Oldsmobile Alero Review

Following a string of truly forgettable small-car efforts in the 1980s and ’90s, Oldsmobile celebrated its centennial anniversary by introducing the all-new Alero to compete with the popular and well-established import competition of the day. While it failed to truly capture the hearts and minds of consumers or chalk up many conquest sales, Olds’ small car story ended on an upbeat note with a stylish and decently designed effort.

 

Available as a sedan or coupe, the Oldsmobile Alero was considered by most to be a sporty-looking car thanks to its bulging wheelwells, sleek greenhouse, fluted side panels and large jewellike taillights. The front-drive Alero was also relatively entertaining to drive. Buyers could choose four-cylinder or V6 power. Initially, the Alero came with an automatic transmission only, but a five-speed manual eventually made an appearance.

 

Handling was nicely balanced and braking was strong. Inside, an artfully designed two-tone dash faced comfortable front seats that were firm and supportive. All controls were easy to see and use, with large knobs and buttons. Unfortunately, all-around refinement didn’t match that of the leading imports.

 

The phase-out of the Oldsmobile brand spelled the end for the Alero. For a shopper interested in an affordable used coupe or sedan from the early 2000s, the Oldsmobile Alero should do nicely as long as one is aware of the car’s faults and lame-duck heritage. Service can be handled at select GM dealerships — you might want to focus on Pontiac, as the Alero was mechanically similar to the Grand Am.

 

Most Recent Oldsmobile Alero

The Oldsmobile Alero debuted in 1999 as a replacement for the slow-selling Achieva. Coupe and sedan body styles were offered, as were three main trim levels: entry-level GX, midgrade GL and top-line GLS. GX and GL models came standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that made 150 horsepower and 155 pound-feet of torque. Optional on GL and standard on GLS was a 3.4-liter V6 that made 170 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission choice at the time was a four-speed automatic.

 

Incremental improvements saw it through the next several years. A year after the car’s debut, Olds offered a sport-tuned suspension package for the GL. For 2001, an optional five-speed manual transmission became available on four-cylinder models, and the car’s antilock braking system was updated. If you’re looking at four-cylinder Aleros, take note that for 2002 Oldsmobile replaced the 2.4-liter engine with a quieter and more fuel-efficient 2.2-liter engine. It made 140 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque.

 

Inside, we found the Oldsmobile Alero offered a user-friendly control layout and seats that were generally comfortable — though materials quality throughout was a step or two behind that of competing imports; even the leather in the GLS looked and felt too much like vinyl. For those with lots to carry, though, both the coupe and sedan offered a generous 14.6 cubic feet of trunk capacity.

 

Although neither engine was particularly quiet, the four-cylinder provided adequate power in most situations while the V6 delivered spirited performance. The Alero’s suspension tuning was firm and allowed some fun around twists and turns, yet ride quality remained smooth enough to make the Olds suitable for weekday commuting. The steering offered little in the way of road feel, however, and the brakes were strong but could be difficult to modulate due to an overly stiff pedal.

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Hurst Hairy Olds

Hurst Hairy Olds is the name given to a pair of exhibition funny cars campaigned by Hurst Performance in 1966 and 1967.

Developed with help from General Motors engineer John Beltz, the Hurst Hairy Olds was built to be a showcase for the then-new chain-driven automatic transaxle of the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado as well as a rival to the Hurst Hemi Under Glass. There were doubts in the automotive press as to the strength of such a system; the Hairy Olds was designed to dispel these doubts.

The car debuted at a meet in Bakersfield, California on March 4, 1966. Driven by Joe Schubeck, the Hurst Hairy Olds began as a fully trimmed and later upholstered Oldsmobile 442 in body in white (BIW) form. Hurst installed not one but two 425 in³ (7 L) Oldsmobile engines and Toronado transaxles both front and rear; a pair of drag parachutes were mounted in the stock taillight positions and four-wheel disc brakes were fitted as well. Two engines meant two of virtually everything in the cockpit related to the operation of the car, including two cable-operated shifters, two tachometers, two sets of oil pressure and temperature gauges and even two accelerator pedals. Additional power was provided via a Cragar Equipment-modified 6-71 GMC supercharger atop each engine, each burning a blend of nitromethane and alcohol. Weight was reduced through the use of aluminum body components and plexiglass windows. The result was a 2400-horsepower, four-wheel-drive exhibition drag racer which smoked its front and rear tires down the length of the race track with times in the eleven-second range.

Although the drive chains held up admirably, the car was not without its problems. The tremendous amount of power at the front wheels caused massive torque steer, resulting in difficulty in keeping the car in a straight line. The rear engine contributed to unloading of the front wheels, which in turn caused the front engine to overspeed. Visibility was poor as well due to tire smoke from both ends of the car. This coupled with engine oil spray out of the valve cover breathers because of the pressure of the superchargers.

A second Hurst Hairy Olds was built in 1967, but was wrecked during an exhibition race in Niagara, New York.

The 1967 car was the subject of one of the most popular model kits of the 1960s, a 1/24 version produced by Monogram.[1]

The 1966 car presently resides at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing, Michigan;[2] the wrecked 1967 car was shipped back to Hurst Performance and dismantled.

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Oldsmobile Hurst/Olds

1968

1968 Hurst/Olds Club Coupe at Demmer

The first Hurst/Olds was the 1968 Hurst/Olds. It shared its body with the regularOldsmobile Cutlass and 442, but had a unique Peruvian Silver and Black paint scheme. The Hurst/Olds was powered by a 390 horsepower (290 kW) W-45 (without A/C) or W-46 (with A/C) 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8. These engines were similar to the 400 horsepower (300 kW) W-34 455 engine offered in the Toronado and the 390 horsepower (290 kW) W-33 455 option available on the full-sized Delta 88. The W-45 and the milder W-46 engines differed in camshaft and cylinder head selection. The 455 was mated to a code OW three-speed Turbo Hydramatic 400 transmission with console-mounted Hurst Dual-Gate shifter that permitted automatic or manually ratched shifting.

515 production examples of the 1968 model were built in 2 body styles. There were 51 club coupes and 464 sport coupes manufactured.

The Hurst/Olds was the only GM intermediate-sized car to offer an engine larger than 400 cubic inches thanks to a corporate policy at that time which prohibited the divisions from putting larger engines in cars smaller than full-sized models other than the Chevrolet Corvette. Oldsmobile got around the 400 cubic-inch limit by implying that the engines were installed by Hurst, not Olds. In fact, the special drive train and ram-air package (shared with the W-30 and W-31) was installed at the factory. The cars were then taken across town (Lansing, MI) to Demmer Engineering where the remainder of the unique Hurst components were added. This included the black accent paint with hand-applied white pinstripes, the real walnut dash trim, H/O emblems, and of course the Dual Gate shifter and mini-console.

[edit]1969

1969 Hurst/Olds

The Hurst/Olds returned for the 1969 model year. The biggest change was the switch from the silver and black paint scheme of ’68 to a new Firefrost gold on white paint scheme. This would be the primary paint scheme for many Hurst/Olds models of later years. Instead of the dual ram air scoops under the front bumper that was used in ’68 and other ram air ’69s, the H/O received a functional “mailbox” fiberglass hood scoop with H/O 455 on each side advertising what lurked under the hood. A spoiler was mounted on the trunk and the car sat on unique 15×7 chrome SSII rims with Goodyear F60x15 Polyglas tires. The exterior was finished off with a pair of English racing mirrors, H/O emblems on the front fenders and deck lid, blacked out 442 grilles, and black hand-applied pinstripes. All of the ’68 and ’69 H/Os were pinstriped by one person. Interior modifications included the same dual/gate shifter setup as ’68 (with different woodgrain), painted gold stripes on the headrests, and a Hurst/Olds emblem on the glove-box door. The non-drive train modifications were again done at Demmer Engineering. Approximately 913 cars were built including 2 convertibles for Hurst promotional use.

The 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8 received a slightly milder cam and produced 380 horsepower (280 kW) and 500 flbs of torque. This provided better drivability, particularly for air conditioned cars. The same engine was used for both A/C and non-A/C cars. The engine received a unique intake manifold, chrome steel valve covers, and a special vacuum operated air cleaner lid to allow cold air from the hood scoop into the carburetor. This was backed up by a specially calibrated code OH Turbo 400 transmission and 3.42 gears for non-A/C cars or 3.23 gears for cars with A/C. Optional 3.91 gears were available only for non-A/C cars.

The Hurst/Olds was temporarily dropped after the 1969 model year because GM dropped the 400 cubic-inch engine limit for the 1970 model year, which permitted the divisions to install larger engines in their intermediate musclecars. For 1970, the regular 442 came standard with a 365-horsepower 455 Rocket V8, or an optional 370 horsepower (280 kW) version of same engine with the W-30 option. For 1970, Olds planned to bring back the Hurst/Olds, but as a lower-priced companion to the 442 with a smaller 350 cubic-inch V8 and special graphics. That planned ’70 H/O ended up being introduced as the mid-year Rallye 350, which featured a bright yellow paint scheme for the body along with front and rear bumpers coated with matching yellow urethane. The next Hurst/Olds would be introduced as a 1972 model.

[edit]1972

1972 Hurst/Olds Convertible Indy Pace Car

The 1972 Hurst/Olds was actually developed by Hurst Performance, and not Oldsmobile. Due to a tragic accident involving the 1971 Indy Pace car, a Dodge Challenger, the major auto manufacturers were reluctant to provide the pace car for the 1972 Indy race. Hurst Performance stepped up and volunteered to sponsor the 1972 Pace car. Oldsmobile provided the Cutlass Supreme coupe and convertible, and the rest is history. It was the only time an Indy Pace car was sponsored by a manufacturer other than an automobile manufacturer, and first time to include a major supplier’s name in the title. The 1972 edition of the Hurst/Olds had some of the lowest production numbers of any produced with a total of 629 made; 130 Convertibles, 220 hardtop with sunroof, and 279 hardtop cars. The only color available was Cameo White with reflective 3M gold stripes that were stickers, not paint. All of the cars had the W-25 Ram Air Hood and gold SS III Rally Wheels with a chrome bolt-on center cap and chrome beauty ring. The tires were Goodyear Polysteel Radials. The standard Hurst/Olds engine was a 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8 rated at 270 net horsepower. Optional at extra cost was the W-30 option with the L77 455, a blueprinted engine rated at 300 net horsepower. Both engines were mated to a Turbo Hydra-matic 400 transmission with console-mounted Hurst Dual-Gate shifter. All of the 1972 Hurst/Olds had the black Strato bucket interior with a center console. Special Hurst/Olds Pace Car badging adourned the glove box door and all 1972 Hurst/Olds’ were identified with a W-45 Code on the cowl tag.

[edit]1973

The Oldsmobile Cutlass (including the Hurst/Olds and 442) changed body styles to the “Colonnade” body style, which was used until 1977. The Hurst Olds was based on the semi-fastback Cutlass S coupe and featured an interior with swiveling Strato bucket seats separated by a console with Hurst Dual-Gate shifter for the Turbo Hydra-matic transmission. The sole engine offering was a 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8, with four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts, with the 250 horsepower (190 kW) L75 U code engine. Also available was the L77 V code 455 with 270 horsepower (200 kW) available only with a four-speed manual transmission. Although Pontiac’s SD 455 cubic-inch engine lasted one more year with 290 horsepower (220 kW), 1973 was the last year for Oldsmobile’s high performance engine. The ’73 model was the first Hurst Olds to be offered in two color schemes-black/gold or white/gold. A grand total of 1,097 Hurst/Olds were produced for 1973 with about 60% being white/gold and about 40% being black/gold.

[edit]1974

The Hurst/Olds returned in 1974 with the “Colonnade” body style. This year the Hurst/Olds was also the Indianapolis 500 pace car, which was available as a graphics package option to the Hurst/Olds owner. 1800 1974 Hurst/Olds’ were produced in 1974, 380 of them were the W-30 version which designated the 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8 and produced 230 net horsepower. The other 1420 had a 350 cubic-inch Rocket V8 with 180 horsepower (130 kW), which was also the only engine available for California cars. The 1974 Hurst/Olds was the pace car but the Indy 500 track required convertibles for the parade lap cars, the Delta 88 was chosen. These cars were used as track cars to parade celebrities and guests on the track. There were a total of 92 Hurst/Olds Parade cars.

[edit]1975

The Hurst/Olds in 1975 was the first General Motors car to have “Hurst/Hatch” removable T-Top style roof installed. The car is based on the formal-roofed Cutlass Supreme coupe rather than the semi-fastback Cutlass S used in 1973-74. This roof design, early on was proven to be problematic, as at least two separate revisions exist for this roof in the form of redesigned seals and glass. The car was available in either black or white, with either a black or white half vinyl top offset by a wide aluminum band. Either a W-25, equipped with an Oldsmobile 350 engine, or a W-30, equipped with an Oldsmobile 455 engine could be had. Due the environmental regulations at the time, this was the first year that the United States Environmental Protection Agency mandated the addition of catalytic convertersmounted in the exhaust system. Due to the added expense, only single exhaust was available. The hood from the 1974 Hurst/Olds, with the center mounted louvers, carried over. Gold stripes adorned the sides of the car, as well as the trunk, hood, and mirrors. The car also carried gold 15″x7″ Super Stock III Oldsmobile rims. Interiors were similar to 1974 except for revised door panels and new reversible vinyl/velour seat cushions and backs for the all-vinyl Strato bucket seats. The interior color combination on ’75 Hurst/Olds was white seats and door panels, and black carpet, dashboard, steering wheel and console.

[edit]1979

Another car, now called simply the Hurst/Olds, appeared in 1979, based on the Cutlass Calais coupe. It used the L34, Oldsmobile’s 5.7 L (350 in³) V8 engine. A Hurst Dual Gate shifter was standard. After a 3 year hiatus, the H/O returned in ’79 on GM’s newly downsized Cutlass body. The first H/O to be built entirely by Oldsmobile Division, it was also the first H/O that did not offer a 455 engine. But it was the only GM G-body to offer a 350 V8 in ’79. White and black again were the color choices, but with a wider choice of interior trims than ever before. Gold paint covered the hood, most of the top, and the very rear of the trunk. The aluminum wheels were also painted gold, along with the grille. This H/O was built by Oldsmobile at the Lansing plant and didn’t get sent off for additional work at Hurst Performance Products or Cars and Concepts. For this reason, there would be no possible loophole around the then current EPA regulations. In part and summary, those regulations stated that as long as an engine/transmission combination had been certified in any production model for that year, the same combination could be used in any other model that the factory desired, so long as less than 2,500 were produced. If 2,500 or more were built, the engine/transmission combination had to be certified specifically in that particular model. The “R” code Olds 350 engine in combination with the TH-350 transmission had already been certified in the 88 models for 1979, so legally that same combination could also be used in the Cutlass body without specific certification as long as less than 2,500 were built. That’s why 2,499 1979 Hurst/Oldsmobile’s were produced. Now, there were no 350/4 speed combinations already certified by Oldsmobile in 1979, so certification would have been necessary.

Known as the W-30, it was produced for the following year in the 1980 Olds 442. The only major differences between ’79-’80 were the headlights, and ’79 had the dual gate Hurst shifter.

[edit]1983–1984

1983 Hurst/Olds T-Top

After the Cutlass line was split between the front-wheel drive A-body Cutlass Ciera and the rear-wheel drive G-body Cutlass Supreme in 1982, GM again offered a limited-edition Hurst/Olds – it was the 15th anniversary of the first Hurst/Olds introduced in 1968. The Hurst Lightning Rod floor shifter was introduced in the ’83 H/O. For its 15th Anniversary Edition, the ’83 H/O came only in black with silver rocker panels. Chrome 15″ wheels fitted Goodyear GT tires, and a power bulge hood and rear spoiler gave the car a purposeful look. A modified version of Oldsmobile’s 307 CID V8 was installed, along with 3.73 gears and Hurst’s radical Lightning Rods shifter. Dual exhausts with rumbling mufflers meant there was no mistaking the H/O for a garden variety Cutlass. A new style “Hurst/Olds” emblem was introduced, and red and silver stripes separated the black and silver paint. Demand for the car was very strong. Originally, 2500 units were scheduled to be produced, but Olds had to up that number to 3001 because of high demand. That may have been a factor in bringing the H/O back for ’84. The paint scheme was reversed, with silver being the main body color, and black on the rocker panels. In most respects, the ’84 was mechanically identical to the ’83. The ’84 did get a stronger 8.5″ rear end. 3500 units were produced in 1984.

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Early history

Oldsmobiles were first manufactured by the Olds Motor Works in Lansing, Michigan, a company founded by Ransom E. Olds in 1897. In 1901, the company produced 425 cars, making it the first high-volume gasoline-powered automobile manufacturer. Oldsmobile became the top selling car company in the United States for a few years. Ransom Olds left the company in financial difficulties and formed the REO Motor Car Company. The last Curved Dash Oldsmobile was made in 1907. General Motors purchased the company in 1908.

The 1901 to 1904 Oldsmobile Curved Dash was the first mass-produced car[citation needed], made from the first automotive assembly line, an invention that is often miscredited to Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company. (Ford was the first to manufacture cars on a moving assembly line.) After Olds sold the company in 1899, it was renamed Olds Motor Works and moved to a new plant in Detroit. By March 1901, the company had a whole line of models ready for mass production. Unfortunately, a mistake by a worker caused the factory to catch fire, and it burned to the ground, with all of the prototypes destroyed. The only car that survived the fire was a Curved Dash prototype, which was wheeled out of the factory by two workers while escaping the fire. A new factory was built, and production of the Curved Dash commenced.

Setting the Pace painted in 1909 by William Hardner Foster depicts the race between an Oldsmobile Limited and the 20th Century Limited train

1904 Olds Model 6C Curved-Dash-Olds

1934 Oldsmobile 8 Convertible Coupe

1957 Oldsmobile Super 88

Officially, the cars were called “Oldsmobile automobiles,” colloquially referred to as “Oldsmobiles.” It was this moniker, as applied especially to the Oldsmobile Curved Dash, that was popularized in the lyrics and title of the 1905 hit song “In My Merry Oldsmobile.”

The 1910 Limited Touring was a high point for the company. Riding atop 42-inch wheels, and equipped with factory “white” tires, the Limited was the prestige model in Oldsmobile’s two model lineup. The Limited retailed for US$4,600, an amount greater than the purchase of a new, no-frills three bedroom house. Buyers received goatskin upholstery, a 60 hp (45 kW) 707 CID (11.6 L) straight-6 engine, Bosch Magneto starter, running boards and room for five. Options included a speedometer, clock, and a full glass windshield. A limousine version was priced at $5,800. While Oldsmobile only sold 725 Limiteds in its three years of production, the car is best remembered for winning a race against the famed 20th Century Limited train, an event immortalized in the painting “Setting the Pace” by William Hardner Foster. In 1926, the Oldsmobile Six came in 5 body styles.[1]

In 1929, as part of General Motors’ companion make program, Oldsmobile introduced the higher standard Viking brand, marketed through the Oldsmobile dealers network. Viking was discontinued already at the end of the 1930 model year although an additional 353 cars were marketed as 1931 models.

[edit]1930s

Oldsmobile dealer in Illinois, period of 1930-1945.

In 1937, Oldsmobile was a pioneer in introducing a four-speed semi-automatic transmission called the “Automatic Safety Transmission”, although this accessory was actually built by Buick, which would offer it in its own cars in 1938. This transmission featured a conventional clutchpedal, which the driver pressed before selecting either “low” or “high” range. In “low,” the car shifted between first and second gears. In “high,” the car shifted between first, third and fourth gears.[2]

[edit]1940s

For the 1940 model, Oldsmobile was the first auto manufacturer to offer a fully automatic transmission, called the Hydramatic, which featured four forward speeds. It had a gas pedal and a brake—no clutch pedal. The gear selector was on the steering column.

Starting in 1941 and continuing through 1996, Oldsmobile used a two digit model designation. As originally implemented, the first digit signified the body size while the second represents the number of cylinders. Body sizes were 6, 7, 8, and 9, and 6- and 8-cylinder engines were offered. Thus, Oldsmobiles were named 66 through 98.

The last pre-war Oldsmobile rolled off the assembly line on February 5, 1942. During World War II, Oldsmobile produced numerous kinds of material for the war effort, including large-caliber guns and shells.

Production resumed on October 15, 1945 with a warmed-over 1942 model serving as the offering for 1946.

Oldsmobile once again was a pioneer when, for the 1949 model, they introduced theirRocket engine, which used an overhead valve V8 design rather than the flathead ”straight-8” design which prevailed at the time. This engine produced far more power than the engines that were popular during that era, and found favor with hot-rodders and stock car racers. The basic design, with few minor changes, endured until Oldsmobile redesigned their V8 engines in the mid-1960s.

[edit]1950s

1953 Oldsmobile Advertisement

Oldsmobile entered the 1950s following a divisional image campaign centered on its ‘Rocket’ engines and its cars’ appearance followed suit. Oldsmobile’s Rocket V8 engine was the leader in performance, generally considered the fastest cars on the market and by the mid 1950s their styling was among the first to offer a wide, “open maw” grille, suggestive of jet propulsion. Oldsmobile adopted a ringed-globe emblem to stress what marketers felt was its universal appeal. Throughout the 1950s, the make used twin jet pod-styled taillights as a nod to its “Rocket” theme. Oldsmobile was among the first of General Motors’ divisions to receive a true hardtop in 1949, and it was also among the first divisions (along with Buick and Cadillac) to receive a wraparound windshield, a trend that eventually all American makes would share at sometime between 1953 and 1964.

In the 1950s the nomenclature changed again, and trim levels also received names that were then mated with the model numbers. This resulted in the Oldsmobile 88 emerging as baseDynamic 88 and the highline Super 88. Other full-size model names included the “Holiday” used on hardtops, and “Fiesta” used on its station wagons. When the 88 was retired in 1999 (with a Fiftieth Anniversary Edition), its length of service was the longest model name used on American cars after the Chrysler New Yorker.

GM styling as a whole lost its frontrunner status in 1957 when Chrysler introduced Virgil Exner‘s “Forward Look” designs. When compared side to side, Oldsmobile looked dated next to its price-point competitor DeSoto. Compounding the problem for Oldsmobile and Buick was a styling mistake which GM called the “Strato Roof.” Both makes had models which contained the heavily framed rear window, but Detroit had been working with large curved backlights for almost a decade. Consumers disliked the roof and its blind spots, forcing GM to rush a redesign into production on some of its models.

Oldsmobile’s only off year in the 1950s was 1958. The nation was beginning to feel the results of its first significant post war recession, and US automobile sales were down for the model year. Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac received a heavy handed makeover of the 1957 GM designs. The Oldsmobile that emerged in 1958 bore little resemblance to the design of its forerunners; instead the car emerged as a large, over-decorated “chromemobile.”

Up front, all 1958 Oldsmobiles received one of General Motors’ heavily styled front fascias and quad-headlights. Streaking back from the edge of the headlights was a broad belt consisting of two strips of chrome on regular 88s, three strips on Super 88s, and three strips (top and bottom thin, inside thick) on 98s that ended in a point at mid-body. The bottom of the rear fender featured a thick stamping of a half tube that pointed forward, atop which was a chrome assembly of four horizontal chrome speed-lines that terminated into a vertical bar. The tail of the car featured massive vertical chrome taillight housings. Two chrome stars were fitted to the trunklid.

1958 Oldsmobile Super 88

Ford styling consultant Alex Tremulis (designer of the 1948 Tucker Sedan) mocked the 1958 Oldsmobile by drawing cartoons of the car, and placing musical notes in the rear trim assembly. Another Detroit stylist employed by Ford bought a used 1958 Oldsmobile in the early 1960s, driving it daily to work. He detached and rearranged the OLDSMOBILE lettering above the grille to spell out SLOBMODEL as a reminder to himself and co-workers of what “bad” auto design meant to their business.

In 1959, Oldsmobile models were completely redesigned with a rocket motif from front to rear, as the top of the front fenders had a chrome rocket, while the body-length fins were shaped as rocket exhausts which culminated in a fin-top taillight (concave on the 98 models while convex on the 88 models). The 1959 models also offered several roof treatments, such as the pillared sedan with a fastback rear window and the Holiday SportSedan, which was a flat-roofed pillarless hardtop with wraparound front and rear glass. The 1959 models were marketed as “the Linear Look”, and also featured a bar-graph speedometer which showed a green indicator through 35 miles per hour (56 km/h), then changed to orange until 65 miles per hour (105 km/h), then was red above that until the highest speed read by the speedometer, 120 miles per hour (190 km/h). Power windows were available on the 98 models, as was two-speed electric windshield wipers with electrically powered windshield washers. The 88 still relied on vacuum-operated windshield wipers without a washer feature. 1959 Oldsmobiles were offered with “Autronic Eye” (a dashboard-mounted automatic headlight dimmer) as well as factory-installed air conditioning and power-operated front bench seat as available options.

The 1959 body style was continued through the 1960 model year, but the fins were toned down for 1960 and the taillights were moved to the bottom of the fenders.

[edit]1960s

Oldsmobile Headquarters (1966) – Building 70

In the 1960s Oldsmobile’s position between Pontiac and Buick in GM’s hierarchy began to dissolve. Notable achievements included the introduction of the first turbocharged engine in 1962 (the Turbo Jetfire), the first modern front-wheel drive car produced in the United States (the 1966 Toronado), the Vista Cruiser station wagon (noted for its roof glass), and the upscale 442 muscle car. Olds briefly used the names Jetstar 88 (1964–1966) and Delmont 88 (1967–1968) on its least expensive full size models in the 1960s.

From 1948 until 2004, Oldsmobile used a variety of logos employing a rocket theme that played off its Rocket line of V-8 engines. This variation, a stylistic representation of a rocket taking off was used only for the 1962, 1963 and 1964 model years, and only then on full size vehicles.

Notable models for the 1960s:

  • Oldsmobile 442 - began as a 1964 muscle car option package (4-barrel carburetor, 4-speed manual transmission, 2 exhausts) on the F-85/Cutlass. In 1965, to better compete with the Pontiac GTO, the original 330 CID V8 rated at 310 hp (231 kW) was replaced by a new 400 CID V8 rated at 345 hp (257 kW). The 442 definition was changed to “4″ hundred CID V8 engine, “4″-barrel carburetor, and “2″ exhaust pipes, and was named by “Car Craft Nationals” as the “Top Car of 1965.” In 1968 the 442 became its own model and got a larger 455 CID (7.5 L) V8 engine in 1970.
  • Oldsmobile Cutlass (1961–1999) – mid-size car. Oldsmobile’s best seller in the 1970s and 1980s, and in some of those years America’s best-selling car. In 1966 a top-lineCutlass Supreme was introduced as a four-door hardtop sedan with a more powerful 320 hp (239 kW) 330 CID Jetfire Rocket V8 than the regular F-85/Cutlass models, a more luxurious interior and other trimmings. In 1967 the Cutlass Supreme was expanded to a full series also including two-door hardtop and pillared coupes, a convertible and a four-door pillared sedan. Also came with a 6.6L 400 CID engine as an option in 1967.
  • Oldsmobile F-85 (1961–1972) – compact sedan, coupe and station wagon powered by a 215 CID aluminum block V8 engine from 1961 to 1963. In 1964 the F-85 was upgraded to an intermediate sized car and the aluminum V8 was replaced by conventional cast-iron six-cylinder and V8 engines. The Cutlass was initially the top model of the F-85 line but became a separate model by 1964 with the F-85 nameplate continued only on the lowest priced models through the 1972 model year, after which all Oldsmobile intermediates were Cutlasses.
  • Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser (1964–1977) – a stretched wheelbase Cutlass station wagon, which was stretched to 120″ from 115″ in the 1964-67 models and to 121″ from 116″ in the 1968-72 models, the stretched area being in the second-row seating area. This car featured an elevated roof over the rear seat and cargo area and glass skylights over the rear seating area, which consisted of a transverse skylight over the second seat (two-piece from 1964 to 1967, one-piece from 1968 to 1972) and small longitudinal skylights directly over the rear cargo-area windows, and also featured standard second-row sunvisors. The three-seat models featured forward-facing seating, at a time when most three-seat station wagons had the third row of seats facing the rear. From 1965 to 1970, it would be Oldsmobile’s flagship station wagon, as no full-sized wagons were produced. The third-generation 1973-77 models no longer had skylights other than an optional front-row pop-up sunroof. This car was merely an up-line trim package on the Cutlass Supreme wagon and carried the Vista Cruiser nameplate rather than the Cutlass nameplate. The optional third seat was rear-facing in the third-generation Vista Cruiser.
  • Oldsmobile Starfire (1961–1966) – a sporty and luxurious hardtop coupe and convertible based on the 88. The Starfire featured interiors with leather bucket seats and a center console with floor shifter, along with a standard Hydra-Matic transmission, power steering and brakes (and power windows and seats on convertibles). It was powered by Oldsmobile’s most powerful Rocket V8 engine, a 394 CID engine from 1961 to 1964 rated from 330 to 345 hp (257 kW), and a larger 425 CID Super Rocket V8 from 1965 to 1966, rated at 375 hp (280 kW).
  • Oldsmobile Jetstar I (1964–1966) – Life for the somewhat obscure Jetstar I started in 1964. It was designed to be a low cost option to the successful full size Starfire series – more of a direct competitor to the Pontiac Grand Prix. Standard equipment included the 345 hp (257 kW) 394ci Starfire engine, vinyl bucket seats and console. Keeping the “sport” part of the Starfire, it possessed less of the luxury and glitz. It weighed in at 4028 pounds, and 16,084 were produced for 1964. It was a Starfire without the frills and was informally dubbed “the poor man’s Starfire”. Proving to be an ill-fated model, 1965 concluded the 2 year run for the Jetstar I. Only 6,552 were sold. The introduction of the Pontiac GTO and Oldsmobile 4-4-2 in 1964 insured the future of the musclecars were the intermediates, and the front-drive Toronado loomed big in Oldsmobile’s future taking over the flagship status from the Starfire. Further confused with its lesser brethren with the Jetstar 88 nameplate, there was no way but out for the Jetstar I. And close examination of prices revealed that unless one bought a sparsely optioned JS1, there was little financial incentive to buy a JS1 over the Starfire. Take the $3602 base price and add the $107.50 power steering, the $43.00 power brakes, and the $242.10 automatic transmission (all standard on the Starfire), and you had a $4,000 Jetstar I. And less than $150 more would buy you the $4148 based priced Starfire, which not only included those standard features but a more luxurious leather interior. But lost in the mix was a jewel of a high-performance car in the ’65 Jetstar I. Trimmed down to 3963#, the ’65 model was an overlooked performance car. The new 370 hp (276 kW) 425ci Starfire engine delivered 470 lb·ft (637 N·m) of torque, was durable, and was quite an improvement over the ’64 394. How serious was that horsepower and torque in ’65? If you wanted this much power in a Pontiac, it was only available in the top-of-the-line 421 HO Tri-Power engine that was not standard in any Pontiac model, but an extra-cost option. The new Oldsmobile Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission was a vast performance improvement over the previous “slim-jim” Hydra-Matic transmission. But best of all, Oldsmobile offered the Muncie 4-speed with Hurst shifter in ’65. Oldsmobile boasted in a 1965 press release that “a Jetstar I proved to be the top accelerator of the entire event” at the 1965 Pure Oil Performance Trials in Daytona beach. Those trials were sanctioned and supervised by NASCAR.Note: between 1964 and 1966, Oldsmobile named its least expensive full size model the Oldsmobile Jetstar 88 which the Jetstar I was not related to, and priced $500–$600 below the Jetstar I.
  • Oldsmobile Delta 88 (1965–1989) While the “88″ series of Oldsmobile’s date back to the 1940s, and were offered in a variety of trim levels, the introduction of the Delta 88, which superseded the Super 88 line as Olds mid-level full-sized vehicles, was a watershed event for the division. Better trimmed than the low price Dynamic 88 range, but available in a wider range of body styles than the Super 88 had been, the Delta range was an immediate hit with car buyers. It quickly over shadowed the Dynamic 88 line. To pump life into the Dynamic 88 range, Oldsmobile renamed it the Delmont 88 for 1967. However the Delta continued to climb in popularity to the point where Oldsmobile dropped the Delmont range at the end of the 1968 model run. Eventually the Delta 88 was joined by theDelta 88 Royale, a premium trimmed Delta. The Delta continued to be Oldsmobile’s most popular full size line. In an attempt to modernize marketing efforts as Oldsmobile’s fortunes declined, the “Delta” name was dropped in 1989, but the car lived on as the Eighty-Eight until Oldsmobile ended its production in 1999.
  • Oldsmobile Toronado (1966–1992) – a front-wheel drive coupe in the personal luxury car category, introduced in 1966. At the time, the largest and most powerful front-wheel-drive car ever produced, and one of the first modern front-wheel-drive cars equipped with an automatic transmission. The original Toronado was powered by a 425 CID Super Rocket V8 engine rated at 385 hp (287 kW), mated to a three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission. The Toronado was Motor Trend magazine’s 1966 “Car of the Year.”

[edit]1970s-1980s

1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Sedan

Oldsmobile sales soared in the 1970s and 1980s (for an all-time high of 1,066,122 in 1985) based on popular designs, positive reviews from critics and the perceived quality and reliability of the Rocket V8 engine, with the Cutlass series becoming North America’s top selling car by 1976. By this time, Olds had displaced Pontiac and Plymouth as the #3 best-selling brand in the U.S. behind Chevrolet and Ford. In the early 1980s, model-year production topped one million units on several occasions, something only Chevrolet and Ford had achieved.

The soaring popularity of Oldsmobile vehicles resulted in a major issue in the late 1970s. At that time, each General Motors division produced its own V8 engines, and in 1977, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, Pontiac and Buick each produced a unique 350-cubic-inch displacement V8.

It was during the 1977 model year that demand exceeded production capacity for the Oldsmobile V8, and as a result Oldsmobile began equipping most full size Delta 88 models (those with Federal emissions specifications) with the Chevrolet 350 engine instead. Although it was widely debated whether there was a difference in quality or performance between the two engines, there was no question that the engines were different from one another. Many customers were loyal Oldsmobile buyers who specifically wanted the Rocket V8, and did not discover that their vehicle had the Chevrolet engine until they performed maintenance and discovered that purchased parts did not fit. This became a public relations nightmare for GM.[3][4]

Following this debacle, disclaimers stating that “Oldsmobiles are equipped with engines produced by various GM divisions” were tacked on to advertisements and sales literature; all other GM divisions followed suit. In addition, GM quickly stopped associating engines with particular divisions, and to this day all GM engines are produced by “GM Powertrain” (GMPT) and are called GM “Corporate” engines instead of GM “Division” engines. Although it was the popularity of the Oldsmobile division vehicles that prompted this change, declining sales of V8 engines would have made this change inevitable as all but the Chevrolet version of the 350-cubic-inch engine were eventually dropped.

Oldsmobile also introduced a 5.7L (350cu-in, V-8) diesel engine option on its Delta 88 and 98 models in 1978 and a smaller 4.3L (260 cu-in) displacement diesel on the ’79 Cutlass Supreme. These were largely based on their gasoline engines but with heavier duty cast blocks, re-designed heads, fast glow plugs, and on the 5.7L, oversized cranks, main bearings, and wrist pins. There were several problems with these engines, including water and corrosion in the injectors (no water separator in the fuel line), paraffin clogging of fuel lines and filters in cold weather, reduced lubrication in the heads due to undersized oil galleys, head bolt failures, and the use of aluminum rockers and stanchions in the 4.3L engines. While the 5.7L was also offered on the 1980 Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac, and Chevy Impala, they were soon discontinued by all divisions by the mid 80s.

1987 Oldsmobile 88

Notable models:

[edit]1990s

1994 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight Royale

After the tremendous success of the early 1980s, things changed quickly for Oldsmobile, and by 1990 the brand had lost its place in the market, squeezed between other GM divisions, and with competition from new upscale import makes such as Acura and Lexus. Oldsmobile’s signature cars gave way to rebadged models of other GM cars, and GM shifted the performance mantle to Chevrolet and Pontiac. GM continued to use Oldsmobile sporadically to showcase futuristic designs and as a “guinea pig” for testing new technology, with Oldsmobile offering the Toronado Trofeo, which included a visual instrument system with a calendar, datebook, and climate controls. For 1995, Oldsmobile introduced the Aurora, which would be the inspiration for the design of its cars from the mid-1990s onward. The introduction of the Aurora marked as General Motors’ catalyst to reposition Oldsmobile as an upscale import fighter. Accordingly, Oldsmobile received a new logo based on the familiar “rocket” theme. Nearly all the existing model names were gradually phased out: the Cutlass Calais in 1991, the Toronado and Custom Cruiser in 1992, the Ninety-Eight and Ciera (formerly Cutlass Ciera) in 1996, Cutlass Supreme in 1997, and finally the Eighty-Eight and Cutlass (which had only been around since ’97) in 1999. They were replaced with newer, more modern models with designs inspired by the Aurora.

First Generation Oldsmobile Aurora

Redesigned & new models introduced from 1990 to 2004:

[edit]2000s

2002 Oldsmobile Alero

In spite of Oldsmobile’s critical successes since the mid-1990s, a reported shortfall in sales and overall profitability prompted General Motors to announce in December 2000 their plans to phase out the Oldsmobile brand. The announcement took place just two days after Oldsmobile unveiled what would be its last new model ever, the Bravada SUV - which became, somewhat ironically, another critical hit for the division.

The phaseout was conducted on the following schedule:

The final 500 Aleros, Auroras, Bravadas, Silhouettes and Intrigues produced received special Oldsmobile heritage emblems and markings which signified ‘Final 500′. All featured a unique Dark Cherry Metallic paint scheme. Auroras and Intrigues would be accompanied by special Final 500 literature.

The final production day for Oldsmobile was April 29, 2004. The division’s last car built was an Alero GLS 4-door sedan, which was

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Oldsmobile

The Oldsmobile Intrigue was a mid-size sedan manufactured from 1998 through 2002 by the Oldsmobile division of General Motors. The Intrigue’s design cues were first seen in 1995 with the Oldsmobile Antares concept car. The Intrigue was the first casualty in the phase-out process of Oldsmobile.

- QUICK SPECS -

The Aurora-inspired Intrigue was designed to compete more with Japanese automobiles, and replaced the aging Cutlass Supreme. It went into production on May 5, 1997. It was similar to a range of mid-sized sedans from other GM divisions, including the Buick Century, Buick Regal, Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the Pontiac Grand Prix. The Intrigue was available in three trim levels: base GX, mid-level GL, and high-end GLS.

All Intrigues were built at the GM Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kansas, where the Grand Prix was also built (the Buick Century and Regal, and the Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo were all built in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada). For the 1999 model year, a new 3.5 L DOHC engine was introduced it was a six-cylinder design based on Cadillac’s Northstar V8, which was nicknamed the “Shortstar”. The 3.5 L engine became standard for 2000, giving the Intrigue the most powerful standard engine of any W-body car.

Another exclusive was a standard 140 mph speedometer. With the Autobahn package the Intrigue came with larger 12-inch front brake rotors, being the first 2nd Gen W-body to incorporate bigger brakes. For 1998-99 models the Autobahn package consisted of a 3.29 differential ratio opposed to the standard 3.05, H-rated tires, 12-inch front brakes with ceramic pads, and a 128 mph speed limiter. For 2000 it was renamed Precision Sport Package which included everything from the Autobahn package except the larger 12-inch front brake rotors, and added the Precision Control System (also known as Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)). For 2002 the Intrigue Final 500 Collector’s Edition cars came in a unique Dark Cherry Metallic paint and featured Aurora-styled 17×7.5-inch chrome wheels.

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Oil Changes and the Oil Life System

Certified Service technicians at your GM dealer are GM-trained to understand how your GM vehicle uses its oil and how it monitors oil life. So an oil change from a GM-trained technician not only gives you great service, convenience and a great price, you also receive the added value of our expertise on the particular GM make and model that you drive. Head down the Certified Service lane at your GM dealer when it’s time for your vehicle’s next oil change.

Find a GM Dealer near you

Engine Oil Life System

Most GM vehicles are now equipped with the Engine Oil Life System. This system actually senses your vehicle’s speed and engine temperature and can continuously monitor operating conditions. This helps determine when it’s time to change the oil.

This system can actually monitor your personal driving habits and your area’s climate condition to let you know precisely when to come in for an oil change. When the oil life system light comes on, you come in. It’s that simple. It will help save you money and help reduce oil waste.

Your Certified Service technician will reset your Oil Life System after an oil change. If you would like to reset the system yourself, ask your technician how, or consult your Owner Manual if necessary.

Checking Your Oil Level

Always consult your Owner Manual for the proper procedure to check your oil level. You’ll get a more accurate dipstick reading by following those instructions.

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Brake Service

Stopping power is crucial to a safe and successful driving experience. So when you need new brakes, visit your local GM dealer, where Certified Service experts can recommend quality brakes, like DuraStop components from ACDelco.

Whether you need brake replacement or service, your Certified Service technician can help you get safely – and confidently – back on the road.

Are Your Brakes Signaling a Problem?

Sometimes, your GM vehicle’s brakes will alert you when there’s trouble. Whistling noises, chirping sounds, and grinding are indications that maintenance is required. Here are some common causes of brake pedal pulsation and/or noise.

  • Worn brake pads
  • Heat-cracked or worn rotors
  • Loose-fitting brake pads in the caliper
  • Missing or damaged noise insulators
  • Uneven torque of lug nuts or caliper hardware

Vehicles often come equipped with a small thin piece of metal attached to the brake pad to act as a warning indicator when the pad material is getting low and the brake pads should be replaced. This device makes a chirping noise on brake application, letting you know it is time to have your brakes serviced.

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For over 100 years, Oldsmobile proudly represented the leadership and innovation of General Motors, winning countless awards and earning a place in automotive history. While GM no longer makes Oldsmobile vehicles, its passion for engineering, technology and design lives on in every Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac on the road today.

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Welcome to 1958 Olds Mobile

Welcome to 1958 Old Mobile site.

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