Home Car Stories One Owner 1969 OLDSMOBILE Cutlass Supreme- Margaret
1969 OLDSMOBILE Cutlass Supreme- Margaret PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Monday, 10 January 2011 14:53

1969 OLDSMOBILE Cutlass Supreme- Margaret

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Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

69 cutlass tilly sideview


The death of Oldsmobile was a slow sad progression that started with the mid seventies engine certification problems. GM needed to pass emissions standards, and when they found an engine, transmission and axle combination that made it, that became THE engine for all divisions. No more Rocket Engines. The proud tradition of individual engines was phased out in favor of generic GM power plants.


The late eighties and early nineties were harder on Oldsmobile. Downsizing and reduced profits conspired with CAFE standards and emissions to rob GM's individual divisions of their identities. Designers were constrained by the parameters of windflow, bumper laws, miles per gallon and cost cutting which created a series of cheap identical 'jellybean cars'. A smaller platform doesn't lend itself to individual styling touches, making the lowly Chevy and purportedly upscale Olds indistinguishable. GM also suffered through an onslaught of foreign cars which were killing GM with better reliability ratings.


Back in 1969 no one could have predicted that Oldsmobile’s' identity was about to vanish and actually get axed. In 1969 Oldsmobile was booming. The Cutlass Supreme was on its way to becoming one of the best selling cars in USA. The Oldsmobile had a strong lineage with earlier cars like the Rocket 88 and a solid reputation. Oldsmobile buyers were pretty far up the division totem pole. The Olds person was above a Chevy or Pontiac, and just under the Buick.

Margaret was just such a person back in 1969. She was part of a successful business and was rewarding herself for hard work with a new car, but not just any new car- she was buying an Oldsmobile.

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Margaret is getting on in years now. She never traded in her car because the new Oldsmobiles were unrecognizable to her. She watched the Oldsmobile division killed off after its image was diluted and tarnished for decades. It's a different world now. Margaret's daughters left home long ago; her grandsons are grown up, but she still has one baby left at home. Tilly, her 1969 Cutlass Supreme, has been parking in front of Margaret’s house for 40 years.

In 1957, Margaret and her husband left Iowa to buy a house in the California Bay Area. Once their business became successful, it was Margaret’s turn to get a new car. Their family had been driving Oldsmobiles since 1951, so there was no question when her husband took her to a large Oldsmobile car dealership on the long dealers strip at 3093 Broadway in Oakland, California. The dealership is still in existence today. To see more information go to the DEALERSHIPS section of this website.

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It was March, 1969 when they stepped onto the lot at Connell’s. The salesman asked what kind of car Margaret wanted.

“I’ll know when I see it.”

The lot was so vast that in order to scan the stock she climbed up a ladder and pointed.

“I see a pretty green one right there.”

As she drove off in her new car, she had no idea what kind of car she had just bought. The fact that it was an Oldsmobile was good enough for her. In 1969 this was an expensive, well-optioned car, costing over $4,600.00. Her green 1969 Cutlass Supreme two-door hardtop had a 350 rocket, automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, radio with auxiliary rear speaker, air conditioning, split bench seat, Rally wheels, vinyl top, and tinted glass. The Cutlass was dubbed "Tilly" right from the start.

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Soon after purchase Tilly nearly had a serious accident.  Margaret and a girlfriend took a 10 day camping road trip vacation in Greenville, Quincy, Parker Forest, and Taylorsville. As they rounded a corner on a mountain road, they found themselves surrounded by 1,000 cattle. The cattle were being herded by cowboys and dogs, right down the highway.  Margaret’s friend prevented her from blowing the horn, which might have triggered a stampede.  Amazingly, the brand new Cutlass survived without a scratch as enormous cattle thundered around the car like a stream diverting around a rock.

Margaret says Tilly has “been a darling.”  Her emblems were stolen and the license plate was stolen once, but that’s it.  The license plate read "007" which Margaret surmises inspired the theft. No glass has ever been broken, the aerial was never broken off, never in an accident, never stolen, never even one ticket.  Logging 2,000 miles a year, Tilly has had regular maintenance and runs perfectly. The only mechanical work done has been battery replacement and a belt that flipped loose on the air conditioning unit.

Despite the best care and minimal use, time presses on. Tilly has never been garaged.  The garage was too small, so she has been out front of the same house all of her life in constant California sunshine. Tilly has been repainted the original color and in 2001 the vinyl roof had to be taken off for rust repair underneath.  Instead of replacing the vinyl roof, the metal roof was painted the same deep green as the original vinyl roof.  The dash pad is still perfect.  The driver’s seat was reupholstered. The photo above shows the interior with the protective covers removed. Margaret covers the seats with Indian blankets she bought on a road trip to Arizona. Aside from some small cracks in the split bench seat fold-down cushion, a worn out steering wheel and the usual sun related rear shelf warping, the interior is perfect. This is unusual for a California car because typically the sun fries the interior causing much more fading and cracking than this.

When Tilly was being painted or getting a new roof put on, people would stop and ask,

"What happened to “Tilly?”

Whenever Margaret goes out in the car, people deluge her with offers to buy.  Margaret won’t sell.  “Then what would I drive?”  The new “plastic cars” don’t impress her.

Margaret drives “To the filling station, bank and to the grocery and that’s it,” which explains the low mileage of 64,900.  Every day, Margaret rolls down the windows so Tilly won’t get too hot.  She drapes the seat with serapes, and still parks Tilly in her usual spot out front.

Margaret was frustrated by how long it took to get the little bugs sorted out with her dealership after taking delivery. The car passed a water test except for a leak right around the rear view mirror. Wanting immediate action, Margaret bypassed the dealership going to her local Shell station for quick service. Since then she has always used the same Shell station for gas and for maintenance. Margaret has always used regular low octane gas and encountered no problems when switching to unleaded in the 1990s. When it comes to tires, she is willing to spend more. All replacement tires have been Michelins. Oil is changed religiously every few months regardless of mileage.

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The build sheet wasn’t under the seat or mats.  Margaret heard a flapping sound when driving on the highway.  She found the source of the noise:  a build sheet stuffed up into her driver’s front inner fender.  Car nuts typically like to check the rear lights to determine the year of the car. Tilly’s corner marker lights have never been changed, and read Guide 68, not 69.  I have seen this on several cars which have low miles and no replacement lenses. The last of the 1968 parts were being used up on this car.

As long as Margaret is alive, Tilly will be parking out front of her house.  After that, she would like to see Tilly used by the Salvation Army to drive kids around.

oocc-dragon-end

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 09 June 2015 19:53 )