Iconic Cruiser: 1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

I bet a few of you rode in one of these cars as a kid, or maybe you drove around your family around in one? This is a 1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser and it’s arguably one of the most iconic station wagons ever made. Thanks to Pat L. for this submission! This car is listed on Hemmings with an asking price of $2,999 and it’s located in Ontario, California. That’s a great looking car for less than $3,000!

Ok, back to reality. In the first photo the car was just pressure-washed and in one of the photos there’s a person spraying the car as they’re taking photos. Strange. This car will need a lot of work inside and out, and most likely mechanically, but there is no mention of anything mechanically on this car at all other than the engine size. The seller says that there is no visible rust on this car which is always a welcome and rare thing to hear. I think there’s a bit of rust at the bottom of the RF fender, but I could be mistaken. And, unfortunately, there are also no engine photos. This seller has posted 47 photos, with 17 of them being detail photos with about half of those being blurry, totally indiscernible images, and yet there is not one engine photo. But, I digress..

This car really does look good, and those wheels are pretty desirable. I’m wondering if this car had the woodgrain on the bottom like most Vista Cruisers did and someone took it off and painted it years ago? Maybe that’s why that blue is a bit darker because it hasn’t faded as much as the paint above the trim line has? Or, maybe it wasn’t a perfect color match, or maybe they wanted it to be a little darker? Nobody knows and it doesn’t matter, I was just curious. I like the two-tone blue even though it’s usually a more contrasting pair of shades. Some photos show it like it’s faded more evenly so maybe it’s just fading from the top down, being a California car.

The interior will need some work. I can imagine that mice have been living and eating and doing other things in this car for years. It looks like the interior is somewhat solid but a lot of the fabrics and related soft goods may need to be replaced. This is a second-generation Vista Cruiser which is arguably the most iconic generation of these cars with the famous Vista Roof. That isn’t to say that the first-generation cars, which also had the Vista Roof, aren’t maybe even more rare and desirable, just that the 1968-1972 cars may be the generation that people think of when they hear “Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser”. The third-generation of Vista Cruisers, starting in 1973, didn’t have the famous Vista Roof which gives these cars it’s distinctive look. This VC has an Olds Rocket 350 V8 with 180 hp and it would have looked similar to this at one time in its life. Do you have any memories of riding in an Olds Vista Cruiser?

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Comments

  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    I like it, and to be honest even if I painted it I think I’d leave the two tone pattern intact–it’s different!

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  2. Rabbit

    I had a ’70 as a winter beater back in the 80’s. With it’s 455, it’d pass anything but a gas station. The torque could (and often did) blow both rear wheel covers off from a standing start. Looks like the steelies & covers were replaced by a set of Buick wheels.. This one does look like it once had wood. That, or someone did the lowers out of rattle cans. Also looks like it has a conventional horn pad. Mine was in the rim of the wheel, so I couldn’t wrap it like that. Could be a neat project…. if you have a 30′ garage.

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  3. JamestownMike

    The seller couldn’t even wait until they finished washing and drying the car before taking pics??…….REALLY? You can’t tell what most of the close up pics blurry pics are! Also, “no visible rust”…….ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? What about the RUST hole in the lower fender pocket that YOU pictured??
    UNREAL!

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    • jeff

      Well, I give them credit for washing it at least. How many cars have you seen with an inch of dust where the photographer couldn’t even be bothered to remove the stack of boxes from the hood?

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      • JamestownMike

        Lol, I think some people add value for that inch of dust! I agree but at least wait 10 minutes for it to dry!

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  4. JamestownMike

    Wonder if the two black marks on the underside of the gas tank are rust holes or something else?

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  5. JamestownMike

    The same seller has a 1972 Ford Ranchero for sale for $2,999 too!
    Check out this listing on Hemmings https://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/dealer/ford/ranchero/1859094.html

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  6. Poppy

    Good thing he included all those blurry photos of the plastic wheel well liners. I was going to pass on the car until I saw how clean those plastic liners were.

    We had a ’64, ’69 and ’77 VCs growing up. The ’69 was most memorable with the same HC 400 4bbl they used in the automatic 442s that year. Lots of vacations in that with the back seats folded down and all us kids unbelted, lying there in the back on sleeping bags staring out the vista roof. Dad couldn’t get it to stop pinging on the new unleaded gas once they stopped selling leaded so he traded it in before I had a chance to ever drive it. Too bad nobody told him to retard the timing a bit.

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  7. milotus

    “no visible rust”? – what’s that on the front bumper,
    Brown primer?

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    • Poppy

      It’s “patina” not rust 😉

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    • Jay M

      Haha, yes and more of it on the floor in one pic.
      Still, a reasonably solid and straight car for those of us that love old wagons.

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  8. Skip

    I’ve always loved the VistaCruisers. The first one I ever saw up close was in 1968 at Metropolitan Ambulance in Amarillo. Theirs was a ’64. The V.C.s made excellent ambulances because most of them came with the split rear seat, which gave ambulance operators a jump seat for the attendant with the main rear seat folded down for the cot to roll in. In 1974 I bought a ’65 VistaCruiser for our standby ambulance service in Lubbock from the funeral home in Muleshoe, TX. It had been factory built as an ambulance, with the main rear seat removed with a platform built for the cot to roll in on. The original jump seat was left in place. With the main rear seat gone there was plenty of room for storage. We got it for a steal @ $200 because the tranny was bad. It cost $140 to repair. And all the emergency equipment had been removed and transferred to their replacement ambulance. However, we had just retired our 1962 International TravelAll ambulance, so all the equipment from it went on and in the VistaCruiser. In our 22 years of operation, the Vista Cruiser was one of my favorites, as it was a fast running wagon. When we installed the warning lights, siren and two way radio, we took it to the Sears in Lubbock and had twin Die Hard batteries installed. It already had a high output alternator, but with twin Die Hards, that handled the load of the large mechanical siren which drew about 75 amps to run along with the multiple warning lights. The twin batteries worked like a charm. We could light up the rig and roll over the big siren and nothing would dim. I had seen other ambulances at the time that were outfitted similarly that when the big siren was rolled over the headlights would dim and the warning lights would stop. We got a lot of good use out that wagon and I still miss it to this day.

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  9. Bruce Fischer

    I still like mine and it fits in my shop with no problems and its a flat top Cutlass so no windows to leak. Bruce.

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    • Ck

      Hmm didnt realize that there was another cutlass wagon thought they were all Vista cruisers.WHERE HAVE I BEEN!!!!Once again I have learned somthin from barn finds.Nice ride Bruce I like it.

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  10. Jubjub

    ’72 Vista Bruiser: Official vehicle of the Vibrolas.

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  11. Chebby

    That black one is sweet! The overhead view makes me wonder how much luggage you could actually put in the rack without cracking the windows.

    I definitely see some visible rust on the RF fender and around the sunroof, but this one appears to be a pretty solid example for a reasonable ask.

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  12. Rustytech

    Not exactly “rust free”, but you would never find one with minimal rust like this anywhere near PA. If your into 70’s wagon projects you couldn’t do much better than this. Never had one myself, but friends had one, their kids loved to lay in the back and watch the trees go by overhead.

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  13. Jim

    We owned one of these, can’t remember the exact year( 69 or 70) . The attraction was 400 cubic inches.

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  14. ccrvtt

    Our family had a white 1965 with a premium black interior, then a 1969 in the dark gold like ‘That ’70’s Show’, and finally a 1971 in puke green. The latter two had woodgrain as did the preponderance of VCs post-1968. Other Lansing-area families had these so there was no shortage of them. We always felt a proprietary pride in Oldsmobile Vista Cruisers as opposed to the Buick Sport Wagons. Great find.

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  15. Bill McCoskey

    Ever wonder why GM came out with the Vista Cruiser roof line? It’s an interesting, if short story:

    One of my customers had a 66 Toronado & a Ferrari 275 long nose. He worked as a designer for GM in the 1960s, and was the primary designer for the Toronado. This is what he had to say about the Vista Cruiser:

    The Cutlass wagons got a new rear suspension that same year, and they had to raise the cargo floor up a couple inches or have 2 small bumps protruding into the cargo floor. Those bumps would have made hauling a 4×8 sheet of plywood or drywall difficult. But in raising the cargo floor, it made a huge loss of cargo height.

    So the designers raised the roof line. At first no windows were planned, but people said it looked like a truck. So they installed the 3 windows, and called it the Vista Cruiser!

    As he said – It only looked like it had more cargo or head room!

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    • Skip

      Bill McCoskey: Not sure why they came out with the Vista Cruiser roof, but I’m glad they did. They also did the same thing to the Buick Sport Wagons, too. Since I talked about the ’65 V.C. ambulance I had in my original comments, I neglected to mention a “VistaCruiser” van ambulance we had back in the ’80s. It was built by the Tram Corp. in Tulsa, OK, and was called the Tram Titan. Ours was a ’72 Chevy Type II van and it had the Vista Cruiser roof. And it also had a small sink with running water, which I had never seen in an ambulance before. I know of only two that were built; and both of them went to Metropolitan Ambulance in Amarillo. We bought ours c.1981 when Metropolitan retired it. The other was totally destroyed in a massive collision on I27 near Pampa, TX, where it was stationed. I lost a good friend, Kenny Smart, who had been with Metropolitan for many years. I still have an older ambulance that was built by the Tram Corp., a ’74 GMC Van Dura ambulance conversion. It is unusual because the Van Dura was a smaller-chassis van. It had served a small town NW of Oklahoma City. We bought it from an ambulance dealer here in TX in ’02.

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    • Tom Driscoll

      Never heard that story and seriously question its validity? I’ve owned 2 of these, and there most certainly are wheel well bump-outs on both sides (gas tank on the left, spare tire on the right)…I don’t believe there was 4 ft between them, but could be wrong on that. They also made a cutlass wagon on the same frame with no vista glass/raised roof.

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  16. DENIS

    I’ve owned a number of Vista Cruisers-can’t recall ever seeing one without woodgrain except the flatroofs. Also had numerous 70-72 w/455s…never saw an earlier one with a 400 from the factory..??

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  17. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    From the plastic ziptie around the steering column, this looks to be a Copart or some other salvage auction flip.

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    • JamestownMike

      Yep, look at the sellers other cars for sale on Hemmings, they have quite a few cars DIRECTLY from Copart. They posted the 10 original Copart auction pics with windshield stock numbers and all directly to Hemmings……..talk about LAZY!

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  18. Skip

    Denis: My ’65 had a 455 engine. And it would fly!
    I noticed comments about other ’72s. The last one I saw used as an ambulance was a ’72 that belonged to a funeral home in Comanche, TX. Saw it in 1975 when I was there. Texas began eliminating low top ambulances: station wagons and coaches in the mid-80s.

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    • Norm Wrensch

      Skip,
      Old’s didn’t have a 455 in 65, it would of been a 425. I don’t think the 455 came out until 68

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      • Bill Stephens

        The only engine originally available in the first generation Vista Cruiser was the 330. This one may have had a transplant!

        I’m the “Moderator East” (one of 4 co-presidents) of the GM Skywagon Club. http://www.facebook.com/groups/GMSkywagonClub

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      • Bill Stephens

        The Vista Cruiser didn’t get the 455 until 1970. The 400 was the big engine in 1969.

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      • Tom Driscoll

        Hey Bill, nice to see you on BF !

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  19. Tom Driscoll

    The painted lower indicates rust repair to me…pretty sure all Vista’s came with wood grain?

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  20. Marty

    I had a 66 Vista Cruiser with no wood grain. It didn’t have third row seating so there was a pretty good size cargo well in the back. In the winter I would fill the well with sand bags, add nobby snow tires and could go through anything. The car was a real tank. You are right about the lousy gas mileage… 9 to 10 mpg. But gas was 35 cents a gallon so who cares?

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  21. mars2878

    I’d love to have this, but alas too many projects @ the moment & space to hoard, I mean store it for the time being.

    I know that there will be nay sayers but, here is my take.

    between the “no visible rust”, semi trashed interior, wrong rims w/ bad tires, zero drivetrain pics. this car needs a full going through. I would clean up the body, fix the rust/rot areas. repaint in blue or maybe leave it w/ the primer battle scars, undecided, depends on how it look when done. sell the buick rims & put on some color matched olds or crager s/s rims. if the driveline is shot, maybe drop 6.0L in so you can pick up extra mpg to go along w/ your spm (smiles per mile) as you cruise the town.

    or maybe some lakeside exhaust under the doors, raised white letters all around w/ some fat meat tire out back, upgraded 4 wheel disc brakes & terrorize the streets.

    either way I would have plenty of “spm”

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  22. todd blake

    I bought this wagon, so we will find out how good/bad it is soon, lol.

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    • Jason

      So what’s the word: good or bad?

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  23. Jay M

    Congratulations!
    It’s very cool.

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  24. Tom Driscoll

    Congratulations!

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  25. mars2878

    excellent,

    congrats

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