybe that is why I’ve turned to Acura for my used car choices. Low key with great ride and plenty of scoot.
Well, anyways enjoy and Happy New Year.
I grew-up in a GM family. I too have lived the nightmare of GM bean counters forcing engineering short cuts to save a few dollars.
My question: How much more per car would it have cost to build it right the first time? $100? $200? Much more?
I’d happily pay $500 or more for a new GM car to avoid all the stuff touched on here.
my 03 alero has 215k miles on it (3.4) and its still running strong. it has tons of rust and tons of electrical problems but i still love how it drives and will drive it until the underbody rots away.
So Richard, which do you find more entertaining to drive? The Alero or contour/mystique? I always was looking for a head to head comparo of these but never found any.
Truthfully, the Contour/Mystique was the better driving car. It was, as far as I was concerned, a poor man’s BMW.
However, the Alero is no slouch in the twisties. Both my Contours and Alero#1 saw a lot of time in the mountains from the Carolinas up through western New York (yes, I like road trips) and they both performed admirably.
As for my opinion overall, well it goes without saying that they were both cars that I have purchased more than once 🙂
My mom has a ’98 Contour and I love driving that car whenever I get a chance to. I dunno about poor man’s BMW since the engine drives a different set of wheels, but it’s (at least) a poor man’s Integra GS-R. One of the best FWD chassis’ – by far – that I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never gotten a chance to drive one, but I bet the SVT version could actually hang with the best of the best. I know people still rave about them to this day… wish the one I get to pilot occasionally had the V6 (the Zetec is a buzzbummer) or at least a manual transmission. They’re essentially the same thing as the Ford Mondeo which was a huge hit in Europe and garnered high praise for it’s handling abilities.
I agree on the late-era N-Body as well. It was a very capable car cornering-wise while also providing a smooth ride. Probably a much better all around compromise than the Contour/Mystaque, which had a harsher ride than most Americans cared for. If there was ever a true “performance” version of the Alero or Grand Am it probably would’ve been pretty nasty through the corners.
I’ve driven every version of the Contour/Mystique except the SVT. The four cylinder models felt slightly softer overall, but I found out later that all V6 models had the touring suspension that the SE’s (and most likely the SVT’s) had.
All three of the ones I had were V6 models. I loved how my Mystique (a red 1995 model with no spoiler) could outrun just about every car around here. No one suspected a thing!
I think the SVT probably has a different suspension setup that is unique to it. My mom’s is the SE model, I didn’t know they came with an upgraded suspension over the lower trim levels but it makes sense. It’s a pretty stiff ride – not uncomfortable at all, just uncharacteristic for the kind of car it is.
I can’t say enough good things about those cars. With the V6 it’s a total sleeper, especially the 1st generation Mercury!
Not to sound too inflammatory on a Happy New Year’s Day, but this car is representative of what I think was GM’s deadliest sin …. lack of commitment to branding. What is an Alero or Achieva or Aurora (I remember, that’s the V8!) or Intrigue? What was wrong with Cutlass? Honda has used Accord for almost 40 years now, and Camry is pushing 30. I know GM has brought back Impala (should have used Caprice, IMO) and Malibu, but why did they ever go away? I did get a Quad4 Achieva insurance loaner once, and as a 4-cylinder guy I liked the motor a lot more than most pushrod V6 GM’s of the same vintage.
It even baffles me as to why GM could never stick to a recurring branding theme. Personally, I miss having a Cutlass Supreme as part of the automotive landscape. However, Oldsmobile’s last attempt at remaking the division was one of the better ones. I liked the direction they were trying to take the brand, but like we covered here earlier, the bean counters ultimately destroyed everything. It’s a shame really…
I remember reading that when Oldsmobile showed the Intrigue in customer clinics, interest declined dramatically when potential customers were told that the car was to be named “Cutlass Supreme.”
Like it or not, many familiar GM names had become poison in the market by the mid-1990s.
Though Cutlass was the only recognizable name plate for the mid to lower Oldsmobiles, the Alero was begat from a line of unmemorable Calais, Acheivas and Starfire and Firenzas too. Though GM does have a nameplate suicide routine, I’m glad to see they kinda kicked it in the last decade or so, were now going into the 4th gen of Malibu and 3 gen of Impalas. Regal has since returned too.
GM tried to ditch Oldsmobile as brand entirely when the first-gen Aurora was introduced; the name “Oldsmobile” appeared in just one spot, on the radio face.
Aurora didn’t take off the way GM hoped, though, so they were very much stuck with Oldsmobile. I can understand product planners wanting to deemphasize the association with a nameplate that had “OLD” right at the beginning, in favor of more contemporary-sounding model names.
It was more than that, there were different ideas being floated around way before the Aurora launched in 1994, as far back as the late 1988-1989 the big idea was a Saturn-Oldsmobile-Aurora tie up with Aurora as the “Acura-Lexus” of Oldsmobile, Olds in the middle for the bread and butter Cutlass, 88, Bravada and Shillouette and Saturn as the entry level, all of Olds was going to go al-a Saturn to no haggle pricing, 30 day money back exchange, 24 hour roadside assit, etc, but many of the dealerships rejected the idea of this new touchy-feely nice car sales, so it broke up and GM was stuck with no fix for Olds PLUS having to establish an entire dealer network for Saturn now too.
As badly as Saturn ended for GM, I think an Oldsmobile three-headed-monster would’ve gone even worse for them.
Richard, I congratulate you on your purchase. You’re obviously proud of your car or you wouldn’t have posted it. I think I can summarize the situation at GM from this era: So much potential and so much lost opportunity. With that said, however, at least this car has some style and some fun.
Sure my 2006 Toyota Corolla is trouble free and as reliable as the sun. But driving it is a soul numbing experience and there’s no joy in owning it. After 7+ years of ownership, a few road trips and doing my own maintenance, I still cannot bond with that car. It’s about as fun to drive as a box of wet dishrags.
Your Alero, on the other-hand, seems like it has some soul and personality. For that alone, it’s worth it. It’s so worth it! Happy Trails brother…
Thank you. For reasons that even I can’t figure out, Oldsmobile as a brand just speaks to me, it always has.
Actually, it just dawned on me why…when I was a kid, my parents had a 1986 Cutlass Supreme Brougham. EVERYONE commented on how nice that car was. People perceived us as being a bit more upper-crust, even though we weren’t. I was far from being popular in school, but whenever I was dropped off in front of the school in that Cutlass, even the snobbiest of the kids showed me a little more respect.
So that’s what Oldsmobile represents to me, Class.
Believe it or not, one other car that I had more than one of was a Corolla. I have seriously considered buying a third on more than one occasion, but being here in UAW Land, it’s kind of hard to find them. I liked them for their simplicity.
This ’06 Corolla is my 2nd one. My first was an ’89 Corolla SR5 with 5-speed stick. It was actually fun and had a little bit of style. My ’06 was and is a disappointment with no character, no magnetism, and no personality. But I can’t argue with the economics of ownership, so I keep on keeping on – for now. But I’ve been looking for an excuse to dump it.
My dad owned a ’69 Olds 442, a ’76 Vista Cruiser, and an ’80 Cutlass. Class is the perfect metaphor to describe these cars, although their exclusivity went downhill with each succeeding model. I mean, let’s face it, the ’80 Cutlass was a weak attempt by Olds after being spoiled by the ’69 442.
The 442 was not as fast or as “in-your-face” as the GTO or Chevelle, but it was the Gentleman’s Muscle Car that was perfectly acceptable to drive to the office, to church, and on a family vacation. Understated class.
In that same way, the Alero represents class over and above the Grand Am. It’s not as tacky or as “boy-racer” as the over-wrought Pontiac with excessive body cladding. The Alero is stylish enough to get your attention but not over the top.
Agreed. Oldsmobile did a fine job distinguishing the Alero from the Grand Am. At least until the GA lost its side cladding, it took a second look to realize the bodies were identical.
Little known fact. Aleros were exported to Europe and sold as Chevrolet aleros
I was actually looking at some online last night, courtesy of Google. The Bowtie badges just seemed wrong.
Now THAT was a half-hearted attempt at selling a car in a different market!
Thx richard. Yea the quad4 powered ones were no slouch too. I always felt that the sad thing about these cars was you could tell it was a good deign that was gutted by bean counters. You can see that from just sitting in it. These woulduv been accord killers if they used quality components to build them but alas…
Richard, just imagine what would have happened if you had purchased a matching set of Alero’s? We’d be over the 100 mark of encouraging commentaries! Off to find that second, or is it third bottle of red..
It seems to me that I remember that the very last Oldsmobile to be built was a maroon Alero sedan like yours. I hope your car works well for you.
I have seen and touched that car, it’s in the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing. The color that Olds chose for all the Final 500 models was called Dark Cherry, it’s a deeper hue than my Ruby Red. All the Final 500 models came fully loaded as well.
I never owned any GM cars from this era, but I dd have some memorable experiences in rentals in 1999. I remember the infamous grey dash controls, and being totally unable to work out the logic of the power locks in the Olds and Pontiac rentals I got which seemed to have a mind of their own, locking and unlocking at whim, In sharp contrast both the Ford Contour a co-worker had rented and the Toyota Corolla from a few years earlier had straightforward lock systems where you just push the button to lock and unlock with no automation. The piss-poor ergonomics and stupid seatbelt designs compared to my Volkswagen and Ford experiences also soured me.
Delayed Central Locking. It’s designed so that you can press the lock button and it gives you time to close the door and either change your mind and get back into the car, or run around and open another door to retrieve things before the car locks. I rather like the feature myself. To defeat it all you have to do is press the lock button two times in a row and the doors will immediately lock.
I remember seeing the Final 500 models at the Chicago Auto Show in 2004. I thought the burgundy over tan paint job was sharp, plus the retro Olds badging. Now that I think about it, the Alero on display did have leather. Sadly, there were no brochures to be found, and indeed, the Olds display was rather skimpy–a sad end to a great marque. Luckily I snagged the final 2004 Olds brochure (with DVD!) at a local dealer later on, though the Final Edition models were not shown.
I’ve always loved Oldses too. My Aunt Candy had a triple burgundy ’76 Supreme Brougham coupe. She got it nearly new, and kept it for ten years. Sadly, the Blackhawk Foundry was just down the street and it ruined the paint and pitted the glass in short order. But the interior was still pristine when my Uncle Don got her a ’78 T-Bird with buckets and console. He repainted it in non-metallic midnight blue, which really set off the chamois-colored interior!
My cousin’s first car was a metallic light blue ’77 Supreme with blue interior, white landau roof and color-keyed Super Stock wheels. Both of these Oldses are the reason why the 1976-77 CS and CSB coupes are one of my favorites!
I remember the last Miami Auto Show with an Oldsmobile stand, it had all the burgandy final countdown models and the car on the turntable was a 1953 Olds Fiesta, I am guessing from the GM Heratige Collection. Sad.
I have one of these 2001 Alero brochures somewhere, I considered a 2 door Alero when they were doing the “please get these off the lot, owner loyalty, sorry you bought an Oldsmobile” sale a thon. But I ended up with a low mile used Grand Prix GTP, which contrary to what people say here, has not killed me, emptied my wallet, assaulted my family, run up my amex bill or any of the other terrible things that GM cars do(of course Japanese cars never break, their dealerships dont even employ mechanics or sell parts!!!)
The exploding transmissions on Hondas are a myth. A myth, I say! 🙂
For sure, Oldsmobile makes the best cars in the world. They haven’t had a recall for years!
I like the color. I’m sure you didn’t spend too much on it, so you should be fine! I recently purchased a newer GM after not being able to find a decent older GM. As a child of the 80s, I appreciate and fully understand your love of Olds. I grew up with a love for all GM badges. Many Oldsmobiles in our family, and boy they were smooth and yes, classy. I owned an Alero many years ago and it was smooth (four-cylinder even), powerful, and got great MPG. Grand AMs and Aleros were very, very popular here and don’t recall one having the 3400 gaskets fail (though I obviously know this issue is very common). My like-new car purchase just needed repairs; it’s a part of buying used (and GM) I guess. This shall be my last GM, fyi.
Funny, the last two Japanese used cars I bought didn’t need any repairs Must be a real freak of nature.
I do note that when you are used to wrenching on your ride all the time, you kind of think everyone is doing it.
Congrats on the car- I’ve always enjoyed driving different cars and would love to cycle through some older ones if I had the space/time/money.
These along with the Intrigue’s are nice looking cars. There’s a young couple in my neighborhood who have one of these and they seem to get around fine.
A friend of mine has had a two door one of these in his driveway for a couple of years. It was his mother in laws before she died. He tells me that she had a lot of trouble with it, but he drove it to his house from hers after she died and it seemed fine. He went to start it a few weeks later and it wouldn’t start despite cranking just fine. Starting fluid didn’t help, so it sits. He’s a renown tightwad and would never consider towing it to a shop for diagnosis and repair. Last I heard he’s thinking of towing it himself with a cable to a junkyard or recycler. Seems a shame to me.
Have him check the theftlock system, It could have lost the “keycode” you could, have him check to see if any of the “theft” warning lights are on.
There is a quick fix involving leaving the key in the ignition turned to accessory for like 30 minutes or something, it should be available online. Wheres the car located?
It may also need the security module replaced. It will need to be scanned to isolate the problem, it could be one of many on these cars that result in no start. The most common:
2. Ignition switch
3. MAP sensor
4. PCM failure
Problem is that there really are very few codes on these cars. You might get an error code “tail illumination” and there is no other info where to look.
For the pass code, turn the key 20 times after pumping the accelerator 20 times.
Thanks guys, I’ll pass all of this along before he asks me to be the fool trying to steer and brake the car while he pulls it with his truck.
It’s in upstate SC if anyone is burning for a white two door that doesn’t run.
I too offer my congrats on the new car. Don’t let all the negativity get to you. Take it from someone who liked Mopars in the late 70s. Sure, a car can cause some problems in life, but if it is a car that makes you feel good, then so be it.
I also liked the look of Oldsmobiles in their final years. Although I was not a GM kind of guy, Olds would have been my choice among all of the divisions. Truthfully, the Intrigue was my favorite looking of this era, but then I just prefer bigger cars to smaller ones most of the time.
I’m sure if I had a family of my own the larger car would appeal to me more, but for me, the Alero is the perfect sized car for me. I’ve always had a thing for the “large compacts”.
Back in the 1970’s, GM used a line in an advertisement for a Monte Carlo that always stuck out in my mind…
“When A Car Makes You Feel Good About It’s Looks, That’s Styling. When A Car Makes You Feel Good About Yourself, That’s Character”
I think that sums up my feelings about my car rather well…
Nice looking car there, SupremeBrougham. It’s a great color. Hope you get many miles of enjoyment out of it.
Congrats on the new car. I had an Alero as a rental about ten years ago–a base-model GX sedan with the 2.4 Four–and I remember its handling, ride, and steering being impressive stuff for the price and the segment.
It also made me wish the interior wasn’t made of so many cheap, bulgy, mismatched plastics. Still, I always wanted to try one with the 3.4 V6, which I’d sampled in Pontiac Grand Ams (also as rentals) which had worse seats and didn’t ride or handle as well.
The Alero was just a Grand Am without cladding. Once Bob Lutz peeled off the cladding for 2003 GA’s, they were twins, and what was the point then?
Richard – If you’re still reading posts after 140 (!), as a result of your Alero story I’ve started to see them in SoCal traffic – today in Beverly Hills an immaculate white sedan being driven by a young woman who appeared to be in her early 20’s. Given the number I’m spotting, there must be quite a few still registered here and mechanics who can deal with the issues. Best wishes for good luck and lots of enjoyable driving with your Alero.
In regard to the intake manifold issues, perhaps that can be solved? Instead of going the OEM route(using the cheap GM or Delco Composite plastic stuff), why not use a better quality aftermarket gasket like Fel-Pro? If installed correctly with a torque wrench, not too loosely and not too tight, there shouldn’t be any more problems in that area. I could be wrong but I am also of the opinion that it would be best to not use Dex-Cool coolant. There have been several class action lawsuits ongoing about that stuff. Anyway, I am a current owner of a recently purchased (August) 2003 Gold Pontiac Grand Am. I decided to take a gamble on it, in spite of some of the issues that I know about. I found out a boatload of negative stuff about the 2002 Malibu that I previously owned and yet I never had a major problem with that Chevy. But someone rear ended me, the Insurance clowns totaled it and then I got the Pontiac. That was before I discovered this website, and started wondering about this Pontiac. Oh well. Too late now. Hopefully it will get me through at least a couple of years. It certainly is the best looking four door car I ever owned, though I have mixed feelings about the interior. In some ways I like the dash very much, with it’s science fiction “Alien” H.R. Giger meets 1966 Impala SS, lol, and then in some days it’s just too over the top and ugh…but at least its not black. And is that a Starfleet Command (Star Trek) symbol on the steering wheel?
I hate black interiors and it seems like the trend in the new cars is to ONLY have black or grey interiors. I hope not. Man, I miss the 70’s….so many exterior and interior colors. When and why did automobile colors go into exodus? Save for a few exceptions like the Camaro, with it’s Hot Key Lime Green…or the New Challenger.
P.S. the picture posted is not my exact car, but just an example. Mine doesn’t have the sunroof….
I owned a 2001 Alero from 2009 till this june. Had 192 thousand KM on it at the end, 112 thousand to start. It was really nice to drive, Looked cool, But was a reliability nightmare. Probably spent 2 Thousand or more in repairs on it.