We here at TTS reserve a very large soft space for station wagons, having spent the better part of our impressionable young lives in them. My cohort’s family had an Audi Fox, a W123 Mercedes-Benz, and a couple of Pontiac 6000s. We had a Datsun 510 and, through my father’s company, a venerable GM G-body in the form of a 1979 Chevrolet Malibu.
I always liked those Malibus, especially in wagon format. And I won’t even get into my weird El Camino fetish.
What we have here is not my dad’s maroon Malibu with its anemic V6 – displacement unknown – and full hubcaps. No, what we have here is something else. If you were a G-body wagon nerd back when the Buick Grand National debuted, you might have dreamed of a Frankenstein monster such as this Oldsmobile Cutlass, available out of Palm City, Florida.
“If asked to describe this car in one word? ‘F R I G H T E N I N G!’” ~ The Seller
The seller ladles on the hyperbolic verbiage, but I get it. Having a rebuild and fortified 1986 Grand National powerplant under your hood gives good reason for flowery talk; think aftermarket cam, 60-lb fuel injectors, hot-rod turbocharger, and methanol injection. Out back, the GN rear axle has been rebuilt, and the suspension has been upgraded with boxed lower arms and air springs. In between is a bulletproof TH400 automatic. Underneath it’s remarkably clean for a G-body that’s lived practically anywhere.
Exterior giveaways? Almost none. The slightly flat, shallow respray looks like a Maaco special, but the brightwork and chrome are in decent shape. The black window tint is de rigueur for Florida. The wheels, lacking center caps, could have been picked up at the junkyard (probably not, actually). The tailgate lacks badges. To the average civilian, the M/T drag radials just look like bald tires.
Inside the vast sea of maroon triggers memories of my youth. The seats look comfy, the headliner sags a little, and the door panels could stand to be redyed. The original Rallye instrument cluster can just be seen behind the thin plastic steering wheel. The dashboard itself – though apparently crack-free – has taken the shrapnel of an exploding gauge catalog. There has to be a more elegant way to keep an eye on what’s happening under the hood. Bucket seats and a proper center console would finish things off nicely.
Is it fast? Yes. Yes it is. Running a stock engine computer, it will eat the quarter-mile in 11.3 seconds. The seller claims it even handles pretty well, but who know what that really means. Best of all, this Cutlass is said to remain happy puttering around the third ring of hell Florida with the air conditioning on.
I don’t care about the cosmetic issues, or the goofy shifter, or the haphazard grouping of gauges vomited upon the interior. I don’t even care that the rear windows don’t go down, or the fact that $15k is all the money twice for any G-body wagon.
Finding decent examples of these old family haulers at all can be a challenge, and while the details are a little lacking, the bones look perfect. It appears straight, it’s all there, and best of all it’s a station wagon. Given the power available – and the potential for so much more! – and the gift of scaring those around you, I’d have it in a second.