Oldsmobile Cutlass History (1973-1977)
Article by Mark Trotta
After the successful 1968-1972 models, GM redesigned their intermediate line of cars for 1973. Along with Buick Skylark, Chevy Malibu and Pontiac Lemans, the new Oldsmobile Cutlass became bigger, roomier, and had greater driver visibility. During it's five year run, the third-generation Cutlass became one of the best selling cars in America.
New Intermediate Platform
The new "Colonnade" A-body platform, shared with Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Buick, were built on a new, sturdier frame which allowed increased front and rear suspension travel.
As with the 1968-1972 A-bodies, two-door models rode on a 112-inch wheelbase, and four-door models on 116 inches. The restyled cars provided more rear seat room and had larger fuel tanks and bigger trunks. Other improvements included a larger 8-1/2" rear axle and wider six-inch wheel steel rims.
The Colonnade cars were slated for introduction in 1972, but due to an ongoing Autoworker's strike, their arrival was delayed until 1973.
The 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass lineup included two-door, four-door, and station wagon models (the convertible was discontinued). Above the base model were optional trim levels; the 'S', the Salon, and Cutlass Supreme. Engine choices included 350ci and 455ci V8 engines.
- Cutlass (two door and four door models)
- Cutlass "S" (two door only)
- Cutlass Supreme
- Cutlass Salon (four door only)
- Vista Cruiser station wagon
Top of the line Cutlass Supreme featured upscale interior appointments, as well as a vertical-slat grille pattern and different taillamps.
1973 Olds 4-4-2
With a heritage of being one of the first muscle cars, the 4-4-2 option continued as a handling and appearance package, and was available on Cutlass and Cutlass 'S' models. Power came from Oldsmobile's potent 455ci V8 Big-Block, offered in one of two performance levels. The base 455 produced 250 horsepower, while the optional L77 engine produced 270 horsepower. The latter engine was not available with air conditioning. 1973 would be the last year a four-speed manual transmission was offered in an Oldsmobile A-body.
1973 Hurst/Olds Cutlass
Hurst and Oldsmobile first partnered in 1968, then again in 1969 and in 1972. For 1973, the H/O package was available on the Cutlass 'S' coupe, boasting standard equipment such as Rallye suspension, upgraded transmission, and a Hurst 'Dual-Gate" shifter. Also standard was dual exhaust. Buyers had a choice of two versions of the 455ci big-block engine, producing either 250 or 270 horsepower.
Only two colors were available for the 1973 Hurst/Olds, white or black with gold trim on either. Interiors were either white or black. A total of 1,097 Hurst/Olds were produced for 1973.
1973 Overall Production
Oldsmobile set a sales record for the 1973 model year, with over 938,000 cars sold. Accounting for over 405,500 of those was the Cutlass models (including Vista Cruiser station wagons).
1974 Olds Cutlass
Minor changes included new taillight lenses and front grilles. Also new for 1974 was the introduction of five-mph rear bumpers.
1974 Hurst/Olds Cutlass
A total of 1,800 Hurst/Olds were produced for 1974. Standard equipment included a 455ci V8 with dual exhaust, upgraded transmission, Rallye suspension, and Hurst Dual-Gate shifter.
1974 Hurst/Olds Pace Car
The Hurst/Olds Cutlass was chosen as the pace car for the 1974 Indy 500. Since the track required convertibles for the parade lap cars, the top of the actual pace car was chopped, as no convertible models were produced.
Just 380 Hurst/Olds pace car replicas were produced for 1974, and were available in Cameo White or Ebony Black. Indy 500 decals were available to all H/O pace car owners.
1975 Olds Cutlass
In response to the 1973-1974 energy crisis, Oldsmobile introduced two smaller engines to help improve fuel economy. Starting in 1975, a 260ci V8 and Chevrolet-built 250ci inline six appeared on the options list. All passenger cars sold in the U.S. required catalytic converters and ran on unleaded gas.
Whereas the 1973 and 1974 Hurst/Olds models were based on the Cutlass S, the 1975 H/O was based on the Cutlass Supreme. Engine choices were two; a 350 V8 producing about 165 horsepower, or 455 V8 rated at about 190 horsepower. The 350ci engine which was mandatory for California-bound cars.
One of the more unique options was the 'Strato' front bucket seats, which could be rotated 90 degrees to ease entry and exit.
The 1975 Hurst/Olds was the first GM car offered with "Hurst/Hatch" removable T-Tops. The removable glass panels soon became optional on other models as well.
America's best-selling car in 1975 was the Oldsmobile Cutlass, with 324,610 units produced.
Corporate Engine Sharing
In the mid-seventies, GM divisions began "sharing" engines with each other. Although this was viewed negatively by some, the idea was financially valid, saving each division the cost of making different engines, often with the same displacement.
1976 Olds Cutlass
A mild restyle for 1976 featured four rectangular headlights, with the Cutlass 'S' and 4-4-2 models featuring a NASCAR-inspired sloped nose. The exterior sides became more sculpted, and the doors became larger and heavier. This would be the final year for the Olds 455 V8.
In 1976, Oldsmobile was the only marque outside of Ford and Chevrolet to break one-million units sold. The Cutlass line saw sales of 495,976 units, once again coming in as America's best selling car.
1977 Olds Cutlass
Several grilles were seen on 1977 Cutlass models; the Cutlass S sedans and coupes sported a more upright grille, whereas the 4-4-2 featured the sloped nose from the 1976 model.
Buick's 231ci V6 replaced the base model Chevy 250 inline-six. Replacing the 455 as the top engine was a 403ci V8 rated at 180 horsepower.
In the final year of the fourth-generation Cutlass, 632,742 units were built. This was the highest production model of the 1973-1977 GM Colonnade cars.
On the plus side, Oldsmobile V-8's of this era are known to last 200,000-plus miles with only routine maintenance. However, as with many GM products during this time, poor quality paint and materials promoted premature body rust. Although so many of these cars were built, they didn't have a very high survival rate.
Another issue effecting two-door models was door hinge problems. Due to the door's heavy weight, they would start to sag and wouldn't open and close properly.