Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser
- For the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser 90, 96 & 98 models of 1941–1947, see Oldsmobile 98.
|Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser|
Late 1980s Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser
|Manufacturer||Oldsmobile (General Motors)|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||5-door station wagon|
|Platform||GM B platform|
|Predecessor||Oldsmobile 88 Fiesta (1964)|
The Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser is an automobile that was manufactured and marketed by Oldsmobile in three generations from 1971 to 1992. The first full-size station wagon produced by Oldsmobile since the 1964 Oldsmobile 88 Fiesta, the Custom Cruiser was produced exclusively on the General Motors B platform as a five-door station wagon. The nameplate was first used by Oldsmobile from 1940 to 1947, denoting the top trim level of its C-body model line (later the Oldsmobile 98). 451,819 Custom Cruisers were sold over the years.
Through its entire production run, the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser was the counterpart to various Buick, Pontiac, and Chevrolet station wagons. Within Oldsmobile, the Custom Cruiser shared its trim with either (or both) the Oldsmobile Delta 88 or Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight; following the further downsizing of Oldsmobile sedans in 1986, the Custom Cruiser effectively became a stand-alone model line. With the discontinuation of the Cutlass Supreme Classic in 1988, the Custom Cruiser became the sole Oldsmobile sold with rear-wheel drive.
For the 1991 model year, the Custom Cruiser underwent an extensive redesign alongside its Buick and Chevrolet counterparts. Following the 1992 model year, the Custom Cruiser model line was discontinued. In the early 1990s, the Oldsmobile division began to explore station wagon alternatives, introducing both a minivan and a mid-size SUV before 1992 (the Oldsmobile Silhouette and Oldsmobile Bravada). At the end of the 1996 model year, General Motors ended production of Buick Roadmaster and Chevrolet Caprice station wagons, marking the end of full-size station wagon production by American automobile manufacturers until the introduction of the Dodge Magnum in 2005.
- 1 First generation (1971–1976)
- 2 Second generation (1977–1990)
- 3 Third generation (1991–1992)
- 4 References
- 5 External links
First generation (1971–1976)
|Assembly||Lansing, Michigan, United States|
|Body and chassis|
|Class||Station wagon (full-size)|
|Body style||5-door station wagon|
|Platform||GM C-body/B-body combination|
Pontiac Grand Safari
Chevrolet Kingswood Estate/Chevrolet Caprice Estate
|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)|
During the early 1970s, GM returned its mid-price divisions to the full-size station-wagon segment after concentrating wagon production towards Chevrolet and Pontiac. For 1971, the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser was introduced alongside a redesign of the Buick Estate and Pontiac Safari/Grand Safari. While the Oldsmobile Delta 88 sedan was mechanically related to the Chevrolet Impala/Caprice, General Motors designed the Custom Cruiser slightly separate from the Chevrolet full-size station wagon lines.
Using the intermediate-segment Buick Sport Wagon and Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser as a predecessor, GM introduced a forward-facing third seat in a full-size station wagon for the first time (with the shorter-wheelbase Chevrolet wagon retaining a rear-facing third seat). With a total of eight-passenger accommodation (similar to the Chevrolet/GMC Suburban of the time), the Custom Cruiser would become among the largest vehicles ever built by Oldsmobile.
Technically derived from the GM B-body chassis, the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser shares its 127-inch wheelbase with the GM C-body chassis (though the Custom Cruiser was given a B-body serial number). Shared with the same-generation Oldsmobile Ninety Eight, the 1971-1976 Custom Cruiser is the longest-wheelbase Oldsmobile ever produced by General Motors.
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 (the Custom Cruiser competes with similar models of the Buick Estate as the heaviest GM vehicle ever produced).
Oldsmobile offered the 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8 in various states of tune from 1971 to 1976 (though the "Rocket" brand was discontinued in 1975). A 190 hp 400 cubic-inch Pontiac V8 was offered for 1975. For the entire production of the first-generation Custom Cruiser, the GM Turbo-Hydramatic 400 3-speed automatic was the sole transmission paired with either engine.
|Oldsmobile Rocket V8||7.5 L (455 cu in) OHV 16V V8||1971||185 hp (138 kW)355 lb⋅ft (481 N⋅m)||2bbl||THM 400 3-speed automatic|
|1971-1973||225 hp (168 kW)360 lb⋅ft (488 N⋅m)||4bbl|
|1972||250 hp (186 kW)370 lb⋅ft (502 N⋅m)|
|1974||210 hp (157 kW)350 lb⋅ft (475 N⋅m)|
|1974||275 hp (205 kW)395 lb⋅ft (536 N⋅m)|
|Pontiac V8||6.6 L (400 cu in) OHV 16V V8||1975||190 hp (142 kW)350 lb⋅ft (475 N⋅m)|
|Oldsmobile V8||7.5 L (455 cu in) OHV 16V V8||1975-1976|
Note: All engine outputs (including 1971) are net horsepower and torque ratings.
As a result of its longer-wheelbase chassis layout, the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser effectively existed as a hybrid of the Delta 88 and the Ninety Eight. From the Ninety-Eight, the Custom Cruiser adopted the front fascia and rear quarter panels (and fender skirts); the Custom Cruiser adopted interior trim elements from both the Delta 88 and Ninety-Eight. As with its Buick and Pontiac counterparts, to compete with the Mercury Colony Park and Chrysler Town & Country station wagons, the Custom Cruiser was offered with simulated woodgrain siding, with nearly 80% of buyers ordering the option.
Following the exterior of the Ninety-Eight, the Custom Cruiser was given a new front bumper for 1972. For 1973 and 1974, Oldsmobile added 5-mph bumpers to the front and rear, respectively. For 1974, the grille was redesigned.
For 1976, alongside all GM full-size vehicles, the Custom Cruiser saw a redesign of its front fascia. Largely a preview of the 1977 Oldsmobile 98, the fascia was given four square headlights with outboard marker lights.
Clamshell tailgate design
Along with all other 1971-1976 General Motors full-size station wagons built on the B-platform, first-generation Custom Cruiser wagons feature a "clamshell" tailgate design. A two-piece tailgate configuration, the tailgate slid into a recess under the cargo floor while the rear glass window slid up into the roof; the design operated either manually or with optional power assist.
The first powered tailgate in automotive history, the powered option ultimately became standard, as the manual tailgate required a degree of effort to lift out of storage. The system was operated from either an instrument panel switch or by key on the rear quarter panel. The clamshell tailgate, was intended to aid the loading the long station wagons (over 19 feet long) in tight parking spaces. Heavy and complex, the system was not included in the 1977 full-sized station wagons (shorter by over a foot and over 1000 pounds lighter); instead, GM developed its own two-way tailgate (a design developed by Ford).
Note: 1971-1976 model years are the only production figures that Oldsmobile broke down specifically by body configuration (i.e., woodgrain, two-row or three-row seating)
|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
Second generation (1977–1990)
|Body and chassis|
|Related||Buick (Electra, LeSabre) Estate|
Pontiac (Catalina, Bonneville, Parisienne, Safari)
Chevrolet Caprice/Chevrolet Impala
|Engine||5.7 L (350 cu in) Oldsmobile V8|
6.6 L (403 cu in) Oldsmobile V8
5.7 L (350 cu in) LF9 diesel V8
5.0 L (307 cu in) Oldsmobile V8
|Transmission||3-speed THM200 automatic|
4-speed THM200-4R 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)|
For the 1977 model year, as part of a downsizing of the entire GM full-size range, the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser was redesigned, becoming a direct counterpart of the Delta 88 sedan. While interior space was reduced only marginally, its exterior footprint saw extensive change, with the full-size Custom Cruiser and the intermediate Vista Cruiser/Cutlass Supreme wagon briefly switching places as the longest Oldsmobile station wagon (for 1977 only, as GM intermediates underwent a similar downsizing for 1978).
As with the previous generation, the Custom Cruiser shared its body with the Buick Estate, Chevrolet Impala wagon/Caprice Estate, and Pontiac Safari. Following the exit of Chrysler from the segment after the 1977 model year, the Custom Cruiser primarily competed against the Ford LTD Country Squire and Mercury Colony Park, which remained in production through 1991.
Following the 1985 model year, GM shifted Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac versions of the B-body sedans to the front-wheel drive H-platform with a further round of downsizing, with station wagons becoming distinct model lines on the B platform (only the Chevrolet Caprice remained as both a sedan and station wagon).
The second-generation Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser (as with all full-size GM station wagons) is based on the GM B-platform. As part of the GM downsizing, station wagons were consolidated upon a common 115.9 inch wheelbase shared with wagons of all three mid-price divisions and Chevrolet (and all B-platform sedans). In the redesign, the Custom Cruiser shed 14 inches in length, 11 inches of wheelbase, and up to 900 pounds of curb weight (though becoming taller). Though sharing its wheelbase with the intermediate Vista Cruiser (and nearly 200 pounds lighter) prior to its 1978 downsizing/replacement, the Custom Cruiser remained in the full-size segment, as its body was several inches wider and taller.
As Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac (and most Cadillac) full-size sedans were downsized further to the front-wheel drive C-body and H-body platforms in the mid-1980s, after 1986, the rear-wheel drive B-platform remained solely for the Chevrolet Caprice and Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac station wagons (with the Pontiac Safari ending production after 1989).
At its 1977 launch, the second-generation Custom Cruiser was offered with two engines, a 170 hp 350 cubic-inch Oldsmobile V8, with a 185 hp 403 cubic-inch Oldsmobile V8 as an option (the largest-displacement "small-block" ever offered by GM). For 1979, both engines were detuned: the 350 was detuned to 160 hp and the 403 offered 175 hp. After 1980, both the 350 and the 403 were replaced by the 307.
For 1980, Oldsmobile introduced its third (and last) V8 engine for the B-platform, the 307. Initially producing 150 hp, the 307 was detuned to 140 hp for 1981. For 1985, new "swirl port" cylinder heads were given to the 307. While engine horsepower was not increased, the design increased torque and driveability; at the expense of high RPM power and performance, the heads featured relatively small intake ports. Along with the new cylinder heads, roller lifters replaced flat lifters.
For 1980 in California-market examples, Oldsmobile introduced a new E4ME electronic carburetor, using CCC (Computer Command Control); in 1981, the 4-barrel carburetor was adopted in all 50 states, replacing the previous mechanical M4ME version. In Canada, E4ME was not adopted until 1986.
1977-1990 Custom Cruisers were fitted with two different automatic transmissions. From 1977 to 1980, the 3-speed THM200 was the sole transmission. From 1981 to 1990, the THM200-4R 4-speed automatic with overdrive was added, as GM added a lock-up torque converter and a 0.67:1 overdrive ratio. With the overdrive transmission, the Custom Cruiser drive with a numerically higher rear axle ratio for better performance, while offering improved fuel economy with the overdrive range
In its final year of production, the second-generation Custom Cruiser marked the end of the Oldsmobile-produced V8 (formerly the "Rocket V8"). Shifting from its long-running practice of each division developing its own engines, during the 1980s, GM consolidated V8 production in non-Cadillac full-size cars towards Chevrolet and Oldsmobile, with the latter division developing diesel engines. Towards the end of the decade, GM phased out the Oldsmobile V8 family, as the 307 was the final engine produced by the company without fuel injection. After 1990, Oldsmobile would never again have a division-produced engine; the only GM division-unique engine family developed since 1990 is the now-defunct Cadillac Northstar (developed with some Oldsmobile and Pontiac applications).
|Oldsmobile V8||5.7 L (350 cu in) OHV 16V V8||1977-1978||170 hp (127 kW)275 lb⋅ft (373 N⋅m)||4bbl||THM200 3-speed automatic|
|Oldsmobile V8||6.6 L (403 cu in) OHV 16V V8||185 hp (138 kW)320 lb⋅ft (434 N⋅m)|
|Oldsmobile Diesel V8 (LF9)||5.7 L (350 cu in) OHV 16V V8
|1978-1979||120 hp (89 kW)220 lb⋅ft (298 N⋅m)||Indirect injection
|Oldsmobile V8 (350)||5.7 L (350 cu in) OHV 16V V8||1979-1980||160 hp (119 kW)270 lb⋅ft (366 N⋅m)||4bbl|
|Oldsmobile V8 (403)||6.6 L (403 cu in) OHV 16V V8||1979||175 hp (130 kW)310 lb⋅ft (420 N⋅m)|
|Oldsmobile V8 (307)||5.0 L (307 cu in) OHV 16V V8||1980||150 hp (112 kW)245 lb⋅ft (332 N⋅m)|
|Oldsmobile LF9 V8||5.7 L (350 cu in) OHV 16V V8
|1980-1985||105 hp (78 kW)205 lb⋅ft (278 N⋅m)||Indirect injection
|1980: THM200 3-speed automatic
1981-1985: THM200-4R 4-speed automatic
|Oldsmobile V8 (307)||5.0 L (307 cu in) OHV 16V V8||1981-1984||140 hp (104 kW)240 lb⋅ft (325 N⋅m)||4bbl||THM200-4R 4-speed automatic|
|1985-1990||140 hp (104 kW)255 lb⋅ft (346 N⋅m)|
Oldsmobile diesel V8
For 1978, Oldsmobile introduced its first diesel engine, a naturally aspirated 120 hp 350 cubic-inch V8. For 1980, the V8 was retuned to 105 hp, remaining an option through 1985.
In contrast to the 1971-1976 Custom Cruiser, Oldsmobile styled the 1977 Custom Cruiser as a station wagon version of the Delta 88, adopting its front fascia entirely. To distinguish itself from its nearly identical Buick, Chevrolet, and Pontiac counterparts, the Custom Cruiser was given its simulated wood design, with wood following the curve of the wheel wells.
In a major departure from the 2-piece "clamshell" tailgate of its predecessor, the Custom Cruiser was fitted with a two-way tailgate; similar to configurations offered by Ford and Chrysler, the two-way tailgate opened to the side as a door or hinged down as a tailgate (with the rear window glass retracted). The third-row seat made its return, allowing for 8-passenger seating; to allow for production commonality on a single wheelbase, the Custom Cruiser was produced with a rear-facing third row seat (as were all full-size GM station wagons).
Alongside all B-platform station wagons and sedans, the Custom Cruiser saw an exterior update for 1980, with wagons receiving a new front fascia. In the interest of aerodynamics and fuel economy, the grille and front fascia were redesigned, with the headlamps mounted closer to the front bumpers; similar to the Ninety-Eight, the Custom Cruiser gained wraparound front marker lights. In a minor change, the design of the simulated woodgrain adopted the common layout used by Buick and Chevrolet, joining the headlamps and taillamps.
From 1980 to 1990, the exterior and interior of the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser saw almost no visible change, besides a small front fascia swap in 1985. Instead of the split-grille style from 1980-1984, the Custom Cruiser was now fitted with a single, wider grille. Along with the wider grille came a sharper header panel, instead of curving off on the edge. In 1986, the rear tailgate saw the addition of a federally mandated third brake light. For 1989, the rear outboard seats were fitted with outboard shoulder belts; to meet federal safety standards involving passive safety restraints, the front shoulder belts were shifted from the B-pillar to the front doors for 1990 (as this generation could not accommodate airbags).
Third generation (1991–1992)
|Assembly||Willow Run, Michigan, United States|
|Body and chassis|
|Class||Station wagon (full-size)|
|Body style||5-door station wagon|
|Related||Buick Roadmaster Estate|
Chevrolet Caprice Estate
|Engine||5.0 L (305 cu in) L03 V8|
5.7 L (350 cu in) L05 V8
|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)|
For the 1991 model year, General Motors redesigned its B-body model lines for the first time since 1977. While its B-body underpinnings remained largely the same, to bring the model line into the 1990s, Oldsmobile gave the Custom Cruiser its largest exterior revision in 13 years; numerous upgrades were added, including aerodynamic headlights, anti-lock brakes (ABS), and a driver-side airbag. As a consequence of the redesign, the long-running Oldsmobile Rocket V8 was retired, along with the use of simulated woodgrain siding.
While Pontiac had ended production of the Safari station wagon after 1989 (with GMC taking over the nameplate), the Chevrolet Caprice Estate made its return for 1991; Buick retired the Estate model name in favor of reviving the Roadmaster model line. In contrast to the Buick Roadmaster, Oldmobile never developed a sedan variant of the 1991 B-body (the Oldsmobile 98 remained a front-wheel drive vehicle). After the 1991 model year, the Custom Cruiser competed solely against its Buick and Chevrolet counterparts, as Ford ended production of the LTD Country Squire and Mercury Colony Park.
Sold only in the United States, the 1991 Custom Cruiser improved its sales nearly two-to-one over 1990, slightly outselling the Buick Roadmaster (and outselling both the Country Squire and Colony Park combined). For 1992, sales decreased close to 1990 levels, leading Oldsmobile to discontinue the model line for 1993. The final Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, the last Oldsmobile car produced with rear-wheel drive, was assembled on June 5, 1992. The model line is also the final Oldsmobile produced exclusively with a 3-passenger front bench seat; all subsequent vehicles produced by the division were sold with 2-passenger front seating as standard (or as an option).
The 1991-1992 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser is based upon the GM B-platform. Sharing its wheelbase with the 1977-1990 B-platform, the third-generation Custom Cruiser and its counterparts are largely rebodied versions of their predecessors. Primarily through the addition of additional safety equipment, the redesign of the Custom Cruiser added nearly 100 pounds of weight to the vehicle (though nearly 650 pounds lighter than a 1976 counterpart).
Following the 1992 discontinuation of the Custom Cruiser, the Buick Roadmaster Estate and Chevrolet Caprice Estate were produced with no major changes (to the B-body platform) through their 1996 discontinuation. As the Custom Cruiser was the only GM B-body without a direct sedan counterpart, the front-wheel drive C-body 1991 Oldsmobile 98 Touring Sedan (flagship Oldsmobile) was nearly 12 inches shorter in length (5 inches shorter in wheelbase), 4 inches narrower in width, 5 inches lower, and approximately 740 pounds lighter.
As part of the redesign of the GM B platform for 1991, all divisions adopted retired divisional engines in favor of the Chevrolet small-block V8. For 1991, the Oldsmobile 307 was replaced by a 5.0L V8. Along with an increase of 30 hp (to 170 hp), the engine was fuel-injected (a first for a rear-wheel drive Oldsmobile). The engine became the standard offering for 1992, with a 180 hp 5.7L V8 offered as an option. Both engines were paired with the Hydramatic 4L60 4-speed overdrive automatic (replacing the THM200-4R).
|Engine name||Configuration||Year(s) produced||Output||Induction||Transmission|
|Chevrolet L03 V8||5.0 L (305 cu in) OHV 16V V8||1991-1992||170 hp (127 kW)||255 lb⋅ft (346 N⋅m)||Throttle-body fuel injection
|4L60 4-speed automatic|
|Chevrolet L05 V8||5.7 L (350 cu in) OHV 16V V8||1992||180 hp (134 kW)||300 lb⋅ft (410 N⋅m)|
As with the previous generation, the Custom Cruiser shared nearly its entire body with its Chevrolet and Buick counterparts. To distinguish the model line from the Caprice and Roadmaster Estate, Oldsmobile ended the use of woodgrain siding (adopting standard two-tone color schemes in its place). The use of chrome was visibly reduced, with plastic-covered 5-mph bumpers replacing the previous steel bumpers; the body-color split grille made its return.
Shared with the Buick Roadmaster Estate, the Custom Cruiser was fitted with a fixed second-row skylight, allowing for a slightly raised rear roofline (similar to the 1964-1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser). While sharing its dashboard and interior elements with the Roadmaster, the Custom Cruiser was fitted with its own seat and wood trim design; cloth-trim seats were standard, while leather-trim seats were an option. In contrast to its predecessors, the Custom Cruiser was given an instrument panel with full instrumentation, including tachometer, oil pressure, voltage, and coolant temperature.
In line with the preceding two generations, the Custom Cruiser was offered with a rear-facing third-row seat, increasing capacity from six to eight. As part of the body redesign, the rear window no longer retracted into the two-way tailgate, replaced by a hatch window (with its own windscreen wiper). In line with the mid-size Cutlass Cruiser/Buick Century station wagons, the Custom Cruiser offered pop-out vent windows in the cargo area to aid airflow and ventilation.
- 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.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Gunnell, John (2003). The Standard Catalog of V-8 Engines 1906–2002. Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87349-446-6.
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