(This ode to an old Olds comes to us by way of Tom Cangialosi) The folks at Oldsmobile must have felt pretty good when they unleashed what they believed was a fresh, new take on the compact sedan with the Achieva. Surely, this crisp looking automobile with its Quad 4 and 3300 V6 would push the noisy little Iron Duke-powered, dumpy looking Calais into oblivion and beat the imports all in one shot. Surely, dealers would be besieged by surges of young new car buyers flush with cash. Well, we all know how that went.
My Achieva story begins in October 1992 when my buddy, a service manager at tiny Oldsmobile dealer in New Jersey took delivery of a Torch Red 1993 SC as his demonstrator. He picked this car over his usual Cutlass coupe for a good reason–it looked sharp. I was driving a company-owned ’89 Taurus that even with its many redeeming qualities (whitewall tires and beige paint) somehow came up short when attracting the opposite sex. A little seat time in the Achieva brought me out of my funk but with a meager income and a free fleet special assigned to me, a purchase was not forthcoming. “Don’t worry, things change,” my buddy assured me. “I’ll still have it unless some other lucky person sweeps it up!”
Fast forward four months and my employer decided to right-size me which entailed removing me from their car and employ. Stuck without wheels and much money, a friendly former coworker told me that his mother had a great car for me on the cheap. Surprisingly, it was a low mile, near mint, five-speed 1983 RX-7. It’s one of the few times the new car selection of a 55 year old nurse and a 29 year old guy matched up perfectly (albeit ten years later). With a new job four miles from home, it was a joyous summer driver with either the sunroof stowed or air conditioning blowing cold.
I took up skiing that winter and quickly discovered that the tiny Mazda was not a very good snow car. A five-hour drive to Vermont loaded with equipment and personnel was decidedly unpleasant. Things were looking good at work, so of course I decided it was time for a new car payment! Though I read Consumer Reports and steered all my friends to the Honda local lot to buy boring, reliable Accords, I somehow needed to throw caution to the wind and buy an Oldsmobile! All my father ever owned were products cut from the General’s cloth and I was an X and J car fan, so it made sense to investigate the oddly still-available Achieva sitting over at Reilly Oldsmobile. When I inquired about the head gasket issues which I’d read had affected 1992 Quad 4s, my chum assured me,“That was last year. Don’t worry, we’re back on top here at Olds!”
I still have the window sticker somewhere. I buried it along with my bad experiences with this car but I do remember that it listed for around $23k. A little haggling and it became $18k and change.
This was my first new car and I was hyped up over all the press surrounding the famed Quad 4.
Tested heavily in the Oldsmobile Aerotech, it gave me the newfound ability to thumb my nose at all those Toyota Celicas. Unfortunately, they weren’t especially quick (outside the AllTrac) and when I’d wax poetic about my 175-horse powerhouse with car guy buddies, I could almost feel their laughter. Sometimes I could justify the thrashing, corn harvester-like sounds coming from under the hood as I passed slower traffic, but usually I’d end up reigning it all in in exchange for some peace and quiet.
Getting into this coupe with its huge, heavy doors and passive seat belt system was a real treat. GM’s answer to the federally required passive seat/shoulder belts was shear genius. The entire assembly, belt, retractor and inertia lock was built into the door. For passive use, it has to remain buckled to the anchor next to the console between the front seats. Sounds nice until you open the door and are greeted with two ribbons of ten-foot-long seat belt that you must slide under, reach over, and watch thread back in to the door as you close it. Try doing it in a parking spot with another car next to you while in a trench coat, and it becomes an aggressive restraint. Leaving this Rube Goldberg setup in the passive mode on the other side is not a good way to impress the ladies either.
My ownership experience in the first two years included six trips to the dealer (one under tow) to replace defective stuff including the battery, alternator, fog lights, parking brake assembly (twice), head gasket, and front struts. The air conditioning cut out one really hot June day during the drive to a wedding. My final analysis after nearly 100,000 miles behind the wheel was that it was an under Achieva in most every ways. When it ran, it was unstoppable in deep mud and snow but that’s about all I can say in its favor. Its unique styling, muddled by indifferent quality and cheap, softly defined stampings, never set any trends; the seemingly promising drivetrain was a chatterbox; its road manners were decidedly lackluster; and it let Oldsmobile down in an important segment. I sold it to a Russian gentleman who shipped it open deck on a freighter to Helsinki and drove it to Moscow where he promptly lost all the paperwork. I think that was as much as the car deserved.
I still love the styling of these over the baroque Buick Skylark. I was driving an 86 Calais when these came out.
There was a promo video Olds offered showing how the Achieva compared to the Honda Accord and explained how it was less expensive to run compared to the Accord. Every one of the drivers chosen to do the comparison tests preferred the Achieva. Everyday men and women on the street.
Guest Writer: you mean it wasn’t true ? !
BTW: I’ve still got the video. Haven’t seen an Achieva in a long time.
Thanks for all the comments! It wasn’t all bad with this Olds. I enjoyed the dash layout and the full instrumentation. I do agree that it was the best looking of the N car trio. The Grand Am was on my list but the proportions looked wrong. When they added the 4 inches to the width in 1999 it hit the mark. I ended up buying a new Grand Am GT sedan in 2002. Ran 250,000 miles without major issue.
Sorry to hear about your unpleasant ownership experience. Looking at those first pictures of the red Achieva coupe, it really doesn’t look that bad from most angles. The sedans looked horrible with their odd roofline, skirted rear wheels, and weird rear door shape. I think designers were trying to emulate the look of the awkward-looking 1991 Ninety-Eight.
I’ve seen several more of those photos during the Achieva’s design phase. It’s a shame the production versions didn’t look like the early designs.
Always thought the same thing about the sedan–it looked like a scaled-down Ninety Eight. The coupe just looked kind of anonymous to me. Yes, it had the Oldsmobile grille, and it wasn’t unattractive, but it was just sort of there. I will say that those alloys and the spoiler give it a bit of visual appeal.
I’ve always found the Olds Achieva to be the best looking of the trio. The Pontiac Grand Am came in second, with the Buick Skylark dead last.
I remember reading somewhere a long time ago that the coupe was originally to have the sedan’s fender skirts, but they were eliminated last minute.
I remember that too – also that GM had to spend a great deal of money because the change was made so late.
Of all these GM mid-sizers(?), the Olds is the cleanest styled and nicest looking.
Achieva = gesundheit!
The passive-restraint system you describe was also introduced on 2-door ’88 Accords, so if GM is to blame, so is Honda, but I blame those Beltway Busybodies instead. In addition to what you said, it added weight, but I learned to live with it.
I see one of these every weekend (well, the 4 door sedan version), as an elderly looking lady at my church has one. I’m guessing she succumbed to the “Accord runs a poor 2nd to Achieva” hype and/ or felt buying Japanese was un-American.
It looks like a decent enough car, painted burgundy, and I’m guessing driven by the V6.
And of the four GM division’s offerings, I also prefer this model.
My father owned 3 or 4 Chevy Corsicas and thought they were THE greatest “small” cars out there. All did reasonably high miles, with little than normal maintenance….too bad these Oldsmobiles couldn’t be so trouble-free.
Nicely written Tom. Now if we could only find the Russian gentleman to write up the Helsinki to Moscow episode.
I’m imagining he banished the car to Siberia. 🙂
I’m confused by the last picture. That’s not an Achieva wearign the European plate, it’s a Toronado.
Miraculous transformation or mix-up? It’s gone now.
I couldn’t find an Achieva in Russia using image search, but this was perhaps the most fitting image found using Oldsmobile + Russia in image search, and I tried using Belarus and Ukraine, too, so I tried!
Olds is so sad in so many ways. This once great brand inspired this still great song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gbfnh1oVTk0
Before clicked, I was expecting “In My Merry Oldsmobile,” an inferior song but a much bigger hit in its day.
While I give GM and Olds credit for doing something original for the styling, the bar-of-soap design didn’t work for me. But better to be loved by some and hated by some than to be ignored by all, I suppose.
I rented one while on a vacation some time in the early ’90s. It was roomy for its size and the seats were comfortable, but the driving experience — at least in rental-car spec — was underwhelming. Wheezing Quad4, floaty ride, numb steering. And, if I remember correctly, the interior fittings were designed during the reign of GM’s Fisher-Price School of Interior Design. Nothing about that car made me want to swing by an Olds dealer for my next purchase. And I grew up in an Oldsmobile household (’69 Cutlass followed by a ’79 Cutlass), so I really wanted to find something to like about the car.
The interior of my sisters ’94 Achieva disintegrated after 10 years of Texas heat, nicely styled, but made of poor quality crap.
Unfortunately, I have to agree. For me, anything made from the late 1970s to today, is worthless crap. Some of them are attractive, some are f-ugly, but all are crap.
yep.. I’ve been trying to find something I like that I can afford to replace my elderly and tired 1995 Explorer as my DD (right now DD my 77 Chevelle) I love that old truck, but its not the right vehicle anymore for my commute, nor is it getting any younger with 340,000 miles on it.
Nothing on the market now, or even in the last 10-15 years interests me in the slightest.
In the mid 90s I thought these were a great looking car, and I was hot to get one. Although handsome as the coupe was, the sedans were an embarrassment…I hoped no one would make the connection if I bought a coupe. Then I test drove one and no longer had to worry about that potential problem. What a harsh, dated mess it was.
Isn’t this the car with the monster hips? The pictures don’t show it. Viewed from the rear the quarter panels seem to be high and wide. That impression is enhanced by the taper of the green house. I haven’t seen an Achieva for awhile…..
I see a lot of Ford Probe in the this design.
The mandate of passive seat belt systems has created headaches for all designers. i thought the GM solution was rather slick: hey we have passive belts with really good “emergency” release buckles. They are so good you don’t even have to have emergencies to use them.
I think of the hips as the area between the C-pillar and rear wheel well, and I think these are executed just fine on the Achieva. The problem is that there is very little taper between the hips and the very rear end. This makes the taillight fascia wider than it should be. When you view the car straight-on from the rear, the width is further accentuated by the very delicate greenhouse.
I’ve always believed that the width taper, both front and rear, is one of the key proportional considerations in car design, a belief instilled through hours of staring at the Jag XJ when I was a kid. I don’t think any car has ever done this as well.
+1 on all your comments, mFred. Excellent.
Another awkward area is the rear wheel arch. From a 3/4 front view, the lower body cladding sticks out beyond the upper body – my eyes see this as a no-no. They should have had a flared wheel arch in the upper body to tie in with the cladding, rather than leaving an odd visual “step”. GM never used to get these details wrong.
Right back atcha, Slick. Great observation on the cladding/wheel arch detail. If I had bought an Achieva as I once was considering, I can imagine that one day I’d have noticed it and… DOH !
I always liked the way the Achieva looked, and a red coupe with those alloy wheels is probably my favorite combination. Style wise, for the time, I’ll go out on a limb and say that all 3 (Achieva, Skylark, Grand Am) had exciting and inspirational styling–particularly the coupes (sedans much less so) and particularly before the 1996 mid-cycle refresh. And I was young at the time (like 11 or 12), yet they were definitely cool cars to me. Very futuristic interiors (sounds funny now). Had I been 10-15 years older, I very well may have bought an Achieva. It’s too bad that the N-body cars of that generation really did not seem to hold up well and were less refined than the competition. In my humble opinion, it’s yet another example of a decent idea from GM that was executed very poorly. Another series of cars that could have been so much more, but the end result was half-baked.
I remember the Oldsmobile Achieva. I remember preferring it over the Buick Skylark and the Pontiac Grand Am.
I’ve been in an early Quad 4 car, a Calais 442, as a passenger and it caused my ears to bleed but it was also missing its center exhaust pipe. I drove later Quad 4 cars in driver’s ed and they seemed decidedly mediocre in terms of NVH, but not horrible. And for what it’s worth, people called the 93-01 Altima’s 2.4 raucous but I always found it pleasant. I’ve never really been bothered by large capacity fours, though.
Let’s see here, at the time these cars were built, GM had the following four cylinders in production (many of which with overlapping displacement and potential purpose):
-The Cavalier/Corsica/etc 2.2
-The Quad 4 DOHC and SOHC
-The Saturn DOHC and SOHC (now THAT’S an engine with unpleasant NVH characteristics)
-The GM Family 1
-The GM Family 2
What sort of budget do you suppose that leaves to make each one competitive?
As for the rest of the Achieva, there was no way it was going to beat the Accord when Honda famously went over-budget developing the 1990 version, despite their vaunted efficiency in product development. What’s more confusing to me, however, is how the Achieva was such a dud when the Grand Am was flying off dealer lots. If anything, they were even more miserable cars.
GM tried to give each car a distinct personality through chassis tuning and styling. The Grand Am was somewhat over-the-top, but if you were a Pontiac loyalist who couldn’t afford a Trans Am, or need more room than a base Firebird, the Grand Am was an acceptable substitute.
Oldsmobile was trying to go after import loyalists with the Achieva, and while the styling worked, one test drive was enough to convince most people that this car wasn’t going to give Honda executives any sleepless nights. Oldsmobile loyalists, meanwhile, weren’t terribly interested in small coupes with four-cylinder engines, no matter how good they looked.
I agree, GM was pushing Olds as ‘import friendly’ after years of velour seated cars. But a Honda Accord owner was not going to set foot in a 1992 GM store. New styling on a decade old chassis, and even more dated, noisy, motor wasn’t going to work.
Saturn did manage to get some import trade ins, since the brand seemed ‘independent’ at first. Olds should have stayed ‘traditional’ and rode into the sunset. Etc, etc,
Having owned a ’91 Accord and this car’s successor, an ’00 Alero (it was my fiancee’s but I drove it for the better part of a year) illustrates your point. That Accord was a better car than the nine year newer Alero in every regard except for acceleration – the 150 HP Twin Cam (Quad 4 successor) felt stronger than the Accord’s 125 HP 2.2 I4. Other than that, no contest. So I can only imagine how magnified the difference must have been back in ’93!
Was the Saturn engine worse than the Quad 4 as far as subjective NVH? I’ve never been in cars with both close enough together to make any kind of comparison.
From my experience with the later Quad 4s and the Saturn engines, the latter were far worse.
If you were buying a new car, the Accord was a relative bargain because its total cost of ownership was much less than the unda.
If you were buying a used car, the unda, w/ little resale value, was the bargain until it failed. But it was disposable.
I understand the anguish of GM-fans watching their favorite car company losing its mojo and drift into irrelevance. I went through the same thing 20 years earlier, watching Chrysler do the same in the 1970s. Fortunately, I was too young to bet my own money on one of those cars.
You were in pretty much the only group who even considered these cars at retail – from a family of longtime GM buyers who still thought the company was at the top of the heap. I am not that much older than you, but in my world, I knew *very* few people under 60 who bought new GM cars in the 90s. If not for trucks and Suburbans, that company would have been out of business by 2000.
Don’t forget the RWD B-body cars (Caprice, Roadmaster, etc.), at least up to 1996. Those were still popular, though I’m sure the fleet sales had a lot to do with them sticking around as long as they did.
I saw a lot of retail Roadmasters, for sure. How many of them were bought by folks under 60 is another issue. Caprices, retail versions seemed quite thin to me. It seemed to me that most buyers preferred the H body Olds and Buick models for probably close to the same money. Again, mostly older folks too.
Hardly anyone under the age of 60 bought retail versions of the final Caprice. The rear-wheel-drive Impala SS did sell to younger, retail buyers, but that was about it.
GM killed the old B-bodies because it wanted the extra capacity for its full-size SUVs, which were beginning to boom in sales during the mid-1990s.
You’re probably right about the “under 60” initial buyers part, Jim. Everyone I know personally that owns/owned that generation of B-body (2x Roadmaster, 1x Caprice 9C1, 1x Impala SS) bought them used.
A friend from elementary school’s parents owned a final generation B-body wagon (I recall it being a Caprice, but when I spoke to him about it in high school, he said it was an Oldsmobile, so I trust his memory better), because it was well-suited for their 4 kids. Rather polar-oppositely, their other car was a Saab 9000 CS. Other than that though, every newer B-body I saw was driven by a cab driver.
I remember when these came out and I thought of them as a big step forward in GM styling at the time. Not really beautiful, but striking and definitely unique without being ugly. GM actually had a sort of corporate design language. Of course they could have been the beginning of something good for GM if their bean counters hadn’t nickel and dimed the component quality and Quad 4 R&D down beyond a reasonable minimum.
I remember thinking the Achieva was a really ugly car the first time I saw one. My neighbors back then bought a bright red first year 4 door model. I have never been positively impressed by any 4 door car, but this one had one glaring styling problem. The chopped off rear fenders. No matter how you looked at it, those fenders really stood out. I couldn’t figure out why they did not make them round like the front. This was not a ’60s car, where low cut rear fenders were fairly common. Yes I know the ’92-98 Skylark also had these fenders, and so did the first couple years of the last generation Caprice. And when I think of any of these cars, the first thing that comes to mind are those fenders. Other than those fenders, and the fact that it was FWD, I know very little about this car. For me this was one of the real malaise era cars, which IMO includes all the little FWD jellybean sedans. We are still stuck in that era, and I wonder if it will ever end.
“Though I read Consumer Reports and steered all my friends to the Honda local lot to buy boring, reliable Accords”…
Except in those days, Hondas were everything GM SHOULD have been doing, were capable of doing…and just didn’t do. Plus they were fun and engaging to drive. The “boring” came a generation or two later.
That said, I liked the styling of the Achieva, especially in 2-door trim. It’s just a shame the car itself didn’t deliver.
The recent GM offerings I’ve driven – and currently own – are light years ahead of where they were 25 years ago…at least there’s that.
I drove a Chevy Sonic recently and was very impressed. Engaging and fun to drive.
Like many people, I like reliable cars. But unfortunately, many of the new cars made today are ugly! I’d be embarrassed to be seen driving most of them.
You don’t really have to be embarrassed about driving today’s FWD, 4 door jellybean computer cars, because that’s what everybody else has too. You can’t tell a Kia from a Mercedes. They are all universal and generic. And you can expect to not be seen, because almost everybody will be texting while they are on the road.
Then add to the fact that nobody cares about cars anymore. You could pull up to a stoplight in a bright red Ferrari, and it is likely the driver next to you wouldn’t even notice you. I would, but I am one of very few.
I think this is why it was so refreshing to read Brendan Saur’s COAL on the 2010 Acura TSX V6. There is a true young car enthusiast.
I think you could really say that cars from every era are universal and generic. Certain cars and brands will always have their unique styling features, but cars from the same era (no mater which era) generally tend to look “alike”, in shape and overall styling. That’s not saying that in certain time periods (like the early-1980s) cars look more alike than others.
I think it’s an age/generational thing. We tend to have an affinity for cars from our youth, and thus hold them to a higher respect, even glamorizing them in our minds.
Personally, I think think this trio of 1966s look universal and alike.
I disagree. I’m 26, there’s only maybe 10 cars made in my lifetime that I think are appealing(I own one of them), so generation generalization certainly doesn’t apply to me.
I think your picture brings up an unintended point, 4 doors look universal and alike. Post up the coupe versions of each and they all look much more distinctive. The lack of bodystyles is what really makes all newer cars look alike.
You bring up a good point about how cars form a different era tend to look alike.
For me it is the cars from 1936-1954 when they all tended to look the same. It was not until i made an effort to learn how to spot little things that would identify the car (such as the chrome stripes and/or Chief Pontiac hood ornament) that told me it was a Pontiac
Oh and it occurs to me, good luck finding that many different colors on modern cars!
I have to disagree with that. With the exception of an occasional erratic make/model (i.e. Corvair, Taurus, VW) or year subset (late 50s), cars have always been similarly styled. My 13 year old daughter is just as good at IDing modern cars by their front or rear clip as I was at her age (late 70s).
What is the wild card now is the plethora of manufacturers. However, the Kia Rio/Hyundai Accent or Chevy Cruise/Buick Verano are still easier to distinguish than the Plymouth Valiant/Dodge Dart back in the day.
Now get off my lawn.
Bingo–as you mentioned, Accords of that era weren’t all that boring. No, not exciting, but they were actually good cars to drive. Nice, tight handling, great visibility, low center of gravity, great ergonomics, a feeling of lightness. I’ve never driven an N-body from the ’93-’98 generation but I can’t imagine they drive anywhere near as well.
This sounds like one of the nails in Oldsmobile’s coffin.It doesn’t look too bad but there weren’t that many great looking cars around in 1993.
i could imagine the traditional Oldsmobile buyer not having the slightest interest in it because there’s no bench seat and column shifter and young drivers turning their noses up at a blue rinse car maker.
Olds keeping the aging, stiff, relic Ciera around did no favors in long run. They sold cheaply to the ‘4:00 buffet dinner’ demographic, but when they stop driving, no one replaced them.
You can sell a young man’s car to anyone.You can’t sell an old man’s car to anyone
I presume you were trying for this quote:
“You can sell a young car to old people, but you can’t sell an old car to young people,” — Semon E. “Bunkie” Knudsen
Oldsmobiles weren’t always an old mans car though; they sold lots of 442s and Cutlasses to young guys in the 60s and 70s and remember the Doctor Olds advertising campaign and the tie-in to Hurst and Linda Vaughn. Olds was a happening car in those years.
I rented an Achieva sedan in 1995 for a week with what was presumably the Quad 4. The last Olds I drove before that was my 1986 Cutlass (which I loved and dearly miss) so I was looking forward to it since Oldsmobiles hold a special place in my Mopar heart and of course I was let down. What a loud, underpowered and not-very-economical-for-a-4-cylinder engine and the car itself drove miserably and rattled everywhere. Typical 90s GM junk.
My favourite Oldsmobiles were made in 1964. Whether it’s the 442, or the Dynamic 88, or even the top of the line 98.
That was it
Nissan Australia proved this with the R31 Skyline, Despite the excellent mechanicals, and the home-grown performance versions, the “old man” ultra-square styling (when everyone else was doing curves) took it out of consideration for most buyers.
The first Achieva I saw a white sedan. I disliked it’s awkward looks, especially the rear wheel openings, and I was surprised to see the Olds name on it. Still, it could not compare with the Skylark when it came to being ugly. Later on, I saw a red coupe. I liked it’s looks. If I had not seen the Achieve nameplate on it, I would have thought it was an entirely different model. I have never driven or been a passenger in one. I’m sorry to learn that it was such a lackluster car in terms of quality and performance. If those aspects had been akin to the coupe’s looks, it could have been a good car for Olds to have in it’s lineup. They might have even gotten a new generation of drivers to take a look at the brand. Look at what the 88 did for Olds in 1949. I’ll bet there wasn’t a young person back then who would have looked twice at an Olds in ’48. The same goes for the Cutlass in the mid 60’s.
My parents were Oldsmobile loyalists, having owned an 88 since 1972, when they bought our neighbor’s cherry 1967 Delmont 88 Holiday sedan that had about 19,000 miles on the odometer. So I followed the introduction of the Achieva with interest.
The Achieva coupe was the best-looking of Achieva-Grand Am-Skylark trio by far. I even liked the Achieva sedan, which did a neat job of looking like a miniature Ninety-Eight.
The coupe version was originally supposed to debut with the squared-off rear-wheel opening like the one featured on the sedan. Oldsmobile leadership demanded a last-minute change in the wheel opening, which delayed the introduction of the coupe version by a few months. From an appearance standpoint, that was the right move.
Sadly, these were let down by a lack of refinement and slipshod quality control, as others have noted. As for the Quad 4 – I remember hearing one in a brand-new Oldsmobile idling at a traffic light. It sounded like a coffee can full of rocks. I can only compare it to the sound made by the original Vega engine. That alone would have been enough to scare away potential customers.
The Achieva followed the trajectory of too many GM cars in the 1990s. The top-of-the-line and sports models were rolled out with much ballyhoo. They were the versions featured in the enthusiast magazines. When sales didn’t reach expectations, GM cut back on the interesting versions, basically turning the car into a fleet/tightwad special that sold on price and not much else.
I wonder how many of these were traded in on Hondas & Toyotas?
So the *entire belt* was door-mounted? Wow; I can see how that could have been a giant pain to enter or exit, plus a dangerous design if the door were to open or detach in an accident. That gives me a much better understanding of the hate for GM’s implementation of that design.
The only car I’ve owned with any of these oddball passive restraint belts was that ’91 Accord, and it had a very sensible implementation by comparison. The belt was mounted to a motorized track on the inside of the door opening, and moved forward automatically. The lap belt was a separate manual piece that buckled conventionally. Annoying if the motor failed (though there was a clip) but there was only one moving part and it slid far enough forward that it was very easy to get under. Not mounted to the door itself and completely separated from the lap belt.
My 1990 Civic sedan had that automatic, motorized seat belt, as did some Fords of that era.
Toyota used that on its Camry and Cressida between 1987 and 1993. I have never liked that system, and I’ve never understood why anyone would install such things on their cars.
The difference is that Honda only had the shoulder strap connected to the door frame with the lap belt still on the floor, while GM had the ENTIRE lap belt retractor assembly placed inside the door. This resulted in a person’s seat belt coming completely off when a certain type of side-impact accident happened which caused the door to open.
I remember that system. My older brother’s Honda Accord had it. Besides making opening the door difficult, it was difficult to adjust the height of the shoulder portion of the seat belt.
It was a Federal Government thing. The Ralph Nader type folks with plenty of time on their hands kept bitching at the government to do something about people not wearing seat belts.
So the Feds went to car makers and said “you must make your cars not able to be started until the driver’s seatbelt was buckled by 1974” so the car makers complied and the 1974 models were made to not start until the seat belt was buckled.
The Naderites cheered this and thought now “Americans must buckle up before they can drive”
Unfortunately for the Feds and the Naderites, John and Jane Q Publie was not amused and it is said there were more people pissed off about those “that damn seatbet set up” then there were people angry about Watergate the year before.
The Feds gave up for the time and dealers were told to disable the system.
Fast forward to the 1980’s and again the Feds tried the seatbelt thing again. Though this time they directed the car makers to offer automatic retracting seatbelts in their cars instead of the no start until buckled up thing of 1974.
This allowed the car to start without having folks buckle the seatbelt first and also automatically buckled the belt taking the human factor out of the equation.
This the Feds reasoned would make everybody happy.
However while it did not lead the phone lines to congress blowing up like back in 1974, nobody liked them.
I had a 1990 Escort with those beltss and every time I opened the door to lean out to make sure I was parked correctly the $#%$# belt nearly took my head off!!
The late 80’s early 90’s “automatic seatbelts” were required if the car was not equipped with a drivers side airbag. It was a temporary alternative to airbag installation.
Ralph Nader and his Raiders are full of s___. It’s as if they have nothing better to do than bitch and moan about how car makers are *deliberately* trying to kill us.
It would have been so much simpler for your government to mandate the wearing of seat belts. Throw in a hefty fine for non-compliance, and they’d be raking in the cash until people wised up and simply wore their belts, like in other countries.
They seem to have nothing better to do than mandate and require us drivers to do something. It’s insane if you think about it.
Not federal law but here’s a ton of states with seatbelt laws and they do indeed rake in cash.
From a quick google it seems that it was in 1982 it was announced that from 1989 you had to have either an airbag or automatic seatbelts. It is incredible that GM went for the latter option for a car that debuted in 1992! Then of course they changed to airbags later, so between designing things twice add the lost revenue of buyers who went to other brands and no doubt that decision cost them a ton of money.
The federal passive restraint took effect for the 1990 model year. Some cars had the passive belts before then, but it wasn’t yet legally required. (Some very early-build 1990 cars were free of them as well, having been built before the enactment date.) The law required passive belts or a driver’s airbag; a passenger-side airbag requirement was added I think for 1994.
It was a (mercifully temporary) sop to federal passive restraint requirements that took effect for MY1990. I think the issue in some cases was that the manufacturer hadn’t anticipated the regulation in time to make appropriate provisions for a driver’s airbag or didn’t have suppliers who were yet prepared to supply the airbag in the necessary quantity. Also, some manufacturers who offered airbags in other markets found that those bags, intended as supplemental restraints, weren’t powerful enough to meet the U.S. passive restraint requirement. So, some cars that were available elsewhere with proper three-point belts and airbags ended up having no airbags and maddening passive belts in the name of ‘safety.’
I believe your first point is the case with the MN12 Thunderbirds and Cougars, which seemed to have some intention to have dual airbags from the start. Instead they came with a rather odd storage compartment on the top of the passenger side of the dash and a large steering wheel center filled with nothing but air.
I’ve ridden in cars with the door mounted seat belts, and I hated them. My older brother had a 1989 Honda Accord two door, and it had the door mounted seat belt. It was an awesome car, except for that feature. When fastened, it made opening the door difficult. It took more effort to open the damn thing than it normally would. I also didn’t like the automatic shoulder harness that would automatically move from the A pillar along the edge of the door opening, to the B pillar. You still had to buckle the lap belt. I may be old school, but I prefer being able to just get in the car, buckle up, and start the car, put it in drive (or first gear on a manual shift car), and just drive.
Back in the 80’s I saw a 2 door VW Rabbit that had been T-Boned at the front fender/front of door area. It had the door mounted shoulder belt, no lap bet on these cars, just a knee bar. The door was wide open with the belt still attached and the lady was on the ground next to it. I didn’t see it happen, but it appeared to have unlatched and opened from the impact and threw her out. I had a 75 Rabbit with this “passive restraint” but replaced the belt with a proper 3 point, the mounting points were there. I did leave in the knee bar. Later cars did have a floor mounted lap belt you had to fasten. The Achieva Coupe, for all it’s short comings, is a good looking car.
I’d much prefer the proper 3-pt safety belt any day than either the motorized shoulder belt/manual seat belt, or the shoulder harness only kind.
I bought a new Grand Am coupe in 1995, but if I had to choose one of the 3 N cars again, it would be the Achieva. I don’t know why I didn’t get the Achieva to start with since I think it’s a clean, well proportioned design. Even so, I’m sure the Achieva was chock full of the same rubbish interior parts they stuffed in the Grand Am. I think the interior parts started disintigrating before the car left the assembly line. However, I didn’t find the Quad 4 in my 1995 car objectionable at all, at least until the water pump failed. And then again 25K miles later. I think the head gasket issue was addressed for the 1994 models; I didn’t have that problem. Still, GM lost even more of its customer base with these cars (like me).
Same here. I’m not a fan of GM cars, but this is what I’d buy if I were in the market.
My mother-in-law had one of these, the last car she had before she died–she traded her trusty V6 ’80 Century in on it, because she trusted the local Olds dealer to sell her a good used car (she didn’t ask me, I’d have probably steered her toward a Camry). She came to visit us out of state, and her health problems wound up landing her in the hospital away from home for a number of weeks. It was my dad’s task to retrieve it from airport parking and drive it back to her house. I called him to ask how it had gone and to find out how much she owed him for the parking fees, and he said but one thing:
“That car is a piece of s**t.”
And that was my sole experience with the Achieva. It eventually threw a rod and was junked.
N bodies were really stretched Cavaliers and noisy, rattly and bouncy. GM loyalists loved them to the end. Now, most are in ‘pick a part’ lots, usually Grand Ams, the Buick/ Olds versions seem to go right to crusher.
Wow, $23,000 list! I remember test driving a 1993 Ford Probe GT with a 6-cylinder, a 5-speed and a spoiler that sounded beautiful when it rev’d, and had a sticker of only $16,800. I couldn’t afford it and settled for a 1993 Toyota Corolla DX ($14,200) but that Probe was an incredible, though small car. The Olds sure sounds comparatively overpriced to me!
The Olds was WAY overpriced ( as can be seen by the OP getting nearly $5k off the sticker ), and in my experience was one miserable POS. One of my good friends had an Acheiva sedan which I rode in quite a bit, and even drove a few times. Wallowy handling, mediocre acceleration ( in base form ), crappy interior which you rode too low in, and questionable styling. It was the total package.
I bought a 93 Probe 4-cyl that retailed for $14,700 ( couldn’t afford the GT either! ), which I put 199,000 miles on, while my friend had gone through two more GM cars before finally abandoning the brand.
For whatever reason, my friend’s mother decided the Olds Achieva was the the car for her, she was dead set on one.
I went with them to the Olds dealer, and they had exactly two requirements 1) AC and 2) Rear Window Defroster. We probably crawled through 25 different Achievas and the only car with both these options was the fully loaded version with a spoiler package. So she ended with a Saturn.
The Achievas were just bizarrely optioned in general, like the dealer just randomly selected one or two random options. Never saw so many cars that had power windows and manual locks, or visa/versa.
I have to say this isn’t a bad looking car, which given my disdain for the other rounded N body siblings at the time (grand am and skylark) is surprising. Unfortunately that disdain was hard earned and it stretch much further than the looks. Maybe the olds is better than the Pontiacs and Buick versions I experienced, but I doubt it. My general feeling from those cars was cheap, smelly, trashy and falling apart.
Loved the styling of the AchIeva. We were car shopping in ’94 and I convinced the wife to go to the Olds dealer and look at a coupe. Found a dark green coupe with the V6 and automatic. One look at the left quarter panel and C pillar told me all I needed to know. Terrible fit. This car is not well put together. We didn’t even bother to test drive it.. I was disappointed. Too bad. . It sure looked nice in the print ads.
I would second the opinion of many. I found the look of the Acheiva to be very appealing. It was remarkably clean for the times and, despite the awkward treatment of the rear fender wheel radius, it remained, better looking than most of the rest.
“My ownership experience in the first two years included six trips to the dealer (one under tow) to replace defective stuff including the battery, alternator, fog lights, parking brake assembly (twice), head gasket, and front struts. The air conditioning cut out …”
–Yup. Thus I refuse to purchase any GM product again. Too many other cars that are far less likely to leave me on the side of the road…or with a trunk full of parts that fell off. –Even the light bulbs on my last GM product were awful. Both 1157 (directional/marker/brake) bulbs in the back of my Astro needed replacement within the first year. My 01 Mazda is still flashing all the original bulbs. I can only assume GM told its supplier “We want the cheapest bulb that will still work long enough to get the car off the lot”. My frustration with my last GM product (and dealer) can not be overstated. I get angry just thinking about it.
It’s unforgivable that General Motors would deteriorate to this low in quality. It’s no damn wonder more people are buying Toyotas, Nissans, Mitsubishis and Subarus.
My wife’s Ford Edge chews through brake light bulbs likes there’s no tomorrow. Both need replacing at least once a year. Gotta be a wiring issue…
It’s not long for our world. 6 years old, 100k miles…it’s served okay but I’m not impressed with how it’s aged (only repairs have been a cooling fan $1000 and oil sending unit $150. DVD system hasn’t worked right since we bought it). Back to the Japanese next time – probably a Highlander or RX350.
This engine noise thing cracks me up I drive a 17 year old diesel with rotary injection pump, inside the car you can barely hear it even with the windows down, these GM 4 bangers must be diabolical.
I had a 93 Achieva SC, it had 100K on it when I inherited it. My 88 Grand Am had rusted itself to bits by then, and had 180K on the engine so it was time for a change. Both cars had the Quad 4 engine, I don’t know where the “terrible noisy engine” complaints are coming from, since the Quad engine was WAY quieter than the “Tech 4/”Iron Duke” engine in most GA’s. Those engines sounded like something agricultural, and didn’t make much power either. The Quad engine in my GA was smooth and powerful (150hp if the ads were to be believed) and it moved the car just fine. Of course I was coming from an 80 Sunbird with the Iron Duke engine, so I may not be unbiased…
My mother bought the Achieva new, and basically gave it to me just before it turned 100K. The only thing she had to do to it besides oil/brakes/tires was bodywork when a tree fell on the hood. Between both our Quad-powered cars, we got close to 300K miles, with very few problems. I’ve ridden and driven the lower-spec GA’s and Calaises with the Duke and an auto trans, they felt and drove 100% different to the Quad cars, especially with manual transmissions. I bet 90% of all of this body-style had autos though, and more of them had the lower power engines. If I remember right, the V6 had less HP than the Quad, but maybe similar (or higer) torque. THey didn’t handle as nice as the (presumably) lighter 4-cylinder ones. My mother tested V6 Achievas but said the Quad one was a lot more fun to drive.
You cannot possibly call the shape of this thing as indicative of “styling”.
Those who crafted this eyesore should have been fired on the spot.
I love Oldsmobile to this day – but the disasters that would have that nameplate slapped on them during the late 1980’s onward are just too much for me.
To me Oldsmobile should have been viewed as a luxurious performance vehicle – Chevrolet the cheap pretender; Pontiac the real performance offering with not much luxury, and you grew up to have luxury and performance until you died and ended up in the back of a Cadillac.
I have nothing good to say about this worthless product.
The Cutlass Sierra Was a GOOD Car there was a guy on YouTube that has a White ’92 Oldsmobile Sierra and the SHIT had water leaking inside of it and the guy had no idea where it came from and he also had a Blue 1993 Cutlass Sierra and uxwbill is the guy that had the 1989 Electra’s name and I saw the video where he fixed the seat and I remember seeing a Video of the 1988 LeSabre and they could not get it to run right without “Being Rude To The Engine” and I think they fixed it and it ran good after that