• Fri. May 24th, 2024

Junkyard Gem: 1991 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser


May 20, 2023
Junkyard Gem: 1991 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser


GM’s Oldsmobile Division, which got the axe in 2004, was renowned for many decades as a maker of handsome, sturdy station wagons for American families. When beautiful wagons were flying out of showrooms in huge numbers, Oldsmobile was one of the biggest players in the longroof game, with many varieties of rocket-badged Olds Cruiser seen throughout the land. The minivan and SUV killed the station wagon as a mainstream family hauler, of course, and the very last of the enormous rear-wheel-drive Oldsmobile wagons rolled off the line in Ypsilanti in 1992. Here’s a very rare example of that final generation of Olds Custom Cruiser, found in a Northern California self-service boneyard recently.

For the 1991 model year, GM redesigned the full-sized B platform (which had been more or less unchanged since 1977). Sharp, boxy edges became cetacean curves, and three GM divisions got slick-looking streamlined wagons in the process. Chevrolet sold the Caprice Estate while Buick offered the Roadmaster Estate, with both models staying in production through 1996. Oldsmobile’s version was built for just the 1991 and 1992 model years, with just over 12,000 sold.

The Custom Cruiser name goes way back in Oldsmobile history, beginning as a designation for a line of upscale Olds 98s for the 1941 model year. Oldsmobile began using the Vista Cruiser (originally Vista-Cruiser, with a dash) name on futuristic-looking midsize wagons with fighter-jet-style roof glass for 1964, then brought back the Custom Cruiser name for full-sized wagons in 1971. The final Oldsmobile Cruiser was the 1996 Cutlass Cruiser; after that, you needed to get a Silhouette or Bravada if you wanted an Olds-badged familymobile.

Like the Vista Cruisers of the 1960s and 1970s, the 1991-1992 Custom Cruisers got a “Vista Roof” as standard equipment (the 1991-1996 Buick Roadmaster Estate got this roof as well, just as the Buick Sportwagens did decades earlier).

Under the hood, the 1991 Custom Cruiser received a 5.0-liter (305-cubic-inch) Chevrolet small-block V8 with 170 horsepower and 255 pound-feet. A 5.7-liter (350-cubic-inch) version was available as an option for 1992.

The 1991-1992 Custom Cruiser was the last Oldsmobile available with both a V8 engine and rear-wheel-drive.

Like most Americans my age, I’ve covered many miles in Olds Cruisers. It’s sad to see this one meet such a fate.

It racked up a respectable final mileage total before it got here, however.

A thick coating of moss and lichens indicates that this car sat neglected outside for years.

Various rodents took up housekeeping inside during that time, and the interior smells bad.

The MSRP on this wagon was $20,495, or about $45,959 today. 

The Chevrolet Caprice Estate cost $17,875 ($40,084 after inflation) and the Buick Roadmaster Estate listed at $21,445 ($48,090 in today’s money).

It was built at the Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, originally built to assemble B-24 Liberators. Kaisers and Frazers were built there through 1953, after which GM took it over for Hydra-Matic transmission production and, eventually, vehicle assembly. The last cars came off the Willow Run line in 1993.

There weren’t many years of true big-wagon relevance remaining in North America when this Olds was new. Ford killed the LTD Country Squire in 1991, though Chrysler built Dodge Magnums for a few years in the 2000s.

Go ahead and tow that Airstream through the desert with your Custom Cruiser!


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