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
2nd-Oldsmobile-Custom-Cruiser.jpg
Late 1980s Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser
Overview
ManufacturerOldsmobile (General Motors)
Model years1971-1992
Body and chassis
Body style5-door station wagon
LayoutFR layout
PlatformGM B platform
Chronology
PredecessorOldsmobile 88 Fiesta (1964)
SuccessorOldsmobile Silhouette
Oldsmobile Bravada

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).

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.

First generation (1971–1976)[edit]

First generation
Olds.jpg
Overview
Model years1971–1976
AssemblyLansing, Michigan, United States
DesignerBill Mitchell
Body and chassis
ClassStation wagon (full-size)
Body style5-door station wagon
LayoutFR layout
PlatformGM C-body/B-body combination[1]
RelatedBuick Estate
Pontiac Grand Safari
Pontiac Safari
Chevrolet Kingswood Estate/Chevrolet Caprice Estate
Powertrain
Engine400 cu in (6.6 L) Pontiac V8
455 cu in (7.5 L) Rocket V8
Transmission3-speed TH-400 automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase127.0 in (3,226 mm)
Length1971: 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)
Width1971–75: 79.5 in (2,019 mm)
1976: 80.0 in (2,032 mm)
Height1971–75: 57.2 in (1,453 mm)
1976: 57.1 in (1,450 mm)
Curb weight5,100–5,400 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.

Chassis[edit]

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.

In contrast to the rest of the GM B/C/D-platform vehicles of the time, GM 1971-1976 full-size station wagons used a truck-style rear suspension of multi-leaf springs (in lieu of rear coil springs).

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).

Powertrain[edit]

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.

Engine Configuration Year(s) produced Output Carburetor Transmission
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.

Body[edit]

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[edit]

1975 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, clamshell tailgate closed

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).

Production Figures[edit]

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)

Three-row: 9,932
Year Total Notes
1971 13,981
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

197415,916Two-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)[edit]

Second generation
Custom Cruiser - Front.jpg
Overview
Model years1977–1990
Body and chassis
PlatformB-body
RelatedBuick (Electra, LeSabre) Estate
Pontiac (Catalina, Bonneville, Parisienne, Safari)
Chevrolet Caprice/Chevrolet Impala
Powertrain
Engine5.7 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
Transmission3-speed THM200 automatic
4-speed THM200-4R automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase115.9 in (2,944 mm)
Length220.3 in (5,596 mm)
Width79.8 in (2,027 mm)
Height58.5 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. 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, with the latter undergoing a similar downsizing for 1978).

Initially introduced as the station wagon counterpart of the B-body Oldsmobile Delta 88, during the mid-1980s, the Custom Cruiser eventually became a stand-alone model, as GM further downsized Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac full-size model lines while station wagons remained in production. Although Chrysler had ended production of full-size station wagons in 1977, Ford and Mercury full-size station wagons remained in production through 1991.

Chassis[edit]

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).

Powertrain[edit]

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).

Engine Configuration Year(s) produced Output Carburetor Transmission
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

diesel

1978-1979 120 hp (89 kW)220 lb⋅ft (298 N⋅m) Indirect injection

(diesel)

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

diesel

1980-1985 105 hp (78 kW)205 lb⋅ft (278 N⋅m) Indirect injection

(diesel)

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[edit]

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.

Body[edit]

1990 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, rear
Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser configured without wood siding (derelict condition)

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).

Production figures[edit]

Year Total
1977 32,827
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

Third generation (1991–1992)[edit]

Third generation
Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser.jpg
Overview
Model years1991–1992
AssemblyWillow Run, Michigan, United States
Body and chassis
ClassStation wagon (full-size)
Body style5-door station wagon
PlatformB-body
RelatedBuick Roadmaster Estate
Chevrolet Caprice Estate
Powertrain
Engine5.0 L (305 cu in) L03 V8
5.7 L (350 cu in) L05 V8
Transmission4-speed 4L60
Dimensions
Wheelbase115.9 in (2,944 mm)
Length217.5 in (5,524 mm)
Width79.7 in (2,024 mm)
Height60.3 in (1,532 mm)

For the 1991 model year, General Motors redesigned its B-body model lines for the first time since 1977. While largely an exterior reskinning of the B-body chassis, for its largest model, Oldsmobile sought to bring the Custom Cruiser into the 1990s. While the Custom Cruiser had lost the long-running Oldsmobile Rocket V8, the model had gained its first exterior redesign in 13 years and numerous features including ABS, a driver-side airbag, and aerodynamic headlights.

Although Pontiac ended production of the Safari station wagon in 1989 (with the nameplate taken over by GMC), Buick and Chevrolet continued full-size station wagons, with the Buick Estate becoming the revived Buick Roadmaster model line and Chevrolet continuing the Caprice model line. After 1991, the GM B-platform would become the lone full-size station wagon, as Ford ended production of the LTD Country Squire and Mercury Colony Park.

Although not sold in Canada, 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). In 1992, sales decreased back towards 1990 levels; unlike the Buick Roadmaster, the Custom Cruiser was never developed as a sedan. For 1993, Oldsmobile discontinued the Custom Cruiser, instead concentrating on the Bravada SUV and Silhouette minivan (segments not entered by Buick until after the closure of Oldsmobile).

The final Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, the last Oldsmobile car produced with rear-wheel drive, was assembled on June 5, 1992. The Custom Cruiser 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).

Chassis[edit]

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.

Powertrain[edit]

Following the end of Oldsmobile 307 production in 1990, as part of the redesign, the Custom Cruiser was fitted with a Chevrolet small-block V8, bringing fuel injection to the Custom Cruiser for the first time. For 1991, the sole engine was a 170 hp 5.0L V8, a 30 hp increase over the 307. The 5.0L became the base engine for 1992, with a 180 hp 5.7L V8 becoming an option. Both engines were paired with the Hydra-matic 4L60 4-speed overdrive automatic, a heavier-duty transmission than the THM200-4R.

Engine 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

(TBI)

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)

Body[edit]

Rear view, 1992 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser

While the option remained available on both its Chevrolet Caprice and Buick Roadmaster counterparts, in a major departure, Oldsmobile ended its use of woodgrain siding starting with the 1991 Custom Cruiser wagon. Instead, Oldsmobile adopted the use of two-tone paint schemes as standard equipment. Alongside the Buick Roadmaster, the Custom Cruiser offered a fixed second-row skylight with a slightly raised rear roofline (similar to the 1964-1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser). Sharing interior elements with the Roadmaster, the Custom Cruiser was given 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.

As with its 1977-1990 predecessor, the Custom Cruiser was offered with a rear-facing third-row seat, bringing capacity from six to eight. The two-way tailgate design was modified slightly; due to the rear curve of the body, the rear window no longer retracted into the body. Instead, the window became a hatch (with a rear windscreen wiper). Similar to the mid-size Cutlass Cruiser/Buick Century station wagon, the Custom Cruiser offered optional pop-out vent windows in the cargo area to aid airflow.

Production figures[edit]

Year Total
1991 7,663
1992 4,347

References[edit]

  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]