Thursday, January 29, 2015

1k: Worlds Ugliest: 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Aeroback Salon

The 4-door coupe is a crowded segment on the road these days, I can't drive more than a few miles in sunny SoCal without seeing a new Audi A7, Mercedes CLS, BMW 6-series, or a Porsche Panamera driven by some lady with freshly bleached hair.  Zee Germans might be having all the lately, but it was in American that a luxury brand launched the concept of a luxurious sedan with a fastback roof shape -- way back in 1978 with the introduction of the Oldsmobile Cutlass Aeroback Salon (not saloon like the British world for sedan, but salon like the place women pay to get their hair ruined). Find this 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlas Aeroback Salon offered for $1,000 in Ojai, CA via craigslist. Tip from Sean S.

First, before the Oldsmobile Preservation, Restoration and Investment in Cars for Kicks members start spamming the comments...I didn't say that this was the world's ugliest car...its owner did.  His exact words:  "The worlds Ugliest Car FoR Sale (Registered and Runs GREAT!)."  Put down the pitchforks you Olds pricks.

The Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon was downsized in 1978 to the GM A-platform shared with the Buick Century, Chevrolet El Camino, Malibu, Monte Carlo, and Pontiac Grand Am, Grand Prix, Le Mans.  The Salon (Aeroback) may have looked like a hatchback (VW Dasher, Saab 99 Wagonback or Audi Fox) but the rear glass is fixed and it maintains a separate trunk, which considerably reduces and hatch usability.  The Salon is just ugly enough (particularly in this shade of yak vomit brown) to be cool.

See another candidate for the world's ugliest competition?


  1. Oh, I see. P.R.I.C.K.--Preservation, Restoration and Investment in Cars for Kicks.
    Had to read that a couple of times.
    The seller states that these are not pictures of the actual car for sale. And that the car has "a lot of rust". Maybe that's why he calls it ugly.

    1. With a hatch, this idea might have made some sense, Anyway as it is, it reminds me of a Chevette 4-door with a pituitary problem.

      I wonder where he managed to find another one to photograph? They may be the last two in the world. Maybe we should contact a zoo and see if they can set up a captive breeding program, On second thought....

  2. If it has 4 doors, its not a coupe (or a grand coupe, BMW).

  3. That generation of A-car and the G-bodies pulled from it were pretty much all of GM's worst ideas all rolled up in one bundle.

    As a platform, it was laughable - can anyone find a smaller body-on-frame passenger car built since WWII? Partly as a result the interior was quite small for its size and adding to back-seat claustrophobia was the fact that - on a car the size of the E23 BMW 7-series - GM decided that the rear door windows didn't need to open.

    These cars were home to every thrifted, cheapened, crap bit of mechanicals GM was producing in the '70s, from the lousy 605 steering box to the potmetal-guts Turbo 200 and 250 transmissions.

    The assembly quality was crap, the drip rail moldings typically looked like someone had a back-room business going wrapping bits of old beercan around a chopstick. The carpet nap was the hairball your cat hocked up yesterday. You could pay extra for a sound-insulation package that left bits of adhesive mastic dripping out on the trunk floor, the carpets, and your feet in hot weather. GM engineers knew their workforce, all their '70s product were designed to be assembled by angry drunks, so if the panels were spotwelded together within a quarter-inch of the intended shape, if the trim screws at least hit metal when they went in, then it was good enough to ship.

    1. The rear door windows didn't roll down?!? Was this on every version of this gen A-body?

      As a young lad I was shuttled around in my grandmother's beige 4-door Malibu, '79 or '80 I think. I honestly can't recall if I was able to roll down the rear windows or not, but I do vividly remember staring at the back of that naugahyde front bench seat.

    2. Yes, all of that generation A-bodies. GM claimed that it gave rear-seat passengers more elbow room that way. Yeah, right. Let me dust off the Ouija board, do a little peyote, and channel a forty-year-past GM product planning meeting:

      Boss: "We need to sell three-across rear seating. How are we going to do it?"

      Flunky 1: "Well, the Nova's got three-across"

      Boss: "That's the cheaper car. We need more room."

      Flunky 1: "We don't have more room."

      Flunky 2: "We can take out the rear window regulators and push the armrests out into the door!"

      Flunky 1: "I don't think people will buy it."

      Flunky 2: "We'll save (scratch, scratch, today it'd be click, click but not in 1975) $12.10 per car!"

      Boss: "Okay we'll do it."

      Flunky 1: "I still don't think it'll sell..."

      Boss: "Would you like a nice transfer to the wiring-loom design department?"

      Flunky 1: "Uh..."

      Boss: "Then it's decided."

    3. In fact, the X-body Nova was a better car, even with its buggy-spring rearend, and GM did a rear seat for the cop-car Novas that - although less than ideal for three-across - was FAR better than any of the A-body cars for two occupants (the local PD where I grew up had a bunch of the Nova cop cars, not that I had a lot of experience with them...)

    4. Oh, and I forgot to mention that those things in their various brand flavors benefited from every wheezy, carbureted, 100HP-plus-or-minus, rumbling-bumbling-stumbling odd-fire V6 GM could come up with in those days.

      Even back in my tender youth I used to muse that GM put these things in the showroom to sell more Caprices and 88s, but in reality they probably sold more Novas and Omegas.

    5. don't mince words now, mr k, tell us how you really feel - you were in looove with one of these once, weren't you?

  4. At the Saab shop we thought these were an ugly knock-off. Not that those five-door 99s were pretty.

    1. There's almost always prior art, I mean you could point at something like this:

      but there were trunked fastback sedans in the '30s I think.

      What made this thing particularly execrable was the sheer folded-paper-placemat stapled-togetherness of it.

      It's got that feeling that someone came up with the fastback-sedan concept, and it might have almost looked decent in its first rendering, but then

      a) the budget guys told him he could not absolutely not no way no how have different doors for the fastback,

      b) the engineers told him that he could absolutely no way no how cut a hatchback into their structure,

      at which point he put his head on the table and wept. But senior management had already been sold the fastback idea, so the infinite layers of yes-men convinced one another that it was a good idea.

    2. And bad as it is, it was only practice for the grand prize of GM trash, the '80 Seville.

  5. When I see this car I also think of fake convertible tops. They looked like convertible tops but were just vinyl over steel with the lumpy cross bits to look ............................... more luxurious (pronounced lug-xurious ). Don't worry folks in the future we will make the Citation! (makes gagging noise..) The one thing I did like on the Cutlass Salon was the insignia on the fender behind the front wheel that looked like some military uniform decoration....


Commenting Commandments:
I. Thou Shalt Not write anything your mother would not appreciate reading.
II. Thou Shalt Not post as anonymous unless you are posting from mobile and have technical issues. Use name/url when posting and pick something Urazmus B Jokin, Ben Dover. Sir Edmund Hillary Clint don't matter. Just pick a nom de plume and stick with it.
III. Honor thy own links by using <a href ="http://www.linkgoeshere"> description of your link </a>
IV. Remember the formatting tricks <i>italics</i> and <b> bold </b>
V. Thou Shalt Not commit spam.
VI. To embed images: use [image src="" width="400px"/]. Limit images to no wider than 400 pixels in width. No more than one image per comment please.