29k Mile Survivor: 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

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In the wake of higher fuel prices in the mid-1970s, car manufacturers began to “right-size” (or downsize) their products. In the case of General Motors, it began with its full-size models in 1977 and the intermediates would follow a year later. This ’78 Olds Cutlass Supreme is from the first year of the shrinking process and I always thought they did a good job (I had an ’83 and loved it). This Supreme has been in the same family since new (or almost) and has accumulated a mere 29,000 miles due to a lot of downtime. Besides tires, it may need a bit of TLC before regular use. Located in Plano, Texas, this Olds coupe is available here on craigslist for $8,500 OBO. Thanks for the cool tip, PRA4SNW!

Because of its popularity, the fourth generation of the Cutlass Supreme enjoyed a healthy run (1978-88) and would be the last of those mid-size cars to deploy rear-wheel-drive. The 1978-80 editions had a more squarish look while those built from 1981-on had an aerodynamic front end that proved helpful to Oldsmobile teams on the NASCAR circuit. The Supreme had a 231 cubic inch V6 supplied by Buick as its standard engine, while their own 260 was the first V8 on the roster. That’s the motor said to be in the seller’s car (no photo).

This ’78 Cutlass Supreme is also a Brougham, meaning it’s the most luxurious mid-size your Olds dealer could sell you. The owning family acquired the car in Houston in 1978 (was it new then?) and it was rarely driven after 1992. The only outings it would get were short hops to keep the fluids churning. Time and Mother Nature have generally been kind to the car, though the blue paint is fading and there are two small rust spots the seller mentions.

The interior looks to be in good shape after 45 years. Work on the brakes has been done and the tires are rather ancient (original rubber perhaps?). We’re told it runs and drives, but there is no adjective to say how well. With a car that’s been mostly inactive for 30 years, you’re likely to find some other things that will need attention. The seller may have considered that in the asking price.

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  1. Rick

    The 260 was the biggest pig of a motor of all time. 110 HP. Made my second car, a 76 HP Civic feel downright fast.

    Like 11
    • Marc Radde

      A 403 swap is easy, just refresh the trans, or get a built one .. 403 don’t have work hard , 3X the torque , and a lot better gasmileage ,, done everal ..

      Like 9
      • Duane

        As a Oldsmobile fan with tons of experience, I can tell you that the 260 V-8 will deliver a consistent 20mpg in a Cutlass. The Oldsmobiles I’ve owned with the 403 were all gas hogs, around 10 mpg, a good engine with lots of torque and dependable, but a gas hog all the same.

        Like 4
      • Jeff

        I had a 79 and replaced the 260 with a mildly built 350 and rebuilt trans. After a few years I blew out the rear end then sold the car.

        Like 1
      • Travis Jon Powell

        Marc, I agree 110%. Back in ’98 when I was young I picked up a low mileage but minty ’77 Electra from an old man for $500. It had a wiped cam. I knew it would respond like a 77 Trans Am done right so I just had to have it. 😂 I buffed out the paint and it shined almost like a new car. Swapped it for a mild cam from Summit, changed the rear for a 3.42 posi from a fleet Caprice along with its 200-4R trans added a shift kit. I installed headers and had dual 2-1/2″ exhaust run with quiet mufflers. My GOD… I can’t put into words how worth it that was. If you get a chance to do it, just do it! You’ll be glad you did! You’ll be sorry if you sell it. I did NOT have it long because I hit the local shakedown hangouts. That weekend a man made me a generous offer I couldn’t refuse and he followed through. We met at the diner on Sunday morning and he brought $5,000 in cash in an envelope, and we sealed the deal. The car was THAT clean, and it presented like some gonzo factory sleeper. It mopped up two bolt on LT1 f-bodies.

        Like 0
      • Mike C

        I’d take a 350 4barrel rocket engine

        Like 1
    • Tom

      I bought a ’78 new with the 260 V8. No speed demon but was dependable. First car I ever had that I put 56,000 miles on the original tires, and with only one rotation at that. I loved the car and traded it for an ’83 and traded that one for my last Cutlass, an ’88 which was only made a rear-wheel drive for a partial year. After that is when GM really killed Oldsmobile as far as I am concerned. I’ve never owned one since.

      Like 2
    • duaney

      Biggest pig of all time were the Buick v-6’s and V-8s with the lousy lubrication system. Broken cranks, knocking rods, complete junk. At least Oldsmobile’s never had this problem.

      Like 2
      • bone

        The Olds came with the Buick motors too – the 231 V6 sent many of these Metric chassis cars to an early grave – that, and the rotting rear frame rails

        Like 0
      • Jon

        I owned a ’84 Cutlass Brougham with the 231 for 29 years. Bought it at 56,000 miles and sold it at 120,000. Never had issues you describe. I showed it for 10 years and took home 19 trophies. Sold it in 2019.

        Like 0
    • Bob C.

      Those super small V8s at the time were compatible power wise to six cylinders. They were doing what they had to do to make the government happy.

      Like 0
  2. Al_Bundy Al_BundyMember

    Knew what you meant Russ (The Supreme had a 231 cubic inch V8 supplied by Buick as its standard engine). 231 V-6, edit as needed…

    Really loved this car as a kid. My uncle graduated college in ’78 and bought a brand new Cutlass. My first smell of a new car at the age of 7. Liked the single square headlight version best (78-79?). Hoped it would be mine at 16, but it kept on going. Close to 200K with little trouble from the 231. I settled for a crusty $300 1972 Comet GT that i thrashed to death in short order. Probably would have killed the Cutlass and disappointed my uncle if I got it so just as well…

    Like 7
  3. Brad460Member

    Have o mentioned lately how much I detest most of the new cars being made today? Just looking at this excellent looking mid size car makes me long for the days when you could actually buy nice cars like this.

    Nowadays everything looks either fast and furious goofed up or its an suv/cuv. Boring. Heck I’m not even that old being gen x, bit seeing this nice olds makes me said we can’t get stuff like this anymore.

    I hope someone e gets it, maintains it, and appreciates it. Sure it’s not fast but it has good looks and an actual comfortable inviting interior. Not all cramped, dour and all black like pretty much everything made anymore. Bring back color-keyed interiors!

    Like 23
  4. Ronnie Greene

    I’ve owned a 78 and an 80, both with the 260. It was a V8 with 4 cylinder power, unfortunately. They were also bad to blow intake gaskets. But, I absolutely loved both of those cars. I also bought a 1988 Monte Carlo SS, one that I really wish that I had kept. Oh well, hindsight and all that jazz.

    Like 6
    • Tim Garcia

      I also had an 80 Cutlass Supreme. 2 door. White exterior with dark blue interior. Half white vinyl top. My dad purchased it with 19,000 miles. Gave it to me when I turned 13. Also my Dad bought his sister’s 1984 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. All original. Except for the alternator and top radiator hose. Burgundy exterior with dark red interior. Half vinyl as well. Beautiful cars. The 80 Cutlass was stolen from me in Albuquerque NM while attending a Car show. Cried like a baby. Cops found it that evening in Santa Fe NM on side of road. I had a water pump leak which lead to it overheating. Luckily because if not would have never seen it again.

      Like 6
  5. J. Max

    129k miles more accurate, if no mileage documentation accompanies the car then there’s no proof. I wish that would stop.

    Like 2
    • Ralph

      Yes those front seats are good indicators of true mileage. Looks like a hard and filthy 29k here.

      Like 2
      • DGMinGA

        Guys, the only thing I see on the front seats is a little sun fading on the edge of the passenger seat. The plastic trim panels are also fading, which is very common, especially with the light blue. That dye was like vanishing ink, it seemed. I saw several in the early 80s that were already fading. This car was probably parked in carport or garage with a window. What tells me that the 29,000 miles is legitimate is the presence of the silver striping on the dash panels and particularly the steering wheel. Those silver stripes would rub off easily after a few swipes with any typical car interior or all purpose cleaner, or just from sweat and oil from your hands. My first car was a 79 Cutlass, and I currently have a 79 Cutlass Calais resto-mod, and I only use water based baby wipes to clean the dash panels. If that steering wheel had 129,000 miles on it, I assure you there would be gaps in the silver stripes, if any were left at all.

        This price is in the reasonable range for someone looking for a nostalga driver or a good resto-mod starting point. Would be more desirable with buckets and floor shifter and full gauges (available on Supreme, but standard on the Calais trim in 78-80) and without the vinyl top. Engine swap to any Olds (350, 403, 425, 455) is supposedly bolt in, but the transmission with the 260 is probably a THM200 or 250, so upgrading the trans would be needed, too.

        Like 4
      • Craig Jones

        Front seats look great to me. That’s how the Broghams seats looked… like pillows.

        Like 1
  6. Robert Levins

    They did an excellent job with the 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, at least styling wise. 1978 Old Cutlass and Chevy Malibu had the best designs in my opinion. The ‘78 Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix, not so much. But – the dashboard on the Grand Prix was the best, in my opinion. This ‘78 Cutlass is a beautiful car and probably won’t take a fortune to make it road worthy unless there’s an engine problem. Most likely not. Almost turn key, the asking price is about in the ballpark range and I wouldn’t be afraid of this one. Great article and good luck!

    Like 9
  7. Robert Wayne

    All the manufacturers want to make nowadays are big trucks and boring SUVs. GM needs to bring back Olds and Pontiac. Ford needs to bring back the Mercury line. And Chrysler needs to bring back the Plymouth line. And somebody needs to tell the morons who run the big three to start making sedans again. Not everyone wants a big truck or an SUV!!!

    Like 15
    • Cutlas Supreme ..Great Car!

      I always thought GM had to many cars exactly the same. GMC Jimmy vs. Chev Blazer etc etc
      Ford did the same for too many brands.

      I used to kid buy the GM SUV and upon purchase the dealer in past should’ve stated “sir do you want the labels on car to be appended Blazer or Jimmy? 😎

      I had a maroon 78 Cutlas V6 two door-vinyl top. It was my first non muscle car . I loved the car. I met my future wife and dated with the car . It was not as fast as my punched up 1969 Rally Z with ear shattering exhaust and cam thumping ….but made me feel good to move onto graduation of college and family.

      I drove that car for 180k and sold it. It moved from family car to my-old car but always handled great.

      Olds knocked the new design out of the park with n my book with this model.

      Like 3
  8. Dave

    Looks like 29K to me. I don’t see any “filth”, but IDK. So just turbo it and it’ll be so fast no one will notice the dirt.

    Like 3
    • Poppy

      I agree, Dave. Looks low miles to me, but I’d like some shots of the engine compartment to be positive.

      Like 0
  9. PRA4SNW

    This one caught my eye because of the condition and the asking price.
    I’m surprised it is still available.

    Like 2
  10. BMan

    Daaamn those were good days of GM body styling… my favorite was the 80 front end (I actually thought those days would last nearly forever) Anyways, I’d keep it and fi d a way to beef up that 260 V-8 and hook it up (Daytons, Vogues, Electric Moonroof and sounds)

    Like 0
  11. george mattar

    I rustproofed these new with Rusty Jones. Never a lack of work. Our salesmen got these 78s out the door the minute a car carrier rolled in. While I prefer the 73 to 77 Cutlass, bought a two year old 1976 Salon two door with Hurst Hatches, where I worked then and regret selling it ever since. We had little trouble with the 78s, mostly rattles and drivability issues. I cannot recall our techs ever replacing an engine with the 260s or 350s. In contrast to today’s garbage vehicles made by GM, these were quality. My daughter told me the other day she was going to trade in her 2019 Honda Accord for a new Chevy Traverse. I told her I would disown her. One of the biggest piles of computerized BS on the roads today. Yeah, make New Roads, Chevy’s ad campaign. A new road to the dealership to fix endless problems.

    Like 1

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