Custom Ciera: 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass

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Among the vehicle trends I never understood was the desire to turn hardtop vehicles into a convertible. Whether because the factory didn’t offer your car in softtop form or simply for the desire to be different, even the most logical reasons for doing so make no sense to me. Check out this 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera here on eBay sporting an aftermarket convertible conversion. 

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Here’s the money shot, the look inside a Cutlass Ciera that the factory never offered. Does it leave you awe-struck, just completely mesmerized by this iconic American coupe with its open-air design? Well, this experience was at least captivating enough for the seller to buy it off the showroom floor in 1986 and only put a careful 30,000 on the car since purchasing it. The interior appears to be in excellent condition, with the only major flaw being a dead power seat motor on the driver’s side.

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The engine bay is quite clean and reflects the car’s low mileage. The seller makes no mention of what sort of maintenance has been performed since buying it, but maintaining these ’80s GM vehicles wasn’t particularly difficult. What’s more challenging is finding a Cutlass from this era that isn’t already in the scrap heap.

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The conversion was performed by a company called Hess & Eisenhardt and the car has been garage-stored all of its life. The roof appears in good shape and doesn’t look terrible, I suppose – but I can’t even fathom what the seller spent to buy this car new. There are 17 bids and an unmet reserve, which tells me that at least two other people want to own a drop-top 80s Cutlass Ciera. Consider me surprised!

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Comments

  1. MH

    That car is cool. Would be fun to own if you could get it cheap enough. No I’ve never seen one before.

    Like 1
  2. Bill

    Cars from the Roger Smith era were, by and large, junk. Add to that somebody removing whatever structural rigidity this car had with a fixed roof, and my suspicion is that the body flex on this would be painful. Probably one reason why it has so few miles.

    • Dan

      Yeah, factory convertibles are considerably heavier than the same non-convertible model due to beefier frame/unibody components to compensate for the lack of roof structure. Even if some underbody bracing was added, I don’t think it would be as rigid as a factory drop top. Actually, I’m surprised the doors still open…

    • Derek

      Actually Bill you are DEAD WRONG! I have an 84 Hess Chevy Celebrity Conv and these custom coach cars are TEN times more rigid than a factory conv due to the beefing up of the frame. Hess & Eisenhardt was one of the best builders in this era.

  3. ydnar

    I’d drive it, even if it does look like a K-car.

    Now THIS is custom!

  4. Joe

    Did H&E do any sort of reinforcement to the body? Also do not like the appearance of the covered top when it is in the down position. Looks like a covered sack of potatoes.

  5. gord

    had one of these (actually 2, one was a buick but never got home!)
    yes they have large steel beams under each side, bit of hack job esp at the header
    i still have the glass rear window if anyone needs it
    gord in ontario canada

  6. TLouisJ

    Cool car. There is more to engineering a convertible frame than just extra reinforcing. I’ve had 2 early Camaro convertibles. They had harmonic “Shakers” (dampers) at the corners to reduce vibration/harmonics. Corvair convertibles also had those . :-) Terry J

    • Joe

      TLouisJ, I know that H&E added 20 pound weights to the front of XJS’s to reduce the harmonic shaking, not sure about this car…though frame reinforcement seems like the more important addition.

  7. Mike H. Mike H.

    If I can say only one nice thing about this one it’s that the 3.0L HO engine was actually a nice motor. I bought an ’85 Ciera from an aunt in the early 90’s; she’d had it from new and I’d had occasion to drive it from day one and it went really well for the era. The car ran out to 250k miles and I only crushed it because the lousy TH440 had puked itself and I couldn’t see replacing it. It still ran well and was surprisingly rust free.

    I have yet to own a convertible I truly liked. The (3) VW’s I’d had were at least tight and had insulated roofs, but still dreadful cars. Seems that the hair dryer option just isn’t for me.

  8. Nessy

    I remember seeing a white 84 Ciera convertible by the same coach builder around town I guess back in the late 80s. It did not have the 3.0 V6, it had that 2.5 iron duke 4 dud in it. I know because I remember the sound that engine made. My brother had an 85 loaded up Ciera Brougham coupe with every option but for whatever reason, they did not want the V6 so it had that 2.5 rough sounding 4. Nice car with leather seats and power everything but that thing was sloooow. I do remember it plowing through every snowstorm possible. That car never got stuck because it never had enough power to spin those front wheels, even in the snow I guess.

  9. Kincer Dave Member

    I had an 86 2 door with the fast back roof, white with maroon leather, great car! These aren’t what I consider a collectible car though but great car for white it was.

  10. JW454

    My mother bought one of these new. A 4 door sedan. It’s now 21 years old and runs great. It has never had an issue or major failure. It gets 30 miles to a gallon highway 26 city. These cars were designed for people who what to get from A to B very economically. They served that market very well but, very few automobile aficionados will find them interesting or desirable.
    I do like this one. Very eighties flavor.

  11. Ceezy

    Not the kind of car I would go out of my way for, but if I came across one for the right price, I’d be all over it.

  12. charlie Member

    A friend had one with the V6, widow lady who wanted a convertible, and there were not many made by any US make in ’85, same company, extra steel underneath and it sat higher than stock. It was not noticeably flexible, and handled as well as the rest of the hundreds of thousands of GM’s that used that body and engine. So there should be lots of parts available. And, as a lover of convertibles, if I didn’t have my toy already, I would be interested. But my wife only lets me have one of the two garage spaces.

  13. Brakeservo

    Apart from the movie FARGO, I”ve never seen anyone express a desire to have ANY Olds Ciera

    • Chebby

      Excellent.

  14. Marty Member

    While most of its four door brethren are long gone from the salvage yards, don’t forget to take into account how many hundreds of thousands of them were made. These were respectably decent cars that lots of people bought, used, kept. They will continue to show up in the junkyards for another couple of decades or so. Other than the convertible top items, parts for this car will never be hard to find.

  15. charlie Member

    And the station wagons, whether Chevy, Pontiac, Buick or Olds were especially well liked, just the right size, the full size were too big, and the mini van was just being introduced (1984 for Chrysler and the VW was SLOW and, many thought, very dangerous to the front seat people) so lots were sold.

  16. Jim C

    This is a pretty cool car for what it is, however I think your write-up stinks. In fact, probably one of the worst I have seen on this site. It oozes negativity and is all about your personal opinion, which nobody cares about.

    • Brakeservo

      Hey, I find his opinion interesting, not quite as interesting as my own of course . . . but . . . uh, how could one write about these GM cars without being negative??

  17. EmmyJ

    H&E actually built a lot of custom convertibles: this Ciera seems to be one of about 800. H&E was known for building limousines and did a lot of coachbuilt convertibles in addition to the aforementioned Jaguar. I believe they did do frame-strengthening work as well.

    Agree with the comments about the Ciera being slow, dull and nigh-unkillable barring impact with a fixed object.

  18. charlie Member

    Somewhat gutless, but, the engine and transmission were solid, far more solid than the Chrysler engine/transmissions of the 80’s, I had 3 Dodge Caravans, needed valve work and transmission work before the 100,000 mile mark. Mother-in-law’s Ciera rusted badly (but so did the Chryslers) but went over 160,000 with no major engine or transmission work. A lot better than the Olds Alera she replaced it with.

  19. krash

    …. the astute seller changed/skewed the plate number on the Ciera,
    as well as on the title in the photo of all the accompanying documents to protect his identity and location…

    ..too bad he didn’t do the same to the scooter in the driveway, the Caddy in the garage, and the silver sedan across the street….

  20. kman

    Every Chrysler 4 speed automatic blew up in the 80s,. Periiod!! Never a question of IF just of WHEN.

  21. charlie Member

    But keep in mind that the recent Subaru 4’s blow head gaskets at something less than 100,000 miles, a similar design defect in an otherwise 250,000 mile modern car. The 80’s and 90’s V6 Chrysler engines also had valve issues at 100,000 miles or so, had two of them fixed (along with two transmissions) but cheaper than car payments in an otherwise solid car.

  22. Paul A

    I own one with 32,000 miles but mine has the 2.5L L4. It was used as a Princess car in the Indy 500.

    • Jim S

      Paul, I’m the previous owner of your car, and purchased it out of the suburbs of Indiana before bringing it to Metro Detroit for a few years. The car still looks great! The only significant issue I was never able to fix was the troublesome driver’s power seat motor, with it’s temperamental plastic parts that degrade over time. Seems like this is a common problem with these. I hope you’ve found a solution and are enjoying occasional sunny day drives.

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