After the GM A-bodies became G-bodies, each division did its own thing when it came to deciding what models stayed in the lineup. Consider the sedans: The Chevy and Buick versions departed after ’83. Pontiac’s G-body Bonneville lasted until 1986, after which it became an H-body. But Oldsmobile, arguably the purveyor of the best A/G-bodies in the corporation, kept its sedans going all the way to 1987. All in all, not a bad run for an Olds model that had flopped (at least in four-door form) when it first appeared in 1978.
And just why did the Aeroback Cutlass Salon two- and four-door sedans bomb? First of all, coupes reigned supreme (pun most definitely intended) in 1978.
The formal roofed, oft-Landau topped Supremes were the bee’s knees, while the Aeroback Salons were, well, different. Very different, especially to folks looking to trade in their Colonnade ’75 Cutlass Supreme sedan, and seeing this very un-Oldsmobile like vehicle sitting in the showroom.
While the look was rather European, in an Americanized kind of way, most folks just didn’t take to it. The traditional three-box styled LeMans and Malibu cousins did much better than the Cutlass Salon, and its Buick brethren. While I like the Aerobacks, admittedly, I like a lot of oddball stuff.
Still, Oldsmobile probably wasn’t terribly broken up about that, since at the same time they were selling truckloads of Cutlass Supreme coupes and Brougham coupes. Recall that 1977 Cutlass Supreme coupes outsold all the Cutlass four-doors and station wagons, combined.
Still, it didn’t do well for Oldsmobile’s image to have Aerobacks languishing in the lineup. Especially when buyers who didn’t want a fastback sedan could walk across the street and buy a Grand LeMans or Malibu Classic.
Or just upgrade to a Delta 88. After all, the 1977-79 downsized B-bodies were one of the best full-sizers ever made, and the Olds version was especially handsome.
As a result, for 1980 Olds treated the four-door to a formal-roofed makeover (as did Buick), exhibiting the now-GM trademark ‘sheer look’, as originated on the 1976-79 Cadillac Seville. It sold far better than its 1978-79 Cutlass Salon predecessor.
While it may have had obvious stylistic overtones vis a vis the Seville, it did look nice. Certainly Olds buyers didn’t mind the resemblance. GM took a lot of flak for similar-appearing cars as the ’80s wore on. Which I have always found amusing, since no one seemed to be bothered by Mercedes-Benz and BMW doing essentially the same thing at the time. But I digress…
In 1986, the Cutlass Supreme coupes still looked fresh (and remained remarkably popular) after an attractive 1981 makeover, but aside from annual updates to trim, wheel covers, grilles and tail lights, the Supreme four-door hadn’t changed much since 1980. Nonetheless, the CS line was still going gangbusters, and plenty of folks–young folks, even–wanted a Cutlass Supreme in their driveway. These were comfortable, cushy cars, particularly in Brougham trim. Wanna ride through town in your favorite chair? One of these was a perfect solution.
How did Olds do it? Plush, floating-pillow seating. Although this is a coupe interior, the Brougham sedans got the very same thrones. Not everybody wanted BMWs in the mid-’80s, and particularly not Midwesterners. When I was a little kid, Cutlasses like these were absolutely everywhere. Half of the background cars in my grade school years were Cutlass Supremes and Cutlass Cieras, along with a healthy dose of Chrysler minivans.
As was previously mentioned, the other GM divisions essentially replaced their RWD A-bodies with FWD versions. The 1978-style midsize wagons were history after 1983, having been replaced by new Chevrolet Celebrity, Pontiac 6000, Buick Century and Olds Cutlass Ciera wagons. The Buick Regal and Chevy Malibu sedans also made their last appearance that year. The A-body LeMans disappeared after 1981, but a face-lifted version took the Bonneville mantle in 1982 and kept it through 1986. But if you wanted a four-door G-body in 1987, you’d have to pay a visit to your friendly local Olds dealer, as it was the last Brougham standing. Ask for Jerry Lundegaard.
The final changes to the Cutlass Supreme sedan came in 1986. The new federally-mandated CHMSL identified ’86s from the back, while a smoothed-out eggcrate grille was prominent up front. As had been the case since 1980, the 3,320-lb. (3,341 pounds in Brougham trim) sedan’s dimensions were quite tidy compared with those of the current Delta 88, not to mention the previous decade’s Colonnade Cutlasses.
Like the coupes, the sedan measured 200.4″ in length and had a 108.1″ wheelbase. Interestingly, the coupes had one more cubic foot of trunk space than the 15.2 cu. ft. capacity of the sedans. By the 1986-87 period, Cutlass Supremes came standard with a 231 cu in, 110 hp V6; the optional four-barrel 307 V8 added 30 horses to the tally. Also standard was a three-speed automatic. A four-speed automatic with overdrive was optional.
The 1986 CS sedan, which started at $10,872, was the most popular version with 41,973 copies sold. Less popular, but more plush, was the $11,551 Brougham sedan, of which 24,646 were sold. While I have identified our featured car as a 1986, the ’87s were essentially identical, so this could just as well be a final-year version.
Befitting their position in the GM hierarchy, these cars were pretty well-equipped even in standard, non-Brougham trim. Standard features included automatic transmission, deluxe wheel discs, power front disc/rear drum brakes, power steering, deluxe bumper guards and rub strips, dual outside mirrors, and bright roof drip, rocker panel and wheel opening moldings. All in all, a rather solid choice for young families in Minneapolis, Kansas City or Cedar Rapids.
The flossier Brougham, on the other hand, got lots of extras. Its niceties included chrome belt-reveal moldings, wide rocker moldings (with front and rear fender extensions), the aforementioned plush seating with a 55/45 split front bench in Summit knit velour (in place of the Bronte velour in the basic CS), and the Convenience Group, which added an under-hood light, a trunk light and all-important visor vanity mirror.
If all that additional equipment wasn’t enough, you could load your Brougham up even further with A/C, cruise control, power door locks, power front windows/rear window vents, opera lamps, vinyl roof, front and rear lamp monitors, Soft-Ray tinted glass and intermittent-pulse wipers. You could even get Sierra grain leather inside.
If you didn’t care for the deluxe wheel covers or virtually ubiquitous wire wheel covers (I estimate 95% of Cutlass Supremes had the wires), attractive chrome Super Stock wheels (digitally modeled above) were available, as were lacy-spoke alloy wheels and our featured Brougham’s color-keyed wheels with chrome trim rings.
The alloys were particularly good-looking, and I was surprised to find them in the brochure. I don’t think I ever saw these wheels on the street. They look nice, but all those little die-cut slots must have been a major pain to keep clean.
Like so many ’80s domestic cars, you really had choices when it came to interior trim. Among the five Cutlass Supreme interior colors were dark red, saddle tan and the dark blue seen here. Also offered were a wide variety of exterior colors, including Light Teal Blue, Light Sage Green, Medium Red Metallic, Yellow Beige, and classic white, as our featured car sports.
The Brougham’s back seat was just as cushy, although perhaps a bit claustrophobic with that fixed window. Yes, these sedans did not have an opening rear window, though they did have an opening vent window. On higher trimmed models, it was power-operated. But as with then-current minivans, it wasn’t as big an issue as it seemed (or as is oft-discussed online in certain quarters), unless the air conditioning konked out.
I first spotted this Brougham on the road near the Deere Works, in East Moline. All I could tell was that it was in really nice condition. Fortunately, I saw it again back on September 30, 2012. It was parked just a stone’s throw away from my old alma mater, Augustana College. While I still see the occasional 81-87 Cutlass Supreme coupe on the road, and am also spotting them more and more at car shows, this was a much more uncommon find. I don’t see many A/G-body sedans in this day and age. Seems most of these G-body four-doors all collectively disappeared around 1999-2001 or so.
It looks like the owner is a Cubs fan, which makes sense–lots of Cubs and Cards fans in these parts. From the original dealer tag, Cuculich Olds, in Berwyn, IL, it appears to have come from the Chicagoland originally. When I attended Augie, lots and lots of students (probably three-quarters) were from Chicago and the surrounding ‘burbs. As a local, I was the odd man out. Every Friday, you could see a stream of older vehicles full of students and full of laundry, all heading east for “Scenic 88” and the Windy City.
After the last G-body Cutlass Supreme Classic came off the line in 1988, Olds seemingly sabotaged itself. The swoopy new Cutlass Supreme was nice, but their questionable “not your father’s Oldsmobile” ad campaign did more harm than good: It not only alienated Oldsmobile’s traditional customers, but didn’t fool the younger buyers they were trying to attract, many of whom probably wound up buying Acura Integras. And that once ubiquitous ‘Oldsmobile feel’ was diluted out, as they started chasing the imports instead of just playing their strengths. After trying repeatedly to recapture that old Olds magic during the ’90s and early ’00s, Olds finally entered the history books after a brief 2004 model year. I still miss them today. Out of all of the makes of automobiles that have disappeared in my lifetime, I miss Oldsmobile the most.
So let’s look back fondly on the Cutlass Supreme Brougham. It was a real Olds–with all the traditional Oldsmobile comfort, reliability and style–for its time.