Wednesday, November 16, 2016

One of the great design ideas found in the Bronx

On a long wandering drive I recently found myself in Locust Point, the sub-neighborhood of Throggs Neck in the Bronx (the traditional spelling has two Gs). This is one of those hidden little corners of the city that seem more like Putnam County than tucked in the shadow of the Throggs Neck Bridge on the Long Island Sound. I was marveling at the fact that we'd just past a dirt road when this sweet beast appeared:
Alright this is totally awesome for several reasons! First of all it's a '60s wagon. Secondly it shares its platform with one of my favorite muscle cars. Last but not least it's wearing its quirky original color and perfect hubcaps.
What we have here is a 1965 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser in Almond Beige. Being that it was parked in a driveway with its nose buried in that tarp I didn't want to get too nosy and attempt face pics.
The reason it's called the Vista Cruiser is due to those skylights in the raised rear roof. Olds was not alone in this endeavor as the Buick Sportwagon shared the same skylight treatment.
You can identify the '65 from the year before from its tailgate. The 1964 had OLDSMOBILE written across the width below the lock where this year has the rocket symbol. The 1966 was different in many ways including perfectly round wheel arches and solid taillights.
I point it out whenever I see it but this ride is wearing period correct 1965 New York State license plates. If you find a matching pair in good condition that hale from the year of your classic car you can use them to register your ride.
The tailgate in this first generation Vista Cruiser was simply a fold down version. Starting in 1969 you could order a Dual Action tailgate where it would either fold flat or swing open like a traditional door.
I can't tell if this had a power tailgate window or manual without approaching it. If it is a manual that chrome rectangle surrounding the keyhole would pop open to one side, becoming a crank in the process. 
I included this closeup to highlight the origin of the edge that continues up over the rear window opening. I love design moments like this where you can see what the clay model looked like before the production began.
This era in Oldsmobile design was a high point for me that continued through the early '70s. The body lines are so clean along the sides running front to back. The underpinnings of this ride are the same as the F85 and the Cutlass. The Vista Cruiser was introduced in tandem with the first iteration of the 442 (which at that point was an option package for the Cutlass). You could save a little money if you ordered a plain F85 wagon which had a standard metal roof.
Lets give it up for the confluence of 4 windows in this spot that works so beautifully. You can almost miss the point that there is an elevation change between the front of the roof and behind the middle skylight. Greyhound had the Scenicruiser buses in this era which had an elevated rear passenger section with a forward facing skylight. Amtrak also had the Sightseer Lounge cars with windows that curved up over the roof to give a panoramic effect so this car was right on time.
Vista Cruisers with the skylights would continue through 1972. The name was kept for the '73-'77 wagons even though the roof was solid. Surprisingly there was one last gasp from 1991-1992 when the Olds Custom Cruiser wagon appeared with a single rear skylight spanning the width of the roof.

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