When I found the genuine curbside classic 74 Buick Century that I wrote up in a Capsule article recently, that was exciting for me. I love finding real CC’s and I also love GM’s Colonnades. I’m not saying they are my favorite cars ever, but they do intrigue me as being the last line of cars GM introduced that were designed primarily for style, without regard to size, fuel efficiency, space efficiency or any of the practical parameters that would soon play such an outsized role in all their newer vehicles.
I also recently came upon this car at the Mecum spring auction in Houston. It’s the polar opposite of that Buick: you are not likely to ever find a more pristine, original Colonnade. Click through to take a close look at this Creampuff Cutlass.
We have featured plenty of both Cutlasses and Colonnades here at CC. The Colonnades seem to be a favorite that folks love, or sometimes love to hate. I ask this question, though: who among you has a heart so hard that he can resist an Oldsmobile like this? You’ve seen them before, but you have probably not recently seen one this nice.
If you want to skip the Cutlass backstory and get straight to this car, scroll down past the 5th picture (first interior pic).
Being a 1977 model, I’m sure most of you know it was the last year for the Colonnade generation. The Cutlass had received a substantial facelift for 1976 which gave it a squarer, simpler front end, now with four square headlights instead of the two round. The most noticeable change was the loss of the lower body sculpting. For a car getting a little long in the tooth in its fourth year of a design, it certainly gave it a more modern appearance in keeping with the times.
You can’t say Oldsmobile didn’t hit the bullseye of the public’s taste. Here’s some production numbers:
Cutlass Supreme coupe (subject car), 242,874
All Cutlass coupe models, 494,498
Total Cutlass sales, 632,742. Oldsmobile sold over 1 million cars in 1977 for the first time.
The Cutlass was one of, if not the, best selling models in the U.S., but numerous other 1977 car lines sold in comparably huge numbers including Chevy’s full size and mid size (counting Monte Carlo), Ford’s full size and mid size (counting T-bird), Chevy Nova, Ford Granada, etc.
For perspective, we can try to find comparable current vehicles from GM. Chevrolet’s two top-selling cars last year (by far) were the 2018 Cruze and Malibu, which had 287,155 U.S. sales combined. To account for the SUV factor, Chevy’s best seller, the mid-size 2018 Equinox, sold 332,618. That means three of GM’s best-selling passenger vehicles combined sold less than the Oldsmobile Cutlass in 1977. In fairness, of course, the auto market is much more global today and Chevy sold 247k of those three models together in China and 673k passenger vehicles total there in 2018. What a different world we live in today!
The Cutlass in the 70’s was a juggernaut and Olds accordingly had every potential buyer’s tastes covered with five models. Cutlass S coupe (base model) had a sloping rear backlight with larger triangular rear quarter windows. The Cutlass Supreme coupe had the more formal roof seen here (vinyl top was optional), while the Brougham added to that a fancier interior and some more standard equipment. The S and the Supreme were both available in a sedan. The Salon was the “grand touring” coupe version, having the Supreme’s roof and adding bucket seat interior and sport suspension. Finally, the 442 was available. It was technically just a trim package on the Cutlass S coupe. Unlike its legitimate muscle car forebears, most everything of substance was optional and no fire-breathing engines were available, but it did have a unique sloping grille design and is one of the cooler “performance” cars of the time. There were also two station wagon models.
As a Cutlass Supreme, this car represents the most popular Cutlass model, coupes outselling sedans by about 6 times. Again, what a different world it was!
Now to the good stuff that this car had to offer. When I approached the car, it looked like a nicely kept or possibly cosmetically restored Cutlass coupe, that mainstay of the disco era when seemingly everyone wanted a domestic mid-size two door. I’m thinking cool but not earth-shattering. When I looked inside, I began to realize this was a really special car. The interior was Immaculate, like with a capital I. That’s when my motor started to rev, because my favorite thing to see at auctions and car shows are mint original, unrestored cars, regardless of model or era.
There is nothing inside the car that doesn’t present as new. All the usual weak spots were perfect. Discolored plastic lower door panel? No. Missing seatbelt clips on the headrests? Nope. Cracks in the hard plastic steering wheel rim? Perfect again. Even the weatherstripping was flawless.
Under hood was just about as perfect. I was hard pressed to find anything that looked like it had aged at all since the spring of 1977 when the car was sold. Moving over to look at the vehicle description card, I see the information that I had already deduced: this is a very low mileage car that has received exceptional amounts of TLC. Having traveled only 10,800 miles, it is claimed to have never been driven in the rain or seen inclement weather.
The car was ordered with Oldsmobile’s top engine for 1977, a 403 c.i. genuine Olds Rocket V8. Power was 185hp and 320 lb/ft torque. Not great compared to the 60’s or early 70’s, but pretty healthy power for a midsize car in the late 70’s. EPA gas mileage rating was 15 city/21 highway/18 combined. Also not bad, but as they say, your actual mileage may vary! The engine was backed up with a three speed Turbo Hydramatic 350 and a 3.08:1 10-bolt 8.5 inch rear axle.
I suspect the car was custom ordered by its original owner because it looks like it was very carefully and tastefully equipped, as seen on the original window sticker provided with the car. Some noteworthy options included A/C $514 (C60), 403 engine $255 (L80) with mandatory TH automatic transmission $289 (M38), AM/FM radio $233 (U58) and Rally suspension package $27 (FE2). Power steering and power front disc brakes were standard, thankfully. I personally love the color, Yellow Buckskin.
I’ve noticed that optional stereos on cars from this era were remarkably expensive. $233 adjusts to $985 in 2019 dollars. That’s for a basic AM/FM stereo radio and two additional speakers, not even an 8 track tape player. On the other hand, the suspension upgrade was a paltry $27, though if you want the upgraded tires too, that costs you $112 more.
If one had any doubts about the car’s pristine original condition, a peek at the underside would quickly dispel them. As with the rest of the car, it is a challenge to find anything that has deteriorated in the last 42 years. I’m confident when I see a car like this that it has not been restored because 77 Cutlasses don’t command the kind of prices that would justify a restoration to this quality level. It would cost you much more than the car could be sold for.
It may be overkill to keep going on about how nice this car is, but of course the paint is original and absolutely perfect. No chips on the front, no scratches, no cracking. The bumper filler panels are present and flawless. It’s essentially a brand new car. Probably nicer even that a typical used 10k mile one would have been in 1978. The seller did not provide info on anything that had been replaced or serviced, but obviously the original whitewall tires have been replaced with modern white letter tires. The battery is newer and I assume the belts and hoses are as well. So, the car is ready for anything, even the crime of driving its wheels off. I personally hope it will find a new caretaker who will continue to extravagantly pamper it.
I don’t know how it actually runs and drives, but I snapped this shoddy photo as it made its way off the auction block and it sounded fine. Sadly, the bids went up to $17,000 but apparently that was not close enough to the reserve. It seems the owner has no intention of giving anyone a bargain on what is probably the world’s nicest surviving 77 Cutlass.
There were a number of really cool cars at this auction. I plan to write up a few of them and do a one or two part brief overview of other cars that I think the CC readership would find interesting.
for further reading, here’s a couple CC Cutlass highlights: