Oldsmobile production numbers escalated in the 1970s. As they had been since 1968, two- and four-door Oldsmobile models were built on wheelbases of 112 and 116 inches, respectively. Still, overall lengths increased compared to the previous models, and tread widths grew more than an inch front and rear.
All 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlasses had a 350-cid Rocket V-8 engine with four-barrel carburetor as standard power. This Olds-built powerplant delivered 180 net bhp. (At the time, Chevy, Pontiac, Olds, and Buick all offered 350-cube V-8s, each one of a different design with unique bore and stroke dimensions.)
The standard transmission was a column-mounted three-speed manual. A wide-ratio four-speed manual was available in any coupe, and a three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic automatic was available across the board. (It was required on Salons.) When Car and Driver tested a Cutlass S with dual exhausts -- good for 200 bhp -- and the automatic, the 4175-pound car went 0-60 mph in 9.7 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 17.4 seconds at 80.5 mph. For maximum trailering performance, a 455-cid V-8 with four-barrel carb and the automatic transmission were recommended. This engine put out 250 bhp.
In 1972, after several years as a stand-alone series, the once-mighty 4-4-2 was reduced to a trim and handling package. The further-toned-down '73 version started with Oldsmobile's FE2 "Rallye" suspension, which consisted of heavy-duty stabilizer bars front and rear, beefier rear upper control arms, stouter springs, and 14X7-inch wheels.
To look the part of a muscle car, there was a louvered hood, bolder segmented grille, bodyside and hood/decklid stripes, and 4-4-2 badges. The option added $121 to the tab for a base or Cutlass S coupe.
Vigorous performance wasn't completely absent, provided a customer was willing to seek out a Hurst/Olds, the latest collaboration between Oldsmobile Division and Hurst Performance, Incorporated. Based on the Cutlass S, it featured the 455 V-8 with a choice of 250 or 275 bhp (the latter thanks to a hotter camshaft).
The Hurst/Olds came only in Cameo White or Ebony Black with gold body accents at the grille and taillights, and padded vinyl topped the rear half of the roof. The 4-4-2 hood and grille were used, too. To the visual accents, the H/O added B. F. Goodrich Lifesaver Radial T/A tires in GR60314 low-profile size.
Olds's FE2 suspension and Hurst's console-mounted Dual/Gate shifter for the specially calibrated automatic transmission were standard, as were power disc brakes and swivel bucket seats. Several Hurst-designed options were available at extra cost. The package drew 1097 orders, the most to date for a Hurst/Olds.
With Oldsmobile sprinting to another production record at 939,530 cars, the Cutlass family accounted for 405,539 -- more than 43 percent of the total, the rest split among the Ninety-Eight/Delta 88, Toronado, and new Omega.
Car and Driver readers named the Cutlass Supreme America's "Best Family Sedan" for 1973. Handling earned praises, and it couldn't have hurt that despite being all new, the '73 Cutlasses were priced only about $75 more to start than their predecessors.
Then, too, it's impossible to overstate the impact of the two-door Cutlass Supreme. With the glory days of the personal-luxury coupe in their ascendancy, the "little limousine" (as Olds called it) was right for the times with its formal looks and array of comfort and convenience options. With 219,857 built, the 1973 Supreme coupe did more than twice the business of its counterpart from 1972, a model year in which 334,576 midsize Oldsmobiles of all types were manufactured. The Cutlass Supreme coupe and its derivatives would cast an even longer shadow in the coming years.
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