Malaise Survivor: 1990 Olds Cutlass Ciera

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In my travels to the junkyards, there are always a ton of these late 80s / early 90s GM products launguishing, and I often wonder why: who is still driving these on a daily basis and potentially in need of parts? Well, given how many keep showing up, a fair amount of these sedans must still be out there – but none of them are as nice as this 38,000 mile example here on craigslist.

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When you see one of these Olds in mint condition with the proper wire-look hubcaps and shiny black trim, it reminds you that it wasn’t such a terrible looking car. The driving experience may have been sub-par, but that’s another matter altogether. The seller claims the one longtime owner kept the car in the garage and never drove it in foul weather, and has been extensively dealer-serviced.

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The interior presents as-new, and with the original owner checking the box for the Ciera SL International Series, it comes with some nice options: power driver’s seat, A/C, cruise control, and of course, GM’s standard-issue 3.3L V6. Again, when you’re accustomed to seeing these cars roached out in the salvage yard, it’s a bit startling to see one with a perfect interior and swanky ambient lighting in the footwells.

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The seller emphasizes that there really are no faults to be found with the car, and that he would be confident driving it anywhere. There’s not much in the way of a collector car market for vehicles like these, but it’s always nice to see a survivor like this that is rarely treated kindly by its third and fourth owners. The seller is asking for $5,500, which is a lot of money for a car that is otherwise considered disposable by many. Will he get his number?

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Comments

  1. JW454

    My 85 Y.O. mother is still driving her 1995 Buick cousin to this Olds with 70 thousand miles on it. Two years ago I tried to get 2K for it. There were no takers. We decided to keep it.

    • JW454

      Inside

      • JW454

        Dash

    • Ralph H.

      Wish that Buick was for sale around me!

      • Billy

        Me to. My wife had just bought a brand new 1989 like this right before I met her. Wasn’t a GM fan in those days, but I learned to love that car. Rode nice, handled well, reliable. Only problem was rust, way too premature for the amount of rust on a car that I hand waxed twice a year.

      • Poppy

        Yeah, I can’t believe you couldn’t sell that for $2K.

  2. dirtyharry

    What a bargain. Everyone has an elderly relative, college student, broke brother in law, who would feel right at home in this car. It may be ordinary, but ordinary in this case includes air conditioning and all the other creature comforts.

  3. Rock On

    The wife had an ’88 Cutlass Ciera that rusted away after 10 years. Hers had the 2.8 litre Chevy engine. This one would make some household a sweet second vehicle, You are not going to find a better Corolla or Civic for $5,500. Rustproof it every fall and it will be good for another 10 years.

  4. Todd Zuercher

    As I’ve noted before in other posts, 1990 hardly qualifies as malaise! That era was disappearing in our rear view mirrors when these were introduced in the early ’80s. I’m amazed how many of these I still see on the roads here in AZ too despite seeing literally thousands of them in the junkyards here for the past 20+ years.

  5. Norm

    There are too many low mileage examples floating around Grandpa and Grandma’s garage to command this much money. This one looks like a nice car but you would have to love these cars to pay this much. If this car got hit, the $1,000 check from the insurance company might leave you bitter.

  6. grant

    Probably way overpriced and I am not a big fan of this era of GM product. But to be fair, for the time they were built they were attractive cars.

  7. nessy

    What is with this “Malaise” word being used so often now? I also thought the term “Malaise” was used for items and cars from the 60’s and 70’s, not a later model 90s car…. This word is now being used as much as the “Patina” word. Gee.

    • Todd Zuercher

      Another new word in the hobby that symbolizes a certain era. Malaise generally, in my opinion, applies to the Carter presidency era (76-80) and a few years on each side of that. I think malaise applies to so many things in that time period: cars, fashion, the economy, etc.

      • Kevin

        Personally, I’ve been using “Malaise Era” to describe cars built between 1974 (introduction of tight emission controls) and 1991 (introduction of the Dodge Viper).
        But yeah, 76-80 are the peak years of “meh”.

  8. busyditch

    I have one even nicer! 1993 Buick Century. 3.8 V6 Only 14,000 on the clock. This was a gift to the one owner from GM when he retired in 93. Bill of sale says the car was $14,000 new! It belongs to my girlfriend now, as she is the heir to the estate. I know its not a real collector car but would like to see it go to a new home.

    • DrinkinGasoline

      Where are you and how much ? A BF Exclusive maybe ?

  9. Ralph H.

    Here in the Northeast they have disappeared from the roads a long time ago..I would not hesitate to purchase this as a second vehicle, as they were roomy, dependable, and easy to park..owned a 91 Century wagon, very nice car…

  10. Chuck Cobb

    Had a 88 Ciera that had 108,000 miles on it when I got it (salesman’s car). Drove it 5 years, sold it with 157,600, used a quart of oil when I bought it, used a quart of oil when I sold it, great car. Finally died after a selling it to a coworker who’s daughter sideswiped a bridge and did other ugly things to it, it died at 225,000 when it lost a bearing in the 4 cyl. Wouldn’t mind this car at all.

  11. DrinkinGasoline

    This one is somewhat near me with the 3.3-N code engine which was very reliable and had a little pep. I would look into it if i hadn’t just gotten my father’s 02 LeSabre with 18k on the odometer.

  12. Bob C.

    These cars were plain, yet awesome people movers. They were bulletproof and lasted forever in both 4 and 6 cylinder form, kind of like the dodge dart and plymouth valliants. Very sturdy and well built, same goes for its corporate siblings.

  13. RJ

    Who still drives these, are you kidding? I agree the Ciera and the Century are often seen in salvage yards. However, where I live they are still very common on the roads. These A bodies are like cockroaches. Rarely refuse to die and turn up all the time. Now the 6000 and Celebrity have all but disappeared, but both of those were discountinued I believe in 1990. The Ciera and Century soldiered on until 1996 pretty much unchanged. If the remember correctly both pulled pretty good production and sales numbers right til the end. Even the inferior W body Centurys are like cockroaches. Those turn up everywhere with completely rusted gone rocker panels and taped up non functioning power windows.

  14. Bob C.

    Kevin, my version of malaise era is 1973 to 1983, beginning with the oil embargo and America not having a feeling of well being during those years. It certainly reflected on the quality of American cars during that time when everyone was leaning towards Japanese imports. After that, we began coming back as gas was getting cheaper and horsepower was once again gaining popularity.

  15. Vegas Vic

    The wonderful film Fargo opens with William H Macy toeing this car to be used in kidnapping his wife
    Much later he flees Margie in a tan Sierra!

  16. David J David J

    dirtyharry said: “Everyone has an elderly relative, college student, broke brother in law, who would feel right at home in this car.

    Dang…I’ve been all of those people. Perhaps that is why I am drawn to this beauty.

    My gut feeling is that the seller will get his price, within a few hundred bucks.

  17. CJay

    I bought this 3.1 V6 1996 in August after it was donated to charity. The son of the original owner gave it away after his father got lost a couple hundred miles from home. It had 71k miles I’ve added 5k since.

    • David J David J

      Tell us more, please.

      • CJay

        We are using the car as a daily driver. Using to travel between Ft Knox and Central PA. I’ve replaced the brakes, tires, muffler and front struts. It gets about 28 mpg. it’s the basic model, But runs great. I’ll probably be selling it in the spring.

        Like 1
    • '59Fordfan

      That, is a fine-looking car! It has, even, the 5-lugs, which, if I could find a Ciera, like that, near me, I’d, definitely, want, on the car.

  18. Philip

    Nothing wrong with these at all, and hardly a malaise vehicle. This was a better example of Oldsmobile engineering and technology, they got it right. The 88, 98, Ciera, Cutlass Supremes, Salons, any of the International series were a step above, and well made. The public loved them, loaded with options reasonably priced and peppy with the 3300 or 3800, both Buick motors will last 500K with water pump and timing chain replaced along with proper fluid changes. These the LeSabre and Regency 98’s were when the General had his stuff together. I worked for a Buick Olds Pontiac dealer from 88 to 91, and loved to service these compared to the G bodys and other 307 Oldsmobile powered RWD throwbacks that came in all to often. The occasional Map, Maf, or Crank sensor, or trans issue from hard drive driving, especially the 4T40 that’s it. They were easy to work on, and warranty payed reasonably well. The reason you still see so many is because they were really built well, lasted and lasted. Even the body and interior was quality, if reasonable care was taken ( most people don’t and blame the car) My youngest daughter needs a car next year, guess what I’m looking for? Yep you guessed it. As or more reliable and cheaper to maintain that any Honda or Toyota for the price of admission, this ones worth the $$$ but will be lucky to see 3K$ in today’s undereducated stingy market or bubble shaped silver lemmings on the highways. I’d certainly make an offer on it if I were closer…

  19. Ron G

    You still these and similar year Centurys running around in Florida no rust either unless it was coastal all its life. These are great cars that enjoyed a 14 year production run, that’s why so many are in junkyards and still on the road too.

  20. Car Guy

    This is your father’s Oldsmobile……….. Actually, the Pontiac 6000 STE’s from this era were nice handling sedans.

  21. David Miraglia

    used to have a Chevy Celebrity. Solid, if boring. Mine had the V6. Lasted four years until it crapped out. After that Tempo. Celebrity was almost luxurious.

  22. George Member

    Over the last few months, I’ve started noticing just how many of these cars are around in daily service.

    There is a near perfect Buick Century a few blocks from me, and it seems like I see a dozen Oldsmobile variants every week.

    Once you notice one, you see a dozen, but I can’t help but suspect that they just have a very high survival rate.

  23. S

    I have one of these. Also a 1990 model. It has well over 350,000 miles on it. Very reliable. It is the best car I have ever owned.

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