Category: Oldsmobile

This 1974 Hurst/Olds Rounded Out One Man’s Collection of Every Year of H/O – David Conwill @Hemmings

This 1974 Hurst/Olds Rounded Out One Man’s Collection of Every Year of H/O – David Conwill @Hemmings

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If there is a single race known to most American drivers, it’s the Indianapolis 500. When it started in 1911, it was a laboratory where automobile manufacturers developed their products. After World War II, though the race cars had long since diverged from road cars, the Memorial Day pageantry of Indy was still America’s national showcase of automotive prowess.

That nationwide familiarity with the 500 long meant that an invitation to provide a pace car for the race was the best free advertising available to any manufacturer that wanted to promote a performance image. From 1949 to 1970, the list is loaded with Detroit’s sportiest machines: Oldsmobile 88 (with the brand-new Rocket V-8), Mercury Eight, Chrysler New Yorker (with the first-year FirePower hemi V-8), Ford Crestline, Studebaker Commander (with its nearly new OHV V-8), Dodge Royal 500 (with the new Red Ram hemi V-8), Chevrolet Bel Air (in the first year of the legendary small-block V-8), De Soto Adventurer, Pontiac Bonneville, Chrysler 300, Ford Mustang, Plymouth Sport Fury, and so on.

It was still true in 1974, when Olds introduced the latest iteration of the Hurst/Olds with the proclamation “Guess who’s leading the pack at Indy again?” The 1974 race would be the fifth time an Oldsmobile had paced the event since World War II, a streak started by the 1949 88. That new “Rocket 88” was arguably the instigator of the first postwar horsepower wars, thanks to its new OHV V-8 and relatively lightweight A-body platform. By ’74, the 88 had long since moved to the B-body platform and the A-body, now an intermediate, underpinned the Cutlass series.

At that point, nearly halfway through “The Me Decade,” street performance had been steadily diminishing since the highs hit only a couple years earlier. Even in the intermediate segment, once the stronghold of pure muscle, personal luxury had taken hold as a replacement. Nevertheless, Oldsmobile had successfully blended performance with style in the 1950s and ’60s and wanted to do it again in the ’70s — even if insurance companies, government regulators, and OPEC had put the kibosh on the high-compression, high-rpm V-8 engines of the late ’60s

Though not a fire breather, the L75 455 was still torquey and made the H/O stand out from typical cars in 1974. Early ads suggested the 455 would come standard but ultimately a 180-hp 350 became the base engine

The H/O started out in the 1968 model year, when George Hurst and Jack “Doc” Watson shoehorned an Oldsmobile Toronado 455, tuned up to 390 horsepower, into a regular 4-4-2 (replacing its 400-cu.in. engine) and treated it to special paint and graphics. The result, built for Oldsmobile in quantity by Lansing, Michigan-based Demmer Engineering, allowed General Motors to maintain the fiction that it did not permit engines in excess of 400-cu.in. in its intermediate line, while simultaneously permitting Olds dealers to sell what the public really wanted.

Thanks to its origin via back-door shenanigans and immensely respectable performance, the 1968-’69 H/O is remembered as one of the top-tier muscle cars of its era, ranked by enthusiasts alongside Chevrolet COPOs, Pontiac Royal Bobcats, Holman-Moody Fords, and the unrestrained triple-carbureted and Hemi-powered machinery from Plymouth and Dodge. The advantage the Oldsmobile had over most of that specialist performance, however, was that you could get one virtually anywhere.

Oldsmobile had revived the Hurst/Olds concept for 1972, when it was invited to provide the pace car for that year’s Indy 500 (see HMM #181, September 2018) and discovered that the then-current iteration of the 4-4-2 (really just a handling-and-appearance package on the Cutlass S) wasn’t quite exciting enough for the job. That’s somewhat ironic, as the Hurst/Olds had originally been discontinued after 1969 because the massive Oldsmobile 455-cu.in. V-8 had become available as a regular production option, meaning the ’70 4-4-2 had been perfectly suited to its own pace-car duties.

The Cutlass was a hit in the ’70s and into the ’80s, surpassing the Delta 88 as the best-selling Olds for the 1975 model year and then becoming America’s best-selling car, period, for 1976 and again for 1978 to 1981. The Hurst/Olds wasn’t around that whole time, but in its periodic revivals, it served as the Cutlass line’s halo car. If Oldsmobile and the Cutlass were still around, we might even have one today on that Alpha platform shared with the Chevy Camaro and Cadillac CTS.

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The 1977 Oldsmobile 442 was Lansing’s sporty survivor from the muscle car turf wars – Jeff Koch @Hemmings

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You’ll no doubt recall that 1977 wasn’t a banner year for American performance vehicles. Two hundred net horsepower seemed unobtainable in those emissions-choked, fuel-starved years, and what was the point of a dual exhaust when it had to blow through a single catalytic converter

?Most of GM’s A-bodies had given up any sporting pretension. Chevrolet quit slapping the SS name on its Chevelle/Malibu, and even the shovel-nose, aero-slick Laguna was gone by 1977. Pontiac outsourced the LeMans-based Can Am until the mold for the rear spoiler broke, and the original GTO was just a distant memory by then. Buick’s GS program had quietly fizzled out as well.

What was left in GM’s midsize A-body lineup that had an eye toward performance? The Oldsmobile 442.

Like many of GM’s muscle car names from the past (see Z28 as an example), by the mid-to-late ’70s the “442” moniker referred to a handling-and-trim bundle. Available on the Cutlass S hardtop coupe, 442 (option code W29) consisted of the FE2 handling package (stiffer springs and shocks, 1-inch front and 0.812-inch rear anti-sway bars, and steel-belted radials on 7-inch wheels; FE2 was also available separately on other higher-end Cutlass models), some additional rocker and wheelwell trim, bold graphics, and little else. With FE2, a keen mid-’70s owner could break out of the personal-luxury, sensory-deprivation-tank mold and achieve respectable handling without resorting to something as obvious as, say, a Trans Am. The 442 added a reasonable $134 to the bottom line for the Cutlass S in 1976.

The standard engine was Buick’s 105-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6, with a choice of three-speed manual, three-speed automatic, or (intriguingly) five-speed manual transmissions. Step up to the 110-hp, 260 cu.in. V-8, and transmission choices dropped to the tried-and-true Turbo 350 and the five-speed. Other engine options more appropriate to something with the 442’s image and chassis capabilities were the 170-hp four-barrel 350 V-8 (mated to a Turbo 350 automatic), and the 185-horse Olds 403 backed by a Turbo 400. Olds’ 455 disappeared after 1976, so the 403 was as good as it got in ’77. Gear ratios varied between 2.41:1 and 3.08:1, depending on powertrain and what box you checked on the dealer’s order form. Car and Driver tested a 350-powered, 2.41-geared Cutlass in 1977 (a powertrain installed in about 85 percent of all Cutlasses for the year) and found an 11.9-second 0-60, an 18.4-second quarter-mile at 75.7 mph, and a 109-mph top speed. Sleepy, maybe, but stir in the standard FE2 suspension, and you get what Car and Driver called “something altogether different from the rubber-stamp supermarket car it might otherwise be taken for.” Well, maybe not with those stripes.

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Painstakingly preserved 1998 Oldsmobile Aurora just waiting for the day when collectors start to notice the last luxury Olds – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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Despite the fairly typical Nineties styling, the Aurora held a lot of promise for Oldsmobile, and it’s easy to see that potential in this 1998 Oldsmobile Aurora for sale on Hemmings.com. Not just an original, low-mileage car in good shape, this example seems to have been detailed and serviced immediately after each time it left the garage. It’s probably outlasted multiple shop vacs and accounted for a significant percentage of leather cleaner and conditioner sales over the last 20 years. The challenge in owning a car like this, of course, will be to continue the same preservation efforts so it doesn’t become just another used Aurora by the time the collector car hobby in general starts to appreciate these cars. From the seller’s description

Leather seats, driver and passenger electric seats, driver and passenger heated seats, sunroof, electric windows and locks, memory driver’s seat. This car is a Real Beauty in spectacular condition, a True Cream Puff!! Clean, Clean, Clean. We are the second owners and have owned for 21 years. We purchased the car in November of 2000, from Martin Buick Oldsmobile in Fenton, Michigan. At the time of purchase the car had 40,261 miles and currently has 52,658 (miles may go up a little for short drives). The car has been meticulously maintained. Always garage stored, covered, and we never drove it in the Winter, snow or salt. Never driven as a daily driver. Only used for special occasions and several vacations. The engine and transmission run smooth and tight, no leaks, vibrations or fluid use. The interior is extremely clean. No stains, rips, tears, leaks or smells. Never smoked in or pets. The leather is nearly like new. The body and paint is original and in superior condition. No dents, dings, scratches or rust. The AC compressor was installed 10 years ago and the AC does need a charge. All fuel lines and brake lines are in clean, excellent condition. This Aurora runs, handles and performs like a new auto. Just received an oil-change

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Which domestic performance car from 1957 would you choose for your dream garage? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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Let’s open the floodgates of the American performance car debate, specifically when the first regular production examples emerged from assembly plants. While many will quickly give a nod to Pontiac’s 1964 GTO, others will suggest the bar was raised in a far different era. The Stutz Bearcat from the Teens is a perfect early candidate. So, too, is Buick’s Century, introduced in 1936: It was a true midsize car that made use of the larger Roadmaster’s more-powerful straight-eight engine; it was reportedly capable of hitting 100 mph under the right conditions. Then, of course, there was the 1949 Oldsmobile 88, featuring the high-output Rocket V-8 engine that tore up drag strips and stock car circuits alike. Was Hudson’s Twin-H powerplant, nestled in the Hornet, a more suitable candidate, or, perhaps, Detroit’s explosion of elaborate fuel induction systems in 1957? Let’s pause here and review a handful of arguably-muscular options from the year in our latest edition of This or That, all of which are currently available in the Hemmings classifieds.

It’s no secret that Chrysler Corporation set the NASCAR circuit on fire in 1955 and ’56, thanks to team principals like Lee Petty and Carl Kiekhaefer, the latter of whom amassed an astounding 52 wins as team owner, along with 52 poles and 139 top-10 finishes by 11 drivers in just a combined 190 starts–a NASCAR record at the time. At the dawn of the 1957 season, Kiekhaefer and his teams were gone, but not the powerful Mopars he loved to prepare for racing, such as this 1957 Chrysler 300C. Although the upscale and freshly restyled performance model was no longer a contender on the track – it went winless in ’57 – it was a winner at the dealership when 1,918 hardtops found new buyers, bolstered by the sale of 484 convertibles. The base price for each was $4,929 and $5,359 respectively (or $46,517 and $50,575 today), but that price also netted a standard 375-hp 392-cu.in. V-8 engine, its output made possible by a pair of four-barrel carburetors. According to the scant description provided by the seller of this hardtop:

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Four cylinders, two turbos, and the world closed-course speed record: How Oldsmobile proved the Quad 4 – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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In the automakers’ standardized playbook for promoting something new, going after a record—particularly a speed record—is a time-honored tradition. Given that the world land-speed record has for decades now been pushed beyond the reach of anything remotely resembling a production car, that meant from the Sixties onward, car manufacturers and racers have turned to the closed-course speed record.

Which was just what the team behind Oldsmobile’s Quad4 decided to pursue, albeit with a much-modified 900-hp version of the dual overhead-camshaft four-cylinder and a sleek racing body designed by Ed Welburn and refined by aerodynamicist Max Schenkel. Dubbed Aerotech, it’d be piloted by A.J. Foyt. Foyt had previously set the record in 1974 at Talladega and had racing experience in the March 84C chassis on which the Aerotech was based, so he made perfect sense as the driver to reclaim the record from Mercedes-Benz. The Sam Posey-narrated video below goes into detail how GM’s engineers and staff prepared for the record and went about capturing it in August of 1987.

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Best of B-O-P: Hemmings staffers pick their favorites from Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac – @Hemmings

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Oldsmobile and Pontiac are history. Buick, which has been hugely popular in China, currently sells only bean-shaped, badge-engineered sport-utility vehicles in North America—one of which is manufactured exclusively in China. All of the new Buick trucklets have model names as forgettable as their styling would suggest and none are badged with “Buick” emblems. This isn’t an attempt to eventually wipe the slate clean of all things Buick, assures GM—the company that in the last two decades has shuttered Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn, Saab, and Hummer. Instead, we’re told, the Tri-Shield logo that appears on all new Buicks is recognizable enough to stand alone, thus making the name “Buick” redundant. Yes, we hear it too. The sound of David Dunbar rolling in his grave.As bleak as the future looks, the historic, collectible vehicles of Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac, are alive and well thanks to the efforts of passionate enthusiasts—several of whom work for Hemmings. Recently, we went around the virtual room (the offices in Bennington, Vermont, are still closed and we’re all working remotely) to determine which B-O-P vehicles from the last 100-plus years intrigue us the most. It was tough to narrow it down, but here’s what we came up with.

1910 Buick Model 10

Early in its history, Buick was in a tight race for the number-one slot in the domestic auto industry, spearheaded by its Model 10. Introduced in 1908, it used an 88-inch-wheelbase chassis that cradled a 165-cu.in. four-cylinder engine and two-speed planetary transmission. Noted for its ease of control, the model’s standard equipment included acetylene headlamps, oil-burning side and taillamps, and a bulb horn, all at a very attractive $900 price tag. Buick built 4,002 Model 10s in ’08, which climbed to 8,100 a year later when its wheelbase was lengthened to 92 inches, coupled with the expansion from one to three body styles. Bolstered by its success in race trim, along with improved cooling by changing from a gear-driven water pump to a centrifugal type, the Model 10 reached its popularity zenith in 1910 when an impressive 11,000 units were built—more than a third of Buick’s staggering 30,525- unit output for the year. That was enough to catapult the Flint-based company to first place in the industry. —Matthew Litwin

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At nearly 300,000 miles, this 1967 Cutlass Supreme convertible is still driven daily by its original owner -Thomas A. DeMauro @Hemmings

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Imagine the level of commitment required to retain the only new car you’ve ever purchased as your primary transportation for the rest of your life.

Connie Milburn of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada, is doing just that with her 1967 Cutlass Supreme convertible, which she named “Black Beauty.”She tells Hemmings, “I’m just an average product from the small provincial farming community of Edson, Alberta. While growing up on the farm with my parents [Ruby and Orlando Thompson] and my brother [Orley], I learned how to do many things at a young age. Dad taught us how to drive a tractor as soon as our feet could reach the pedals.

He reasoned that since we didn’t have a telephone, if anything happened to him or Mom, my brother or I would have to go get help.”By 1962, Connie was in her early 20s and a flight attendant for Trans Canada airlines, the predecessor to Air Canada. She decided to take a three-month sabbatical in Europe and recalls, “My parents were driving me to the airport when we passed Edmonton Motors and I saw a 1962 F-85 convertible in the showroom.

I said, ‘Dad, I just saw a car I love’ and he replied, ‘Are we taking you to the airport or the car dealer?’ I said, ‘The airport,’ but I still couldn’t get that Oldsmobile out of mind. I told myself I’d own one by the time I was 30.”

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Pick of the Day: Toronado was another Olds innovation – Larry Edsall @ClassicCars.com

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Ah, Oldsmobile, how we miss you… Pity that when General Motors decided to pull the plug on one of its brands, you had the fewest dealers to pay off, so it didn’t matter that you also had a better fleet of vehicles across the board than any of your fellow GM divisions.

You introduced the Hydra-Matic transmission way back in 1940, and the Rocket V8 soon after World War II. In 1995, you gave us the Aurora, perhaps the last great American car design. And in 1966, you introduced the Toronado, the first full-size American car driven by its front wheels since the 1936 Cord.

The Pick of the Day is a 1969 Oldsmobile Toronado. The car got some styling updates that year and a power upgrade with an optional 455cid V8 rated at 400 horsepower

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At the height of the jet-set Motorama era, the 1954 Oldsmobile Cutlass show car was cutting edge – @Hemmings

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A look at the 1954 Oldsmobile Cutlass Motorama show car

Because the Cutlass had so many characteristics in common with its smaller companion, the Olds F-88 convertible, this dream car was simply called “the long wheelbase F-88” before its formal naming. Its wheelbase spanned 110 inches, compared to the 102 for the F-88. Other pertinent measurements of the Cutlass included an overall length of 188.5 inches and overall height of 51.5 inches. Shown is a GM Photographic promotional photograph taken near Miami just before the opening of the GM Motorama held at the Dinner Key Auditorium.

Photography Courtesy Gm Media Archive and Author’s Collection

Eight times from 1949 to 1961, General Motors staged lavish auto shows in major cities for the purpose of telling the public about its products. These shows included automobiles from GM’s passenger car and truck divisions, as well as its AC auto parts and non-automotive concerns such as Electro-Motive Diesel and Frigidaire. Essentially, GM’s road-going show (under the names Transportation Unlimited in 1949, Mid-Century Motorama in 1950, and The GM Motorama for the remaining years), served as a marketing tool for selling the current crop of new GM
automobiles and other products.

Furthermore, it informed people of the company’s latest developments in scientific research and engineering. The traveling show was well known for its array of dream cars, or concept cars in today’s vernacular, which tested public reactions to innovative styling and mechanical features that would either be included in the near future, at some time in the more distant future, or perhaps not to this day (i.e., turbine engine power for automobiles). GM’s vice president of the styling section, Harley Earl, knew the public did not respond well to too much change too soon, but knew people could and would view changes in most instances as desirable if given in the proper doses over time. This was accomplished through interactive exhibits, orchestras and troupes of dancers, lavish décor, and, of course, through the dream cars—all done at GM’s expense and free of charge to the public.

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Which one of these four postwar woodie wagons would you choose for your dream garage? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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Back in the day, those seeking outdoor adventures may have called upon the station wagon as one means to lug their gear to their travel destination. So, let’s take a step further back in our latest edition of This or That by offering four dream garage options from the immediate postwar station wagon market, when such cars were still built with a healthy amount of lumber. Commonly called woodie wagons, they are among the few vintage cars that are icons of the industry and pop culture alike. Here’s a closer look at some that Detroit offered, all of which are currently available in the Hemmings classifieds.

1947 Chevy Woody Wagon, 350 crate engine, 330hp, power steering, AC/heat, 700R4 transmission, new paint, great driver, eye catcher, award winning car.

Let’s start with Chevrolet. Although the division began offering the all-steel Suburban Carryall in 1935, regular production woodie station wagons didn’t technically appear until 1939. We say ‘technically’ because wood-bodied wagons from Chevy had been available through its dealership network on a special-order basis, with bodies furnished by a number of independent suppliers, such as the Springfield Body Company and Hercules Products.

Like others, Chevrolet’s station wagon production were among the last models to be resumed after the end of World War II. Offered only on the upscale Fleetline series, just 804 were produced as 1946 models, but that number jumped to 4,912 units a year later, this 1947 Fleetline among them. Costing $1,893 new (or $22,626 today), it originally contained the division’s svelte 216.5-cu.in. six-cylinder, which was rated for 90 hp; however this stock-appearing “woodie” has been warmed up a bit with modern mechanical enhancements.

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