The name Olds certainly lived up to its name when it was founded in August 1897 until its dissolution in April 2004. As of 2004 Oldsmobile was the oldest surviving American automobile brand. It was also one of the world’s oldest along with Daimler and Peugeot. General Motors first brand to be phased out in the 21st century was Oldsmobile. Later on other marques followed suit with Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer in 2010. Rather than being manufactured in the former automotive center of the world, Detroit, the Oldsmobile models were built in its factory in Lansing, Michigan.
Ransom E. Olds founded the Oldsmobile Motor Works in 1897, but the company was eventually sold to General Motors in 1908. During Oldsmobile’s 107-year reign numerous models had evolved with each decade claiming a new image, feature or look. The ’50’s saw their dream “rocket” car, a mainstream vehicle, with high-powered engines and twin jet pod-type taillights. Starting in the ’60’s it was their famous “muscle” car. Beginning in the ’70’s on through to its phase-out in the mid 2000s decade there were the compact cars, luxury sedans, minivans and SUVs. These top ten Oldsmobile models have the most longevity, impact, innovation and popularity with consumers. Some of them have made their mark in pop culture.
10.) Oldsmobile Aurora (1995-2003) – First on the list was ironically one of the last models Oldsmobile would manufacture. The Aurora was a mid-size luxury sports sedan. This would become their flagship luxury sports sedan during a time when they needed a comeback for the brand. It was redesigned in 2001 as a second-generation to further attract an upscale market. Aurora’s predecessor was the Oldsmobile Toronado. May 2003 saw the end of the Aurora sedan production.
9.) Oldsmobile Bravada (1991-2004) – Another offering of their mid-size luxury vehicle was their SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle). Bravada’s first generation was the first truck-based vehicle offered by Oldsmobile since the 1920’s. When GM announced in 2000 they would phase out the brand of over a hundred years Oldsmobile then unveiled their last newest model to ever be, the Bravada SUV. Its third generation featured the last 500 Bravadas to ever be manufactured. Number 500 rolled off the assembly line in January 2004. The GM truck plant who manufactured these vehicles was the subject of an HBO documentary The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant.
8.) Oldsmobile Silhouette (1990-2004) – Here was Oldsmobile’s answer to the minivan. Its first generation minivan was featured in the film Get Shorty. In the film it was referred to many times as the “Cadillac of minivans.” The Silhouette minivan ceased production in March 2004. The Oldsmobile Alero was the last model in April 2004 to end the century-old era of Oldsmobile.
7.) Oldsmobile Cutlass (1961-1999) – Now we take a look at this brand during its glory years. The thought Oldsmobile would ever be phased out in the early 21st century was most likely not on everyone’s mind. The Cutlass was a mid-size car that was more of a mainstream vehicle, not a sedan, compact or muscle car. Its name Cutlass equaled brand recognition for Oldsmobile. This was a definite best-seller in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It even became the best-selling car in the U.S. during those decades. It also spawned the Cutlass Cruiser Station Wagon. Like all good things this model was phased out in the late 90’s due to poor sales.
6.) Oldsmobile 442 (1964-1991) – When you think of muscle cars you naturally think of hot rods. A muscle car, very simply, is taking a small car and adding an enormous engine inside of it. The 442 is pronounced four-four-two and was created to compete with Pontiac’s famous muscle car, the GTO. Its numeric name means 4-Four Barrel Carburetor, 4-Four on the Floor and 2- Dual Exhausts. Songs and music videos have featured the 442 such as Blondie’s Detroit 442, Chicago’s Stay the Night music video features a car chase with a 442 and Bruce Springsteen’s alternate version of Thunder Road titled Wings for Wheels mentions the 442.
5.) Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (1966-1997) – Just like its name this is at thetop of the Cutlass sub-models. It is more about performance and luxury offering a full series of the two-door hardtops, pillared coupes, four-door sedan and a convertible. The Cutlass Supreme was on the lower scale of other personal luxury cars available. Five generation models came from this luxurious Cutlass.
4.) Oldsmobile Toronado (1966-1992) – Its successor would later be theAurora during the mid ’90s. However, the Toronado was a personal luxury two-door coupe that was full-size car. It was in direct competition with Ford’s Thunderbird and Buick’s Riviera. The Toronado receives the distinction as being the first front-wheel drive automobile in the U.S. In 1966 Toronado was named Motor Trend Car of the Year in 1966.
3.) Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera (1982-1996) – It became avery popularupscale mid-size carthat was Oldsmobile’s best-selling model during its entire run. The Cutlass Ciera received many distinctions and was consistently ranked as one of the highest rated vehicles by J.D. Power and Associates, a firm that conducts surveys based on customer satisfaction, product quality and buyer behavior within various industries, including the automotive industry. It was also ranked as “Best Price Class” and “Top-Ranked American-Made Car both in 1992. Prevention Magazine’s March 6, 1992 issue named the Cutlass Ciera as “Safe Car of the Year”.
2.) Oldsmobile 98 (1941-1996) – Without question it is the flagship model of Oldsmobile, but it’s also known as the Ninety-Eight. It started production in 1941 during war time, but resumed once again in post-WWII. Oldsmobile had a two-digit model designation. The first digit was the body size, which is “9” and the second digit refers to the cylinder engine of a 6 or 8. In this case it is the latter. A two-digit system would remain until the end of the ’90’s. The Ninety-Eight full-size automobile would remain a top-of-the-line model. It would eventually be succeeded by the Aurora model in the mid 1990’s.
1.) Oldsmobile 88 (1949-1999) – During the 1950’s Oldsmobiledeveloped a “rocket” theme for the engine and exterior of this full-size car. Its V8 engine was small, light-weight and advanced. Not only that, it was a leader in performance and one of the fastest cars on the market. This model was the first to receive a true hardtop. For its exterior it featured an “open maw” grille making it look like jet propulsion. To go even further with its “rocket” like form there were twin jet pod-styled taillights. There were also trim level designations with the 88 such as the base Dynamic 88 and the Super 88 as the highline. The 88 or Eighty-Eight was Oldsmobile’s top-selling line. After the Eighty-Eight model’s retirement on its 50th anniversary it thus became one of the longest model names used for an American car. The Chrysler New Yorker is slightly older. It was used from 1939-1996.
That is your look into the top ten models manufactured by Oldsmobile. They may not be producing any of their models at the various auto plants across the country and around the word anymore, but they have left an indelible mark on American history, especially in films, music and other media sources. It truly was the end of an era for this brand of automobile that survived one hundred years and a little bit more.
Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert, The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, IMDb
Muscle Cars, Wikipedia
Jesse Schmitt, Top 10 Oldsmobile Models, Associated Content