Among the fairly common group of vehicles produced on General Motors’ B-body chassis in the 1990s, one stands out. It’s extra-long, fairly luxurious, a last-of moment, and unloved among the sort of people who collect older vehicles.
No, it’s not the Impala SS, which everyone overprices when it’s that Purp Drank color. It’s the Custom Cruiser, by Oldsmobile.
General Motors updated its perennial B-body lineup for the 1991 model year, as the three-box platform morphed into one big, aerodynamic bathtub. In typical fashion, several GM brands offered essentially the same vehicle, with trim differences to suit the brand. At the Ace of Base level was Chevrolet’s Caprice Classic sedan and wagon, plus the later “hot rod” Impala SS variant (’94-’96). In the middle returned the Buick Roadmaster name, with accompanying Roadmaster Estate. At the top of the pyramid was the super-length Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. And in the lower-upper-middle somewhere, Oldsmobile with its Custom Cruiser.
One would reasonably expect the Custom Cruiser was accompanied by a sedan variant labeled Ninety-Eight, but that spot was taken by a brand new front-drive C-body. Oldsmobile was in the middle of a push for the modern, younger customer, and traditional large sedans didn’t fit that mold. There it sat in the lineup — a large, rear-drive V8 duckling in a showroom of front-drive V6 vehicles (plus the AWD Bravada). The flagship wagon of the Oldsmobile brand was considerably larger (and different) than the flagship sedan of the very same year.
Shin kicking didn’t stop there. The Custom Cruiser did not receive the detuned LT1 5.7-liter love of some other B-body models, but offered either the 5.0-liter 305 engine, or the 5.7-liter Chevrolet 350. The Olds Rocket V8 was a thing of the past. The only engine available for 1991 was the 305, and for ’92 the 305 played base engine to the 350.
Unlike its other B-body counterparts, Oldsmobile’s more modern image mandated the Custom Cruiser forego exterior wood trim. Instead, two-tone paint coated the boaty body. From Internet observation, it would seem this light blue was the most common color, followed by white over grey, and then maroon.
The modern front clip and lack of plastic wood (plood?) was not enough to keep wagon sales hopping. First year sales of 7,663 dropped to 4,347 in 1992. At that point, Oldsmobile decided it was time to throw in the towel and cede wagon sales to Buick and Chevrolet. The last rear-drive Oldsmobile wagon had gone away, and took with it the title of Last Truly Large Oldsmobile. The rest of the B-bodies would soldier on with decent success through the 1996 model year, when GM gave up on rear-drive sedans for a while. Perhaps sir would like a DTS with Northstar?
Our Rare Ride subject today was featured recently on the Craigslist of northern Wisconsin, which is a neighboring state to Michigan. With seemingly every option available at the time, clean blue leather found itself dappled in sunlight from the Vista roof (another last-of). This wagon had 130-odd thousand miles on the clock, and asks just $2,500. The listing was removed over the past day or so, but it may pop up again. In the meantime, keep Oldsmobile in your hearts and minds. I do.