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Oldsmobile's 1973-1977 Intermediates

1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass

Styling was much modified for the 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass, beginning with the adoption of rectangular quad headlamps for all models. All two-door Cutlasses did away with the pronounced lower-body sculpting, but added a Toronado-like fenderline accent just aft of the doors.

Grilles, too, were redone, with a flat-faced wrapover design in four segments for Salons, Broughams, and Supremes. Cutlass S models got a raked-back nose with two groups of nine vertical slots and headlights set back in "sugar scoop" bezels.

The rear-facing third-row seat became an option for the 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass wagon.
The rear-facing third-row seat became an option
for the 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass wagon.

"We had a 'waterfall' grille that came up over the corner," Oldsmobile's Len Casillo said of the upper-level cars. "It was very unique. We were just getting into clinics at that time [during the design process] and a couple of people registered concerns about the grille.

"This was just before the holidays. I got a call from Howard Kehrl [division general manager from May 1972 to November 1973] to come up to Lansing right away. We drove up in the first snow­storm of the year. There were stern faces around the conference table. Olds­mobile had been doing well. I told him we were confident; it was still an Olds. He agreed. He said if we were willing to drive up there in that weather, he'd support us.

"We also changed the grille of the [Cut­lass S and] 4-4-2," Casillo continued. "The sloped-back grille changed the complexion of the car. The trapped hood didn't have to be changed and we used the same fenders. It changed the whole front profile. ... We did cardboard mockups. John Perkins was my assistant. We could build a whole front end out of cardboard in a half hour. When we laid it on the front of the car, everyone crowded around. We wanted to make the 4-4-2 look as unique as possible, and we did."

The 4-4-2 package did away with the louvered hood and racing stripes on the hood and decklid. Lower bodyside stripes were much larger, however, and included the 4-4-2 identification as a graphic element. Other parts of the $134 option were unchanged.

A third opera-window coupe, the Oldsmobile Supreme Brougham, was added in 1976. Meanwhile, the slow-selling sloped-roof base coupe was dropped and its companion sedan rechristened a Cutlass S.

Pricewise, the Brougham was slotted between the "standard" Supreme and the Salon. Its emphasis was on interior luxury. Pillowy "loose cushion" surfaces in velour and knit fabric in a choice of four colors covered the seats. The front seat was a 60/40 divided unit, and deep-pile carpeting rested on the floors. A new $550 option available for Supreme, Supreme Brougham, and Salon coupes was a "T-top" hatch roof with removable tinted-glass panels.

Cutlass Cruiser and Vista-Cruiser wagons also underwent some alteration. They continued to be available in a choice of two- or three-seat versions, but only the former was now considered a distinct model. The rear-facing third-row seat became a $133 option.

The 1975 powertrain lineup was carried over into '76, but a five-speed manual transmission was newly available with the 260-cid V-8. Top gear was an overdrive gear with a 0.80:1 ratio. Power-assisted brakes, previously standard only on station wagons, were now added to all Cutlass Salons, Supreme Broughams, and Supreme four-door sedans.

Cutlass production finally topped the half-million mark (by 129 cars) for model year 1976. Not only did the intermediate line's 36 percent increase in orders help push total Olds production to 891,499, but it made the Cutlass America's best-selling automobile, supplanting the long-triumphant full-size Chevrolets.

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