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8-Seater Classic: 1966 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser

Tackling a family restoration project can be a rewarding experience, regardless of whether you breathe new life into an old house or a classic car. This 1966 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser offers just such an opportunity, and the result will be a classic station wagon that the whole family can enjoy when it is complete. I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder local_sheriff for spotting this beauty for us. The Olds is located in Airway Heights, Washington, and has been listed for sale here on Craigslist. This drive-away project can be yours for $9,500.

It would be easy to dismiss the additional windows that were a part of the Vista Cruiser package as a gimmick, but they do serve a practical purpose. Children can find the inside of a larger station wagon to be quite claustrophobic, but the extra glass adds a lighter feel and greater visibility. This relieves the closed-in feeling and minimizes the chances that there will be unfortunate accidents due to motion sickness. The fact that it looks pretty cool is a bonus. All of the additional glass is present, although one piece is cracked. This could potentially be a problem, as finding NOS items is close to impossible, while I have not been able to trace any suppliers who produce reproduction pieces. It might be that the buyer will need to be patient if they are going to located secondhand parts. The Olds’ body wears a few dings and dents, but rust seems to be pretty limited. There is some in the bottoms of both front fenders, but everything else appears to be surface corrosion. One piece of trim is missing, and the bumpers might need a trip to the platers if they are to present at their best once again.

Lifting the hood reveals an engine bay occupied by a 330ci V8 that should be producing 250hp. This is backed by a 2-speed Jetaway automatic transmission, while the wagon also features power steering. This combination produces respectable performance from a vehicle that tips the scales at 3,880lbs. It should be capable of romping through the ¼ mile in about 17.6 seconds. The owner claims that the Vista has a genuine 86,000 miles showing on its odometer but doesn’t mention holding evidence to verify this. However, what he does say is that this is a wagon that is in excellent mechanical condition. It starts easily every time and is said to run and drive perfectly. It sounds like the open road might be beckoning this classic wagon.

When you look at how generally tired the exterior of the Olds looks, the interior is a pleasant surprise. It seems like it wouldn’t take a lot of time or money to have it sparkling. The carpet is showing some wear, but it remains relatively presentable. There is a small tear in the front seat on the driver’s side, but I believe this could be patched. A couple of the armrests are also showing some wear-and-tear and might need attention. None of this is terrible, and I think that forking out $350 for a high-quality carpet set would make a world of difference to the overall presentation. The rest of the upholstered surfaces are in good order, and there are no issues with the dash or the headliner. Wagons are always models of versatility, and this one adds to that with the inclusion of 3rd-row seating. On many classic wagons, these additional rows are rear-facing, which adds to the danger of motion sickness. The seat on the Vista Cruiser faces forward, which means that its occupants won’t feel isolated and alone during long journeys. Comfort and convenience features include working air conditioning, a power front seat, a rear power window, and an AM radio.

When I was younger, I tended to believe that families bought station wagons as a matter of necessity rather than choice. As I’ve grown older, I have come to realize that station wagons are one of the most versatile vehicles to have rolled off any production line, and I now mourn the death of the larger wagons. This one isn’t dead and is not even close to it. It does need some work to return it to its former glory, but none of that work would be difficult or expensive. I’ll give you a point to ponder on this one. Take a look around the market today and work out the average price of a decently built new 8-seat family vehicle. Then sit down and tally what it would cost to return this 1966 Vista Cruiser to a pristine state. Even if you locate a cheaper new car, it won’t have this wagon’s style and charisma. It also won’t have the ability to grab the admiring looks and comments that are a part-and-parcel of owning a nice Vista Cruiser. If the entire family can become involved in the restoration process, they will all have a classic that they can be rightly proud of. This is a project car that has the potential to be a winner all around, and that doesn’t sound like a bad thing to me.


  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    Here again, you can plainly see the classic Elwood Engel slab-side design paradigm.

    Of course it’s introduction was on the ’61 Lincoln, and after Engel left Ford for Chrysler, the slab-side design began at Chrysler in ’64 with the Imperial, and carried on through ’68 across all Mopar brands. The Lincolns used that concept until around 1980, and the mid-’60s Mercs used it too. Lincoln got fully 20 years out of Engel’s slab-sided concept.

    Somehow I didn’t think GM borrowed from Engel’s well-worn design, but looking at the front fender treatment of this Olds, it sure resembles the mid’60s Lincolns and Chrysler C-bodies.

    Like 3
  2. Wayne

    This is the absolute duplicate to the Vista Cruiser that I bought my first wife before we were married. It was on the used car lot at the dealership I worked at the time. It was a great car and my wife loved (AMY) the car. It was totaled while parked at the curb (on the corner) when hit by a drunk high school girl on her way to school (pushed it over a 12″ high curb sideways) 2 days before closing on our first home. We towed our pop-up camper on our honeymoon with that car. Reasonable power, reasonable handling, reasonable fuel economy and a very comfortable car to drive. This listing brings back very good memories.

    Like 6
  3. David G

    The roof was raised by necessity. The third seat sits higher than the other two, due to it being on top of the rear axle. That location enables the third seat to face forward. Standard height wagons have their optional third seat facing rearward, or dual inward facing seats on Ford/Mercury wagons. They place their third seats behind the rear axle.

    Like 6
  4. Brad

    Looks like weed drying in the background in some of the pictures.

    You’d still get arrested here in Tx, sadly…

    Like 1
  5. Car Nut Tacoma

    Sweet looking car. I’ve always been interested in the 1964-67 Olds Vista Cruiser. Assuming everything is solid and everything works like they should, it shouldn’t be a difficult restoration. Given its current condition, I’d be willing to pay around $5,000 for the car. You’d still have enough money for parts, inspection, tests, etc.

    Like 1
  6. Maestro1 Member

    Yes, Car Nut, that’s the number for it, and I know where the glass parts are, so that’s not an issue. Wonderful cars, this one nicely equipped. What’s not to like?

    Like 1
  7. GT

    Spokane area Craigslist also has a 1996 BREW listed for $5000. That part of Washington looks like Station Wagon territory.

  8. John Oliveri

    Clark Griswald traded his in for the family Truckster, should’ve kept the Olds,

    Like 1
  9. Alexander Cochrane

    If the glass is the same as the sport wagon then I have a spare set.

    • Jim

      Should be the same. How much for the glass?

  10. Timothy Youngberg

    Great bug out vehicle with plenty of room in the back for an arsenal.

  11. Don

    that “70’s tv show is calling.. lol

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