The Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser is large rear-wheel drive station wagon which was produced by Oldsmobile from 1971 to 1992. The Custom Cruiser used the same platform as the Buick, Chevrolet and Pontiac full-size wagons. It was the first full-size Oldsmobile station wagon since 1964.
GM had previously used the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser name on the Custom Cruiser 90, 96 & 98 models of 1940–1947.
First generation (1971–1976)
The first generation Custom Cruiser first appeared in 1971 based on the C platform. With a wheelbase of 127.0 in (3,226 mm) these were the first Oldsmobile station wagons ever to be built on Oldsmobile's largest chassis. The 1971-76 GM full-size bodies, at 64.3" front shoulder room and 63.4" rear shoulder room set a record for interior width that would not be matched by any car until the full-size GM rear-wheel drive models of the early to mid 1990s. The station wagon could seat up to 8 forward-facing people. The Custom Cruiser shared Oldsmobile 98's interior and exterior styling, in particular the 98's distinctive front fascia and rear quarter panels complete with fender skirts. The Custom Cruiser wagons, as did other GM full-sized wagons during these years, used a unique rear suspension with multi-leaf springs instead of the coil springs used on other full-sized Oldsmobiles, and other full-sized GM cars. The Custom Cruiser wagons also featured a new 'Clamshell' tailgate design where the rear power-operated glass slid up into the roof as the tailgate (manually or with power assist), slid into a recess under the cargo floor. The power tailgate, the first in station wagon history, ultimately supplanted the manual tailgate, which required marked effort to lift from storage. It was operated by switches on the instrument panel or a key switch on the rear quarter panel. The Clamshell system, heavy and complex, made it easier to load and unload the extremely long wagons in tight spaces. But it remained un-adopted by any other manufacturer, and would be eliminated when GM reduced the length of their wagons by about a foot in 1977, and the overriding concern became increased fuel economy.
At 5,161 lb (2,341 kg) shipping weight (5,186 lb (2,352 kg) with woodgrain), or about 5,400 lb (2,400 kg) curb weight, the three-seat 1974 Custom Cruiser wagons are easily the heaviest Oldsmobiles ever built.
Oldsmobile's 455 in³ (7.4 L) V8 engine was standard, although Pontiac's 400 cu in (6.6 L) V8 was also offered in 1975.
Second generation (1977–1990)
The second generation Custom Cruiser appeared in 1977 based upon the B platform. The second generation was smaller and lighter than the previous generation, and still able to seat up to 8 people. The electrically operated tailgate was replaced by a conventional two-way tailgate.
The new 1977 Custom Cruisers came with a standard 350 in³ (5.7 L) V8. Oldsmobile's 403 in³ (6.6 L) V8 was optional through 1979. In 1978, the 350 in³ diesel V8 became available; it would remain an option through 1985, after which it was discontinued. 1980 saw the introduction of the 307 in³ V8, becoming standard equipment. The gasoline 350 would remain as an option through 1980, but was dropped thereafter.
The Custom Cruiser was slightly restyled in 1980 with a lower front fascia. The doors and window mechanisms were also redesigned to be lighter. On the sides, the woodgrained panels no longer followed the curves of the wheel wells, but were positioned higher on the body sides to give a straighter, sleeker look; however, not all Custom Cruisers were equipped with woodgrained panels. 1980 saw the last restyling of the second generation Custom Cruisers.
Minor mechanical changes were made between 1980 and 1990. The new E4ME electronic carburetor which used GM's CCC (Computer Command Control) system was introduced in 1980 for models sold in California. In 1981, all Custom Cruisers used the E4ME with the CCC system, although Canadian emission cars continued to use the mechanical M4ME carburetor until 1986. Also new in 1981 was GM's new Turbo Hydramatic 200-4R automatic transmission with overdrive. This transmission was equipped with a lock-up torque converter and a 0.67:1 overdrive ratio. With the new transmission, the Custom Cruiser could be equipped with a numerically higher rear axle ratio for better performance, while offering improved fuel economy with the overdrive range. 1985 saw major changes to the 5.0 L (307 CID) V8 engine's cylinder head design. Introduced were new "swirl port" heads, which improved driveability and low-end torque. These new heads also featured very small intake ports, which reduced the higher RPM power and performance significantly. Along with the new heads, roller lifters replaced flat lifters. The 1989 Custom Cruiser was the last edition to have front shoulder belts mounted in the B-pillars; 1990 introduced door-mounted "passive" shoulder belts.
The second generation continued on until 1990, having become a standalone model by that point—the 88 and 98, very similar to the Custom Cruiser until after 1984, were downsized in 1985 and 1986 and became entirely different cars. In 1990, the second generation's last year, a historic event occurred—the Oldsmobile 'Rocket' V8, having been a unique Olds-designed engine around in some form or other since the 1949 model year, was dropped. From then on, Oldsmobile never again had an engine unique to the division.