9 min read
12 Mar

The Cutlass Supreme is a classic midsize car that Oldsmobile produced between 1966 and as recently as 1997 as the top trim level in the Cutlass lineup, offering more luxury features and options compared to other models in the series. 

The upscale features typically included higher-quality materials, enhanced styling, and more advanced amenities. However, it wasn't always a separate model in the Cutlass lineup but started life as a trim package. 

The Supreme would soon become the most sought-after Oldsmobile and best-selling Cutlass in the 1970s. Let's find out why the 1972 Cutlass Supreme is an enduring classic. 

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Background Story Of The 1972 Cutlass Supreme - The First Generation

The story of Cutlass Supreme.

Photo credit: Accord14 via Wikimedia

In 1966, the automotive world welcomed the inaugural debut of the Cutlass Supreme, a fresh offering from General Motors that marked the dawn of their latest midsize four-door hardtop sedan, endearingly termed the Holiday Sedan. 

This model wasn't just another addition to the lineup; it sat atop the F-85 Deluxe series, distinguished by its upscale interior amenities. Occupants were treated to the comfort of a bench seat complete with an armrest, enveloped by deluxe door panels, while the exterior was adorned with "CS" insignia gracefully positioned on the trunk and rear C-pillars. 

Despite its more modest dimensions compared to the typical American car of the time, its luxurious interior was on par with contemporaries like the LTD, VIP, DPL, and Caprice. 

The Supreme Evolves Into A Standalone Model

1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertible interior.

Photo credit: BArman via Wikimedia

The following year, 1967, saw the Cutlass Supreme's evolution into an entire model range, introducing various body styles for various tastes. 

This expansion included the sleek two-door hardtop Holiday Coupe, the traditional two-door pillared Sport Coupe, the stately four-door pillared Town Sedan, and the air-in-my-hair convertible. Supreme variants set themselves apart with their sumptuous interior touches that outshone the standard F-85 and Cutlass models. 

The sedans boasted elegant cloth or "Morocceen" vinyl bench seats with armrests, while the coupes and convertibles offered the luxury of all-vinyl Strato bucket seats, further cementing the Supreme's status as a symbol of accessible opulence. 

Throughout 1966 and 1977, the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme's mainstay powerplant remained the robust 330 cubic inch (5.4 liter) "Ultra High Compression" Jetfire Rocket V8. This formidable engine produced a hearty 320 horsepower (239 kilowatts) courtesy of its four-barrel carburetor setup. 

Shoppers had a trio of transmission choices to go with this engine. The base model came equipped with a three-speed manual gearbox, operated via a traditional column-mounted shifter. 

For those who preferred a more engaging driving experience, a floor-mounted four-speed manual was available, complete with a precision Hurst shifter. Alternatively, drivers could opt for the convenience of a two-speed Jetaway automatic transmission. 

The Cutlass Supreme Gets The 442 Powertrain

1967 Cutlass Supreme Holiday Coupe.

1967 Cutlass Supreme Holiday coupe - Photo credit: Bring-a-Trailer

Come 1967, the Cutlass Supreme lineup was invigorated with the vaunted 442 package, a high-octane option that delighted performance enthusiasts. This upgrade was accessible on three specific Supreme models: the dapper sport coupe, the sophisticated Holiday coupe, and the breezy convertible. 

Under the hood of the 442 sat a brawny 400 cubic inch (6.6 liter) V8 engine that summoned an impressive 350 horsepower (260 kilowatts). In addition, Oldsmobile offered the "Turnpike Cruiser" package across the same trio of two-door Supreme models. 

This package included a 400 cubic inch V8 as well, but with a two-barrel carburetor that delivered a more modest 300 horsepower (220 kilowatts). 

It was paired with a numerically lower rear axle ratio for enhanced highway fuel efficiency and seamlessly connected to a Turbo Hydramatic transmission, rounding out a package that was powerful and poised for long-distance cruising. 

1972 Cutlass Supreme - The Second Generation

1972 Cutlass Supreme Hardtop.

Photo credit: IFCAR via Wikimedia

The year 1968 ushered in a fresh chapter for the Cutlass and its GM intermediate counterparts, as they received a comprehensive restyling that left no stone unturned. 

Notable changes included the wheelbase adjustments, with 2-door coupe models now sporting a trim 112-inch (2,845 mm) wheelbase, while their 4-door sedan and station wagon counterparts saw a slight increase to 116 inches (2,946 mm). An exception to this was the glass-roof Vista Cruiser station wagon, which luxuriated on an even lengthier 121-inch (3,100 mm) wheelbase. 

Within the revamped lineup, the Cutlass Supreme ascended to become the premier Oldsmobile intermediate series, showcasing a refined selection of two- and four-door hardtop models.

 Not playing to the gallery, the pillared sedans and coupes got phased out, while the convertible found a new home under the umbrella of the more affordable Cutlass "S" line. It was within this revised landscape that the revered 4-4-2 muscle car found its foundation. 

Under the hood, the standard Rocket V8 underwent a transformation of its own, growing in displacement from 330 to 350 cubic inches. This enhancement translated to a robust output of 310 horsepower (231 kilowatts), ensuring that the Cutlass lineup was well-equipped to deliver both performance and style in equal measure. 

1969 Cutlass Model Year: Subtle Refinements and Safety Innovations

1969 Cutlass Supreme.

1969 Cutlass Supreme - Photo credit: ClassicCars

Although the automotive landscape was rich with design and innovation in 1969, enthusiasts observed only minimal cosmetic changes on the Cutlass. It got a new split grille that added a fresh face to the exterior styling, and the vertical taillights received a redesign that contributed to a more modern rear appearance. 

These tweaks helped the models stay current without a complete overhaul. Performance-wise, the transmission got the most significant upgrade. The new three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic 350 became an option, replacing the outdated two-speed Jetaway automatic. This new transmission would become the preferred choice for a smoother, more responsive driving experience. 

Vehicle safety was becoming a prominent concern during this period, leading to the implementation of new federal mandates. In response, headrests became a standard feature across the Cutlass Supreme models to enhance passenger protection during collisions. This addition reflected the industry's growing focus on vehicle safety.

Another significant change was the relocation of the ignition switch, which moved from the instrument panel to the steering column. This redesign was twofold in its benefits: it provided additional convenience for the driver and introduced a new safety feature — the steering wheel lock. 

The ignition/steering wheel interlock mechanism was a novelty at the time, debuting as a standard feature on all 1969 General Motors passenger cars, with the exception of the Corvair. This innovation was proactive, as it became a federal requirement one year later, in 1970. 

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The 1970 Cutlass Supreme: Entering the Personal Luxury Market

1970 Cutlass Supreme.

1970 Cutlass Supreme - Photo credit: Curbside Classic

As the new decade began, Oldsmobile shifted gears with the Cutlass Supreme nameplate. Taking a cue from the successful Pontiac Grand Prix, the Cutlass Supreme was repositioned to compete in the growing market for personal luxury cars

By adopting the more compact A-body platform, the Cutlass Supreme could offer a blend of luxury and performance in a smaller package. 

The 1970 model year introduced a clear differentiation in styling within the Cutlass family. The two-door hardtop models, known as Holiday Coupes, stood out from its siblings with a distinctive notchback roofline. 

In contrast, the lower trim-line Cutlass coupes appealed to those who favored a sportier aesthetic with a fastback style roof. Despite its new luxury orientation, the Cutlass Supreme emphasized its place in the family by continuing to share key body parts with the standard Cutlass line. 

This strategy contrasted with the tactics of the Grand Prix and the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, which both flaunted unique bodies, longer wheelbases, and distinct branding. 

Be as it may, Oldsmobile recognized the diverse needs and preferences of luxury car buyers and expanded the Cutlass Supreme series. Alongside the two-door hardtop, the lineup welcomed back the convertible body style. 

Furthermore, introducing a four-door hardtop, termed the Holiday Sedan, broadened the appeal to customers seeking a combination of luxury and practicality. 

The Cutlass Supreme Interior Options

1972 Cutlass Supreme interior.

1972 Cutlass Supreme interior - Photo credit: Barn Finds

The Cutlass Supreme models stood out for their superior interior options. Passengers could enjoy the comfort of a Custom Sport notchback bench seat, complete with an armrest and upholstered in either Osborne cloth or Morocceen vinyl. 

Alternatively, for those preferring a sportier feel at no additional charge, Strato bucket seats in Morocceen vinyl were available on both coupes and convertibles. 

Customers who opted for bucket seats could get an additional upgrade—installing a center console featuring a floor-mounted shifter. This stylish add-on complemented the driving experience, especially when paired with the Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission. 

The transmission could be further enhanced with the Hurst Dual-Gate shifter, an iconic feature of Oldsmobile's renowned muscle car, the 442. 

Cutlass Supreme High Performance "SX" Option

1970 Cutlass Supreme SX hardtop.

1970 Cutlass Supreme SX hardtop - Photo credit: Bring-a-Trailer

In 1970 and 1971, the Cutlass Supreme coupe and convertible models could be equipped with the Code Y-79 high-performance "SX" option package. This package showcased the larger 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8 engine, lifted from the mighty Olds 442. 

The performance enhancements continued with a cutout rear bumper and exhaust trumpets, and while the 442's rallye suspension was optional, the SX option also included distinctive SX badges and other exclusive features. 

Cutlass Supreme W31 Option - A Touch of Racing Flair

Cutlass Supreme W31 Option.

1970 Cutlass Supreme W31 - Photo credit: Old Cars Weekly

The W31 option brought an extra level of uniqueness and performance to the Supreme Coupe in 1968. This option was characterized by its striking stripes and special badging, along with a performance-tuned camshaft that boasted increased lift and duration for the 350 engine. 

Although the W31 option was exclusive to the Supreme coupe in 1968, it was extended to the lower-line F-85 and Cutlass S coupes until 1970, allowing a broader range of Oldsmobile enthusiasts to enjoy this race-inspired enhancement. 

The Advent of the W31 Muscle: A Cutlass Rarity

Cutlass Supreme W31 engine.

Cutlass Supreme W31 engine - Photo credit: Hemmings

The W31 option was a hidden gem among muscle car enthusiasts, particularly noted for its unique blend of style and performance. Although you could spot the W31 by its distinctive stripes and badging, its allure wasn't just skin-deep. 

Under the hood lived a camshaft designed for increased lift and duration, giving the 350 engine a significant performance boost. Initially, the W31 package was exclusively offered on the Supreme coupes in 1968, marking the beginning of its storied yet limited run. 

However, Oldsmobile expanded this option to the more accessible F-85 and Cutlass S coupes until the 1970 model year. 

The 1972 Cutlass Supreme Notchback: A Rare Breed

The 1972 model year saw the Cutlass Supreme notchback hardtop with an exceptional configuration that was rare and powerful. Equipped with the L75 455 engine and paired with an M20 four-speed manual transmission, this version became a coveted collector's item, with only 77 units ever produced. 

These cars stood out with larger 2.07 valves and borrowed the W30 automatic camshaft, resulting in a robust 270 net horsepower. The choice of transmission played a pivotal role in the car's performance. 

While the L75 455/M20 manual transmission models pumped out 270 horsepower, their counterparts using the TH400 automatic transmission produced slightly less power, at 250 net horsepower. 

The 1972 Hurst/Olds: A Pace-Setting Legend

1972 Hurst/Olds Cutlass Supreme Pace Car.

Photo credit: Bring-a-trailer

The Hurst/Olds of 1972 was based on the Supreme two-door hardtop and convertible models. It packed a powerful punch, thanks to the 455 Rocket engine, which was also used in the 4-4-2 models. 

This engine, in combination with the Turbo 400 transmission and the exclusive Hurst Dual/Gate shifter, made for memorable driving experiences. 

Adding to the Hurst/Olds' allure was its selection as the Indianapolis 500 Pace Car in 1972. Blessing the H/O’s convertible version with this prestigious honor cemented its place in racing history and muscle car legends. 

1972: The Final Year for the Supreme Convertible

1972 Cutlass Supreme Convertible.

Photo credit: BArmand via Wikimedia

In 1972, the Cutlass Supreme convertible enjoyed its final production run until its revival in 1990. It wasn't just a quiet exit; the Supreme convertible went out on a high note, becoming the best-selling convertible in the United States. 

With 11,571 units sold, representing 16% of the market share, it surpassed competitors like the Cadillac Eldorado and the Chevrolet Corvette.

Following the Supreme convertible's discontinuation, Oldsmobile enthusiasts had to turn their attention to the full-sized Delta 88 Royale if they desired an open-top experience. This model was the only Oldsmobile convertible available from 1973 through 1975, marking a temporary end to the Cutlass convertible's storied legacy. 

1972 Cutlass Supreme Current Market Value

1972 Cutlass Supreme price.

1972 Cutlass Supreme 442 W30 - Photo credit: The Last Detail

Using ConceptCarz's valuation tool, the prevailing median sale value of the 1972 Cutlass Supreme is $19,500, with $4,100 as the lowest sale value and $73,700 as the highest. You can expect to pay $27,500 to $73,700 for a 1972 Cutlass Supreme in "perfect" condition. 

Drawn from 248 auction sales data, the median sale value of the 1972 Cutlass Supreme coupe body style is $10,250, $21,753 for the convertible, $8,500 for the Holiday hardtop, $11,875 for the S Holiday hardtop, and $26,552 for the S Sports coupe. 

Ultimately, the current market value of the 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme depends on the vehicle’s condition. 

Pricing Source: Conceptcarz.com

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