Junkyard Gem: 1975 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Cruiser

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For the 1964 through 1972 model years, GM’s Buick and Oldsmobile Divisions produced midsize station wagons with amazing fighter-jet-style roof windows. The Buick version was Skylark-based and badged as the Sportwagon, while Oldsmobile used a stretched Cutlass chassis as the basis for the Vista-Cruiser. For 1973, the Vista-Cruiser got the same wheelbase as its sedan si, while the “Skyroof” went away. Starting in 1974 and continuing through 1976, Oldsmobile introduced a slightly cheaper version of the Vista-Cruiser (yes, there’s a dash in the model name, as seen in GM marketing materials, though not on vehicle emblems) and called it the Cutlass Supreme Cruiser. That’s what we’ve got for today’s Junkyard Gem, a ’75 found in a self-service yard while I was range-testing a Kia EV6 near Reno, Nevada.

The 1975 Vista-Cruiser (or Vista Cruiser, if you prefer) had faux-woodgrain trim on its flanks and a sunroof up front, plus generally snazzier upholstery. The Cutlass Supreme Cruiser was mechanically identical, but cost less: List price for the two-seat-row Vista-Cruiser was $4,888, while its Cutlass Supreme Cruiser counterpart cost $4,678 (that’s about $27,845 and $26,649 in 2022 dollars).

Olds Cutlass Supremes were selling like mad when this wagon was new, with the Cutlass line hitting the #1 spot in US-market car sales in 1976.

Did Oldsmobile slap Vista Cruiser emblems on the door panels of all Cutlass-based wagons in 1975, or did someone swap door panels from another wagon into this car years later? If you know the answer, please tell us in the comments!

The build sticker on the door says this car was assembled at Doraville Assembly in Georgia, which shut down after the last Chevy Uplander was built there in 2008. That likely means that this car was sold in the Southeast and was driven west later on, because Cutlasses sold in Nevada would have come from Fremont Assembly in California (where Teslas are built today).

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The engine is Oldsmobile’s Rocket 350 (5.7-liter) pushrod V8 with four-barrel carburetor, rated at 180 horsepower. If you wanted more power and single-digit fuel economy, a 455-cubic-inch Olds V8 and its 210 horses could be yours for an additional $119 ($678 today). Later in the decade, GM angered customers by installing Chevrolet engines in cars badged by higher-prestige divisions, but all members of the 1975 Cutlass family got genuine Oldsmobile power. A three-speed automatic transmission was standard in all 1975 Oldsmobile wagons.

With a handful of exceptions, you had to get more upscale than an Olds Cutlass to get tunes and/or refrigerated air at no extra cost in 1975. That Delco AM radio, ideal for buzzing out your favorite Doobie Brothers or War songs that year, added $73 to the out-the-door price of this car ($416 today), and if you wanted a second speaker you added 19 bucks ($108 now). The A/C was a big-ticket item, costing $453 ($2,581 after inflation).

These stripes have the look of authentic mid-1970s customization, but could have been applied a bit later.

The hood hinges are frozen solid and the interior got nuked hard by the sun, so this car probably sat immobile in the great outdoors for years, maybe decades, before coming to this place.

The last model year for a new Oldsmobile station wagon was 1996, when the final Cutlass Cruisers (based on the aging Ciera) were sold. Eight years later, Oldsmobile itself was discontinued.

No wonder Cutlasses sold so well in the middle 1970s! Sadly, it appears that the swivel buckets with reversible vinyl/fabric cushions weren’t available on the wagons.

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It’s a good feeling to have an Olds around you.

The sedans and coupes sold so well that Oldsmobile’s marketers didn’t bother to push the wagons as much in their TV advertising.

When your Vista-Cruiser needs a new muffler and you’re far from home, what do you do?

The 1974-1976 Cutlass Supreme Cruiser hasn’t had many cinematic roles, but you can find them if you look hard enough. Skip to 33:00 to see the Cutlass Supreme Cruiser in action.

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