Low Mileage One Owner: 1992 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera

I can’t believe that I’m writing this. A Cutlass Ciera? Really? What happened? I admit, it’s not a typical Barn Finds car but the condition and the mileage of this very common Oldsmobile is compelling. Besides, my father, who was a member of the greatest generation, like so many of his contemporaries, owned two, and I did drive them, both, so I can relate. This extremely clean example is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan and it’s worth a closer look. You’ll find it available, here on craigslist for $4,300 or best offer. Thanks to Ikey H. for this tip!

The Cutlass Ciera was produced between 1982 and 1996 in both two and four-door sedans and a station wagon variant too. Estimates are that there were about 1.5 million units assembled over that fifteen-year run. The bland and boring, or euphemistically “conservative” styling, notwithstanding, the Ciera was a hit by any measure. While a common sight on any street, in any domestic locale for many years, they’re still rolling America’s streets today; I noted a well-worn example earlier this week.

This Ciera is being advertised as a one-owner car with only 33K miles – which means it’s probably a two-owner car if you consider the seller. To cut to the chase, there’s nothing obviously wrong with it. It’s an inconspicuous color but then it’s an inconspicuous car. The seller claims that it has been garage stored and that’s certainly easy to believe. It is not stated if it is a life-long Michigan resident, but if it is, the non-use time period definitely covered the winter season. While I usually eschew wire wheel covers, I have to admit that this Olds wears them well.

The interior matches the exterior which is pretty remarkable considering how camel-colored cloth shows dirt. There is no sign of wear, anywhere. This Ciera is equipped with those goofy three-point safety belts that attach to the door but I never found fault with them. And then again, I was never in a crash where the door came flying open either. The seller states that the A/C is “ice cold”, good to know.

The surprise for me is under the hood, most Cieras came equipped with a V6 engine, which in 1992 was a 3.3-liter unit. This Ciera is equipped with a 98 net HP, 2.5 liter, in-line, four-cylinder engine known as the “Tech 4” which also operated under the GM nom de guerre as the “Iron Duke”. The seller states that it is so clean that you “could eat off of it”. Agreed, but no thanks, I’d rather know how it runs. Well, I do know how the Tech 4 operates in general, coarse and agrarian, but I’m referring to this specific engine. The Tech 4 is a perfectly durable power plant, so with only 33k miles of motoring, it should prove to be reliable. The “Duke” is hooked up to a four-speed automatic transaxle.

The Ciera was a perfectly apt car for people who really weren’t car people, they were motorists looking for reliable, no drama, transportation at a reasonable price and the Oldsmobile brand still had some cachet in 1992. My experience is that the Ciera did nothing badly but nothing really well either. The throttle response always seemed touchy on tip-in, the car would lurch with some authority at first and then quickly flatten out, even more so with the Duke. Handling? Not great at speed and the maneuvering was tantamount to a hog with a steering wheel attached to its head. But then when you really aren’t a car person and you are looking for reliable, no drama, transportation at a reasonable price from a brand with some cachet, the Ciera was your ride. Considering this Oldsmobile’s condition and low mileage, and negotiable price, this one is a buy don’t you think?

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  1. nycbjr Member

    Nostalgia is a wonderful drug, kind of dig it lol

    Like 5
  2. rmward Member

    Needs whitewalls with those wire wheel covers. Otherwise it’s great!

    Like 4
  3. Oregon_Guy78

    In 1992 my parents bought a Ford Taurus and our close family friends bought a Ciera with the 4 cylinder like this one. My grandparents had a 1987 Ciera with the V6 that still looked new.

    The family friends Ciera did not hold up well. Exterior molding came unglued and the rear end sagged after just a few years and some family road trips. The 4 cylinder engine had a clatter.

    Being a teenager I the Taurus seemed so modern and advanced in comparison. The 87 Ciera my grandparents had held up really well, they drove it to AZ every year. It had 160k on it when they traded it in on a Buick. They never had a mechanical issue with it and Grandpa was religious about regular maintenance on all his vehicles.

    The 1987 Ciera and the 1992 seemed like two different vehicles.

    Like 5
    • Poppy

      My mom had an ’85 Ciera with a 4-cylinder that crapped out by 50K miles. Last GM car she ever owned. However, my ’92 with the V-6 was a wonderful car, as far as basic transportation goes. Kept it until 2005 and 145K miles then sold it to my BIL for his son who put another 50K+ trouble free miles on it. Finally got rid of it when a low mileage V-6 ’96 Ciera came along that was too good to pass up.

      Like 4
  4. Maestro1 Member

    It’s absolutely a buy. Oldsmobile was selling 500,000 units a year of this model without advertising, it was perfect for City owners, as Jim O’Donnell well describes, good post, and then GM was stupid enough to stop building it. The remarks also include Buick Centurys, which was the same car with more plush. This kind of car could have been manufactured forever with running in changes on the assembly line, and would have been a cash cow.
    I’m not saying they are brilliant and sophisticated cars. They are not. But as Jim points out, transport with cache.
    If I had the room I’d buy it.

    Like 6
  5. Maestro1 Member

    One more thing: If you’re unhappy with the 4 banger, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but if you are, but a 3800 V-6 in it. You’ll have a big smile……..

    Like 1
  6. 8thNote 8thNote

    My grandmother would alternate between Olds Cieras and Buick Centurys. She would buy which ever one she could get cheaper when it was time to trade in. She had arthritis in her hands and could not easily push the button to shift out of park on the contemporary Japanese cars with the console shifters. The Olds and Buick always had the column mounted shift lever.

    Like 6
  7. DON

    Gone already !

  8. S

    I own one of these as my daily driver. A 1990 model with the 2.5L 4 cyl. It is the best car I’ve ever owned in terms of it being the most trouble free. It has 363,000 miles on it and it has never been off the road in 30 years. It has had normal maintenance items, but nothing ever went wrong with the engine or transmission. It’s a bit slow but it’s reliable and good on gas. I liked it so much I bought a Buick Century later with the V6 and all the power accessories (as a used car). They are inexpensive reliable transportation. Maybe they aren’t much from a styling perspective, but for a practical car, they do their jobs well.

    Like 5
  9. Ken Jennings

    My wife and I had a new 1989 with a six in it. A wonderful comfortable car, but after 100K, the tranny started to give us fits and we bought a minivan.

    Like 2
  10. ML

    Despite being bland cars, all the GM “A” bodies were great especially with the 2.5 Iron Duke. It didn’t make much power but it was bullet proof & economical. I had an 87 Century with the 2.5 & ran it to 552,000 miles! Replaced it with an 87 Ciera Brougham Wagon & ran that one to over 275,000 miles. Lastly I had a 94 Ciera with the V6. I got over 200,000 out of that vehicle. All 3 cars were still running & driving when I sold them. They were perfect work vehicles for people like me who commute long distances to work.

    Like 3
    • karl

      I can vouch for the Iron Duke as well . A neighbor of mine had a 94 Buick Century . He drove it everyday, in all kinds of weather (in CT. )
      Before he retired to Florida , he sold the car to a buddy of mine who also drove it everyday . Finally after over 200k on the car and 22 years on the road, having a deer bounce off the front fender and having the tin worm eat into the rear wheel wells he gave it to another buddy who made it into an Enduro car . It ran for three more years , had the crap beat out of it ,but was still running strong when he got bored with racing and junked it .

      Like 2
  11. J.C. Halstead

    Rented a bunch of these from Avis back in the day; the ideal car to drive 25 over as NOBODY is looking at it.

    Like 1
  12. Burt

    Iron Duke and wire wheels, what more could you want?! I wouldn’t eat off the engine, cook – maybe.

    Like 1
  13. Mountainwoodie

    Okay….I know we are in the middle of the world melting down but..a Ciera..reallly? Our generation of car nuts may be aging but this is a bit premature. :)

  14. Jim Z Member

    I owned a couple of these in the early 80s. They were both V-6 Diesels. Most people didn’t even realize that these came with a Diesel. One of them had a 30 gal tank located behind the rear seat that was in addition to the original tank. I used to get weird looks from attendants inside monitoring the pumps when they’d see me pumping 30-40 gallons of Diesel.

    Like 3
    • Burt

      45 gallons and 32 mpg = 1400 mile range! With 300 lbs of fuel you could drive cross-country and stop once for fuel.

      Like 3
  15. George1948

    I had a 91′ Cutlass Sierra and it was one of the best cars I have ever owned. Decent on gas and great in the snow with that front wheel drive.

    Like 1
  16. Randolph Dull

    I had a 84 Ciera ES with the 3.0 a/t. Buckets, floor shift etc. It was a very nice ride.

    Like 1
  17. lc

    Last summer parked next to my car (84 Cougar LS) in the used parking lot was an Olds Ninety Eight which seems to be a similar body style to the ones you all are talking about. It looked to be about an 87 model year. It sold for about 5k (maybe a little less) after a couple of weeks in the lot. Mine didn’t sell after one month, and I took it off the lot. I saw it cruising down the road some weeks later with 20s.

    Like 1
  18. Dave Mazz

    I had a 1992 Olds Cutlass Supreme, V-6 DOHC engine, 5-speed manual. It was easily the worst car I have ever owned. Both the engine (short block) and tranny had to be replaced (under warranty thankfully) and when the replacement tranny (a Chinese-made Getrag I think) started to make funny noises I traded the car in on an Infiniti, got $500 for the Olds, and was happy!! When Oldsmobile folded in 2004, I know some folks were sad, while others were angry. Based on my experience with the Cutlass Supreme, I just wondered why it took so long!

  19. Mike Brown

    In my experience, 9 out of 10 of the Iron Duke and Tech 4 engines had a noisy idle. It was due to the fact that they used a gear drive system instead of a timing chain or (God forbid) belt. Many inline 6 engines also used a gear drive and that’s what made these engines practically indestructible in their day. My mother in-law bought a Cierra brand new in 1986 with the Tech 4 engine. It was gifted to my son in 2005 when he got his drivers license. At the time, it had about 150k miles with just regular maintenance. My son proceeded to drive it for another 6 years or so until he graduated college. I don’t know how many miles it had when he traded it in but it still ran and drove great. The body wasn’t in bad shape either. Yes, it had the CV axles replaced at least once but the only engine repair that I can remember was a TPS. That took me all of about 15 minutes after I pulled the code.

    • Mike Brown

      Edit…the TPS took me about 15 minutes after I pulled the code AND spent 1 1/2 hours running to town for the part. We live in the sticks lol!

  20. Stevieg

    I had a few of these (and similar) over the years. My favorite was actually a Chevy Celebrity convertible I have written about in the past. I also had a Celebrity wagon, a 1987, with this 4 cylinder. I liked that car a lot. Performance felt the same as the 2.8 in my convertible. A 3.8 would have been awesome!
    You gotta watch the rear lower control arm mounts on these. I have seen these, even low mile ones, go to the scrap heap because of those lower control arm mounts rotting off. Can make for a scary ride lol!
    Later ones had the 2.2 4 cylinder from the Cavalier. Those were really underpowered!

  21. Novaman

    My dad had a 86 Chevy celebrity euro with the 2.5. Great car had over 150000 when he got rid of it. In contrast my uncle had a 87 celebrity with the 2.8 that blew up at 60000. I had a couple of my own 2.8 engine was a dog

    • Stevieg

      Yeah, those 2.8 engines weren’t that great lol. The 2.8 in my convertible was injected instead of carburated, and I think that helped for longevity & reliability. Performance was still pathetic lol. Like I said, the 2.5 4 cylinder in my old beater wagon performed every bit as good as the 2.8 in my Hess & Eisenhardt convertible. Pretty sad!
      I can’t find any pictures of my convertible any more, but I googled the car recently and found a picture I took of it for a Craig’s List ad that someone used for an online article (something about whether or not my asking price is a crack-head price lol).
      I miss that car now that it’s gone.

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