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Underrated Lookers:
The ’89-’91 Oldsmobile
Cutlass Supreme Coupe

October 17, 2014 by Matt

1991 Olds Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme White

Let’s get a few things out of the way here:

  1. Am I reaching a bit? Maybe.
  2. I hate the name. Hate everything about it. As I wrote in my post on car names, it sounds like a pirate’s dessert. Yarrrgh.
  3. Is it FWD and a turd to drive? Yes and probably.

Still—whenever I come across an ’89-’91 Olds Cutlass Supreme coupe during my commute, I notice it. It’s the proportions that really distinguish it. Examine the car in profile, and a clean, if somewhat boxy teardrop shape emerges. Most of the credit for that goes to the expansive, gently-tapering backlight and the way the rear quarterlights meet the back glass in such a way that they conceal the C-pillar, creating a kind of wraparound “cockpit” look. The nose detailing, too, is very understated and clean. The front overhang is a bit long—thank the Cutlass’ FWD platform for the way the wheels are pushed back—and keeps the car from exhibiting truly European sports sedan proportions, but it’s not a glaring aesthetic flaw in the vein of Chrysler’s cab-forward styling phase. The mounting of the door handles on the B-pillars is an unnecessary touch, but it’s not a debit, and it does clean up the car’s flanks a bit.

1991 Olds Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme White

The ’89-’91 Cutlass coupe’s cheapness and the fact that it’s a bit of an unsung hero from a design standpoint means more than a few have been uglified and tarted up with all kinds of stripes, stickers and chrome appendages, obscuring the fact that underneath it all, it’s basically a very handsome car. The big Olds coupe underwent a styling refresh for the 1992 model year, in the process adding a dollop of superfluous body cladding and replacing the crisp headlight treatment with an ill-advised “hex-mini-light” design. The proportions are still there, but the details are overdone and distracting. As for the original ’89-’91 Cutlass coupe, it’s a shame it doesn’t get more credit.

Image credits: cardomain.com, edmunds.com

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series featuring cars whose design we find appealing, in contrast to mainstream opinion. Read the other installments here:

Filed under: Aesthetics, Oldsmobile, Underrated Lookers

6 Comments

  1. Ryan says:

    I can agree with nearly all of your other “Underrated Looker” choices but I just can’t get behind you on this one Matt, lol. And those wheels… gouge my eyes out! ;)

    • Matt says:

      Hahaha

      I anticipated this, hence my disclaimers. :)

      I like it. It’s got great proportions. The wheels aren’t terribly attractive, but they’re not completely hideous either, IMO.

      Would I buy one? Nope. But they catch my eye.

  2. Nic says:

    Totally agree. The Cutlass Supreme and its w-body sibling the Pontiac Grand Prix GTP alike. I like to imagine a parallel universe where GM never went FWD and made a pair of stylish RWD GT cars in the early 90s. The Olds would occupy the softer luxury GT slot in the lineup, with the GTP with its 210hp turbo 3.4L V6 in the sporty GT slot. The Buick Regal does not exist in this world. Then I snap back to reality and realize neither is thaaat good looking and they’re both probably trash to drive… Heads-up display though!

    • Matt says:

      Haha, I like your concept of a parallel GM universe. The only comparable “stylish” RWD GTs being made stateside were the T-bird, Cougar and Lincoln Mark series. Speaking of, I really need to write a post on the second-to-last gen T-bird. It’s a dead ringer for a What Might Have Been or Styling Misfires installment.

  3. AL says:

    Good article, Matt! I always liked the looks of these cars “back in the day” too. They still do look good. My brother had a new 1988 SL (the first year of these, BTW) and getting to drive it on occasion as a teenager made an impression on me. Yes, it drove like any other nose-heavy FWD domestic car of the era but it rode nicely, looked good, and had decent (if not remarkable) power. The greenhouse treatment and B-pillar door handles were pretty flashy and exotic to this midwestern farm kid!

    My wife’s uncle bought a 1990 (I think) “International Series” (the top-of-the-line trim model like the photos above) brand new and still has it. I saw it a couple years ago at a wedding and it looked like new (he takes very good care of his cars…obviously) but has well over 100K miles. Maybe it’s the nicest one still in existence…who knows?

    Anyway, thanks for the memories!

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