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Car Memories: 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera
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Car Memories: 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera

Bill Crittenden
October 1, 2009

What kind of car is it?

1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, silver with a black vinyl roof.

Why did you buy it?  When did you get it?

I had about $1,000 to spend on my first car, when I was about to turn 18 back in 1998, and it was either that or the Chevy Cavalier with a rod knock.  I was a little excited that it was an Olds, though, since my mom had two when I was growing up and had fond memories of them.  It was the classic old-lady-only-drove-it-on-Sundays car, very low miles on the odometer and a registration paper in the glove box that listed a retirement community as its former home.  Probably even garage kept, there wasn't a crack in the vinyl.

What did you think of the car when you had it?  Likes and dislikes?

I really liked the style.  The 90's were a time of bubble cars (Neon, Taurus, Probe) and plastic, and I had a car with flat sides and chrome and recognizeable bumpers.  I also really enjoyed the plush blue interior, it was so much better than the black on black cheap plastic and fabric that was so common at the time.  I know bucket seats and floor shifters were a big deal back in the day, but so many cars have them now I thought it kinda cool in an old-school kind of way that I had a bench seat and a column shift automatic.  It even had a hood ornament!  You don't see those on a lot of cars these days.

The suspension was bad when I got it, it needed new shocks desperately, but it would just float over bumps and cracks in the highway.  Without much power it took forever to accelerate but once it got up to speed I put my arm up on the back of that bench seat and it was so comfortable to cruise the highways in.  When I owned the car I had a semi-long distance relationship and we took trips to Indiana, so I did a lot of highway cruising in that car.

Was there anything you found really interesting about the car?

I was fairly new to cars, and so I thought it was interesting that I found a Pontiac logo stamped into the air conditioning ductwork in the dashboard.  General Motors at its finest!  Back then I thought I had discovered some little secret about the car.  Nowadays I wonder why GM bothered to stamp a Pontiac emblem into something they were going to use in probably three or four different brands of car.

Did you have any problems with the car?

Total lack of power does not begin to describe it.  Other than in snow, I spun a tire once, and only once, and only in a tollbooth oil slick in the rain.  It had a Buick 3-liter engine with a computer-controlled carburetor, I think it was the last year for that setup.  Oh, how I wish I had gotten a 1986!

I also discovered I hate fusible links on a fundamental level.  I had electrical problems with the car, and stumbled upon the fusible links while looking for the source.  Fusible links are bad enough, considering the amount of work required to check them as opposed to, say, a regular fuse, but the Olds had them between the starter and the radiator.  Checking them required jackstands and tools, as opposed to most modern cars, which require finding the fusebox under the hood.  I thought of replacing them with a regular fusebox, but I couldn't find a conversion chart to figure out which thickness of link was equivalent to which amp of fuse.  So if anyone finds an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera with blue wire spliced into the wires off the starter solenoid that make it so the fusible link wires can be pulled 2 feet out of the car, that one's mine.

Of course, I had the classic first generation Olds Cutlass Ciera rusted trunklid.  I don't know what it was with that car, but I haven't seen a Cutlass Ciera without a hole in its trunk in what seems like years.

Why did you get rid of the car?

The emissions test came due.  I knew it had no chance in hell of passing.  It needed a carburetor tune (and possibly rebuild), the air pump was missing, and the downpipe between the pump and the exhaust was rusted out.  Because of how badly out of tune it was and because of the missing air pump I figured it might even need a catalytic converter.  It was a lot of time and money to spend on a 14-year old Oldsmobile, so I traded it in on a used Hyundai Accent.

I still have a set of the fender badges from it, though.

What do you think of the car now?

I miss it.  Not only do I still like the style, and the blue interior, but it would almost be at that 25-year old mark that would get me into some car shows.  I could even take it to cruise nights, seeing as how its an Oldsmobile (although I now own a Pontiac, and in a few years I can probably sneak that in).  If I had known that Oldsmobile wouldn't be around today, I would have tried to fix it, and would probably still have it.  Not only is it an Olds, but it's an Olds that I see less and less of each year, so I would love to keep one around, because eventually they're just going to disappear completely.  If I found one that was still in good condition (an extreme rarity these days) I would try and convince my wife to let me buy it.

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