Earlier this week it was a ’78 Regency, today it’s a rare surviving Escort, espied on Dallas-Fort Worth Marketplace. What can you say about the Escort? It replaced the old Pinto, was front-wheel drive, they sold a ton of them, and like their contemporary brethren, the Chevette and Colt, probably eight survive to the present day. This is one of them.
I grew up in Northwestern Illinois. Due to this, I am very familiar with the GM A-bodies, and Cutlass Cieras in particular. They were everywhere at the time. So were their brethren, the Chevy Celebrity, Pontiac 6000 (a friend of my dad’s bought a white 6000 STE brand new) and Buick Century. There were at least two Cutlass Cieras on my block circa 1985. They were as common on the streets as CR-Vs and Tahoes are today. Arguably, the most famous Cutlass Ciera was the tan 1988 Cutlass Ciera that Jerry Lundegaard gave the hit men as partial payment in the classic 1996 film, Fargo. Of course, that Oldsmobile was what ultimately led to everything going pear-shaped in spectacular fashion. An aside, if you haven’t seen this movie, go watch it right now. I’ll wait. OK, ready? Then let’s continue!
In Autumn ’81 the Cutlass Ciera first appeared, as a 1982 model. It had some very big shoes to fill, though the larger rear wheel drive Cutlass Supreme remained in the lineup. The Cutlass nameplate was Oldsmobile’s most successful in the 1970s, and the Cutlass Supreme coupe in particular was the undisputed best selling model in the lineup. The Cutlass was downsized in ’78, followed by a more aerodynamic restyling in 1981. It remained in the line with the addition of the Cutlass Ciera, however. It was the first time the Cutlass nameplate was applied to more than one car line. As the ’80s progressed, Cutlassization would run rampant over at Oldmsobile Division. Likely at its peril, but never mind that today.
The Parisienne. The final big Pontiac. Though essentially a stopgap, they kept interest-and sales-up for those wanting something a little fancier than a Caprice Classic in the mid 1980s. So, how did the big Pontiac become a Parisienne and not a Bonneville? I’m glad you asked.
See, back in the early ’80s, the brain trust over at Pontiac Motor Division decided that full-size cars were on the way out. Historically, Pontiac had sold the least B-body cars of all the other divisions since about 1971-72, though they got a healthy bump when the fresh, downsized 1977 Bonneville, Catalina and Grand Safari appeared. But the ’74 and ’79 gas crises increased interest in smaller cars (for a while), and with sportier models like the Trans Am (aided and abetted by that ’70s classic, Smokey and the Bandit) selling at a rapid clip, it was decided that Pontiac would have a leaner, lighter model line.
And so, the midsize LeMans received a Mini-Me version of the 1980-81 Bonneville nose, got a much plusher interior, and was introduced in 1982 as the “Bonneville Model G.”
This car is the one that says ‘police car’ to me more than any other. Growing up in the 1980s, the Rock Island Police Department drove black and white Diplomats. And when Officer Friendly visited our school when I was in first or second grade, he was driving one of these.
The Dodge Diplomat initially appeared as a corporate cousin to the new, Seville-sized and very Seville-like 1977 Chrysler LeBaron. The car itself was essentially a 1976-80 Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volaré with fresh sheetmetal, plusher interiors, and more upscale aspirations.
The 1979 to 1985 Cadillac Eldorado was downsizing done right. So many times, when emission standards, fuel economy and plain, simple customer tastes change, the results can sometimes be…awkward. But in the late ’70s, GM had it down pat, thanks to Design VP Bill Mitchell.
Mitchell was one of the best. He took over as head of GM Design when Harley Earl retired in 1958. But Mitchell was an old hand by then. He’d been with GM for decades, and produced some great designs decades before he was awarded the helm.
One 1980s Cadillac you don’t see often is the Fleetwood Brougham coupe. Wait, you may be thinking. Fleetwood Broughams were always pillared sedans or four-door hardtops! At least until the downsized front wheel drive Cadillacs appeared for model year 1985! Au contraire. Mid-year in 1980, for the first time ever, a Fleetwood Brougham two-door entered stage left!