Oldsmobile F-85 Vista Cruiser

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Keywords: Oldsmobile F-85 Vista Cruiser

Description: As large as it was, Oldsmobile's Vista Cruiser derived its heritage from a much larger GM vehicle: the vast split-level Scenicruiser buses the company built to order for Greyhound. Those buses

As large as it was, Oldsmobile's Vista Cruiser derived its heritage from a much larger GM vehicle: the vast split-level Scenicruiser buses the company built to order for Greyhound. Those buses featured a raised roof that began a third of the way back, and which was high enough to accommodate a second windshield at its leading edge. The Vista Cruiser borrowed this concept, albeit somewhat less.

As large as it was, Oldsmobile's Vista Cruiser derived its heritage from a much larger GM vehicle: the vast split-level Scenicruiser buses the company built to order for Greyhound. Those buses featured a raised roof that began a third of the way back, and which was high enough to accommodate a second windshield at its leading edge. The Vista Cruiser borrowed this concept, albeit somewhat less dramatically, with a roof that was raised just slightly at the C-pillar. This allowed for a windshield whose view was more upward than forward. Still, when combined with the complementary glass panels above the wayback side windows the design gave the Vista Cruiser's back seat passengers an airy compartment in which to wile away the hours.

The Vista Cruiser hit the showrooms as a 1964 model. While officially part of the F-85 range, its longer wheelbase (120 inches, as opposed to 115 for the rest of the range) placed gave it the stance of a full-sized wagon, and allowed room for an optional forward-facing third seat. ( Oldsmobile also sold a standard-wheelbase F-85/Cutlass wagon through the 1970 model year.) Although the Vista Cruiser was a de facto full-sized model, its powertrains echoed those offered in the mid-sized F-85/Cutlass series. Through 1967, power was provided by 330 c.i. V8s which were available in several states of tune. Both three- and four-speed sticks were available, but they were rarely ordered. All but a very few Vista Cruisers were fitted with the two-speed Jetaway Hydramatic or, starting in 1967, the three-speed Turbo Hydramatic.

When the F-85/Cutlass was restyled for 1968, the Vista Cruiser went along for the ride, gaining an inch in wheelbase. Oldsmobile's 350 c.i. V8 became the standard engine, and the option list included the same 400 and 455 c.i. engines that could be had on the sedans and coupes. In 1969 the three-seat Vista Cruiser was equipped with a dual-action tailgate whose side-mounted hinges allowed it to be opened like a conventional door as well as a drop-down gate. In door mode, a portion of the bumper moved aside to provide access to a step. Buyers of the two-seat model could get the dual-action tailgate as an extra-cost option. For 1971 the Vista Cruiser shared showroom space with Oldsmobile's new full-sized Custom Cruiser. The division's first official full-sized wagon since 1964's Dynamic 88 Fiesta, the new model rode on a 127-inch wheelbase and tipped the scales at just over 5,000 pounds. Despite looking very much like it had since 1968, the Vista Cruiser's sales of 26,546 were almost double twice that of the Custom Cruiser's 13,981. The Vista Cruiser was little changed for 1972, but sales increased to 31,913. The Custom Cruiser was beginning to catch on, but its 24,994 sales still fell behind those of the aging Vista Cruiser.

Now that Oldsmobile had the Custom Cruiser to offer in the jumbo size, it felt comfortable putting the Vista Cruiser on a diet. When the A-body was restyled for 1973, the wagon was moved to the same 116 wheelbase that supported the Cutlass sedan. Sadly, at the same time the Vista Cruiser lost its defining raised roofline and extra windows. The name now designated nothing more than a Cutlass Supreme wagon with some extra trim and more standard equipment.

For a look at a real Vista Cruiser, check out reruns of "That '70s Show," most episodes of which provide at least a glance – and usually much more – at a 1969 model. Some of its brightwork has been given a non-reflective matte finish, but beyond that it's an excellent example.



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