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Oldsmobile is one of the brands that comes to mind when we think of Americana, and the Cutlass is among its best creations. During its prime, the brand produced some revolutionary designs that offered good value to consumers.
Over the years, however, the brand has endured criticism and garnered an unnecessarily lacklustre rep from folks who don’t think the cars were particularly impressive.
Now, the Cultass is getting some love from classic car and racing enthusiasts for its vintage appeal and racing potential. Here are all the details on the journey of the Cutlass and two of its ‘80s models’ “track star” revivals.
What is the history of the Oldsmobile Cutlass?
In production from 1961 to 1999, the Cutlass spanned almost four decades of American history, and enjoyed much success throughout its run. According to Outright Olds, it was intended to be a sporty step up from their F-85, and early models were remarkably spacious for their class, with high-performing V-8 engines.
The Cutlass received a number of redesigns both inside and out through the years, becoming a more powerful car and earning its status as a “civilized supercar.” The Cutlass Supreme was the pinnacle of Oldsmobile’s luxury offering when it was introduced in the late ‘70s.
The 1977 Cutlass was a best-seller in the U.S. thanks to its unexpectedly smooth handling and solid feel.
By 1988, the rear-wheel drive G-Body Cutlass Supreme was renamed the Cutlass Supreme Classic and phased out. The newly introduced W-body Cutlass platform proved to be a costly one for parent company GM.
After pouring billions of dollars into development of the new platform, it is thought that GM ended up losing roughly $2000 per car produced across its brands.
However, the new front-wheel drive Cutlass Supreme body style was a NASCAR success and won more than a dozen races between ‘89 and the end of the Oldsmobile racing program in ‘92.
Other models from the mid-to-late ‘80s have lent themselves to racing, with two particular vehicles standing out.
A customized 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass has a remarkable drag racing record
A 1986 Cutlass with the old G-body design graces the drag racing strip in Las Vegas, where its owner, a man called “Window,” has achieved an impressive record.
Although it retains the ‘80s vibe on the exterior, the inside of the Cutlass named “Frankenstein” is completely revamped. Among a variety of beefy upgrades, the car was amped up with a new suspension, lifted, and outfitted with a partial roll cage. Its V6 got an upgrade from a 2004 Chevy Silverado 5.3-liter LS for a hefty power boost.
With nearly 100 wins and just one loss, Frankenstein has reached speeds of 146 mph on the track to complete a quarter of a mile in just 8.7 seconds, though top speeds have hit 187 mph, according to The Drive.
Glory on the race track for a 1989 Cutlass
Another Cutlass, this one from the 1989 model year, has also proven it’s got serious racing chops. A participant in the 1989 SCCA Trans-Am championship and numerous Mid Atlantic Road Racing GT1 championships, this Cutlass was for sale on Craigslist for $50,000 back in 2020, according to The Drive.
It boasts a 5.1-liter V8, four-speed transmission, three-disc clutch, and a tube frame rear-wheel drive chassis.
Out of commission for more than 20 years, this Cutlass was listed with an additional motor, rain tires, and extra shocks and spring sets for rainy race days, among other spare parts. The listing has been taken down now, so we can hope that it has made its way into the garage of another classic car collector and racing enthusiast.
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