The Brougham Whisperer Strikes Again!

The Brougham Whisperer Strikes Again!
The Brougham Whisperer Strikes Again!

Jason Bagge, my compadre in Spokane, and refurbisher of all things Brougham, has once again found the opera-windowed needle in the haystack. This past weekend, he saw a medium metallic blue 1977 Chrysler Newport two door hardtop for sale. It looked good, so he went over to check it out. In addition to the Chrysler (which was pretty nice and priced right) he spotted a gold 1973 Fleetwood Brougham…and this green 1975 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight LS four door hardtop.

These cars don’t exactly grow on trees, outside of marque-specific national meets anyway, but this triple green luxocruiser was extra special, as it was equipped with the ACRS airbags.

Yes, starting in 1974 certain Oldsmobiles, Buicks and Cadillacs could be had with a factory airbag. It wasn’t particularly popular because it wasn’t cheap. Also, due to space, if you got the airbags you couldn’t get the tilt/telescoping steering column. And since ACRS was only available on the bigger, more expensive GM full size cars, that was another possible deal breaker. The air cushion was designed for all three front seat passengers, not just the driver.


At the time folks weren’t really sure of its value, and after a disappointing take rate, it was removed from the option list after the 1976 model year. I have seen various Eldorados, Fleetwood Broughams and Rivieras with the option online, but never in person.

As you can see in the photos, it had snowed. Jason noticed the car, since he loves these cabin cruisers, but you couldn’t see inside. As he related, “That Newport is cool. But once I saw that ACRS Olds 98 it was all over. The colors on the Olds are awesome too. I don’t know what it is-but its this super dark green metallic (ED: Forest Green metallic, per the 1975 Olds brochure)-with olive interior and matching top.”

“I guess the old man put a new 455 in it. So the car has 107,000 miles. The engine and trans have 800. It’s awesome. I couldn’t see in the car-with the snow. I opened the door and saw that steering wheel and went ‘Holy shit!’ out loud, LOL! I knew what I was looking at. Never seen one in the wild before.”

There’s a good chance I’ll do a follow up on the car once he starts fixing it up, but wanted to share it ASAP, as it’s a pretty rare birdie! Until next time, stay calm, do what makes you happy and always tip your bartender. And now, time for a drink!


    1. 1978 ,the Chrysler New Yorker was the last domestic 4 door hardtop sedan the Chrysler Newport coupe was the last 2 door hardtop.

        1. Thanks guys. It’s sad to think of all the different versions of cars that we will never see again, even though the technology exists to make them better than ever. Oh well.

  1. I’ve only ever seen 2 ACRS cars in the wild before. The lack of the tilt and tele plus the not so attractive ACRS wheel were probably turn off too, plus this was still in the road beer, cigarette 3 inches from the un-belted kids era. It’s interesting that the steering wheel airbag is about the same size as it was when airbags returned around 1990.

    All the ACRS cars had a 1-800 number in the glove box to call GM if the car was involved in accident.

  2. What model year was it when airbags started compensating for the idea that drivers might be short, light, and wearing their seatbelts? Hopefully very few of these were in frontal collisions before their hundred-thousand-mile drivetrains expired.

      1. In 96 people were still asking for a passenger airbag in cars that didn’t have them, these were the same sheep…err…”people” who were asking if airbags could be deleted by 1997 because the same “datelineNBCsixtyminutesinsideedtionhardcopy” that told them they needed airbags or they and every member of their family was going to 1000% die for sure in ANY accident was now telling them that the same airbags were “going to kill them 10000% for sure in any collision”

        I was there……

    1. These airbags continued to be useful and saved lives years after the ACRS went out of production, there are documented incidents of these still functioning even in rusted out heaps in the late 90’s.

      1. I remember maybe in the 90s, they crashed one of those surviving ACRS ’73 Impalas and it performed very well.

  3. Tom,
    Interesting that on this Oldsmoble that with the ACRS the car did not lose its standard dash mounted ash tray, as well as the normal glove box. On the 1975-1976 Devilles/Fleetwoods ordered with the ACRS the normal ash try and and accomping ligher as well as the glove box was deleted and a center mounted ash try/ligher and small glove box was located under the dash over the transmission hump. Like Carmine I have only seen one or two Cadillacs with the ACRS in the wild, and never at a Grand National. They are really rare and I am sure when the customer saw what the finished product looked like, they said thanks but no thanks. Interesting these cars are still out there.

    1. Well that’s a pickle. I already told Jason you’d buy it for $9500 as long as he threw in a lime green leisure suit, he’s on his way…

      1. Well. To each his own-but I bet people will walk right past the Corvette to check out this rare air bag car if he was parked next to it.

  4. I wish I was better at being able to snoop out these unwanted older cars that need a bit of love. Seeing them listed on facebook marketplace/craigslist/etc is too late, they’re typically already being flipped or being sold by an overly-optimistic relative managing an estate sale, trying to squeeze blood from a stone.

    1. Gtem, I recall you are of Soviet/Russian heritage. Are their noble fellows, like our own brougham whisperer, that show love in modern CIS to Zil, Chaika, and Volga. I hope that you are so blessed.

      1. Sure, there’s definitely been a resurgence (often of younger guys) who realized that all of the old stuff that was rotting away and seen as poor rural dwellers/ old man transportation is actually really neat and has some historical value/relevance. the Chaika/ZiLs are really quite rare, but Volgas and the Moskvtich/Lada/ZAZ/etc are getting their due now, as well as old Zil and GAZ trucks, including lots of ex-military 6×6 rigs that get bought up from surplus auctions.

        1. I am glad. There are many ways the new stuff is better of course, but there is something to be said for things that were built for us, by us, rather than built for all.

          I can understand also about the military stuff. When my brother in law served in Iraq in 2005, the Romanian Army was stationed at the same base and their old Soviet jeeps made quite an impression on him.

          On trucks, the Zis 150 should be remembered as it has perhaps the dubious distinction of being the first motor vehicle made in China, at the FAW factory in Changchun from 1956-86, as the Jia Fang C-10.

          1. Those Volgas and ZILs were built by them for people who had their boots on the backs of their necks. Probably the best car a non-murderously-evil eastern block subject could hope for was a VAZ, and they were designed by Italians for Italians. They were tailored to the Soviet ‘markets’ less than a 1974 Toyota Corolla was to the US market. You go on banging your one drum though.

          2. Oh, I don’t know. The Vaz/ Lada was modified a good bit from the 124 to make it more suitable for Russia making it’s way then worldwide much more than the Fiat. Much more so than say Poland when they abandoned the Volga based Warsawa next gen in favor of the Fiat 125.

            Regarding cars, I think the foot to the neck was more on the supply chain with long waiting lists. I bet more than a few wouldn’t mind the old foot to the neck on the supply chain giving them the Korean dreck they drive now.

          3. No. The big cars were literally for the people killing anyone who had an unapproved thought. You had better wise up quickly. We’re rapidly approaching the day when people making your brand of anti-semitic comments gets driven off in a car that is perfectly tailored to the tastes of his child-slavery-loving, EV-promoting superiors. Driving a Geely might not be enough to save you.

          4. Of course he is in favor of it. How does that horrid song go?

            You got a fast car
            Is it fast enough so we can just fly away
            We got to make a decision
            Leave tonight or live and die this way

  5. What struck me about this car was the simplicity of the high feature controls that must have seemed almost alien in 1975. My wife had a car from 2012-2019 that she could only figure out the factory cruise control in the last year she had it, because it required the driver to press the power button that gave no indication it was engaged prior to pressing a set button to actually hold the speed. I showed her the simple clock radio style switch on this 98 and she assures me that this would have worked for her.

  6. 1975, the first year of catalytic converters and HEI ignition (as standard). For all the criticism against first generation catcons, at least they helped the muffler and tailpipe last longer. In our older cars, my parents were replacing mufflers and tailpipes almost every year. After we got our ’76 Olds Vista Cruiser, the muffler and tailpipe lasted 6 years before replacement with the same pattern of driving.

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