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Driving Project: 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S

Some enthusiasts will hesitate when confronted with the notion of completing another person’s unfinished project build. That is understandable because doing so represents venturing into the unknown. However, this 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S shows promise. Most of its rust issues have been addressed; it features a more modern mechanical package, and it runs and drives. It represents a relatively affordable proposition, with much of the remaining work within the scope of a competent person with a DIY approach. The Cutlass is listed here on Craigslist in Cambridge, Minnesota. You could drive it home by handing the seller $9,950.

Oldsmobile introduced its Third Generation Cutlass in 1968, with the car remaining in showrooms until 1972. This 1969 Cutlass S is an unfinished project, with its Burgundy Mist paint looking tired and weather-beaten. The seller doesn’t mention it, but my instincts tell me the original owner may have ordered this classic with a vinyl top. It has the usual rust issues in the lower rear quarter panels and small areas in the roof, but tackling these would be straightforward. More challenging will be the rust developing in the cowl top. Unless the new owner feels confident, handing this aspect of the project to a professional could be wise. This can be a complex undertaking, and substandard work could come back to bite the new owner in the future. That is the extent of the problems because the Olds features new floor pans. The frame and body mounts are excellent, and the trunk pan is rock-solid. The rear bumper is damaged, but the remaining trim and glass look acceptable for a driver-grade build. The car rolls on a shiny new set of alloy wheels that add a sense of purpose to this classic.

Readers can ignore the sticker on this classic’s air cleaner because the seller confirms that the V8 occupying the engine bay is not a 350. It is a 305ci powerplant of unknown origin that sends its power to the open 12-bolt rear end via a four-speed 700R4 automatic transmission. Power and torque figures for this engine will depend on its source and whether there are any internal upgrades. These are not renowned as the most potent V8s on the planet, but squeezing extras ponies should be straightforward. While engine information is in short supply, we know much about this car’s mechanical health. The front brakes received a power disc conversion and new lines and hoses. The back brakes benefit from similar attention, with new drums, shoes, and wheel cylinders. The seller added a new fuel tank, sender, driveshaft, front and rear springs, shocks, and dual exhaust. The Olds runs and drives, allowing the new owner to enjoy all it offers while planning their restoration path.

The interior shots lack detail, but it is possible to confirm that the pad looks okay and that the White vinyl seatcovers are free from significant damage. We know a carpet set needs to go onto the shopping list, along with door trims, armrests, and a few small parts. I think the original owner may have ordered this Cutlass with air conditioning, but the engine bay components are missing. Determining what this interior needs will require an in-person inspection, but it looks serviceable in its current form.

This 1969 Olds Cutlass S represents a driving American classic project with a V8 under the hood for under $10,000. That must make it tempting for some, but do you fall into that category? The existing rust issues aren’t generally bad, although the cowl problem might deter some potential buyers. It hasn’t been on the market long, but do you think it will find a new home at the price?


  1. Robert Proulx

    The model is nice but i.m.o still a long long way to go. I’ m guessing finding a decent rear bumper will still need a tour to the plating shop and the damage underneath could be scary. Floor pan in trunk nice job. But i am terrified of the front cowl were the wipers hide. My other concern is the powertrain. How was the 3 speed shifter of the era adapted to a modern o/d trans. Is there a provision for the lock up torque convertor to operate and the engine has had all its emission system unplugged so unless it was all replaced with a non computer carb and h.e.i. distributor ( love the old style accell coil ) drivability must be spotty at best. If the next owner is very body and mechanicaly oriented d.i.y could be worth it but to just buy it and having it farmed out will cost a bundle.

    Like 3
    • Chris In Australia

      The lock up converter shouldn’t be an issue- there’s kits available, an if I remember correctly, the earlier TH 700s you could wire yourself.
      The throttle position rod/ cable is the critical one.

      Like 5
  2. Zen

    Having a Chevy engine in an Oldsmobile is sacrilege to Olds enthusiasts. The front seats look Chevy, not a big deal though. The cowl rot is it’s biggest problem, and one not easily repaired. Either a lot of intricate metal work, or a donor car is required. I don’t see that much money for this car until either the cowl rot or drivetrain is addressed. Especially since it’s a plain Cutlass and not a 442. Good that it’s a factory A/C car, though.

    Like 10
  3. Old Greybeard

    $2000 car, and I wouldn’t pay that. Why drop in a 307? Find a 455. These are only worth $25k in great original shape, should be worth more but Olds, despite being better cars, just don’t bring Malibu money. Doing all the work yourself, you’re still upside down at that price, by far.

    Like 7
  4. Cadmanls Member

    Well I have to give the owner an atta boy as they have kept in on the road. Guess they couldn’t find an Olds engine. Of course pickings are getting slim out there, just not the supply of old parts out there the way it used to be. The market shows it too, what used to go for cheap money is getting close to downright crazy. The metal work isn’t a deal killer but may cost a windshield to get at it. Glass doesn’t always cooperate.

    Like 3
  5. ClassicP

    Nice buckets out of a 76-77’ Grand Prix.

    Like 2
  6. Tom C

    I like the 1968-69 Oldsmobiles and I like the period wheels. Hard to find right now. Pulling and installing a different motor wouldn’t be a big deal as long as you have a hoist, a motor, and some friends. Having lived in Texas, a Texas car with rust bothers me. Cowl and top rust is typical for a Texas car that came from near the coast and that’s the only rust you can see. You would have to check the back window under the stainless vinyl top trim and other areas around the inside of the top. In addition, you would have to check the windshield pillars and under the front of the hood. If all those areas are OK, repairing the cowl and top might not be too bad if done by a professional. If these cars are bringing $25,000, that would give you a lot to work with if you are making it a driver. If you are going to flip it, good luck.

    Like 0

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