Powertrain and chassis mules are always exciting to see, but nothing beats when a factory prototype looks just about ready to make it into production the following year. And with their proud FE3-X truck lid badging, Oldsmobile’s 1985 Cutlass FE3-X pair sure looked ready for 1986. However, it’s easy to see why GM just wasn’t going to allow Oldsmobile to have a performance car that could out-handle a Chevy Corvette.
Still, that wouldn’t stop Oldsmobile’s engineers from throwing everything at the Cutlass and the Calais, on top of the FE3 suspension package that was already available for 1985. The bigger coupé with the five-speed and the 5.0-liter Rocket V-8 got a free-flow exhaust and a cold air intake, while its suspension got further improved by stiffer springs and bushings, along with racing dampers. With wider wheels, variable bias rear-disc brakes, and Oldsmobile’s impressive body kit—including an adjustable rear spoiler—the Cutlass FE3-X now out-cornered an ’85 Corvette.
The Calais FE3-X was never going to dominate the muscle car scene with its 3.0-liter V-6 and stiffened rear springs, but no front-wheel-drive GM coupé looked more ready for the twisties. Oldsmobile’s engineers threw in bolstered seats, four-point harnesses, and a roll cage in their quest to break records with their accelerometers, but in the end, the FE3-X cars remained prototypes. Thank MotorWeek for checking them out in the metal, back in 1985: