Nobody was guiltier of confusing buyers with its model-naming policy than Oldsmobile — and one of the worst cases in point was the Cutlass. The name was first used on a prototype sports coupe in 1954, reappeared in the early 1960s as a sub-model of the F-85 series and thereafter rode triumphantly through three decades as a popular but confusing nameplate that appeared on a variety of different cars.
But all that lay in the future when Oldsmobile’s new ‘senior compact’ car appeared in 1961. The F-85 with its 3.5 litre engine was the cheapest Olds, but sales were slow until the F-85 Cutlass appeared. This pillared two-door sports coupe had special exterior trim, a tuned engine and interior features like bucket seats and a centre console associated with performance cars.
It was a hit, turning into a pillarless coupe in 1962 with a convertible version added. Another new offering was the turbocharged Cutlass Jetfire, but this only lasted two years. The F-85s were enlarged in 1964, though body styles remained the same. There was further evolution in 1965 with styling changes and yet more engine options, always a feature of American model life as manufacturers liked to start cheap and give customers the choice of spending more on increasingly expensive options and extras.
The Cutlass remained a best-selling F-85, with the introduction of a Supreme saloon in 1966 and a Turnpike Cruiser option in 1967. A major revamp in 1968 saw the Cutlass coupes and convertibles acquire a fastback roofline and long back end.
A high-performance Hurst/Olds Cutlass Supreme was offered, and by 1970 the Cutlass name extended to all seven body styles, though the end was nigh for the F-85 line, which ceased in 1972. But the popular Cutlass name lived on as its successor.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1961 (until 1972)
3.5 I (215 cid) V6; 3.7 I (225 cld) V6; 4.1 l (250 cid) Straight Six; 5.4 l (330 cid) V8; 6.6 l (400 cid) V8;
7.5 l (455 cid) V8
With mid-range 5.4 litre V8 – top speed of 111 mph (179 km/h); 0-60 mph (87 km/h) in 9.4 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The co-production deal with specialist customizer Hurst Performance allowed the Hurst/Olds Cutlass Supreme coupe and club coupe introduced in 1968 to use the 7.5 I Rocket V8 engine – a power plant that General Motors normally banned from their intermediate cars, restricting them to 6.6 I or smaller engines.