Today’s Rare Ride hails from the the much overused Cutlass nameplate at Oldsmobile. Just in this series we’ve had the Cutlass Calais and a Cutlass Salon, and today we head to the end of the Cutlass era, with a Ciera.
We featured two very different takes on A-body previously in this series: The exceedingly rare all-wheel drive Pontiac 6000 STE, and an aftermarket Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport cabriolet. While that sporty Pontiac was an A-body exception when new, the Ciera was always a bread and butter model.
Cutlass Ciera debuted in 1982, as part of the fleet of new A-body offerings across General Motors’ brands (except Cadillac). Most similar to its Buick Century brother, the Ciera was available as a sedan and coupe from debut, and a wagon called Cutlass Cruiser bowed in 1984. The coupe made it only to 1991.
There were a wide variety of engines available on the Ciera, which ranged from a 2.2-liter inline-four through the common and crap 2.5-liter Iron Duke, and on to a range-topping Buick 3.8-liter. There was also a seldom-selected 4.3-liter diesel V6. Transmissions were automatic for the vast majority of Cutlass Calais examples, and of three- or four-speed persuasion. A four-speed manual transmission was offered only in 1984.
As the Ciera models were replacements for the rear-drive G-body Cutlass, Oldsmobile tried to please quite a few different customer types. This was the time when the brand simultaneously attempted to cater to the rear-drive traditionalist, the Euro-buying yuppie American, and elderly customers as well. To that end there were too many trims trying to transform the Ciera’s personality: Holiday Coupe, Brougham, ES, LS, GT, XC, S, SL, and International Series.
Some of these trims were deceased by the time the refreshed Cutlass Calais arrived for 1989. More rounded shapes appeared, there was new trim at the sides, and no more hood ornament. At that point the aged 3.8 V6 was replaced by the 3300 V6. Of the remaining trims, International Series and XC went away after 1990. More trim consolidation happened in 1992 as the coupe was discontinued, and left only S or SL Cieras in showrooms. This was consolidated further in 1994, when only the S remained. Getting with the times, the Iron Duke was dropped after 1992, and 1994 saw a driver’s airbag, ABS, power locks, and rear window defogger as standard equipment.
Though still a solid seller, things were winding down for Ciera by the mid-Nineties: The very old design from 1982 was bested by competitors. In its final year for 1996, Cutlass badging was removed, and all examples became Ciera SL. Oldsmobile was still attempting to rebrand itself, this time stepping away from the elderly customer it had courted for so long. In the Nineties, the Rocket brand was even more desperate to transform than in the Eighties. In 1997 the Ciera SL was replaced by the N-body Malibu, lightly badge swapped into the Oldsmobile Cutlass. That version was a stopgap until the Alero was ready, and the final Cutlass was only offered through 1999.
Today’s Rare Ride is a basic 3.3-liter example from 1993. In white over red it goes without power windows or tachometer, but does have headlamps and air conditioning. Yours for $6,885 in Iowa. As personal anecdote moment, I’ve driven one just like this (in light blue). It was one of the most boring drives of my entire life.