The Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser Is an Old-School Family Wagon

The Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser Is an Old-School Family Wagon

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this is a 1985 oldsmobile custom cruiser and it is an excellent reminder of family transportation from 35 years ago before the SUV before widespread popularity of the minivan American families drove around in this all eighteen and a half feet of it with wood paneling and a big v8 up front and today I'm going to review it I've
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borrowed this custom Cruiser from a viewer here in the San Diego area and I'm gonna start with a little history now the custom cruiser first came out in the early 1970s as Oldsmobiles big full-size family wagon this 1985 model comes from the second generation which came out in 1977 now the second gen was sold all the way through 1990 when it was redesigned became the third gen but that was only sold for a couple of years before the custom Cruiser was cancelled the demand
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for big v8 rear wheel drive station wagons was starting to dry up in favor of minivans and SUVs now the second generation custom cruiser was available with a variety of different v8 options including at one point a diesel v8 but most of the later ones including this car had a five liter v8 that makes 140 horsepower now you're probably thinking well okay but I'm sure it's a torque monster not quite it had 250 pound feet of torque which is better
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but needless to say I don't think this is exactly gonna be a sports car when I get it out on the road but we're going to find out today I'm going to take you on a tour of this car and I'm going to show you all of the quirks and features of family transportation the old way or should I say the olds way anyway then I'm going to get it out on the road and drive it and then I'm going to give it a dug score and for more of my thoughts on the custom cruiser experience click the link below to visit autotrader.com slash
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oversteer where I've also rounded up a list of the best-preserved older station wagons currently listed for sale on auto trader now I'm going to start the custom cruisers crooks and features with the discussion of its size its massive gargantuan size this vehicle is 221 inches long which makes it only slightly shorter than today's modern Super Duty and heavy duty full-size trucks not just the regular Ford f-150 but like the 250
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in the 350 or for our European friends out there a little scale this is three feet longer than a mercedes-benz c-class for just a regular old family vehicle back in the 1980s now next up still on the outside I want to move on to the wood paneling which of course is not real wood you figure this car is almost 20 feet long and then they have wood paneling along the back too so if it had been real wood they would have had to stick like 45 feet of wood on every
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custom Cruiser and that wasn't going to happen so if you open the doors and look inside you can see it's actually like a little decal that looks like wood now by modern standards this is absolutely ridiculous why would anyone care enough about one paneling that they stick in one decal on the side of the car but the customer base at the time apparently demanded it and so Oldsmobile gave them what they wanted fake wood next up something else I've always found kind of ridiculous about the custom Cruiser was its name the custom cruiser they
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basically just took two generic car words and put them together and that was what they decided to call it oh you have the oldsmobile cruiser no no it's the custom cruiser yeah what's custom about it nothing but that's what they call it can you imagine today someone coming out with a car named the custom Cruiser it's just ridiculous to even think about but back then it was kind of normal actually and speaking of old-school design elements of this car that would probably never fly today how about the wheels this car has these wire wheels today
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everybody wants alloys or steel wheels are on base model cars nobody's doing wire anymore but also mobile was at this time it was just sort of the normal thing back then I also love the roof rack on this car this big chrome roof-rack this was common on family wagons throughout the 1970s and 80s the thing I like most about this one is on today's cars if you get a roof rack it covers the entire roof on this car they didn't need to cover the entire roof it was such a gargantuan car that they could start the roof rack in the
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middle of the rear door and you could still get everything you needed up there because this car and its roof rack was just so massive and speaking of huge chrome stuff on this car let's talk bumpers in today's cars bumpers are integrated into the style of the car and they're supposed to look so cool and nice not back in 1985 they just stuck these big chrome bumpers on both ends they got the front giant chrome bumper in the rear giant chrome bumper not much attempt made to make them stylish or
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flow into the design of the car they were just there and if they were coming for you you better get out of the way but maybe my favorite old-time design element in this car is the brake lights now the federal government didn't mandate three rear brake lights until 1986 this is in 1985 an Oldsmobile decided they didn't want to comply with this regulation early so they didn't and as a result this massive giant huge vehicle has only these two small brake
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lights one at each corner but my favorite thing about the brake lights is there also the turn signals and so if you're sitting at a traffic light you have your turn signal on you will let me have one brake light illuminated to let drivers know you're stopped or slowing down in this huge entire gigantic car that was just how they did things back then but I've been a little negative about the design of this car so far so let's move on to something I really like that would be the tailgate now you look at the tailgate here and you can see
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there's a handle on one side it looks like an old-school refrigerator handle if you pull it down the tailgate swings open and then you can get your stuff inside the car pretty simple nothing really all that special there but you will also notice there is no window here that's actually because there is a back window that rolls up or down there's a little switch you can press on the center console on the front to roll the window down and if you do roll the window down like I have it you can reach inside here and then open the tailgate
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like a pickup truck tailgate and when you have it like this you can even sit on it they've installed carpeting so that you can sit on it and tailgate at a sporting event or a drive-in movie whatever you want to do so it's a dual purpose tailgate design you can either open it like that or open it like this actually a pretty smart idea that I kind of wish modern cars would incorporate but regardless of whether you swing the tailgate away or put it down like a pickup truck opening the tailgate gives you access to one of the greatest things
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about being a kid in the 1980s and that was riding in the back of mom's Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser looking at the people behind you there is a rear-facing seat back here with two seatbelts this was designed to be used obviously mostly by children a third row seat in your full-size station wagon just like SUV's and minivans have third row seats today the difference being that this one actually looks back so you can wave to people now a couple of interesting things in this third row seat one is the fact that obviously it gets a little
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claustrophobic back here well that's why the rear window can roll down so you can get a little breeze going unfortunately you as the rear passenger cannot roll down the window there's no control back here for you to roll down the window in case you're getting a little hot you have to kind of rely on the front seat occupants to do that for you could you please roll down the window another cool thing about the rear seat back here is that there is a foot well actually kind of sunken in to the floor of the cargo area now when you want using the third row you could put your cargo in this
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foot well but when you weren't using it your feet would go here obviously and that meant it was a lot more comfortable than having your feet at sort of the regular level of the cargo area which wouldn't have been very nice on long trips instead you have this foot well good and another piece of good thinking back here there is a little latch on the side of the seat that you can pull and that will release the seat back and when you do that you can fold the seat back all the way down and then it's basically flat back here not flat with the foot well unfortunately but flat enough that you can stick cargo and other items back
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your large stuff in case you want to trance for things instead of people but my very favorite thing about the rear seat in this car the third row is the fact that it contains an ashtray I love that this is a family station wagon everybody knew you'd be using it for families your kids would be riding back here but Oldsmobile just couldn't help themselves they got to stick an ashtray in here so your kids can smoke you're driving them along down the street and of course while they're sitting back here they can't exactly
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roll down the window without asking for permission from the people up front so you just have to kind of sit back here smoking away and staring at whoever comes up behind you by the way one other thing I think is interesting back here is how much space exists between the end of the rear cargo and passenger compartment and the actual end of the car on the outside at the end of the bumper to me it's insane just how much car there is before the car actually starts there's like 18 inches in there they probably could have gotten rid of
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most of that but that's one of the reasons why this thing is so gargantuan and speaking of cargo in the rear seating area another thing I'd like back here is this big panel off to the side you might be wondering what that is when you want to move around this latch you can see nothing happens when you move it that's because it's locked but if you stick in the key for the doors and twist it you can unlock it and open it up and you can see there's like a little trunk in there actually a fairly large one now when you've put whatever you want into your little rear
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trunk area you can close it turn the key pull the key out and then it is locked again so there is a hidden rather large storage compartment in the back of this car in addition to all the other cargo space you get back here now next we move on to the backseat or the second row the custom cruiser and you'll find that it's actually pretty unremarkable back here it looks like a lot of back seats and cars from this era nothing particularly special or unusual that seats three across one on each side and one in the middle maybe the most remarkable thing is the fact that there's really not all
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that much room back here this front passenger seat is moved back somewhat far but not really far I don't have all that much space for my knees it's a really poor use of space in this car if it's 221 inches long and middle row passengers are cramped which frankly I am a couple of other interesting things in the back seat vicinity one is the dome light which I absolutely love you don't have any fancy light housing here no LEDs no switches even it's just a light in a circle in the middle of the
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interior and it turns on when you open the doors it doesn't get any simpler than that now the other interesting back seat related item is the fact that you can fold down this seat as well if you open up the door on the passenger side there is a rather large button that allows you to release the back seat back you fold that down and you can see that as it folds down it also folds with this extra panel sort of behind it the theory with that panel is that if you fold down the back seat and that panel is folded and you fold down the third row then you
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have one giant flat load floor where you can stick basically anything that you could put in a pickup truck but now you can put it inside your family wagon and that way you can use your family wagon as a pickup truck if you want you can drive around by day and your carpenter job sticking giant sheets of plywood and this huge flat surface in back and then in the afternoon you can fold the seats back up and go pick up your seven children that was the thinking anyway
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maybe this is really the first luxury family pickup truck not the GMC Sierra Denali that came twenty years later and next we move up to the front of the custom cruiser where there is just oh so much to love up here I want to start with the dashboard which I love because there is no attempt at all to make it stylish no flowing lines no cool curves there's just a lot of squares and a lot of right angles you want your gauge cluster it's in a rectangle you want your climate controls there in a
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rectangle your stereo controls there in a rectangle - the whole thing is just one giant group of rectangles and squares inside larger rectangles and squares now obviously one of the reasons that this dashboard is all squares and rectangles is that altima Biel decided not to make this dashboard sort of flow into a nice center console and the reason for the is that this car has a center seat so you have a front bench seat up here and you can see three people again two on each side or one in the middle just like the second row and that means that this
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family wagon can seat eight total which makes it just as practical as a modern minivan and more practical than a lot of SUVs now next up still talking about the dashboard I want to move on to the climate vents and specifically the fact that it is insane how tiny these climate vents are you got like 14 feet of car in here you want to cool down with the air conditioning well too bad because you only have four climate vents two in the middle and one on either side and they're all incredibly incredibly small you can blast the climate control
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through these things and it's going to take forever for the air to reach those third row passengers especially with all of these windows in here it's just ridiculous how tiny they are but there is a nice little aspect to the climate vents in this car there are two hidden climate vents one is underneath the dashboard on the driver's side it sort of blows air directly at your legs or between your legs when you're driving around the old General Motors crotch cooler vent which was actually a feature they used back then interestingly this car also has a similar vent location on
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the passenger side so you did have an extra event over there to help cool things down but when it came to center vents in this car there's not many of them and they're not very big especially considering the size of the vehicle now next up underneath the climate vents one of my favorite features in this dashboard area is the clock you can see it's just one of these old-time Roli clocks like an old car odometer not digital Oldsmobile wasn't quite ready for a digital clock just yet instead this is what you get now next up below the climate vents and the clock you have
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the controls for the radio which in this car is an am/fm radio with a cassette player now one thing I like about this radio is that in a modern car if you want to change the sound from like the front focus to the rear focus you go into your infotainment screen and you dial it exactly where you want in this car it's a switch you want F you push it forward you want R you push it down you want it in the middle you leave it in the middle it was just that simple now as you were playing with your radio controls you probably wanted nice way to demonstrate the changes you
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were making to the sound just in case the radio wouldn't suffice to provide you with this demonstration oldsmobile gave you this this is the Oldsmobile complimentary tape cartridge with like 30 songs all perfectly designed to let you experience everything your Oldsmobile stereo had to offer I love that this was included when the car was sold new and I love this car still has it now next time moving on to a couple of other quirks in the front of this car one thing I love is the placement of the speeds on the
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speedometer this car uses a horizontal speedometer like a lot of cars did in this era but I just love the fact that there's like an inch between five and ten miles an hour but there's like a millimeter between 40 and 50 miles an hour of course nobody cares about the distance between 5 and 1000 am I going 6 or am I going 7 doesn't matter but you do care if you're going 40 or 50 and yet that isn't really really narrow you have to look very closely to see if you're going over the speed limit it's just terrible design but I love to look at it I still think it's great another piece
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of interesting design in this car is the steering wheel now you can see that the steering wheel contains two separate horn buttons are usually automakers put horn buttons in cars because the center pad had the airbag on it so the horn had to move somewhere else until they could figure out how to make them coexist but this car doesn't have an airbag so you're thinking well what's in the center pad then well that's the horn again so you can press the center and have the horn or you can press the little buttons on the side and have the horn you got options in this car and speaking of the steering wheel it's
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worth noting that this is one of the thinnest steering wheels I have ever steered in my entire life it is amazing considering the size of this car the size of the engine the gigantic Ness of everything just how thin and little and dainty this steering wheel is definitely a throwback mixed up but I've always loved the mirror controls in this car on the driver door panel you have a little joystick you move it around and it moves the mirror but what about the passenger side well the passenger side is in the center
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control stack in the dashboard again a little joystick and as you move it it's connected on a wire to the mirror itself and so every time you move it a little the mirror moves in exactly the same motion it was actually a pretty nifty little system before things got even better with power mirrors and finally for another interesting item up front we move on to the owner's manual you open the sound system supplement to page one and it says a word to oldsmobile owners when it comes to service remember that your old mobile dealer knows your car best and is interested in your complete
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satisfaction both during and after the warranty period well Oldsmobile stopped being a brand in like 2005 so who knows my car best now [Music] and finally we move under the hood of the Custom Cruiser and you can see the engine in this car the engine is really ridiculous first off it's huge the entire front end of the car is like six feet long all engine and like I
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mentioned it's a five liter v8 it's a big engine and like I mentioned it makes all of 140 horsepower now this isn't because this car is down on power it was common of all the cars in the era a lot of emissions regulations were coming on to the scene at the time and a lot of the engines had been developed before the emissions regulations so to make them comply they were just sort of starved for power until they worked and they fit with the regulations and that meant you got cars like this with giant v8s that made a hundred and forty
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horsepower and so those are the crooks and features of the 1985 Oldsmobile custom cruiser now it's time to get it out on the road and see how it drives all right driving the custom Cruiser this thing is so ridiculous it's just so hard to find one of these in my shape or at all but especially in Nice shape you know so many of these were used as family transport you know they had kids and dogs in the back of them and they were used as taxis the Chevy versions were and and nobody
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thought to ever preserve this car and why would you they they're not worth anything even this one in such great shape you know they're not worth really all that much but that doesn't mean it isn't cool not driving around first off it's just massive it's absolutely ridiculously huge and the steering is so light and the wheel so thin this is just the car had absolutely zero mind for driving experience other than we need to get a v8 in it we can be able to see
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date people the rest whatever happens happens so it's a massive car and it feels massive the steering the thinness of the steering wheel is just ridiculous it's absurd to drive such a massive car with what honestly and truly feels like a child's toy steering with I look back there and it is just so far by Hynde me I just drove a heavy-duty Ram which you saw video weeks ago but it was about this size and this is just a family wagon the thing is though I just
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think this is so cool because you just don't find nice ones like this and it's just a total relic this is how families got around in the days before the SUV and the minivan and the owner of this car told me when he drives it around peope older people come to him I had my first date in one of those I'll I had my first kiss at one of those you know that sort of thing this car isn't any good adjectives in terms of the driving experience it's not fast it's not sporty
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truthfully it's not as comfortable as you might think the seats are not like luxury car seats the the seating present' mean there's no headrest so you can't lean back it's not the best or anything if there is a lot of room but I will say in terms of just sheer you know everybody's got Priuses and Highlanders and C classes and this thing is just nobody's got one of these it really just doesn't feel like any sort of good car when you're actually driving it
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it's just monstrously slow I can't believe they were with it not only with the engine of five liter v8 this big but with the front end this long I mean you could stick a 16 cylinder engine in here but instead they got a hundred and forty four hours to power it's just a terrible car to drive but that almost is part of the charm that's almost like yeah is according to terrible car to drive but when you were a mom in 1985 GM didn't care and you didn't care about the driving experience couldn't you carry little Timmy and six of his friends to
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the birthday party yes well then we succeeded in our mission and so that's the 1985 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser these days if you want stylish family transportation you go out and buy a bmw x5 or Audi q7 something like that what you certainly don't do is go by a giant 1980s full-size station wagon but these cars are starting to pique the interest of collectors and it's easy to see why there is a certain charm to this car and
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they definitely don't make them like this anymore and maybe that's a good thing anyway now it's time to give this car a dug score starting with the weekend categories and styling this thing isn't beautiful but it does have a bit of charm to its appearance and it gets a four out of ten acceleration obviously it gets a 1 out of 10 handling is really really bad just horrible I debated giving it a 1 but I've reserved that for cars that really do feel dangerous this isn't quite there and it gets a 2 out of 10 fun factor is hilariously low except for the fun you get of cruising around in this relic and
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it gets a 2 out of 10 cool factor is a bit higher this would probably turn heads at a Cars and Coffee would certainly turn in my head and it gets a 5 out of 10 for a total weekend score of 14 out of 50 next up for the daily categories and features this is low on any sort of modern tech and it gets a 2 out of 10 comfort is decent but the back seats are small and frankly it's not as comfortable as you might think and it gets a 5 out of 10 quality is averaged nothing in this car is tremendously nice only ok and it gets a 5 out of 10 practicality is good with lots of seats but physical size and fuel economy hurts things a bit here and it gets a 7 out of
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10 finally value and these are insanely cheap if you can find a nice one which isn't especially easy it gets a 7 out of 10 for a total daily score of 26 out of 50 add it up and the dug score is 40 out of 100 which places it here against some other 1980s cars the custom Cruiser is an awful car to drive and it's laughable in so many ways but I love it it's definitely fun to experience family car life from 30 years ago [Music]

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