The Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser is one of many cars responsible for the reputation of wagons as boring yet practical cars. Throughout the body style's life, there have been plenty of exciting vehicles that have worked against the stereotype of these cars. Notably, in recent years there has been the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, Audi RS6 Avant, BMW M340i Touring, and the long-rumored BMW M3 Touring. These cars all show the gearhead's demand for a fast, practical car that can do everything while still being fun.
This segment has continued to grow over the past years but didn't originate with the German marques. Oldsmobile, who, until they folded in 2004, was one of General Motors' middle-of-the-road options. Using the A platform which supported General Motors' larger cars like the Chevrolet El Camino and Pontiac GTO made the wagon into a classic car worthy of your attention.
The Vista Cruiser came with a 455 engine, turning it into a performance wagon.
A Healthy Performance Option
The car's first generation only came with the 330 V8 which produced between 200 and 300 horsepower, a perfectly adequate performance figure but powering what Oldsmobile called an 88, in other words, a full-sized and heavy car.
For the second generation of car launching for 1968 and continuing to sell for four model years, the options range increased, including a 455-cubic-inch V8. This doesn't mean that the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser could take on most modern hot hatchbacks, at 18 feet long and weighing around 4,000 pounds the car was by no means nimble, but it could certainly move. Hitting 94 mph at the end of the quarter-mile and finishing it in 14.7 seconds. Certainly, enough to get away from the stoplights quickly, and with a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive set up the car does have the hint of sporting potential that comes with the shared underpinnings from the Oldsmobile Cutlass.
With a muscular front, the Vista Cruiser has the hint of a muscle car about it with large bonnet vents setting it apart from regular station wagons. Taking inspiration from the competing station wagons the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser sold with the iconic exterior wood cladding that defines this style of car, contrasting with the performance potential of this model.
A Well-Equipped Sleeper Wagon
The most important thing with these sleeper wagons, other than their ludicrous performance, is their general level of equipment. The trick to blending in is to subvert expectations, and the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser does this exceptionally well. The Vista part of the name alludes to the glass roof over the second-row seats and the increased glass around the cargo space. This sunroof gives the car a more airy and luxurious feel and is still a cost option fifty years after the car's production.
The car is also well-equipped in the more utilitarian respect, with disc brakes at the front and drum brakes at the rear, a set-up that even relatively new economy cars are still using. The car even features power steering, truly modern.
The interior of the car comes with lashings of leather on the inside of the door. The most deceptive design feature is the dashboard, during the second-generation car's lifespan the model retained the wooden dashboard, continuing the design motifs of the exterior cladding.