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How Oldsmobile Cars Work

The Oldsmobile Twin Dual Cam Engine
1996 was the final year for Oldsmobile's Cutlass Supreme model, shown here as an SL coupe.

In a way, it's a wonder Oldsmobile sales didn't fall further, for aside from a mild '92 face-lift and annual power train shuffles, the Supreme saw no notable change through mid-decade.

At least the convertible was still around as a customer lure. Though it was always peripheral to overall sales, production climbed steadily, reaching 1515 for '91, then zooming to 4306 for '92 and 6751 for troubled '93.

Recovery 1994 saw a healthy 8638 units, but even that wasn't enough for GM accountants, so the droptop Supreme was dropped after 1995 and a final 4490 examples. Many dealers were sad to see it go; it had done much to brighten Olds showrooms during a dreary time.

An interesting new standard engine arrived for Supreme's 1991 I-Series coupe and sedan: a 3.4-liter V-6 with dual overhead camshafts and four-valve cylinder heads. Quaintly named "Twin Dual Cam," it delivered 210 bhp with five-speed manual or 200 with optional four-speed automatic. Though a much more satisfying performer than any Quad-4, it wasn't nearly as racy as its specifications implied.

The following year's restyle was a good one, announced by a tidier version of the trademark split-theme Olds grille. New "mini-quad" headlamps flanked square parking lights for a Pontiac-like "six-lamp" visage, and additional body-color components gave some Supremes a more-integrated look. Sensibly, the Quad-4 was axed for '92, and no one missed it. A car of this class with four-cylinder power, no matter how "advanced" on paper, just wasn't what the market wanted.

Also that year, the I-Series got an aircraft-type Head-Up Display (HUD): Readouts of speed and other information projected onto the windshield for easy viewing. Olds offered this as an option in the search for "a difference to sell." Like the Quad-4, though, it mainly drew blank stares.

Supreme marked time for '93, though the 3.4 V-6 was now optional for the ragtop and all models gained automatic power door locks and a front cupholder. The '94s benefited from a standard driver-side airbag and antilock brakes, but the I-Series vanished and SL trim became a package option as Olds turned to emphasizing value with a new "one-price" Special Edition coupe and sedan starting at $16,995. Internal improvements added 20 bhp to the mainstay 3.1 pushrod V-6 (still hanging on).

Besides a swan-song convertible, the '95 lineup offered just SL coupe and sedan (replacing S) in "Series I" and "Series II" trim/equipment levels. Prices again spanned a narrow $1000 range ($17,500-$18,500), with the convertible way upstream at $25,460. A more-ergonomic dash with standard dual airbags then carried Supreme through a quiet 1996, after which both car and name finally stepped aside for a better midsize Olds.

For more on defunct American cars, see: