Frame-Off Restoration: 1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser

One of the most popular cars in the ’70s was the Oldsmobile Cutlass, especially the ’70 to ’72 model years. Everyone locks up on the 442 but the Cutlass’s popularity was not limited to a specific trim or body style. Even the station wagon got in the action and that’s what we have for your review today, a roof windowed, 1972 Vista Cruiser station wagon. It is located in Winter Garden, Florida and is available here on eBay for a current bid of $6,600, reserve not yet met. Thanks to Larry D for this discovery!

This wagon is being auctioned by Past & Present Motor cars, a classic car dealership that is located in the greater Orlando area. They specialize in Chevelle SS396/454’s, GTO’s, etc. but they’ll move anything of interest that’s in sound condition. And a ’72 Vista Cruiser isn’t particularly rare, they turn up with some amount of regularity, probably more so than the flat-roofed, non-faux wood-paneled Custom Cutlass Cruiser. There are subtle differences between the two wagons but the most notable feature is the three tinted glass panels placed into the Vista Cruiser’s raised roof – always a big hit with kiddie passengers.

The seller states that this Olds recently underwent a frame-off (or is it a body off?) restoration conducted by a local restorer. All new paint, in the original hue, has been applied along with new 3M wood appliques. The fake paneling looks fine but it’s not how I recall the grain of the original. The exterior presentation is fantastic, and though it’s not stated, it appears that it has been lowered. The color-keyed Super Stock wheels are a great styling touch on any Oldsmobile.

Power is provided by what appears to be a 200 net HP, 350 CI V8 engine. The seller doesn’t state which 350 engine specifically but the VIN indicates it as identified. The seller claims that the engine is original but makes no mention of its mileage, improvements, or operating characteristics. While a three-speed manual transmission was still standard in ’72, this Vista Cruiser is equipped with the almost universally found Turbo-Hydramatic automatic transmission.

The interior is still in possession of a lot of originality including the door panels, dash pad, and seating upholstery, which is supposedly in need of minor repair. The carpet and headliner, however, have been replaced and they look great. This is a three-seat wagon with a folding third seat in the way-back and it adds to the entire Vista Cruiser experience. And speaking of the way-back, it appears that this Vista Cruiser has seen minimal cargo hauling as its interior side panels are still in great nick. The Big “X” rally steering wheel is a nice touch even if it seems out of place in a wagon.

The seller claims, “This is a very reliable muscle car that you can drive and enjoy“. I wouldn’t refer to this wagon as a muscle car, if that were the case, it would be a Vista Bruiser, but why does it have to have any association with “muscle”? There are so many great old cars that have no muscle car leanings and should be appreciated for what they are. I like this station wagon as it is and for what it is, how about you?

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  1. alphasud Member

    Ah the Vista Cruiser! What I consider the holy grail of the large American long roof. Looks a little rough around the edges to be a frame off restoration unless it was done several years ago. Good looking car though but that burl wood application has to go! Show me a car that had burl walnut applied. Way too busy. The original was a straight grain plain sawn wood. Change that over and you have yourself a proper cruiser!

    Like 23
  2. Mrvans Member

    Dealers web site asking price is $30k. Don’t think they will get any way near that with interior imperfections and incorrect wood grain.

    Like 11
    • Will Fox

      I agree. The wear on the door panels was never addressed, and while the shelf paper on the body looks nice, it’s not OEM style. Looks more like the ‘restoration’ was limited to the exterior only. Also, it’s been lowered, and unless that can be corrected it isn’t worth the price of new springs to fix. I’ve seen MUCH better originals that didn’t need a thing.

      Like 5
      • 510Again

        Can anyone say “misalignment”? Look at that hood !!

        Like 3
  3. sir_mike

    Remember my first ride in a Vista Cruiser about 1966?? I think.This is a nice example.

    Like 2
  4. Billyray

    Any hint of restoration, and some dealers immediately call it a frame off restoration. Rusty, dirty engine bay with shiny air cleaner. Not a single shot of the frame or undercarriage. Best strategy would be to examine car personally, or if unable, get a good appraiser to go for you, take lots more pics, get a ride, etc. Being from Ohio, I did that when I bought a car from a dealer in Ft. Lauderdale (who also claimed a frame off restoration) but of course that was exaggeration. Appraiser will answer loads of questions a dealer can’t help but be less than forthcomming. Not as good as seeing the car in person, but next best thing. Looks like a nice car, albeit overpriced.

    Like 7
  5. Hoss

    I LOVE longroofs !!!!! But this is one UGLY car !!!!!

    Like 4
  6. Nash Bridges

    Has a ghetto look to it.

    Like 3
    • stevie

      most definitely

  7. Bob H.

    “And a ’72 Vista Cruiser isn’t particularly rare, they turn up with some amount of regularity, probably more so than the flat-roofed, non-faux wood-paneled Custom Cruiser. There are subtle differences between the two wagons but the most notable feature is the three tinted glass panels placed into the Vista Cruiser’s raised roof – always a big hit with kiddie passengers.”

    I think that a little research will indicate a typo: Custom Cruiser should probably “Cutlass”. I agree that Cutlass wagons were generally woodgrain-trimfree. The Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser is a completely different beast, more of a GM C-body, with the famous clamshell tailgate, and rarely without its woodgrain siding.

    Like 1
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      I did the research. I saw Cutlass Cruiser but wrote “Custom Cruiser”. It happens.


      Like 2
      • Chipl

        Autocorrect strikes yet again!

  8. Car Nut Tacoma

    Awesome car. I’d buy a Vista Cruiser if I knew someone who had one. My favourite years for the Olds Vista Cruiser are 1964, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1972.

    Like 3
  9. Steve Clinton

    And to think I sold mine in the early 1990s for $500.00!

    Like 3
  10. George Louis

    They would be ashamed to even drive this in the GHETTO!!!! I do not remember a black steering wheel for this interior color, the passenger side armrest is suspect. The wood grain applique is not even close to the factory original.

    Like 1
  11. Denver724

    No way was this car restored recently with a motor compartment looking in that condition. I don’t buy it. Great car though. Love the stance.

    Like 1
  12. Poppy

    My family had three of these growing up: a ’64, ’69 and ’77. Anyone else remember thinking that they could cause the tailgate to fall off if they pulled the swing-open and drop-down tailgate latches at the same time?

  13. Chief

    Well, I don’t get it. If you are going to put time and money into a Olds project, why not a 442 or vintage Cutlass? The major rust under the hood say lots. Wonder if the sag in the front is due to worn out coil springs? I’m sure there is a buyer out there who wants to re-live his childhood vacation memories in the back end of one of these.

  14. DAVE

    I see a hood that does not fit well. If this is a restoration its kind of shabby.

    Like 1
  15. Mike

    Certainly not perfect but a very nice remembrance of a very common family car. There were several in our neighborhood growing up. Always loved the roof windows and the rear facing seat. I happen to like the burl wood appliqués, they add a bit of style and the color is also striking!

    • Poppy

      These had front facing rear seats. The middle seat back was supposedly easy to fold forward to gain access to the rear seat, but we usually just climbed over. Great memories of our ’69 VC

  16. Dave

    My mother had an orange one with a 455. It also had woodgrain on the sides and tailgate.

    Like 1
  17. Richard L Van Dyke

    Sorry that burl wood just turns me off.

    Like 1
  18. Howie Mueler

    I bet Mr Brady would like it if he was still around. $13,100 now.

  19. Joel

    Looks terrible, that burl paint is awful. Engine bay is in disarray with dirt and rust. What are these people think. I guess they’re looking for a novice that doesn’t know any better. And those door panels. Wow

    Like 1
  20. 1-MAC

    Custom Cruiser was the full size wagon with the clamshell tailgate. My father had 2 of them a 72 and 76. Had more front legroom than our 76 Fleetwood Brougham.

  21. JoeBob

    I agree with Billyray. How come no photos from under the car if a frame off resto was done? And either someone intentionally lowered it but more likely it needs springs.

  22. Clint

    Restored my azz, new paint is NOT a restoration,, idiots…

    Like 1
  23. chrlsful

    love those upper pains. Tryin to sell the car offa dat ! Need the rest to go w/it…

  24. Greg

    I am not sure about the frame off restoration the upper A frame is rusted pretty bad seems like they would have at least painted them

  25. DON

    Seller stated its a ” reliable muscle car ” A Cutlass wagon ????

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