Monday, November 3, 2014

More '90s than Seinfeld

You know, even classic or collectible cars start out as ubiquitous and forgetful parts of the general atmosphere until time and rust take them all away. While the feature car today is neither collectible or valuable it has become a classic due to the passage of time and now stands out as a transitional moment in automotive history. Whatever (I call BS on myself!), here it is:
This is a 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme with the available Sport Appearance Package. This is the kind of car that might make you yawn so hard your ears will pop. However, it is parked in front of my building and after glancing at it for months I had to stop and take a closer look.
This is the missing link between the squared-off boxes of the '80s and the completely rounded bubble cars of the '90s. There was a recession happening at the time, and the internet had yet to have its switch flipped to the on position, so it was sort of a modern malaise era akin to the late '70s.
 This iteration of the Cutlass was produced between 1988-1991, and was the first generation to feature front wheel drive. I actually dig how '90s it looks as well. When you think of the sitcoms of the era they give the same impression as this ride; goofy, overly friendly, and not yet snarky.
For me the entire design can be summed up by one line, and that's the one that runs from the rear wheel well back, separating the plastic bumper from the quarter panel before curving upwards at a rear angle to go over the top of the taillight housing. This line is mirrored by the bottom of the windows which, thanks to the blacked-out pillars, look like one big wraparound pod.
That wraparound rear window is huge and like nothing since the '60s. The general taillight opening is similar to that of the Chevy Beretta of the same year, though the Beretta featured a red lens the full width of the car. The slippery body shape and flush-mounted windows all contributed to a very aerodynamic shape. This was still before Nascar debuted their generic Car of Tomorrow body shell, and the 2 door version of this ride was used by several drivers. The first year for this body style was even used as the pace car for the Indy 500 in 1988.
One of the traits Olds was trumpeting for the '91 Cutlass was a dual stainless steel exhaust for longer life. This one does seem to have its original exhaust tips which are a unique double rectangle arrangement. 
This car came equipped with one of 2 decent motors for the era; the inline 4-cylinder "Quad-4" good for only 160 horsepower but decent mileage, or a 24 valve, twin dual cam V6 good for 215 hp. Neither of these sounds that impressive, but in this awkward stage of late-'80s/early-'90s it was pretty good.
I managed to locate an original brochure for this car and they make some incredible claims! The following is a quote that might make you think the author was blind; "This Cutlass has a shape so riveting it would probably be hanging in a museum if it weren't so exhilarating to drive".
Our grubby little '90s Cutty has seen some city action with some standard parking damage visible. She also doesn't seem to get washed that much.
Sure the signal got knocked out and that sporty red trim is loose; that's the other guys fault! The fact that the nameplate was actually a sticker attached to the hood with adhesive is squarely the fault of the General Motors accountants. At least it left enough glue behind to remain legible thanks to the dirt that's stuck to it!
This is the quintessential interior for a domestic car of this era; an orgy of cheap plastic, shoulder belts built into the front door panels, and square buttons everywhere. This actually shows a bit of restraint compared to the Olds Trofeo of the same year. Believe it or not you could've ordered bucket seats with a console and a 5 speed Muncie shifter for this ride, though very few people did. 
Well here we have it; an example of a car barely 20 years old and already fading from memory. When a  model is produced for as long as the Cutlass was I feel compelled to explore the various generations as they present themselves. This one, with its Arctic White paint and Red stripe making it look somewhat like a sneaker, was just calling out for me to highlight it. Now that that's over with, onto something else for tomorrow! 

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