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Rough Start: 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Sedan – A Bit Of Sage Advice

Rough Start: 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Sedan – A Bit Of Sage Advice

A few days ago, while driving through town, I spotted a vehicle I would’ve never expected to see still on the road in 2020: a G-body Buick Regal four-door from the mid-1980s. In a sea of plastic bumper covers and trucks that are rolling circus acts, it stood out clean, crisp and refreshing. I never, ever thought I would think that about a four-door G-body ever. I’ve sent two, a Chevy and an Olds, to the scrappers just to try to get a worse-off two-door version up and going. I’ve seen really decent cars get trashed just because they had two doors too many. I don’t know if it’s a case of “with age comes wisdom” or if I’m just sick of rounded body cars and the ever-generic shapes, the myriad of crossovers and whatnot, but suddenly I wanted that Buick badly.

Well, it’s not a Buick, but five minutes into pawing through Facebook Marketplace and we have an Oldsmobile that will serve the purpose just fine. Remember the days when you’d see cars this clean in the paper or the auto trader books going for five grand and you moved right along, hoping to find a nice Cutlass two-door instead? But then you grew up. You had kids. You learned why your parents didn’t own a Mustang or an IROC-Z as a daily. And maybe you’re at the point where you could start doing minor mods to something clean and older…not a full build, but a bolt-on build would be fine. This is where I flip the switch and the big “RIGHT HERE” marquis with flashing lights comes into play.

Finding a cleaner Cutlass of this era will be difficult, at best, and good luck finding one with the Olds 350 under the hood. Don’t mess with what’s there. Instead, focus on the suspension and the brakes. There’s tons of G-body upgrades you can do without touching anything under the hood. Get some springs under there that won’t squeeze like a marshmallow under cornering. Put sway bars in. Get some solid control arms out back that will do a better job than the GM stamped-steel pieces. You haven’t altered the look, but you’ve made this car so much better to drive already. Small upgrades add up to a bigger picture, one that we’d see sporting an overdrive automatic and some more horses under the hood.

$5,000 off of the bat depletes any build fund at first, but you get a complete and useable machine that needs nothing but a roof over it’s head for the time being. That’s a win in itself.

Facebook Marketplace link: 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

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2 thoughts on “Rough Start: 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Sedan – A Bit Of Sage Advice

  1. Piston Pete

    I hear ya on the ying-yang of embracing a 4 door, McT.
    Today’s story is of an early middle age me (1995?), $1,000 cash, and a Saturday morning ‘Automobiles for Sale’ ad in the Indianapolis Star. ‘1978 Chevrolet Nova, 1 owner, low miles, $750, Indy east side phone number’
    I struggled to wait til 8 am to make the call, no questions, just gimme the address, I’m on my way from the westside. As I blast across I-70 my mind is racing with thoughts of all the other Indy gearheads (especially Indy Speedrome Stock class racers) fully focused on a similar mission and wondering where the bidding will end for me.
    Twenty five minutes later I arrived to find an Air Force blue 1978 Nova
    4 DOOR!!! and no competing buyers. I’ll be darned, guess we better have a look. The 65 year old lady owner’s brother accompanied me on a 10 mile city street/interstate test drive at speeds up to 85 mph “take it easy, young fella” and at 9 am, for $750, I’m the owner of a bare bones, complete with radio delete dash plate, 350/350 4 door Nova with 49,000 miles.
    It was the best car I ever owned, ran like a top, easy for the wife to drive, the kids loved it (everybody had their own door), they were bummed when, 2 years later, I sold it to a coworker for $800, then overjoyed a year later when I bought it back (now with AM/FM cassette deck) and an engine stand to boot for $500.
    I drove it for another 6 months when, with me now fully infected with G-Body station wagon fever, I decided to pull the drivetrain and get what I could outta the roller.
    Turns out even the final act of my ownership was a pleasant surprise as the day after I advertised it (with no price listed, testing the waters for a day or so) I got a call and visit from a guy up north who bought it for $500 with the stated intention of installing a big block and Powerglide to run at Muncie Dragway (I don’t know if that ever happened, I never saw it again).
    I never did any investigating, but based on the bare bones nature of the car and the fact that when I pulled the pan for a prospective drivetrain buyer a few months later it turned out to have 4 bolt mains, I surmised that it must have been an overstock cop car/taxi cab or, based on it’s pure Air Force blue color, maybe a left over A.F. flight line car. As a USAF vet, that’s the scenario I’ve always embraced.
    So, don’t get too hung up on fashion, the first word in functional is fun.

  2. Tim Wade

    It’s ironic that you are bemoaning the “ever-generic shapes” when the G-body (and preceding RWD A-Body) were EXACTLY the same across Chevy, Pontiac, Oldsmobie and Buick. Litereally, show them in silohuette and you’d never be able to tell.

    Everyone always says “cars today are too generic, they look all alike”, and I have to laugh. Look at a ’49 GM A-body without any trim, and you’d be hard pressed to be able to figure out which one is which. Old cars are just as generic as they are today, it is just taking different form.

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