One Owner: 1973 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser

Here at Barn Finds, we always appreciate it when a reader refers an interesting car through to us. You all have a pretty sharp eye for something a bit special, so I have to thank Barn Finder local_sheriff for referring this 1973 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser through to us. This is literally a one-owner family wagon and with that owner having recently passed away, his family has decided that the time has come for it to find a new home with another loving family. It is very original and looks like it has all of the makings of an interesting restoration project. Located in Crystal Lake, Illinois, it has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $3,151 at the time of writing, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

The 1973 model year heralded in a completely new version of the Vista Cruiser that was built on a longer wheelbase. One thing that did disappear was the distinctive glass above the second row of seats that gave the model its name. In its place, buyers could opt for a glass sunroof over the first row, and the owner of this wagon chose to tick the box beside that option on the order form. One other change that was made was to significantly increase the surface area of the remaining glass, giving the interior a brighter and more airy feel. This Olds is finished in Moss Gold, and hardly surprising after all of these years, that paint is starting to show its age. Having said that, before I considered outlaying the cash for a repaint, I’d give the vehicle a pretty close inspection. The consistency of the color actually looks quite reasonable across the whole wagon, so it is possible that a wet sand and a buff might produce some surprising results. The woodgrain also seems to have survived fairly well, and its color is also quite consistent. I think I can spot some rust appearing under this at the bottoms of the front fenders, so this would require attention. While a good body shop may be able to lift the vinyl without damaging it, there is a fair chance that it might require replacement. If so, kits to do this are readily available if the new owner wanted to try to tackle this themselves. However, there are plenty of companies that specialize in vinyl wraps, and getting them to apply new woodgrain shouldn’t cost more than about $900.

The interior of the Vista Cruiser provides a pleasant surprise because it won’t take much to return it to its very best once again. The cover on the front seat is badly torn, and it will require replacement. Sourcing one of these is relatively easy, and the new owner should budget around the $250 mark for a high-quality cover in the correct color and pattern. The only other item that requires attention is the carpet. It is fairly worn around the driver’s foot area, and I think that it is beyond restoration. Still, a replacement carpet set for the front and rear seat area can be found for around $140, so when you add those two items together, it isn’t going to cost a lot to whip the interior into shape. The rest of the trim looks decent, and it appears as though it will need little more than a good clean. As a family wagon, this Olds does hold an ace up its sleeve. It has been optioned with the third row, adding seats for two additional children, and making this a versatile and practical classic. For comfort and convenience, the wagon also comes equipped with an AM radio, along with air conditioning.

There were two engines available to potential Vista Cruiser buyers in 1973, and the owner of this one chose the Rocket 350ci V8. Hooked to the back of this is a 3-speed Turbo Hydramatic transmission, while power steering and power front disc brakes had become standard equipment from this particular year. The 350 produces 180hp, and for a large and relatively heavy wagon, the Olds could really get up and moving. A ¼ mile ET of 18.5 seconds might not sound that great, but when you are talking about a 4,400 lb family wagon that is capable of seating seven people, it is nothing to be sneezed at. The seller states that the recently deceased owner really cared for his belongings, and his Olds was no exception. He doesn’t indicate how well it runs or drives, but the presentation of the engine bay looks quite clean for a vehicle of this age, and there are no signs of any long-term fluid leaks. The listing quotes an odometer reading of 85,000 miles, but it isn’t clear whether this is original, or whether it has rolled over. If the mileage is original and the vehicle has been properly maintained, it should have plenty of life left in it yet.

The seller of this Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser quotes a Hagerty figure of $8,200, based on a wagon in good condition. I tend to take those sorts of figures with a grain of salt on most occasions, but in this case, it is actually pretty close to the mark. Interestingly, the 1973 Vista Cruiser doesn’t pack the same sort of punch in the market that its predecessor does, and expected values tend to drop by the better part of 30% when you compare a 1973 model with an equivalent 1972. There is no doubt that the loss of the distinctive roof glass does have something to do with that discrepancy, but it doesn’t make the ’73 Vista Cruiser a bad thing. In fact, for the person who is looking for a practical classic on a budget, this is good news. A really good one today can sell for somewhere around $18,000, but a pristine one can fetch $28,000 or more. Even if this one sells for somewhere in the vicinity of the Hagerty valuation, that should leave plenty of breathing space to have this Olds really sparkling while remaining financially viable. It makes this a classic wagon that could be well worth examining more closely.


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  1. alphasud Member

    I’m not a fan of the 73 redesign. My favorite was the previous generation body with the raised roof and windows. I’ll pass on this one.

    Like 4
  2. Haig L Haleblian

    Rear wheel wells and door bottoms are fried. Aftermarket sunroof. The only reason I’m half tempted is the car is located in my hometown. Current bid amount is palenty. I’m with alfasud on this one.

    Like 3
  3. CCFisher

    The sunroof is not aftermarket, It was standard equipment on the 1973 Vista Cruiser, and was a poor substitute for the fabulous vista roof on the prior generations.

    Like 13
    • Haig L Haleblian

      good to know. thanks!

      Like 1
  4. Kirk Wolfe

    One thing about wagons is that almost no one needs them today. Exceptionally for collection? Maybe, but that depends on the package offered. But, if you want to start a car collection when everybody else has collected all coupes and convertibles available around, and their prices will not crash in near future, the station wagons are the way. US$ 30,000 in a pristine match-mint? Not even the auctioneers takes these things seriously.

  5. Superdessucke

    Install a Mondello-built 455 and knock 5 seconds off that 1/4 mile time!!

    Like 4
  6. art

    One shadowy, distance photo outside, the rest taken in a dark garage.
    Confidence inspiring.

    Like 4
  7. Slantasaurus

    Gold and woodgrain with a red interior is an odd combo even in the 70s but it works and looks good together. A set of Olds Rally wheels would really wake this wagon up.

    Like 4
  8. Engine51-RespondToStructureFire!

    Only a matter of an inch here and a half-inch there difference between the space inside this Vista Cruiser and that inside the 1977-1994 down-sized B-body Regency, Caprice, Parisienne/Bonneville, and Estate ‘full-size’ category wagons.

    Like 2
  9. Claudio

    I have nothing good to write , so i wont

    Like 1
  10. dyno dan

    once again station wagon prices have become mind numbing.
    why have we become so obsessed with what Hagerty says?
    or I seen one roll through B/J or Mecum that went for 60K.
    I realize if you want to play ya gotta pay analogy. guess i’ll
    keep looking. sadly we’re reading more and more about people
    acquiring or restoring them only to not finish them in leu of illness
    or worse. here’s to the barn find guys for keeping us informed!

    Like 1
  11. Johnny T

    Does anybody know a company in California that does wood vinyl for wagons?

  12. Steve Bush Member

    Just not an attractive or interesting car, unlike the previous generation Vista Cruisers which I feel were one of best looking and coolest station wagons ever. Hopefully for the seller his reserve isn’t much over $5k as I doubt he’ll get much more. Best of health to everyone!

    Like 1
  13. Bmac

    It’s missing my favorite feature of these cars.
    The skinny tinted windows that ran along the roof line in the back.
    Did they discontinue them when they went to the colonnade body?

    • Little_Cars


      Like 1
  14. Kenn

    Jeez, I wonder if anyone would be foolish enough to buy this because they wanted a comfortable cruiser for their large family and couldn’t afford $40K for a brand new family hauler. …..

    Like 1
    • YourSoundMan


      I would. $40K is a lot of money for some people.

      Like 2
  15. Carl Stclair

    my grandfather had this same model green with green vinyl interior it was an awesome vehicle

    Like 3

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