1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

 “America’s favorite Cutlass for flair, value and price”

For 1981, the exterior of Oldsmobile’s Cutlass Supreme was substantially revised, with a lowered front, a slightly higher decklid, and quad headlamps. With the new styling, aerodynamic drag dropped by about 15%.

The standard engine remained the 110 bhp 3.8 liter V6 with two-barrel Rochester carburetor. The optional engines, a 4.3 liter gasoline V8 ($50) and a 5.7 liter diesel V8 ($695!), both had (this makes no sense) five less horsepower than the V6. A three-speed automatic transmission was the only transmission available. Mileage with the V6 was 21 city/30 highway by the standards of the day.

Standard equipment on the $7,484 Cutlass Supreme (about $21,500 in today’s dollars) included power steering, power front disc brakes, bench seats with a choice of vinyl or cloth, and P195/75R14 radial tires (a size last seen on nineties Volkswagen vans).

Optional exterior and mechanical equipment included cast aluminum wheels, tungsten halogen high-beam headlamps, engine block heater, limited slip differential, power antenna, dual sport mirrors, electric rear window defogger, and removable glass roof panels ($695). Inside, you could add either Four-Season or Tempmatic air conditioning, Tilt-Away steering wheel, cruise control, power windows, power door locks, bucket seats, digital or regular electric clock, and a series of radios.

Page from the 1981 mid-size Oldsmobile brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The Cutlass Supreme sure was popular—Oldsmobile sold almost 189,000 of them in the 1981 model year along with another 94,000 Cutlass Supreme Brougham coupes for a total of over a quarter of a million.

There are a few folks collecting these cars, but they aren’t common at shows. You do see Cutlass Supremes for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors: as I write this in June 2015, there’s a brown/beige two-tone Cutlass Supreme with a beige interior and 28,000 miles listed on Hemming’s for $13,000.

Make mine Dark Blue Metallic, please.

1985 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency Sedan

“It goes beyond the Ninety-Eight of your mind to the Ninety-Eight of your dreams.”

The 1985 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency sedan was substantially downsized from the previous year and switched to front wheel drive. Overall length dropped over two feet from 221.1 inches to 196.1 inches.

Standard power (if you could call it that) came from the LK9 3.0 liter 110 bhp V6 with a 2-barrel carburetor. Optional engines were the LG3 multi-port fuel-injected 3.8 liter V6 putting out 125 bhp and the LS2 4.3 liter V6 diesel (don’t do it!) putting out all of 85 bhp (at least it had 165 lb-ft of torque). All engines were teamed with a four speed automatic transmission. Both the 3.0 liter V6 and the diesel V6 would be gone by the time 1986 rolled around.

Mileage for the standard engine was 18 city/25 highway by the 1985 measures (16/23 by today’s standards). Hilariously, the upmarket 3.8 liter engine was rated at 19 city/26 highway, the multi-port fuel-injection more than making up for the increased displacement. Buyers of the diesel could expect 22 city/32 highway.

Standard mechanical equipment on the $14,665 (approximately $32,400 in 2014 dollars) Ninety-Eight Regency included an automatic leveling system, power steering, and power front disk brakes. Inside, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo radio, 6-way power driver’s seat, power door locks, power mirrors, and power windows were all standard.

Stepping up to the $15,864 (approximately $35,100 in today’s dollars) Ninety-Eight Regency Brougham made the 3.8 liter engine standard and added fancier seats, intermittent windshield wipers, larger wheels and tires—and over 300 pounds of weight.

Optional items included Astroroof ($1,230), twilight sentinel ($60), and cornering lamps ($60).

These C-bodies (there were also Buick and Cadillac versions) had a stately look about them. Big and (I think) handsome, they had a lot of interior room despite the downsizing—at 110 cubic feet, they had only 2 cubic feet less than the 1984.

Page from the 1985 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Sales of the Ninety-Eight Regency sedan were good—at almost 155,000, more than double the approximately 69,000 that had been sold in 1984. A little over 70% of Regency buyers chose to move up to the Brougham.

C-body Ninety-Eight Regency sedans sometimes come up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds. As I write this in July 2014, there’s a white 1987 with 38,000 miles advertised for $7,550.