It was Buick's turn to pick up more power in '66, as the 1966 Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser stood pat on engine offerings. For its Buick cousin, the Sportwagon, a stroked version of the 300-cubic-inch V-8 was developed and also used in the full-size LeSabre. It displaced 340 cubic inches, and made 220 horsepower with a two-barrel carburetor and a 9.0:1 compression ratio, or 260 horses with a four-barrel and 10.25:1 compression.
The bubble-top wagons were the favorites
of Olds and Buick buyers by 1966.
Though the basic bodyshell for the dome-roof wagons remained the same, a thorough reshaping of sheetmetal took place. On the Sportwagon, a pointed hood stretched out beyond the grille, imparting a sense of direction and motion. The grille design itself resembled that of the '65 full-size Buicks, with a thick chrome cross in the center backed by thinner horizontal slats. In back, wedgelike taillights now wrapped around the quarter panels just above the bumper.
The Vista-Cruiser lost the sculpted "fin" that ran the length of the fenderline in 1964-65, replacing it with a more imposing, slab-sided look. A midbody "kick-up" now began in each rear door. The hood and grille were revised, and larger vertical taillights were adopted. Overall lengths stretched to 209 inches for the Buick and 209.1 inches for the Olds.
Tires grew meatier again, to 8.25X14. For the first time, seatbelts were offered as standard equipment for all seats in 1966 as a result of new federal safety regulations. Other new safety equipment included a padded instrument-panel top, padded sun visors, and wiper arms that were brush-finished to reduce glare. Back-up lamps and an outside rearview mirror were also standard across the board.
GM's high-roof wagons continued to hold up well in Motor Trend's eyes. In a comparison of six wagons of different sizes and prices, it found the Vista-Cruiser to be "a well-thought-out station wagon." The magazine said the folding and latching process for the second-row seat was too cumbersome for one person, but once on the road, the Cruiser couldn't be faulted.
"The best handling wagon with or without a load proved to be the Olds," it said in the September '66 issue. "This was due almost entirely to an optional load compensator that didn't allow any deflection under our 720-pound test load. The car cornered with ease laden or empty."
The Vista-Cruiser and Sportwagon were, by now, the favorites of Oldsmobile and Buick station wagon buyers. Even as they outstripped their F-85 and Special brethren, a pecking order emerged among the bigger haulers: Customs sold better than base versions; three-seaters did better than two-seaters.
The trend was especially pronounced in the Vista-Cruiser line, and after producing only 5,075 of the base six-passenger model in the first three seasons, Olds dropped it for the 1967 model year.
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