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Virtually Spotless: 1973 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser

The term “shrinking violet” is not a label that could be attached to this 1973 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser. With an overall length of 19″ and a weight in excess of 5,000lbs, this is a car that is simply never going to blend into the scenery. It is a vehicle that has a true presence about it. However, when you find a Custom Cruiser of this vintage in the sort of condition that this one appears to be in, standing out in a crowd can be no bad thing. If standing out in a classic is what your heart desires, then you will find this Oldsmobile located in Crete, Illinois, and listed for sale here on eBay. The owner has set a BIN price of $16,500 for the Olds, although the option is available to make an offer.

The combination of the Cranberry Red paint and the optional wood-grain result in one very attractive vehicle. Interestingly, while that wood-grain was optional on the Custom Cruiser, nearly 80% of owners chose to tick the box for it on the order form, making it the single most popular option fitted to the Custom Cruiser. The owner says that the paint is almost all original, while the wood-grain is both original, and in great condition. There is a small ding on the driver’s side quarter panel just near the bumper, but this should be a fairly easy fix. One of my favorite items on the car is the clam-shell tailgate, which is electrically operated. When you look at the design and engineering that has gone into this single item in a bid to produce smooth operation and adequate sealing, it actually is a pretty special item.

The interior photos are a bit lacking, but what we can see generally looks quite good. The Burgundy interior trim is a nice match for the exterior Cranberry Red, and it all looks like it is in very nice condition. There is a cover over the dash, so we can’t see the state of the pad, but the rest of the interior is said to be original. it’s quite surprising to find that the car isn’t fitted with power windows or power locks, but you still get a working factory radio, air conditioning that blows cold, and a heater that blows hot. You also get a forward-facing third row, and while the owner claims that the car can seat nine people, conventional wisdom states that this is definitely an eight-seater. Interestingly, that forward-facing seat was a first for GM as a company, because the third row had always been rear-facing until the Custom Cruiser was introduced in 1971.

When a car tips the scales at 5,000lbs, it is going to need something under the hood to get it moving, and in the case of the Custom Cruiser, what you get is the 225hp, 455ci Rocket V8. Backing this is a 3-speed TH-400 transmission, along with power steering and power brakes. The engine has been the recent recipient of a new timing chain and new hoses, and the owner refers to the driving experience as awesome. Certainly, if the presentation under the hood is any indication, then this claim would be entirely believable.

In today’s world, the place of the full-sized family wagon in the new car marketplace has been well and truly occupied by the SUV. They are now a rare commodity, so finding a classic example in good condition is like a breath of fresh air. This Custom Cruiser does show a lot of promise, and it really doesn’t matter whether or not you have a large tribe to move around, because these old wagons are now just cool cars to own.


  1. Avatar photo Tom

    I am a sucker for big wagons. A 455 would make good starting point for a sleeper wagon. Price is a little high.

    Like 2
  2. Avatar photo edh



    Like 4
  3. Avatar photo Jim22

    “Interestingly, that forward-facing seat was a first for GM as a company, because the third row had always been rear-facing until the Custom Cruiser was introduced in 1971.”

    Nope, Vista Cruiser were going it long before. My 67 faces forward.

    Like 16
    • Avatar photo Ralph

      I’m assuming he’s just referring to full size GM wagons, the LWB A-body Oldsmobile and Buick wagons had a forward facing 3rd row way before the full size ones did.

      Like 2
    • Avatar photo Johnmloghry

      Nice wagon

      Like 1
  4. Avatar photo flmikey

    I swear, you could put Buick mags on a Yugo and it would look good…love this car, and so cool to see roll up windows on this land yacht…and I agree with Tom…I could see someone walking up with 12 large and owning this…great find….

    Like 4
  5. Avatar photo Jim22

    Oops, meant to show an image of the seat.

    Like 4
  6. Avatar photo Fred W

    Interesting how your perspective changes over time. In the 70’s, if you had to drive this to school it would have been a fate worse than death. Now, I can see my self cruising in it from gas station to gas station. I bought cars like this in a local auto auction for about $200 in the 90’s , some were even in similar condition.

    Like 10
  7. Avatar photo Terry

    This is great looking wagon, one of my favorites of the clamshell era. 16500 seems a reasonable price given the work done on the vehicle and the care given it. I have a 72 Buick with a 455 and had the timing chain replaced a few years ago, it is an expensive job but well worth it. The engine delivers strong low-end torque without hesitation. After 46 years the chain is bound to stretch. This would probably make a great tow vehicle for your vintage Fiesta or 442 trailer queen.

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo markp

      I drove a 72 Lesabre with the 455 and it was a beast when the secondaries kicked in. I called it the Battlestar Galactica.

      Like 2
      • Avatar photo Terry

        There’s nothing like the sound of a quadrajet kicking in.

        Like 3
  8. Avatar photo ccrvtt

    The clamshell tailgate probably saved a significant number of these wagons from the demolition derbies. Station wagons were highly prized since the tailgates could be rigged to flip open after the start and became a lethal battering ram.

    On the other hand the suburbanites who bought these were at somewhat of a loss when it came to football Saturdays. After all, how can you tailgate without a tailgate?

    Nice car. I think it’s worth the asking price or close to it.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Ralph

      Tons of these were demo derbied and still are believe it or not, all the steel in the rear from the clamshell and their 5000lb weight makes these great battering rams.

      Like 3
    • Avatar photo don

      Like Ralph said , these clamshell wagons were and are the kings of the demo derbies ! The guys out west (there are none left here in New England lol ) still pay a good price for these, even if its some engineless carcass sitting in a farmers field . The only thing as tough as these were the full size mid 70s Mopars and early 60s Imperials . Most rules have you chain or weld the tailgates ,so there wouldn’t be any open gates, and one that’s welded shut is far tougher than a swinging door. I put a 74 Gran Safari in a derby once in 1982 , I didn’t win, but that thing was a beast !

      Like 0
  9. Avatar photo peter r

    I drove one of these as a company demo when I owned a piece of a Chev-Olds store back then. Was great based on the standards of the day. The “Cadillac” of station wagons. Lots of room for threee kids and all the stuff we seemed to need. With three seats each of the kids could have a window – nobody in the middle to complain. But without power seats,windows and locks it would lose some of that total luxury car feel. The price is at least 25% too high even if it had those options. Without them, I would not even consider it.

    Like 2
  10. Avatar photo Mark

    Nice wagon. Just don’t let the wife pull the couch out away from the wall…don’t want her to see the front bumper sticking thru the hole you’ll have to cut into the living room wall to fit this thing into the garage.

    Like 2
  11. Avatar photo Greg h

    What is the round white canister next to the a/c compressor?

    Like 0
  12. Avatar photo dyno dan

    16K for a 3K car?? must be some new kind of math out there.
    I bid 2 bars of latinum and an hour in the holo-deck.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Duaney

      find one this clean for $3K. No way!

      Like 2
    • Avatar photo Mister319

      You must be a Ferengi.

      Like 2
  13. Avatar photo Paul

    I have always wanted one of these ’71-’76 GM clamshell wagons ever since I was a kid and of of our family friends had one. I though that roll under tailgate was the coolest thing since sliced bread.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Miguel

      Paul, they are until you drop something down between the car and the door.

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo Ralph

        There are little panels that you can access under the rear of the car for just such a problem, there are 2 little access doors on each side that you can use to access the well.

        Like 0
  14. Avatar photo Ron

    At just 19 inches long and weighing 5,000 pounds, must be made of some very heavy metal…

    Like 1
  15. Avatar photo Miguel

    I hate it when people upholster a car with that cheap material like this car.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo karl

      It kind of bugs me too , but at least its better than duct tape and old T-shirts !

      Like 0
  16. Avatar photo joe

    Mom had one….loaded w all options. We were an Olds dealer. This was the lowest quality car we ever had. But was fun to drive.

    Like 0

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