Besides being the birth year of Taylor Swift, 1989 was largely when Japanese luxury brands burst onto the U.S. automotive landscape. Cars like the Lexus LS400 and Acura Legend were giving Cadillac, Chrysler, and the Germans a serious run for their money.
Meanwhile, Oldsmobile, the now-forgotten pseudo-luxury division of GM, was up to something else entirely. The engineering team responsible for their 1989 lineup must have taken some ayahuasca and wandered off into the woods because their cars are unlike anything else being produced in the States at that time.
A touchscreen in a modern car is nothing to write home about, but in 1989 this feature was akin to living in Blade Runner. The fourth (and last) generation Toronado Trofeo was equipped with a CRT-touchscreen controlling both the radio and HVAC controls. Simple buttons could accomplish exactly the same tasks, but they weren’t swathed in an array of vector graphics so Oldsmobile wanted nothing to do with it. To add to its “Wedge From Space” aesthetic, the Toronado also utilized pop-up headlights and more styling lines than legally allowed.
The Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais is barely remembered today, with its only current accolade being the official car of deserted grocery store parking lots. Thirty years ago, it looks like it could blow the doors off any Honda that came its way. With “Quad-4” badging and one very angry stripe down the side, the 1989 Calais would make any true Radwood fan cry.
Of the roughly 5000 variants of the Oldsmobile Cutlass, the 1989 Olds Cutlass Supreme is the one that stands out. It was a theoretically sporty five-speed coupe, however the Supreme was still front-wheel drive and still thrown together on a Friday afternoon, all while looking like it drove straight out of a vaporwave video. Today, Cutlass Supremes are fetching tens of dollars at auction.
Straight from 1977 is the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser. While everything else in the lineup was equipped with (relatively) efficient four- and six-cylinder engines, the Custom Cruiser still had eight cylinders lazily vibrating under the hood. It’s a mystery as to why Oldsmobile still offered this relic when the rest of its models looked like something out of a drug-induced fever dream. Perhaps whatever dark power bestowed Oldsmobile with radically designed cars also cursed them with a tired station wagon. I don’t think we will ever know the true story, as the human mind is unable comprehend the inner machinations of late-’80s General Motors without going insane.
Sadly, Oldsmobile went defunct in 2004 along with the hopes of ever having something as wild as the Toronado Trofeo ever again. It’s a little sad that virtually no one noticed when Oldsmobile was up to something crazy.