One-Owner Garage Find: 1968 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser

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It is hard to see a station wagon and not think of the immortal film “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”  The song “Holiday Road” just pops right into your head.  In an age before minivans and SUVs, station wagons like this 1968 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser for sale on craigslist in Los Angeles, California ruled the roads in the summer.  Amazingly, station wagons have seen a resurgence in collectability.  Is this well-kept example with just 49,00 miles worth the $16,000 asking price?  Thanks to Tony P. for the amazing tip!

While everyone remembers the funny parts of National Lampoon’s Vacation, what is lost on us today is just how much of a cultural icon the family vacation was.  Specifically, loading up the whole family in the car and heading to a destination on the map.  Vacations by car weren’t a thing until the road network improved, cars became more suited for long-distance travel, and the wealth of the postwar period came into play.

So when road trips started to become more commonplace, the destinations were simple.  People would go to Florida, or travel to California, or wherever as a final destination.  Along the way, they would stop at whatever roadside attraction locals cooked up to snag some of their money on the way through.  Florida, for example, was (and still is) littered with old roadside attractions that weren’t part of the destination.  Places like Monkey Jungle, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, and Dinosaur World got the annoying kids out of the car for just long enough to wear them out and separate dad from some of his hard-earned cash.  Disney would later become the destination and do a far better job of separating cash from wallets.

Also, factor in that families were, on average, larger than they are now.  It was not uncommon to see a family with six kids.  If you wanted a proper seat for everyone, you didn’t have a lot of options at the new car lot.  It was either a station wagon or a big van with a lot of seats.  Minivans didn’t arrive until 1984.  Most station wagons at the time were based on full-sized vehicles.  Instead of a trunk, the passenger area stretched to the back.  More often than not, the station wagon was equipped with a set of rear-facing seats so the kids in the back could be terrified by late-braking tailgaters.  They could also return the favor by making obscene gestures at the drivers they were eye-to-eye with.  Good times.

Seeing a station wagon like this original 1968 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, therefore, brings out a Pavlovian reaction in a lot of people.  Our lives are based on experiences and memories of those experiences.  Given that the world seemed so much bigger and filled with wonder when we were kids, it is easy to understand why people want a vintage station wagon.  Sometimes we go out of our way to catch a bit of magic from the past.  Those of us who grew up in this period fall into one of two categories.  The first are people who want no part of being like our parents.  The others see themselves walking in their parent’s footsteps.  Buying a station wagon satisfies something inside the latter.

Buying this station wagon would certainly be satisfying if it were the machine you made memories in as a child.  With just 49,000 miles on the odometer, matching numbers, and factory air conditioning, this is certainly a very nice example of the breed.  We are told in the ad that the vehicle starts up and drives just fine.  It comes with a lot of original paperwork and is very much as it left the factory condition-wise.

There is some very minor rust, described as little bubbles, near the side window.  However, you can also see some cracks in the plastic steering wheel as well.  The seller reports nothing beyond that as an issue.  That is a good thing, as I would imagine some of the parts would be difficult to find if lost or damaged.  The unique glass panels in the roof would certainly be a bear to replace if damaged.  Some of the chrome might prove to be challenging to find as well.  The mechanicals are off-the-shelf Oldsmobile, so no big challenge there.

In all, this is a fantastic vehicle to travel back in time in.  The condition is outstanding, the mileage is right, and it has a rearward-facing seat.  It may be a bit harder to get into as an adult, but the view will still be first-rate.  Just don’t make obscene gestures at the driver behind you.  That doesn’t work out so well anymore, especially when the gesture maker is an adult.

Did you get carted around in a station wagon as a kid?  Would you like to relive your childhood behind the wheel of another one, or is that a memory best left behind?


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  1. Uncle MyMember

    Ha – this is the most perfect write-up I’ve seen. It’s the background info that I come here for, and Jeff, you really nailed the seating description. I was already snorting at the scene of horrified kids watching an oncoming sedan, but then you reminded me of the obscene gestures from the back window. I always hated to wind up behind a station wagon on a two-lane road – you were defenseless to whatever rude shenanigans they wanted to display! 16-grand and I could cruise around in this? Heck I’d rent kids to play brats in the back window! My Russian wife wouldn’t understand, unfortunately, even after several re-runs of Vacation. There will be a lucky buyer soon enough, I believe. Many thanks for the vivid memories, Jeff.

    P.S. There were 11 of us in our ’61 Chevy station wagon – that put at least 4 (including me) in the very back. Not that I would know any obscene gestures, having five older brothers…

    Like 18
    • George

      No rude gestures. Mom and dad will see. Front facing rear seat.

      Like 4
      • Uncle MyMember

        Back then, we didn’t have to sit down for seat belts – we’d be on our knees facing the back window, and putting on some sort of demonstration for the unfortunate following vehicle. Although Mom couldn’t reach all the way to the back seat, she just slapped and it was passed back until it got to the offender.

        Like 7
    • Kevin Kendall

      Nice Olds Vista Cruiser,reminds me of the one on That 70s show

      Like 6
      • Solosolo UK Solosolo UKMember

        Whenever I see or read about a Vista Cruiser I immediately think of Red Foreman and his Vista Cruiser. Great show and I loved Laura Prepon.

        Like 1
    • Allen L

      I was hoping and expecting more information about this particular car, rather than a dissertation on station wagon life.

      Like 4
  2. TorinoSCJ69

    Engine info ?

    Looks nice!

    Like 8
    • George

      Rear facing seats inducing motion sickness is a right of childhood. Dealt with it from 1964 starting with a Buick Special wagon through my family’s 1978 when my parents replaced their 1976 Plymouth Fury wagon. Children are safe from that with this wagon as the rear seats are front facing.

      Like 1
    • Stan

      I beleive various 350ci and 400ci were offered. Stik-shift too 😎 Look at this wild wagon..

      Like 1
    • Moit

      Makes me think of Eric Foreman rather than vacation.

      Like 1
  3. CCFisher

    It once had woodgrain along the lower body and on the tailgate. Some of the trim is missing and could be difficult to find. Still a really nice example.

    Like 7
  4. Chris Cornetto

    The two things that can be said are it is much more reasonable than the pimped out one last week and looks much better than the last abomination.

    Like 3
  5. Maggy

    Cool car . Pictures suck. Take your car out of the garage and take pics in the daylight. Pics of quarter bottoms and fender bottoms.Undercar and some interior pics. A picture is worth a thousand words.If you want someone to buy the car take good pics or find someone who can for you.

    Like 8
    • Gary Gary

      If the car were completely out of the shadows it would be easier to see the front bumper chrome peeling off around the turn signals.

      Like 3
  6. Fred W

    Body parts will be hard to find despite the quantities they were built in. For 20 or 30 years, no one my age would be caught dead in a wagon, so big motors were pulled and the rest scrapped (right after the demo derby).

    Like 2
    • Buddy

      When my daughter was in middle school, she instructed me to NOT pick her up at school while driving the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser. When she was in high school, she refused to drive my brand new Volvo Cross Country Wagon while I had her Pathfinder serviced. Youth!!🙄

      Like 3
  7. Colorado Yeti

    Love the wagon. Great color. My only question if whether it is truly a one owner vehicle. Many of the advertised “one-owner” vehicles have been snapped up by automotive opportunists who smell blood in the water. They then turn around, advertise the vehicle as one-owner (falsely) and laugh all the way to the bank. Perhaps I am wrong about this one.

    Like 0
  8. Scott

    Had three of these back in the 60s & 70s. A 67, 70,and finally a 72. Olds broke the mold of reversed rear seat, all of the rear seats in the Vista Cruisers Were front facing, no big foot wells so small kids worked pretty easy.

    Like 1
  9. Mark RuggieroMember

    My parents dragged me cross country in one of these several years in the 60s, made a pretty good hideaway for a young kid.

    Like 0
  10. TreasureMember

    Help me out here, Is this just a looking site? so many of the posts are outdated and if they are for sale how do you contact owner ??

    Like 0
    • Gary Gary

      Treasure, you’re about 6 months late on this listing. Since you’re a member you have the option to receive daily Barnfind listings delivered to your email which would be current, instead of expired listings. I’m just a member, same as you, but I receive daily emails from this site, as should you:

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      Like 1

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