Home Car Stories One Owner 1977 OLDSMOBILE Cutlass Salon- Robert
1977 OLDSMOBILE Cutlass Salon- Robert PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Friday, 24 April 2015 10:30

1977 OLDSMOBILE Cutlass Salon- Robert


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

77 oldsmobile cutlass salon logo

The Cutlass Salon was originally created as an import BMW fighter along the same lines as the Pontiac Grand Am and Chevrolet Laguna. These intermediate cars departed from the usual domestic template of top grade sporty cars available solely in 2 door format. General Motors was trying to develop performance along a new refined avenue that departed from the primal musclecar versions of the A body cars like GTO, 4-4-2 and SS.

The 4 door performance sedan market that was created and ruled by BMW at the time inspired GM. The GM 'Euro' intermediates incorporated some of the same features such as good suspension and brakes, radial tires, and bucket seats all packaged in a 4 door car. The Cutlass Salon metal nameplate was accompanied by the 'world flags' motif as seen above. The world flags logo was also used later on the Cutlass Ciera.

77 oldsmobile cutlass salon front

The Cutlass Salon first appeared as a 1973 model on the Colonnade intermediate platform which was coded internally as the 'A body' platform. The A body was used by the Chevrolet Chevelle, Pontiac LeMans, Olds Cutlass and the Buick Century (formerly the Skylark). GM had revised the popular intermediate A body for 1973 by increasing apparent and actual size and by adding a fixed side rear window. The changes evolved partly due to the inevitable process of weight and size gain that afflicted all domestic redesigns and partly due to greater Federal intrusion into safety and emissions standards. Cars now had to run on unleaded gas and emit fewer pollutants as well as hauling around huge 5 mph bumpers. The fixed rear side windows were developed to meet anticipated stringent roll over standards.

77 oldsmobile cutlass salon driver front

The bulkier looks of the Colonnade cars may be partially explained by the status of the new influx of buyers for these cars. Customers were moving down from the full size GM cars in the late 1960s and switching to the intermediate cars which were easier to park and cheaper to buy and run. The intermediates sacrificed little in the way of interior space or smoothness and comfort when stacked up against the full size line up. Converts from the full size models could appreciate the conservative image of a large car with the price and convenience of an intermediate. Information about the tastes of the 'defectors' to the intermediate camp presumably influenced the changing image of the intermediate cars at GM.

77 oldsmobile cutlass salon pass side

There is no question that stylists had made a move towards a conservative image with the 1973 Colonnade intermediates. The 1966- 1967 'coke bottle' styled intermediates and the racy fastback styled 1968- 1972 intermediates were products of the musclecar era. Even a lowly base 6 cylinder GM intermediate from this time period looked exciting and fast. The 1968 intermediates assumed 'ponycar' dimensions combined with a fastback style that turned these family haulers into racy looking cars. Each of these 'bread and butter' models served as the basis for the musclecar offerings that have gone down as legend: the Chevelle SS, the Pontiac GTO, the Oldsmobile 4-4-2 and the Buick GS.

77 oldsmobile cutlass salon driver side

In 1977 the A body intermediate was actually as big as the newly downsized GM full size cars! Its funny to think, but the original 'A body' was a compact. The first new A body was the compact import fighter, the Chevrolet Corvair. In 1961 General Motors released an A body compact car for each of the divisions except Cadillac. Pontiac's A body was the Tempest and Buick had the Special. The Oldsmobile version of the A body was called the F-85. A jazzy optional trim level named Cutlass quickly earned the right to its own model line after the A body had grown into an intermediate sized car.

Eventually Oldsmobile dropped the F-85 designation and Cutlass became the name of the base car. The Cutlass Supreme came with a higher level of comfort items and trim and included a high compression 4 barrel version of the 'Rocket' engine. The Supreme option became a strong seller by the close of the 1960s.

The new 1973 Colonnade style was heavier and appeared broader. Of all the new Colonnade cars, the Oldsmobile Cutlass version retained the closest affinity with the former versions and hence enjoyed sky-rocketing sales. Former Buick or Pontiac intermediate buyers likely switched to the Cutlass based on Oldsmobiles proper integration of the Colonnade platform into an aesthetically pleasing form.

The Cutlass Supreme name already had made a big impact on buyers with its style and comfort combined with the excellent reputation of the Oldsmobile Rocket engines. Oldsmobile engines used high quality bearings and were subjected to careful quality control.

1977 OLDSMOBILE Cutlass Salon interior

The 1973 Cutlass Salon started with the proven Cutlass Supreme platform then added on the 'European' elements in an attempt to displace the foreign performance sedans. By 1974 the Salon reverted to American philosophy when it became available as a 2 door coupe. The 4 door 'European' concept was still being produced at Oldsmobile but sales figures made it clear that the BMW buyer wasn't lured away and the all American buyer wasn't interested in a performance 4 door.

The American buyer had also drifted away from the 2 door performance car; although a more accurate way to summarize this trend would be to say they were driven away from them by excessively expensive gasoline and insurance premiums. At this time the old musclecars from the 1960s were fading away. The names remained and the cars retained the stripes and bright colors and mags and bucket seats but the engines were choked down by low compression and smog equipment.

The GTO defected to the Ventura platform for 1974 while Chevrolet pushed the "Euro themed' Laguna in place of the SS. The Olds 4-4-2 carried on as a handling and appearance package which meant that the 4-4-2 and Salon were essentially on equal terms. The 4-4-2 still received some extras such as the sloped front nose while the Salon and other Cutlass models had the formal square front nose.

The news wasn't all bad, however. All of the Colonnade GM intermediates had revised steering geometry and suspensions that made them nicer riding and better handling cars than their sleeker predecessors. The new Colonnade cars were more durable and safer cars. Despite complaints that the new Colonnade cars were awkward looking when contrasted to the earlier intermediates these were high quality cars and sales quickly reflected this fact.

The Cutlass Supreme became the best selling intermediate sized car in USA for 1975 based on this constellation of factors. By 1976 the Cutlass was the USA's best selling car regardless of category. 1977 marked the highest production levels for the Cutlass line up. In 1977 the final vestiges of the Cutlass Salon European experiment was dropped when the 4 door sedan version was replaced by the 4 door sedan Cutlass Supreme Brougham. The Cutlass Salon was now occupying the typical American slot for a performance car with a maximum of 2 doors available.

It can be argued that the essence of the European formula was intact because the Salon was still an understated refined performance machine. The 4-4-2 was amazingly still in production and filled the old musclecar slot for the Cutlass at least visually with macho lines and striking paint and wheels. It was your choice. You could get the comfort and performance package in a visually subtle package with a Salon or you could make a heavy handed statement with a 4-4-2. In summer, 1977 Robert opted for the former approach.

77 oldsmobile cutlass salon title

The VIN 3K57R7N455961 decodes:

3= Oldsmobile division

K= Cutlass Salon

57= Coupe 2 door hardtop

R= 350-4 Barrel- 170 HP

7=1977 Model year

N= Norwood, Ohio final assembly plant

455961= Factory sequential number

Robert was living in Arlington Heights, Illinois when he bought this Cutlass Salon on July 14, 1977.

Incredibly, when Robert sold the car in 2011 to the Volo Museum it still only had 19,000 original miles. The original 350 4 barrel engine is still intact.

On May 12, 2011 the car was exported over the Blaine, Washington border to start a new life in British Columbia.

1977 OLDSMOBILE Cutlass Salon rear

1977 marked the final year of the big 'A body' lineup. The 1978 A model year restored the proportionate size hierarchy of the GM lineup via substantial downsizing of the intermediates. The new A bodies were reminiscent of the 1968 versions with nice lines and clever use of shape to disguise just how small they had become.

In 1978 the plain Cutlass model had a strong resemblance to a Nova with it's truncated hatchback bodyshape. The Cutlass Supreme model retained the classic proportions and traditional rear deck lid shape. Much of what was to come was foreshadowed in the squared off lines already present in the final incarnation of the Colonnade cars for 1977.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 12 May 2021 22:58 )