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4-Speed Swap: 1968 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser

There are times when fate can be cruel. The owner of this 1968 Vista Cruiser was on the home stretch in the quest to create the wagon of his dreams. Sadly, health issues mean that he is forced to sell this classic when the end was in sight. The wagon has received plenty of mechanical upgrades, and it holds plenty of promise as fast family transport. This Oldsmobile is located in Ellenton, Florida, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $9,800, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

The Vista Cruiser is a rust-free survivor that appears to be relatively straight. The Sapphire Blue paint wears some marks and scrapes, and the owner admits that it would benefit from a repaint. However, he also points out that the vehicle could be used in its current state without any problems. He provides photos of the wagon’s underside, and it is as clean as you could ever hope to find. The floors have been undercoated, and there is not a sign of rust. The glass is in good order, and the Olds rolls on a new set of 15″ reproduction SS 1 wheels. The trim and chrome is generally in good condition. The front bumper is new, but the rear bumper has been modified and will need a trip to the platers to finish the job. It has been professionally cut and welded to accept a pair of 442 trumpets.

It’s when we start to scratch below the surface that we discover that this Vista Cruiser isn’t all that it would appear to be. The engine bay houses its numbers-matching 400ci V8. This has been beautifully detailed and has also undergone a recent tune-up. This process included fitting new plugs, plug wires, and an HEI distributor. A new alternator has been installed, while the original Rochester 4-barrel carburetor has been rebuilt. I can’t see why this engine wouldn’t still be producing the 290hp that would have been available when it left the factory. Since this photo was taken, a set of red inner fenders have been installed, along with an under-bumper dual cold air intake. It is when we start to work our way back from the engine that the real changes become apparent. The Olds would originally have been equipped with a 3-speed Turbo Hydramatic transmission. That was consigned to the pages of history. A new flywheel has been installed, along with a new clutch plate, pressure plate, and throw-out bearing. These were a necessity to accommodate the shiny new M-22 “Rock Crusher” transmission that has been installed. This is fitted with a Hurst shifter and transmits the 400’s horses to a 12-bolt 3.42 Posi rear end. The suspension has received some significant refurbishment, and proceedings are brought to a halt by cross-drilled ventilated discs. The owner doesn’t indicate how well the vehicle runs and drives, although there is a chance that he might not have experienced the pleasure of driving his creation. He states that he was tackling the project in a “money is no object” fashion, because he intended to keep the Vista. However, he has suffered a leg injury, and in a cruel twist of fate, he can no longer operate the clutch. His intention was to build the ultimate 4-speed Vista Cruiser using as many genuine GM parts as possible. I suspect that he doesn’t want to dilute this by converting the transmission back to automatic.

It isn’t just the drivetrain that has come in for attention on this wagon. The headliner is original, and while it has a tiny hole in the back, it is in good condition. The remaining interior trim and upholstery is close to perfect. The interior was stripped, and Dynamat was installed. A new full carpet set was fitted, and the seats have received new foam and covers in “442” pattern. Rallye gauges were fitted to the dash, and a console with a factory tachometer was also installed. Topping it off is a floor-shift tilt column with a 3-spoke GS Rally wheel. There are still some details to be completed, but the interior presents beautifully. The buyer will need to fit a radio or stereo of their choice. They will need to connect the tach and complete the installation of the supplied power window system. The wagon also features air conditioning, which should make for some comfortable touring with the family on board.

Selling a project car due to health issues is an emotional experience. The owner of this Vista Cruiser has poured a lot of money into this vehicle, and the way circumstances have conspired against him when it was so close to completion seems unfair. It appears that this is a project that has been approached with a lot of attention to detail, and that is something that potential buyers should find to be reassuring. He could easily have swapped an automatic transmission back into the wagon, but that would have undermined what he was trying to achieve with this build. That means that someone has the potential to add the finishing touches and to hit the road in a unique family wagon. I would love to think that a caring enthusiast will see the project through to completion and take the time and effort to allow the owner to see and experience the finished product. That only seems fair and right.


  1. Avatar photo FordGuy1972 Member

    There’s a lot to like with this beautiful wagon, especially now that it sports a 4-speed. The work already done probably cost a fortune and now all it needs is a fresh paint job and a few other details to be perfect. I imagine the final bid will be pretty high but considering it’s a desirable Vista Cruiser with a 4-speed, I’d say the bidding should be pretty spirited at auctions end.

    Like 9
  2. Avatar photo Rex Kahrs Member

    Start with the upper radiator hose!

    Like 15
    • Avatar photo Dusty Stalz

      And what’s going on with the accessory belts?

      Like 9
  3. Avatar photo Big_Fun Member

    Very neat build. Did anybody notice the power vent windows? Full windows have cranks.
    I wonder if Eric Foreman could drive a 4 speed Vista?. Of course, then Donna would be relegated to the passenger bucket. Because *no one* sits on the console! Red would find find out! And then “Playtime” would be over!
    “Hello, Wisconsin!”

    Like 18
    • Avatar photo Rob Ernst

      As cool as it is with the console and tach, it would be even cooler with a bench seat.

      Like 1
  4. Avatar photo dave

    Yeah-When I saw that cruiser the theme song popped into my head….

    Like 1
  5. Avatar photo Chevelle guy

    oh hell yes !!!!
    this thing is badass !

    Like 3
  6. Avatar photo JoeBob396

    Nicely done. I’m not a fan of station wagons, but I’d be pleased to own/drive this beauty.

    Like 2
  7. Avatar photo Rick ROthermel

    Sharp car, sounds well done.
    The best Olds Vista Cruiser restomod ever was done by the Mothers’ Polishes folks a few years ago. This one, finished, might come close.

    Like 0
  8. Avatar photo Steve Brown

    Currently bid to $16K. Great car that should sell for even more.

    Like 2
  9. Avatar photo LarryS

    Looks like a beautiful build. The perfect grocery-getter in my book.

    Like 0
  10. Avatar photo Patrick Mercadante

    No fan shroud?

    Like 0
  11. Avatar photo Bob K

    If you buy it and you like the blue at least paint over the white which makes the car busy detracting from the wood decal.
    I would be tempted to paint the car black or metallic root beer brown

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Poppy

      With a medium blue interior??

      Like 0
  12. Avatar photo Fred

    $19,600 now. Reserve not met.

    Like 0
  13. Avatar photo Craig Della Vedova

    Hi, What is the Reserve Price on the 68 Olds Wagon and do you finance?

    Like 0

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