10 Cars That Made Oldsmobile (And 5 That Broke It)

With 107 years in producing cars, Oldsmobile pioneered many firsts in the automobile industry, including standardized windshields, first production turbocharged car, first driver-side airbag, and many more.

While Oldsmobile did belong to General Motors for most of its life, the company was started by Ransom Eli Olds, way back in 1897. Olds claimed to have built his first steam-powered car by 1887, and the first gasoline-powered car by 1896 He is also credited with the invention and use of the assembly lines, for the Oldsmobile Curved Dash that Oldsmobile began to mass-produce in 1902, the last of which rolled off the assembly line in 1907. By 1908, Oldsmobile had been acquired by General Motors.

As of April 2004, Oldsmobile stands defunct, with declining sales being a reason for GM to close down production of all Oldsmobile cars. And despite producing many industry-changing vehicles, there were some models that definitely contributed to Oldsmobile’s eventual demise. In this list, we honor 10 Oldsmobile cars that lived up to their legacy and five that tarred Oldsmobile’s reputation instead.

15 The Good Olds: 1940 Oldsmobile Series 70, First Automatic Transmission

Before GM invented the world’s first automatic transmission, called the Hydra-Matic, every car came with a manual-only option. So developed by GM in the Cadillac division, Hydramatic was first put in Oldsmobile cars, specifically the 1940 models, known as the Oldsmobile Dynamic. This was done to protect Caddy’s reputation in case something went wrong with the transmission, and also because Oldsmobile made more cars and so had a wider test base.

14 The Good Olds: 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, First Muscle Car

The 88 model series for the 1949 model years came equipped with a 4.7-liter Rocket V8 that made this light and compact car the first muscle car to come out of Detroit. Not only was the car powerful but it was also pumped enough to win six out of the nine NASCAR events it participated in and was pretty popular in drag racing as well.

13 The Good Olds: 1961 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 Celebrity Sedan, Better Frame And Suspension

With a sturdier “guard beam” frame and an all-coil suspension, the 1961 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 Celebrity Sedan came with a 6.45-liter engine, a two-barrel V8, and a three-speed Rotomatic Hydra-Matic automatic transmission along with a three speed manual option. The speedometer came with a colored roll bar, and this car was also slightly smaller than the previous generations because of the 1958 recession.

12 The Good Olds: 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire, The First Turbocharger

In ’62, Oldsmobile brought out the Jetfire, which was the compact F85 with a 3.52-liter V8 engine, and the first turbocharged car around. It boasted a forced induction with a Garett turbocharger and a special fuel tank that injected distilled water, methanol, and a corrosion inhibitor into the fuel and oil mixture to avoid any “detonation” of the turbocharger.

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11 The Good Olds: 1962 Oldsmobile F85 Cutlass, A Classic Series

The Cutlass was the top trim of the Oldsmobile compact F-85 car but later spun off into a distinct series of its own. The F-85 came on a Y-body platform, also shared by the Buick Special and the Pontiac Tempest, but it worked best on the Cutlass. The engine remained the Rocket V8, an aluminum 3.5-liter V8 that made it cross the 100mph mark easily.

10 The Good Olds: 1964 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2, The Muscle Car

When Pontiac came out with the GTO, Oldsmobile wanted a muscle car of its own. Thus the 442 was born, named for the four-barrel carburetor, four-speed transmission, and the dual exhausts. In 1964 alone, almost 3,000 of these cars were sold, with top speeds of 116 mph and a 0-60 mph run of 7.5 seconds.

9 The Good Olds: 1966 Oldsmobile 442 W-30, Ultra Rare

In 1966, the 442’s engine got a lot better, with a 6.55-liter V8 with three two-barrel carburetors, and the W-30 package which got signature red fenders in 1967. The power output jumped up to 350 horses and took this car to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds. And yet, the Pontiac Tempest GTO was so popular that few knew about the 442, though it matched the GTO’s performance to a tee.

8th The Good Olds: 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado, GM’s First Front Wheel Drive

Based on the E-platform that was shared by the Buick Riviera and later the Cadillac Eldorado, the Toronado was GM’s first-ever front-wheel-drive. The 7.0-liter Super Rocket V8 made a cool 385 horses and delivered 475 ft-lb of screaming torque to the front wheels, with a Hy-Vo chain drive. The steering wheel was a bit unusual as well, with a slot-style speedometer clicking merrily as you sped up.

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7 The Good Olds: 1968 Oldsmobile Hurst, The Restriction Beaters

In the late ’60s, GM’s muscle car divisions had a new challenge to conquer, and that was an engine size restriction of 6.55 liters in all small to mid-size cars. To loophole this rule, Oldsmobile partnered with George Hurst, the man behind the Hurst shifters, and claimed that the engines were not put in by Oldsmobile but by Hurst. This allowed Oldsmobiles to sport monstrous 7.45-liter engines.

6 The Good Olds: 1970 Oldsmobile Rally 350, Olds’ Pony Car

By the advent of the ’70s, with engine restrictions and the oil crisis fast approaching, big-block muscle cars were a dying breed. So, Oldsmobile ponied up and brought out the Rallye 350, with a 5.7-liter V8 that still managed 310 horses and 390 ft-lb torque. Only 3,547 of these were made, and they all came in a single color of Sebring Yellow, with yellow bumpers which some dealers replaced with chrome.

5 The Bad Olds: 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Diesel, Diesel Problems

The first of American diesel engines, the problem with the Supreme Diesel was that its engine was in fact converted from a gasoline engine, and so it came with questionable reliability and sluggish performance. The engines liked to give up after a few miles only, making this the worst Cutlass and the worst Oldsmobile for decades to come.

4 The Bad Olds: 1978-1985 Oldsmobile 88 And 98, The Worst Diesel Engines

Yet again, made on the same bore as that of the Oldsmobile 5.7-liter V8 gasoline engines, the 5.7-liter V8 diesel engines were a disaster. The modifications resulted in a stronger iron block as well as further reinforcements to handle the stress of diesel better than gasoline, but they still fell woefully short of adequate. It would be years before people would trust Oldsmobile cars again.

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3 The Bad Olds: 1980-1985 Oldsmobile Omega, Infamous X-Body

When GM launched its X-body cars (Oldsmobile Omega, Buick Skylark, Chevrolet Citation, and the Pontiac Phoenix), it hyped the cars up. And for a while, the hard marketing worked, and people did begin to buy these cars in droves . Sadly, not enough R&D went into these four-and six-cylinder cars. Plagued with recalls and within-warranty problems all their lives, these X-body cars were a disaster.

2 The Bad Olds: 1987 Oldsmobile Toronado Trophy

The 1966 entry of the Oldsmobile Toronado was a good thing. The 1987 entry of the Toronado Troféo was not. While it was introduced to bump up sagging sales, it was made even smaller than before, at a time when bigger was better because of falling gas prices. So, it missed its mark by a lot. Finally, the Toronado was ended and replaced by the Aurora sports car.

1 The Bad Olds: 1990 Oldsmobile silhouette

The Oldsmobile Silhouette, as well as its siblings, the Chevrolet Lumina APV and the Pontiac Trans Sport, was supposed to be a more attractive option to the sturdy Dodge Caravan. Sadly, all that styling only alluded to the fact that it looked a Dustbuster, a rather popular hand-held vacuum cleaner of that time. Plus the driver’s seat was uncomfortable, so the silhouette never took off.

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