Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser

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For the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser 90, 96 & 98 models of 1941–1947, see Oldsmobile 98.
Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser
Manufacturer Oldsmobile (General Motors)
Production 1971–1992
Body and chassis
Class Full-size
Body style 4-door station wagon
Layout FR layout
Predecessor Oldsmobile 88 Fiesta

The Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser is a large rear-wheel drive luxury station wagon that was manufactured and marketed by Oldsmobile from 1971 to 1992 across three generations, sharing platforms with the Buick, Pontiac, and Chevrolet full-size wagons. The Custom Cruiser was the first full-size Oldsmobile station wagon since the 1964 Oldsmobile 88 Fiesta station wagon.

Oldsmobile had previously used the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser name on the Custom Cruiser 90, 96 & 98 models of 1940–1947.

First generation (1971–1976)[edit]

First generation
Model years 1971–1976
Assembly Lansing, Michigan, United States
Designer Bill Mitchell
Body and chassis
Platform C-body-B-body[1]
Related Buick Estate
Pontiac Grand Safari
Pontiac Safari
Chevrolet Brookwood
Chevrolet Kingswood
Chevrolet Townsman
Engine 400 cu in (6.6 L) Pontiac V8
455 cu in (7.5 L) Rocket V8
Transmission 3-speed TH-400, automatic
Wheelbase 127.0 in (3,226 mm)
Length 1971: 225.3 in (5,723 mm)
1972: 227.0 in (5,766 mm)
1973: 228.3 in (5,799 mm)
1974–75: 231.2 in (5,872 mm)
1976: 231.0 in (5,867 mm)
Width 1971–75: 79.5 in (2,019 mm)
1976: 80.0 in (2,032 mm)
Height 1971–75: 57.2 in (1,453 mm)
1976: 57.1 in (1,450 mm)
Curb weight 5,100–5,400 lb (2,300–2,400 kg)

The first generation Custom Cruiser first appeared in 1971 based on the C platform-B platform. With a wheelbase of 127.0 in (3,226 mm) these were the first Oldsmobile station wagons ever to be built on Oldsmobile's largest chassis. The 1971-76 GM full-size bodies, at 64.3" front shoulder room and 63.4" rear shoulder room set a record for interior width that would not be matched by any car until the full-size GM rear-wheel drive models of the early to mid 1990s. The station wagon could seat up to 8 forward-facing people. The Custom Cruiser shared Oldsmobile 98's exterior styling, in particular the 98's distinctive front fascia and rear quarter panels complete with fender skirts. Approximately 80% came with exterior vinyl woodgrained applique. Interior styling took elements from both the Delta 88 and the 98.

The Custom Cruiser wagons, as did other GM full-sized wagons during these years, used a unique rear suspension with multi-leaf springs instead of the coil springs used on other full-sized Oldsmobiles, and other full-sized GM cars. The Custom Cruiser wagons also featured a new clamshell tailgate design where the rear power-operated glass slid up into the roof as the tailgate (manually or with power assist), slid into a recess under the cargo floor. The power tailgate, the first in station wagon history, ultimately supplanted the manual tailgate, which required marked effort to lift from storage. It was operated by switches on the instrument panel or a key switch on the rear quarter panel. The Clamshell system, heavy and complex, made it easier to load and unload the extremely long wagons in tight spaces. But it remained un-adopted by any other manufacturer, and would be eliminated when GM reduced the length of their wagons by about a foot in 1977, and the overriding concern became increased fuel economy.

At 5,161 lb (2,341 kg) shipping weight (5,186 lb (2,352 kg) with woodgrain), or about 5,400 lb (2,400 kg) curb weight, the three-seat 1974 Custom Cruiser wagons are easily the heaviest Oldsmobiles ever built.

Oldsmobile's 455 in³ (7.4 L) V8 engine was standard, although Pontiac's 400 cu in (6.6 L) V8 was also offered in 1975.

Second generation (1977–1990)[edit]

Second generation
Custom Cruiser - Front.jpg
Model years 1977–1990
Body and chassis
Platform B-body
Related Buick Electra/LeSabre Estate
Buick Estate
Pontiac Bonneville Safari
Pontiac Catalina Safari
Pontiac Parisienne Safari
Pontiac Safari
Chevrolet Caprice
Chevrolet Impala
Engine 307 in³ V8
350 in³ V8
350 in³ diesel V8
403 in³ V8
Transmission 3-speed Turbo-Hydramatic automatic
4-speed Turbo-Hydramatic automatic
Wheelbase 115.9 in (2,944 mm)
Length 220.3 in (5,596 mm)
Width 79.8 in (2,027 mm)
Height 58.5 in (1,486 mm)

The second generation Custom Cruiser appeared in 1977 based upon the B platform. The second generation was smaller and lighter than the previous generation, and still able to seat up to 8 people. The electrically operated tailgate was replaced by a conventional two-way tailgate.

The new 1977 Custom Cruisers came with a standard 350 in³ (5.7 L) V8. Oldsmobile's 403 in³ (6.6 L) V8 was optional through 1979. In 1978, the 350 in³ diesel V8 became available; it would remain an option through 1985, after which it was discontinued. 1980 saw the introduction of the 307 in³ V8, becoming standard equipment. The gasoline 350 would remain as an option through 1980, but was dropped thereafter.

The Custom Cruiser was restyled in 1980 with a lower front fascia. The doors and window mechanisms were also redesigned to be lighter. The woodgrained side panels on models so equipped no longer followed the curves of the wheel wells like the 1977-1979 versions, but were positioned higher on the body sides to give a straighter, sleeker look similar to the first generation. 1980 saw the last restyling of the second generation Custom Cruisers.

1990 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser

Minor mechanical changes were made between 1980 and 1990. The new E4ME electronic carburetor which used GM's CCC (Computer Command Control) system was introduced in 1980 for models sold in California. In 1981, all Custom Cruisers used the E4ME with the CCC system, although Canadian emission cars continued to use the mechanical M4ME carburetor until 1986. Also new in 1981 was GM's new Turbo Hydramatic 200-4R automatic transmission with overdrive. This transmission was equipped with a lock-up torque converter and a 0.67:1 overdrive ratio. With the new transmission, the Custom Cruiser could be equipped with a numerically higher rear axle ratio for better performance, while offering improved fuel economy with the overdrive range. 1985 saw major changes to the 5.0 L (307 CID) V8 engine's cylinder head design. Introduced were new "swirl port" heads, which improved driveability and low-end torque. These new heads also featured very small intake ports, which reduced the higher RPM power and performance significantly. Along with the new heads, roller lifters replaced flat lifters. The 1989 Custom Cruiser was the last edition to have front shoulder belts mounted in the B-pillars; 1990 introduced door-mounted "passive" shoulder belts.

The second generation continued on until 1990, having become more of a standalone model starting in 1986. The previously similar Delta 88 had been downsized for 1986 and no longer shared a platform with the Custom Cruiser. In 1990, the second generation's last year, a historic event occurred—the Oldsmobile 'Rocket' V8, having been a unique Olds-designed engine around in some form or other since the 1949 model year, was dropped. From then on, Oldsmobile never again had an engine unique to the division.

Third generation (1991–1992)[edit]

Third generation
Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser.jpg
Model years 1991–1992
Assembly Willow Run, Michigan, United States
Body and chassis
Platform B-body
Related Buick Roadmaster Estate
Chevrolet Caprice
Engine 5.0 L L03 V8
5.7 L L05 V8
Transmission 4-speed 4L60 automatic
Wheelbase 115.9 in (2,944 mm)
Length 217.5 in (5,524 mm)
Width 79.7 in (2,024 mm)
Height 60.3 in (1,532 mm)

The Custom Cruiser was completely redesigned for 1991, including a second-row sunroof reminiscent of the Vista Cruiser. When introduced, it was the only rear wheel drive body-on-frame Oldsmobile offered, as the Oldsmobile 88 and Oldsmobile 98 had been changed to front wheel drive, the 98 for 1985 and the 88 for 1986. The Olds 307 was replaced by a 5.0 L, (305 in³) Chevrolet V8 engine. This engine was equipped with throttle body fuel injection and was rated at 170 hp (127 kW) The new Chevrolet engine offered an increase in performance as well as improved fuel economy. Also new for 1991 the Turbo-Hydramatic 200-4R, was replaced by the 700R4 (4L60).

Sales did improve over the 1991 model year, with some 7,663 Custom Cruisers sold for the 1991 model run. Sales slipped to just over 4,300 in 1992, however, and GM discontinued production. The 1992 model year offered a 5.7 L (350 in³) Chevrolet V8. This engine was also equipped with throttle body fuel injection and was rated at 180 hp (134 kW), and 300 lb·ft (410 N·m) of torque compared to the standard 305's 170 hp (127 kW) and 255 lb·ft (346 N·m) of torque. This generation was not sold in Canada. The last Custom Cruiser was assembled on June 5, 1992.

Production figures[edit]

Year Total Notes
1971 13,981 Two-row: 4,049

Three-row: 9,932

1972 24,994 Two-row: 6,907

Three-row: 18,087

1973 38,921 Two-row, painted: 5,275

Two-row, woodgrain: 7,142

Three-row, painted: 7, 341

Three-row, woodgrain: 19,163

1974 15,916 Two-row, painted: 1,481

Two-row, woodgrain: 2,960

Three-row, painted: 2,528

Three-row, woodgrain: 8,947

1975 16,068 Two-row, painted: 1,458

Two-row, woodgrain: 2,837

Three-row, painted: 2,315

Three-row, woodgrain: 9,458

1976 22,316 Two-row, painted: 2,572

Two-row, woodgrain: 3,849

Three-row, painted: 3,626

Three-row, woodgrain: 12,269

1977 32,827 Oldsmobile stopped providing breakdowns of two-seat and three-seat Custom Cruiser production figures beyond 1976
1978 34,491
1979 36,648
1980 17,067
1981 18,956
1982 19,367
1983 25,243
1984 34,061
1985 22,889
1986 21,073
1987 17,742
1988 11,114
1989 8,929
1990 3,890
1991 7,663
1992 4,347

Engines for United States models[edit]

Generation Years Engine Power Torque Induction
I 1971 455 in³ Oldsmobile V8 185 hp (138 kW) 355 lb·ft (481 N·m) 2bbl carburetor
1971–1973 455 in³ Oldsmobile V8 225 hp (168 kW) 360 lb·ft (488 N·m) 4bbl carburetor
1972 455 in³ Oldsmobile V8 250 hp (186 kW) 370 lb·ft (502 N·m) 4bbl carburetor
1974 455 in³ Oldsmobile V8 210 hp (157 kW) 350 lb·ft (475 N·m) 4bbl carburetor
1974 455 in³ Oldsmobile V8 275 hp (205 kW) 395 lb·ft (536 N·m) 4bbl carburetor
1975 400 in³ Pontiac V8 190 hp (142 kW) 350 lb·ft (475 N·m) 4bbl carburetor
1975–1976 455 in³ Oldsmobile V8 190 hp (142 kW) 350 lb·ft (475 N·m) 4bbl carburetor
II 1977–1978 350 in³ Oldsmobile V8 170 hp (127 kW) 275 lb·ft (373 N·m) 4bbl carburetor
1977–1978 403 in³ Oldsmobile V8 185 hp (138 kW) 320 lb·ft (434 N·m) 4bbl carburetor
1978–1979 350 in³ Oldsmobile Diesel V8 120 hp (89 kW) 220 lb·ft (298 N·m) Indirect Injection
1979–1980 350 in³ Oldsmobile V8 160 hp (119 kW) 270 lb·ft (366 N·m) 4bbl carburetor
1979 403 in³ Oldsmobile V8 175 hp (130 kW) 310 lb·ft (420 N·m) 4bbl carburetor
1980 307 in³ Oldsmobile V8 150 hp (112 kW) 245 lb·ft (332 N·m) 4bbl carburetor
1980–1985 350 in³ Oldsmobile Diesel V8 105 hp (78 kW) 205 lb·ft (278 N·m) Indirect Injection
1981–1984 307 in³ Oldsmobile V8 140 hp (104 kW) 240 lb·ft (325 N·m) 4bbl carburetor
1985–1990 307 in³ Oldsmobile V8 140 hp (104 kW) 255 lb·ft (346 N·m) 4bbl carburetor
III 1991–1992 5.0 L/305 in³ Chevrolet Small-Block V8 170 hp (127 kW) 255 lb·ft (346 N·m) Throttle-body FI
1992 5.7 L/350 in³ Chevrolet Small-Block V8 180 hp (134 kW) 300 lb·ft (410 N·m) Throttle-body FI

NOTE All engines, including 1971 are listed in SAE net brake horsepower.


  1. ^ All 1971-76 GM wagons were B-body-based. Although exterior trim was similar to the 98, interior trim was between 88 and 98. Lower door trim was hard plastic like all B-bodies and unlike the padded vinyl used in the 98. Wheelbase is not a good reference for body designation. 1973 model designation was 3BQ and 3BR.
  • Flammang, James & Ron Kowalke (1999). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1976–1999. Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87341-755-0. 
  • Gunnell, John, Editor (1987). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946–1975. Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87341-096-3. 
  • Gunnell, John (2003). The Standard Catalog of V-8 Engines 1906–2002. Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87349-446-6. 

External links[edit]