First One Built: 1985 Oldsmobile Calais

Jeff LaveryBy Jeff Lavery

The phenomenon of the number one car off the assembly line is an interesting one. Does it add value? Sure, if it’s the right car, like a limited production Shelby or Porsche 911. But for everything else, does it matter? That’s the question in front of this 1985 Oldsmobile Calais here on eBay, that was the first one off the line and has been kept as a collector car ever since.

With right around 10,000 miles from new, this Olds Calais coupe has been treated well, with unmarked chrome, original matching wire hubcaps, mint condition paint and dent-free bodywork. The question is, was it all worth it? It’s never been titled, so someone evidently intended to squirrel this Olds away for safe-keeping.

Now, we’ll give it top billing as likely the cleanest Calais coupe left in existence. The interior is stunning, with clean bucket seats, an uncracked dash, shiny plastics and more. Most of these Calais coupes have long since rusted away, so to find one that’s barely been driven and has the honor of being the first car off the line is distinctive – but is it worth an opening bid of $10K?

The venerable “Iron Duke” four-cylinder has seen lots of duty over the years in Pontiac’s Fiero, but you rarely see one with its iconic logo still attached. Curiously, the seller has misspelled the name of the car in the listing, which may be limiting visibility to this GM oddball – which is too bad, since there’s likely a curator up in Michigan who could use this for the factory’s museum.

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Comments

  1. T Mel

    Love to see cars like this but 10 grand is hard to imagine right now from anyone for this.

    6+
    • RichS

      And just how does a never titled vehicle get 10K miles? If it was truly the collectors item it is supposed to be, it should have like 9,500 less miles.

      Meh.

      18+
      • fletcherOH

        It was part of the gm collection until their bankruptcy auction by Barrett Jackson in 2009

        2+
      • kenzo

        Thought the same thing Rich.
        Must have been a big parking lot to drive around in to blow the cobwebs out.

        0
      • kenzo

        Sale ended. No apparent takers for a high mileage non-registered Olds.

        2+
  2. Blyndgesser

    First one off they line and they couldn’t even be bothered to spring for the V6?

    14+
    • Metoo

      Yeah, the price and the fact it is a four banger makes me say no way.

      3+
  3. RichS

    For the first one off the line, it’s a pretty boring color and equipment level, even though the seller says it has nearly every option. Just proves that at the time, GM didn’t care and 32 years later…

    Neither do I.

    18+
  4. MFerrell

    I had one of these that a guy gave to me. He had hooked the battery up backward, negative to positive, and tried to start it. He said I could have it if I got it running, which I did. It was a pretty cool little car, but after the battery snafu, was always plagued with electrical gremlins. It was burgundy & silver, with metallic silver leather interior.

    2+
    • RichS

      And that’s a feat with the side terminal batteries. I don’t think GM ever came out with one with reversed terminals. But I do remember a lot of people doing hack conversions to replace them with a standard top post battery…

      2+
  5. John M.

    Only an hour left and no takers.

    0
  6. John M.

    Only an hour left for the auction and no takers as of yet.

    0
  7. Daniel

    If wikipedia is to be believed – which may be right, given that the VIN and description are correct – this was (or perhaps still is) owned by the RE Olds Museum as part of the GM Heritage Collection. So it is in fact being SOLD right now by a curator, and likely won’t get bought by one.

    4+
    • fletcherOH

      A lot of the GM heritage collection was auctioned in 2009 by barret jackson, this was one of those cars.

      2+
      • Metoo

        Bet the buyer has remorse right now.

        1+
    • LAB3

      That was my first thought, if it wasn’t already at that museum it may belong there.

      0
  8. Anthony R from RI

    I was looking to buy my first new car when these came out. We had a 78 Accord and had previously owned a 70 Mustang and a 70 Camaro. This was going to be my wifes car and she hated how it handled. We bought a Grand Am GT with the V6. Had the Grand Am for 13 years and 125k miles until a rod bearing let go. I was really disappointed as i had taken really good care of it, oil changes every 2000 – 3000 miles. Must have been a problem with the 3.0 V6 as i later bought an 86 Olds Delta 88 with the same engine and it died at the same mileage with the same issue

    2+
  9. Sam

    Fun fair weather driver for $3,000 or $4,000…something different.

    I had a 1990 Calais Quad 4 sedan, gray over silver with a maroon interior. It was quick. The paint peeled like a bad sunburn (bad primer)…”free” full repaint.

    3+
  10. Tony P

    I had a silver ’87 Olds Calais with the Tech 4 and 5-speed. It had 211,000 miles on it in 1996 when I traded it in on a GMC Jimmy. I loved it. Fun to drive, great gas mileage, decent room, and always reliable. That said, I’m guessing this one is probably worth about $3,500.

    1+
  11. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    The low mileage is interesting, but I’d take it as a hint when the museum doesn’t want it. Quad4 was the way to go with these. I thrashed one pretty good in Boston years ago – great city car packing nearly 180 HP when most FWD cars were just over 100. Boston drivers win the “highest on/off ramp entry speed” award of the many cities I’ve visited and the (nearly new) Quad 4 Calais proved competent and entertaining. The W41s raced competitively. This one, though… meh.

    1+
  12. Andre

    If, as an infant, my parents had the foresight to keep my first turd – I wonder if it would be similarly valued?

    Apples to apples.

    6+
  13. Dave

    Lack of title seems odd. Car was part of the R.E. Olds Transportation museum collection in Lansing. Was auctioned off for $6820 in 2009. What a boring package as well.

    5+
    • Richard Callan

      The Title comes from the DMV if the car was never registered with the DMV there would be NO title. NO cars come from the factory with a title.
      These were nice cars but needed a Quad 4.

      0
  14. nessy

    I’m just curious, all this talk about it being the first one built and nobody bothers to show us the production date on the door? What month was it built? This all new body was introduced in the spring of 84 as an 85 model. I recall spy photos of the first 85 Calais and the Pontiac Grand Am in late 1983. Does it have a 1983 date on the door? It should.

    5+
    • Superdessucke

      Knowing the date on the door of this thing is right up there in importance as knowing what brand of coffee the Secretary of Agriculture drank this morning.

      2+
      • nessy

        Well maybe just to you.. Others make think different. If it’s the first 85, it’s will have an 83 date on the door as the first one was built in late 83. This will prove it’s the first one built. As I said, I was just curious as little tid bits like that interest me. I’m not about to miss sleep over it….

        1+
      • Superdessucke

        If it’s that important to you, I’d guess the little turd was built in the spring of 1984. It is a production car with a serial number. It isn’t a pre-production prototype. The only way to find out for sure would be to spend about 10% of this thing’s value on a Carfax.

        2+
  15. Joe M

    This is like having a number one Plymouth Horizon. Be lucky to break 5K.

    3+
  16. Shelli Anne

    The E-bay seller has it listed with 4wd,possibly he thinks that’s the same as front wheel drive ? If it actually was a first model with factory four wheel drive it would be worth much more than $10,000 for the oddity factor alone.

    2+
    • Superdessucke

      If this was four wheel drive I would take it mudding and render it beyond all recognition in about 3 hours.

      1+
  17. Tobie

    They were a POS then and are even a bigger POS now.

    1+
  18. Ralph Robichaud

    Racking up 10K miles, without title.. I think I want to live in that territory.

    1+
  19. newfieldscarnut

    Interesting yet boring .

    0
  20. Dan

    First one built, last one left!

    4+
  21. Rev. John

    I find the comments more entertaining than the car—by a factor 10.

    8+
  22. Pat A

    Still just a mid-80’s OldsmoPile. For 10k I can get a Camry that’s a far better car than this ever was.

    2+
    • Ralph Robichaud

      Pat A-

      And what a statement of good taste,uniqueness, flair and individuality you make in your tan or grey 4 yr old $10K and 10K miles Camry. Everyone is in awe.

      0
      • Pat

        I know the Camry is just an appliance to get from point A to point B. But it will do so safely, comfortably and reliably. If you bought a Camry and virtually any American car of the same year, the Camry would’ve far more likely to be running still.

        0
      • Ralph Robichaud

        No disagreement , Pat about the utilitarian value of the Camry, or the Corolla, and I donT sneer at folks that use them for that purpose, we all have that need, but they are hardly a good subject matter for conversation on a forum such as this. And the durability and reliability factor is not unique or exclusive to Camry.. Ford Taurus ( about as eye popping as a Camry have been most reliable, easy and economical to maintain. Ditto for Ford F-150, and the Mercury Grand Marquis. At GM , the S-10, Blazer, Sonoma also known for long life. At Chrysler, to my mind only the minivan qualifies for that distinction. My point was that readers of this forum are typically looking for the different, unique, and perhaps quirky set of wheels, and no offence intended to anyone, but please don’t spoil the broth, with a sprinkling of Camry,Corolla, Sentra, Civic,Accord. We all know how bland they are.

        0
  23. Karguy James

    What a snoozer. Imagine taking this to a car show and having to explain to everyone why it is there.

    These cars were horrible cars when new and still are. They handled badly, had lots of body roll, torque steer and were just awkward to be in. It’s a shame that they went through so much trouble to preserve an example of the crap they used to get away with selling to the public back then. You would think they would have wanted to bury it out back.

    2+
    • Poppy

      My Quad-4 5-speed Calais with FE3 suspension was a blast to drive. Sure not as balanced as a RWD car, but quick, nimble, comfortable to drive, and fuel efficient. Awesome stereo for the times too. Only complaints were buzzy engine, undersized brakes, and torque-steer. Great first car for me.

      0
  24. jtnc

    Really, the LAST Olds Calais built should be the valuable one, because it would commemorate the moment GM greatly improved the American roads by no longer dumping these pieces of junk onto them.

    1+
  25. Superdessucke

    I had forgotten how ugly these things were. It just looks bolt upright and stubby. Like a pint-sized Popemobile. They look better with wider blackout tires and some ground effects, like the later IS models or even these early ones with the FE3 suspension, but it looks ridiculous in luxury guise with skinny whitewalls.

    I would be too tempted to beat the living crap out of it. I would get some laughs zipping its small bod through traffic and squealing its tires around the corner. But it probably deserves to be preserved for posterity. I’m not sure what posterity but it is part of our history, for better or worse.

    0
  26. Jim Jimenez

    A lot of those GM cars that were sold by Barrett-Jackson in 2009 were sold on a Bill of Sale only, and not driveable on the street. Is this one of those cars? Also, the 2.5U engine is different than the 2.5R that was used in Fieros, Citations, Celebrities, 6000’s, etc, and that are not interchangeable.

    1+
  27. Ralph Robichaud

    Some folks think they are cute.. To each his own, if it makes you smile it’s great!

    1+
  28. Ralph Robichaud

    Some folks think they are cute.. To each his own, if it makes you smile it’s great!

    0
  29. Another Bob

    I had an 87, auto with the tech 4. It was a solid, dependable daily driver for me for several years, but I wouldn’t want another one.
    I sold it at about 175,000 miles and the person who bought it drove it for years after that.
    It loved to strip out wiper arms though. You learned real quick to always turn your wipers off if there was any threat at all of ice or heavy frost. The arms were a dealer item back in the early 90s at $30 a pop.

    0
  30. Keith

    Will be interesting to see what happens (or doesn’t happen) with this one. I have a sub-1,000 mile example, 2 years newer but otherwise comparably equipped, that I grabbed for a song years back. I debated taking it at the time, because what do you do with such a thing… and even today, I’m still not sure.

    0
  31. carsofchaos

    Kind of funny how everyone’s dogging this car yet it has 48 comments and the Model A has 10.

    0
  32. Billy

    Oh Barn Finds, oh Barn finds, where for art thou Barn finds?

    1+

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