It’s not every day you come across an Oldsmobile Silhouette—the “Cadillac of minivans”—while perusing your favorite online automotive classifieds. This badge-engineered people mover was vastly overshadowed by corporate contemporaries like the Chevrolet Lumina and the Pontiac Trans Sport, and it was purchased almost exclusively by that small cadre of families who had made the soon-to-be-defunct Oldsmobile their ride-or-die brand.
What’s completely outlandish, however, is stumbling across a 114,000-mile (184,000-km) one-of-three 1999 Oldsmobile Silhouette OSV, perhaps the strangest offshoot of General Motors’ last-ditch effort to save Olds from extinction. OSV stands for Oldsmobile Special Vehicle, which was the General’s planned in-house tuning division for a marque that had in the preceding years precisely zero ties to the street performance scene.
In fact, as the listing indicates, OSV never officially existed in a formal capacity. Oldsmobile threw it all together for the 1999 SEMA show, hauling three modified vehicles to Las Vegas: an Intrigue sedan, an Alero coupe, and a Silhouette minivan. The idea was to gauge public reaction to the notion of quicker, hotter Oldsmobiles. A specter of desperation hovered over the entire enterprise.
While the Alero OSV and the Intrigue OSV were both supercharged, the Silhouette’s mechanical modifications were restricted to breathing apparatus, with a louder, free-flowing exhaust and a cold-air intake installed to bring total horsepower to 210 (a boost of 25 ponies) from the van’s 3.4-liter V-6. Like its siblings, the Silhouette also gained Brembo brakes and six Recaro seats (across all three rows!), along with the same aggressive aero body kit and bright red paint job.
Here’s where things get murky. We talked to Kyle at Empire Motors—the dealer in Canada that listed the van—who tells us that this Silhouette came in as a trade. The previous owner is well known in the Kelowna, British Columbia, car community as a master painter who does a lot of custom work. Kyle suspects that the vehicle might have been a client car that was taken as payment for work on another vehicle. Empire does a reasonably brisk business in unusual and enthusiast autos, he says, so it’s natural for the business to be a magnet for off-beat vehicles like this that surface in the area.
As far as we can determine, Oldsmobile only made a handful of Silhouette OSV prototypes. One was in the candy red seen here, and another was part of a set that were painted green. OSV #2—a red Silhouette—was sold twice by Barrett-Jackson (in 2009 for $9900 and again in 2012 for $18,150), but that van was not legal for road use. This one clearly is and managed to make it across the border to boot, which makes us wonder how accurate the “1 of 3” claim might be. But before your eyes get wide with prospect of a hidden trio of OSV vans built for the Canadian auto show circuit, the speedometer on Empire’s Silhouette reads in miles per hour, which indicates the vehicle was originally manufactured for the U.S. market. Despite the dealer’s assertion of 184,000 km, the odometer reads 8601 (miles, presumably).
All questions of provenance aside, there’s no doubt this is one of the most interesting minivans currently on sale—at any price point. For roughly $6500 (USD) you could own a forgotten piece of GM history. While OSV might not have done much of anything to stave off Oldsmobile’s demise (less than a year after that fateful SEMA appearance, GM announced it was phasing out the brand), it could certainly rejuvenate a boring commute.