The 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass was part of a watershed year for Oldsmobile: It produced more than 1 million cars, the first of six million-plus model years it would have between 1977 and 1986. Of the 1,135,909 made -- again good for third place in the industry -- 632,742 were Cutlasses.
The latter number was remarkable in a couple of ways. For one thing, Cutlass faced an internal challenge from the newly truncated full-size Oldsmobiles that were the first wave in Detroit's late-Seventies downsizing trend. (The '77 Delta 88 had the same wheelbase as the Cutlass sedans and wagons.) For another thing, external changes were minimal because a total redesign to a smaller Cutlass was in the wings for '78.The laid-back grille used on the 1976 Cutlass S was replaced by a vertical design like that used in the rest of the line, though the slots in the S grille differed from the bars shared by the higher-level models. The sloped-grille look was continued for the 4-4-2, however, which helped boost the package price to $169. There was a shakeup in the model line. The Salon's loss -- its four-door sedan -- was the Supreme Brougham's gain. As in '73, the only wagon in the Cutlass family was the Vista-Cruiser, though its familiar woodgrain appliqué became an option.
Bigger changes took place in the engine bay. The new base engine was a weight-saving 231-cid V-6 developed by Buick. It made the same 105 bhp and 185 pound-feet of torque as the Chevy inline six it replaced, and was standard in all models except the Salon and Vista-Cruiser, which came with their usual 260 and 350 V-8s, respectively.
At the other end of the spectrum, a new 185-bhp, 403-cid V-8 succeeded the 455 as the top optional engine. (Olds returned the favor of the V-6 by supplying the 403 to various Buick and Pontiac models as the use of "corporate" engines began to spread at GM.)The Turbo Hydra-matic transmission was standard in the Vista-Cruiser, Salon, and -- now -- Brougham. All others started with a three-speed manual. The five-speed stickshift was still optional with the 260 V-8. Power brakes were made standard on all Cutlass models.
At the close of the 1977 model year, Oldsmobile stood rock solid in the U.S. auto industry. Having weathered the market's tribulations of a few years earlier, it tightened its grip on third in sales with yet another record year. It had the country's best-selling car in the Cutlass, 2,153,209 of which had been built since 1973. The Cutlass Supreme coupe and its derivatives made up 1,332,883 of that total.
It was the heyday of Oldsmobile Division as it celebrated its 80th birthday. The idea that within 25 years Oldsmobile would be in the midst of an agonizing "going out of business" sale would have been laughable.
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