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59k Original Miles: 1975 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser

When Oldsmobile introduced its Third Generation Vista Cruiser, its appearance differed significantly from its predecessors. Gone was the distinctive skylight treatment, although larger glass areas improved visibility. Buyers could also order their Wagon with a pop-up sunroof to increase the light and airy feel from inside. This 1975 Vista Cruiser was the daily driver for its original elderly owner, although he placed it in storage many years ago. It recently emerged and has been revived, but needs a new owner willing to return it to its former glory. The Olds is listed here on eBay in Chicago, Illinois. The seller set their No Reserve auction to open at $3,500 but has received no bids.

This Vista Cruiser rolled off the company’s production line finished in a subtle shade called Sage Green. The paint exhibits some fading but remains consistent across the entire Wagon. The panels are pretty straight, but there are issues worth considering when assessing its restoration potential. There are some small spots of rust in the tailgate, although simple patches should address those. Sadly, the rust isn’t confined to that area because it is visible in the lower body extremities. Interestingly, it seems mainly limited to the driver’s side, suggesting some form of exposure to the elements while the Wagon hibernated. Again, patches could be the answer to the problem, but that brings a further consideration. Addressing the faults will involve destroying the vinyl faux woodgrain, and sourcing matching vinyl will be nearly impossible. Therefore, the buyer would need to replace or remove the lot. For the sake of cost, I would select the second option. After all, a repaint will be on the agenda, consigning the problem to a memory. The seller states the windshield is cracked, but the remaining glass and most of the trim are acceptable for a driver-grade vehicle. The Third Generation Vista Cruiser didn’t feature skylights, but the original owner of this example ticked the box for the pop-up sunroof that looks in good order.

Buyers faced two engine choices in 1975, with this Cruiser’s original owner selecting the entry-level 350ci V8 that produced 170hp in its prime. Combined with a three-speed Turbo Hydramatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes, it allowed the Wagon to cover the ¼ mile in a relatively leisurely 19.1 seconds. Brute acceleration may not have been the Vista Cruiser’s strong point, but these classics could cruise all day at freeway speeds. The seller claims this Olds has a genuine 59,000 miles on the clock, but they don’t mention verifying evidence. The Wagon spent many years in storage, but they coaxed it back to life. It runs and drives, and the transmission feels excellent. It is unclear whether it is roadworthy, but I’d err on the side of caution by treating it to a thorough inspection before venturing onto the open road.

The interior presents a mixed bag for potential buyers, but a deep clean and a slipcover on the front seat would make it serviceable in the long term without breaking the bank. The front seat has some splits, but the back seat looks like it has never seen any action. The carpet seems okay, as do the dash and pad. The best surprise is the state of the rear cargo area. The plastic has a few marks and scuffs, but it shows no evidence of the abuse common in Wagons of this type. The original owner didn’t load the interior with optional extras, but the air conditioning and AM radio should make life pleasant on any cross-country family adventures.

Station Wagons are one of the strong performers in the classic market due to their inherent versatility and lack of new offerings. However, buyers must tread carefully with some models if they wish a restoration project to remain financially viable, at least in the short term. That must be a consideration with this 1975 Vista Cruiser because even a pristine example will struggle to break the $20,000 barrier. That doesn’t mean we should throw it in the “too hard” basket, but it will take the right new owner to recapture its former glory. If tackling the rust and paint issues is beyond your abilities, it would still make sense if you are willing and able to perform the dismantling and reassembly tasks yourself. That would slice a fair slab off the restoration costs and would undoubtedly help its cause. Are you willing to take that approach? Its lack of buyer interest suggests that someone could score this Wagon with a single bid, and if that proves the case, it could be a restoration worth a closer look.

Comments

  1. Avatar photo Allen L

    Without the distinctive skylights of the prior generation Vista Cruisers, this one should have been called Vista Adjacent Cruiser.
    (Shout out to Seinfeld fans.)
    Another Colonnade era let down.

    Like 9
  2. Avatar photo local_sheriff

    I’d believe one of the many 3M Di-Noc wood grain vinyls could be utilized to replicate any distorted vinyl panels. Now while this gen Vista will never reach the popularity of its predecessor I still think this is a good design – maybe it would’ve made an even more appropriate cameo in That 70s Show…?

    Like 4
  3. Avatar photo Conrad A

    I have a 74 Supreme coupe in that same shade of green. It has 33,000 actual miles on it, and despite spending its life in NW New Jersey from new till I bought it in 2017, it’s wearing its original paint and vinyl top, and it’s completely unrusted. I was told that the elderly couple who bought it new refused to drive it in the rain or snow, and like most other people who have heard that story a thousand times when an older car comes up for sale, I was, shall we say, “skeptical”. But I was intrigued enough to drive 3 hours from where I was living at the time in Long Island NY, with a buddy who’s an old car aficionado, to see for myself and make my own determination. We went over that car with a fine tooth comb, and afterwards we both concluded that the story was probably true. There’s no way it would have been in that condition if it had been through any NJ winters. It looked, overall, like it had done a lot of garage time, which made sense since it was supposedly used as a second car from day one.

    I actually hemmed and hawed a bit before
    agreeing to buy the car, only because it was a low option car, and deep down I’d been hoping to find something fancier. But I wanted a 74 for sentimental reasons, and I had a gut feeling that if I let this one pass me by, it’d be a long time before I’d see another 74 for sale in this condition, and also one that was close enough to be able to see in person. Sure enough, almost 5 years to the day I bought the car and had it transported back to Long Island, I haven’t come across another 74 Cutlass like it in that condition – anywhere.

    I would put this Vista Cruiser in the same situation. Yes, the amount of body rot is a little scary, especially on the driver’s side rear quarter, where these wagons all rusted out if they spent back to back winters in the salt. But overall, the whole car doesn’t seem to be unsalvageable. The body may be rusted, but it looks straight and accident free. Even the interior, while not perfect, isn’t as bad as some I’ve seen. For someone who wants this vintage of Vista Cruiser for sentimental reasons, and is within reasonable driving distance of this one, it’d likely be worth a trip to see it in person to determine if it’s salvageable, physically and financially. Is it perfect? No. But how many of these are left? Precious few, I’d wager. And once again, my gut tells me that once this one sells, it’ll be a long time before another comes up for sale, if ever.

    If I was within driving distance of this one, and had some money to play with, I would at the very least go to check it out in person. Because I have a soft spot for this vintage of Vista Cruiser, if this one turned out to be salvageable, and I could get it for $3500, I’d probably go for it, strictly as a labor of love.

    Wish I had lotto money…

    Like 8
  4. Avatar photo Gransedan

    An attractive surviving example of a once plentiful model. The “Vista Vent” pop up sunroof was standard equipment on the Vista Cruiser, optional on the Cutlass Cruiser.

    Like 4
  5. Avatar photo Larry

    If it truly has only 59,000 miles on it, they were some of the hardest miles known to man. There is nothing about the condition that supports an average of 100 miles per month, regardless of how long it was in storage.

    Like 3
  6. Avatar photo Car Nut Tacoma

    Beautiful looking car. Given its condition, I’d be willing to pay $3500.

    Like 1
  7. Avatar photo Kenn

    It could have been driven 30,000 miles a year for two years and then parked. I average 50,000 miles/yr as a traveling salesman, putting in a quarter million pampered miles every 5-6 years.

    Like 0

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