Junkyard Gem: 1991 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser

Junkyard Gem: 1991 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser

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GM's Oldsmobile Division, which got the axe in 2004, was renowned for many decades as a maker of handsome, sturdy station wagons for American families. When beautiful wagons were flying out of showrooms in huge numbers, Oldsmobile was one of the biggest players in the longroof game, with many varieties of rocket-badged Olds Cruiser seen throughout the land. The minivan and SUV killed the station wagon as a mainstream family hauler, of course, and the very last of the enormous rear-wheel-drive Oldsmobile wagons rolled off the line in Ypsilanti in 1992. Here's a very rare example of that final generation of Olds Custom Cruiser, found in a Northern California self-service boneyard recently.

For the 1991 model year, GM redesigned the full-sized B platform (which had been more or less unchanged since 1977). Sharp, boxy edges became cetacean curves, and three GM divisions got slick-looking streamlined wagons in the process. Chevrolet sold the Caprice Estate while Buick offered the Roadmaster Estate, with both models staying in production through 1996. Oldsmobile's version was built for just the 1991 and 1992 model years, with just over 12,000 sold.

The Custom Cruiser name goes way back in Oldsmobile history, beginning as a designation for a line of upscale Olds 98s for the 1941 model year. Oldsmobile began using the Vista Cruiser (originally Vista-Cruiser, with a dash) name on futuristic-looking midsize wagons with fighter-jet-style roof glass for 1964, then brought back the Custom Cruiser name for full-sized wagons in 1971. The final Oldsmobile Cruiser was the 1996 Cutlass Cruiser; after that, you needed to get a Silhouette or Bravada if you wanted an Olds-badged familymobile.

Like the Vista Cruisers of the 1960s and 1970s, the 1991-1992 Custom Cruisers got a "Vista Roof" as standard equipment (the 1991-1996 Buick Roadmaster Estate got this roof as well, just as the Buick Sportwagens did decades earlier).

Under the hood, the 1991 Custom Cruiser received a 5.0-liter (305-cubic-inch) Chevrolet small-block V8 with 170 horsepower and 255 pound-feet. A 5.7-liter (350-cubic-inch) version was available as an option for 1992.

The 1991-1992 Custom Cruiser was the last Oldsmobile available with both a V8 engine and rear-wheel-drive.

Like most Americans my age, I've covered many miles in Olds Cruisers. It's sad to see this one meet such a fate.