The Oldsmobile Cutlass is perhaps one of GM’s longest in its line of production, spanning from 1961 all the way up until 1999. The Cutlass name was first used by Oldsmobile in 1954 as aa tentative and experimental sport coupe. The sport coupe featured a vivid fast back roofline and a stock V8 engine.
At its inception, the Cutlass was the smallest car in production for Oldsmobile as a unibody compact car. However, the Cutlass sold the most successful as a body-on-frame intermediate. Inevitably, the Cutlass became almost its own class of car with a variety of different versions all generating from the original model. Not only was the Cutlass considered a greatly successful car in terms of number of models, it is also considered to be one of the car names most recognized and associated with the Oldsmobile brand, especially in the 1970s. By the time the 1980s rolled around, the Cutlass had already essentially rolled out its own sub-line of cars.
The Cutlass made its debut in 1961, as a pillared two-door sports coupe. The interior boasted bucket seats and an optional center console, while the exterior featured distinctive trim. When the car returned in 1962, it was transformed into a hardtop model with the name “Jetfire”, which rang in at almost $300 more than the standard coupes. The Jetfire engine was markedly ahead of its time, as it allowed for the production of more torque than an engine double its size. This would ultimately be the model’s downfall, as it was prone to ‘spark-knock’ due to the supercharged engine. When compared to the classic Cutlass models, the Jetfire’s high cost and dependability issues curbed the sales to just 3,765 units.
The second generation of Cutlass began in 1964, after sales of the compact model were less than anticipated. The new F-85 style featured a conventional body-on-frame chassis. Oldsmobile also revived a few older body style models and introduced a new model, the Vista Cruiser, with its second-generation class. Over the course of the next three years, Oldsmobile would go on to introduce several different re-styled models including the Rocket and Turnpike Cruiser.
The third generation of Cutlass started off with a bang in 1968 with a major body restyle. The two and four door models included different wheelbases. This was originally to allow for more individuality but was later deemed uncomfortable on freeways due to the resonance frequency. Oldsmobile also rolled out a limited production model, Hurst/Olds that year as a special marketed between Oldsmobile and Hurst Performance.
The fourth generation Cutlass came with another redesigned body and spanned from 1973-1977. Oldsmobile introduced the Cutlass Salon as a Euro-style luxury sports sedan. The Salon most notably resembled the Pontiac Grand Am of that era. In 1976, the Cutlass became America’s best selling car. It would go on to hold that title for many of the years leading up to the 1980s.
The fifth generation of Cutlass boasted the longest production run yet, from 1978-1988. The new Cutlass was scaled down to a shorter wheelbase and A-body. It was also lighter and could be ordered with a variety of engines offered by GM. In 1979, Oldsmobile introduced a diesel version, although it was dropped in 1980.
The sixth and final generation would span just two years and would be almost identical to the Chevrolet Malibu. The sixth generation was meant to be a placeholder for newer models to come. Production of the Cutlass finally ceased in early July of 1999.