Sun Catcher: 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser

Don’t be fooled by its dusty appearance, because once this 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser emerges into the light of day, what you find is a clean and tidy classic station wagon that is ready to be driven and enjoyed by a new owner. It does have some restoration needs, but none of these would appear to be urgent. Our intrepid Barn Finder local_sheriff referred the Olds to us, so thank you so much for that. It is located in Mason, Michigan, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. The BIN for this family wagon has been set at $9,800.

Before we start looking at this wagon in-depth, I’ll take the opportunity to address an issue that I’m sure that more than a few of our readers will spot, and one which the current owner is happy to explain. The Olds is wearing the wrong sheet-metal on the front, with much of it being from a 1970 model. It would seem that before the current owner purchased the vehicle, it was involved in a fender bender. The result of this was that the hood, bumper, grille, and the core support were all sourced from a donor vehicle, which was a 1970 model. However, included in the sale are the majority of the parts required to return the vehicle to the correct appearance. I do have to admit that of all of the classic wagons that we see on the market today, the Vista Cruiser rates as one of my favorites. The additional glass is probably more of a gimmick than a practicality, but it still provides a cool and distinctive appearance. It would also catch plenty of sun, making the interior feel light and airy, which I guess could potentially be a benefit to rear-seat passengers. This particular Vista Cruiser is finished in Palomino Gold, and it does present quite nicely. That isn’t to say that it is perfect, and the owner is very candid about the wagon’s flaws and faults. The first to consider is rust. It is present in the spare tire well, along with some in the bottom of the front fender on the passenger side. There is filler for unknown reasons in the same spot on the driver’s side, but I would suspect that this could be indicative of an earlier rust repair. The rest of the wagon appears to be solid, and due to the previously mentioned accident damage, the vehicle obviously doesn’t wear all of its original paint. The Olds doesn’t feature a two-way tailgate, which would suggest that it also isn’t fitted with third-row seating. That tailgate was optional in 1969 unless you specified the third row. If that option was ticked on the order sheet, then the two-way tailgate was included as a part of the package. The owner also indicates that one of the pieces of “Vista” glass does have a crack in it, but replacement pieces are fairly easy to locate.

The interior of the Oldsmobile is generally pretty tidy, but there are one or two little jobs that should keep the next owner busy for a few days. The most obvious of these is the fact that the cover on the front seat is pretty badly torn, and the foam has begun to deteriorate as a result. The owner has fitted an aftermarket cover that conceals the worst of these sins, but once seat foam begins to deteriorate, it is only a matter of time before replacing it becomes a necessity. Therefore, I would be inclined to address this pretty quickly, because collapsing foam can make the driving experience fairly uncomfortable. The original radio is missing from the dash, but the owner does have a genuine Oldsmobile AM/FM radio that will be included in the sale. The dash looks pretty nice, while the pad has avoided any cracking issues. Overall, the rest of the interior looks quite tidy, and there is no real reason why it couldn’t be used and enjoyed immediately.

The engine photo that the owner supplies isn’t the greatest, but what we know is that the Olds is fitted with the 2-barrel version of the 350ci V8, which produces 250hp. The rest of the drivetrain consists of a 3-speed Hydramatic transmission, along with power steering and power brakes. Even though this was the “baby” engine in the Vista Cruiser range, it still allowed the family wagon to perform very strongly. This wagon has recently been fitted with new tires and a new battery and is said to run and drive very nicely. The news isn’t 100% good, because the owner says that the engine is smokey on start-up, but that this clears fairly quickly. It isn’t clear whether the engine consumes oil, but if its usage is minimal, it could be something as simple as valve seals that is the culprit. The owner also says that the odometer shows 49,000 miles, but he believes that it has rolled over.

The classic station wagon has come a long way in what seems to have been a relatively short time. People who used to buy these vehicles when they were new generally did so out of practical necessity. Today, those people gravitate towards SUVs, but in the classic car scene, full-sized station wagons have done nothing but grow in popularity, desirability, and value. The net result is that it is now getting pretty hard to find a decent example of the ’69 Vista Cruiser for less than $20,000, while I have seen pristine ones sell for in excess of twice that figure. This one isn’t pristine, but it does appear to be a solid vehicle that could be made to sparkle without spending a mountain of cash. Consider that figure of $20,000, and then look at the BIN price of $9,800. That would seem to leave plenty of room to bring this wagon back to its best while still maintaining financial viability. That has to make it an interesting prospect.


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  1. Big_Fun Member

    I have bought parts from this seller on ebay, nos and used, several times… Great seller! He is honest and will give you straight talk about this car.

    Like 12
  2. Moparman Member

    I’d put the scooped 4-4-2 hood on this baby, add a little TLC, and CRUISE! GLWTA! :-)

    Like 9
  3. sparkster

    I have owned a 1969 Olds Cutlass and hated the front hood / front bumper appearance. I called it the “buck teeth” look. The hood just didn’t quite make it to the edge of the bumper. Why ? not a clue. This 70′ idea is perfect solution.

    Like 5
    • 19sixty5 Member

      That’s funny sparkster! I never thought about the “buck teeth” look but you are right. I’ve had 2 69 442’s and 2 Cutlass S models, the 442 grille with the horizontal design looked much better than the S design, which now that you mention it does resemble teeth. I also had two 70 442’s, the longer tongue on the 70 that meets the bumper was always a cleaner look.

  4. Paolo

    Without a doubt these were and still are excellent cars. Well made, well optioned and comfortable with excellent torquey engines, good brakes and the right suspension and sway bar parts to give flat neutral handling. A good friend in high school had one which he let me drive all the time. You can throw one of these into a 4 wheel drift and bring it back easily using the accelerator alone. Very stable and predictable. Very solid, tough and durable. One just like this is on the top of my list to own. Need to make some room here first.

    Like 2
  5. Philip

    Darn, only 11 photos and eBay allows 20? WTF? How could anyone feel confident making a serious offer with such lack of effort. Not even an “E” for effort.

  6. cav427

    neet car, however had a 1970 Delta 88 with the aforementioned “Rocket 350” at 109,000 miled the tioming chain gave up the ghost, bent every valve and pushrod in the engine. Whoever buys it should get a new chain and gear set, it would be cheap insurance against the motor comitting suicide.

    Like 1
    • cav427

      “Neat” and “timing” should review before posting!

      Like 1
  7. Bmac777 Member

    After 75k miles you were in the area of timing gear failure on the GM’s of this era
    If the car had been driven kindly you might get it to something like 109k ‘ but usually not
    The smoke on start up sounds like the valve seals. Sometimes you can put a fitting in place of spark plug and used compressed air to hold valves up to swap seals without pulling heads

    Like 2
  8. Victor Anderson

    Needed one of these while in high school (bedroom on wheels)

  9. Alan W

    As a longtime owner and follower of GM SkyWagons (I’ve owned 3 68/69 Buick SportWagons) I can tell you the finding a mint upper side glass for these is not easy. Not cracked may be a slightly more obtainable (but certainly NOT readily available .. ) and they almost all suffer from delamination .. including the ’68 SportWagon 400 I currently own which was garaged its whole life and only now shows 41,xxx miles. I bought it from the original owner with 29,000 miles so I know its history.

  10. Woody

    My parents had a white ‘68 Vista with blue interior,it was a cool ride.A handy hauler raising five in the sixties and early seventies. The trim looks good on this Oldsmobile what’s not to like…….

    Like 2
  11. TimM

    Sure beat the heck out of the modern ugly mini van!!!

    Like 1

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