Beloved ’71 Cutlass Supreme in the Alamo family

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Correction: A previous online version of this column indicated that GM closed its Oldsmobile division in 2009. The division closed in 2004.


Ransom Eli Olds invented the Oldsmobile automobile in 1896, but it was simply called Olds. The first year of the Olds Motor Vehicle Co. was 1897, when four cars were built, and in 1900 the name Oldsmobile was first used. Oldsmobile became the second division of General Motors in 1908, and Ransom Olds left to form a new company called REO (his initials) Motor Co. Many believe that Henry Ford invented the assembly line, but it actually is. Olds who built the famous Curved Dash Olds. from 1901 to 1904 using this method.

This 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertible is owned by Andre Ospital-Cone of Alamo. (David Krumboltz – for Bay Area News Group)

Oldsmobile was GM’s experimental division. A new idea or invention would first be tried out with Olds before the other division used it. In 1940, for example, Oldsmobile offered a fully automatic four-speed transmission called the Hydramatic. In 1949, they introduced their OHV Rocket V8 engine which produced more horsepower than the inline-8 flat-head design and became very popular with hot-rod and stock-car racing games.

The popularity of Oldsmobile and GM increased in the 1950s and 1960s, when GM’s market share reached 50.7% in 1962. Congress was debating GM’s split into small businesses at that time. The Oldsmobile Cutlass was the best-selling car in the United States in 1978-81 and 1983. Oldsmobile sold over a million cars in 1985, which only Ford and Chevrolet had achieved.

It was during the heyday of the Oldsmobile that the vehicle featured in this issue, a 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertible, was built. It is owned by Andre Ospital-Cone of Alamo and was purchased in 1975 by André’s father, its second owner, and has been in the family ever since.

“When my father passed away in 2016, I said to my sisters, ‘I don’t care what you take into the house, but I’m taking this car.’ There was no dispute. My dad gave me this car to drive to high school, ”Ospital-Cone said.

The car is powered by the famous 350 cubic inch Rocket V8 engine paired with the Hydramatic transmission.

“The engine was rebuilt in the early 1980s, and he (my dad) re-painted around that time, too,” he said.

The mileage of the car is not known, but it was driven as a daily driver in the 1970s and early 1980s.

“He had other cars, but he kept this car in the garage. He loved this car and joked that he wanted to bury himself in it.

I think it would be fair to call Andre an accidental car collector because he didn’t buy any, but his family certainly did. This Cutlass Supreme convertible was his father’s; a 1973 Oldsmobile 98 four-door sedan (which is about a block) was bought new by his grandfather; and a 1965 Ford Mustang was bought new by its mother. All three are carefully parked and lovingly driven every week or so.

This 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertible is owned by Andre Ospital-Cone of Alamo. (David Krumboltz – for Bay Area News Group)

Does he have a favorite?

“Without a doubt,” he said, “it’s my favorite. It’s the most sentimental for me, it’s the most fun to drive, I just love the power and the way it behaves and drives. One day, a guy stops me and asks me if I would sell my car. With a straight face, I said, ‘Not for $ 5 million.’ “

The owner also recounted this interesting memory: “We were driving one day when I was young, maybe 8 or 9 years old, when the steering wheel fell. My father gives the steering wheel to my sister, and for a year my father has driven the car with one spoke from the steering wheel. He refused to buy an aftermarket; he wanted an original.

This 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertible is owned by Andre Ospital-Cone of Alamo. (David Krumboltz – for Bay Area News Group)

He finally found one on eBay and put it up.

“I have dreamed of remaking this car and investing a lot of money in it, and someday I will,” said Ospital-Cone. “The other part of me likes it isn’t perfect. I call it a 20 foot car. It looks great from 20ft, but as you get closer you notice the imperfections. So I’ll take him anywhere and don’t worry about him getting gashed. I’m afraid that when I do fix it someday, I won’t want to do it.

So what happened to the successful Oldsmobile company? It probably started with the public relations nightmare of 1977, when demand for the Rocket V8 was greater than what Olds could supply. GM quietly replaced the Chevrolet engines of the same size, which did not please loyal Oldsmobile owners.

Then, the brand lost its originality, having to settle for rebadged models from other GM divisions. They lost the performance characteristics to Pontiac and Chevrolet. GM eliminated the Oldsmobile division in 2004 and kept Buick, probably because Buick is very popular and a status vehicle in China. But Oldsmobile has had a good run – 107 years in business and 35.2 million vehicles sold.

Do you have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at [email protected] To see more photos of this vehicle and other issues, or to read more of Dave’s reviews, visit Mercurynews.com/author/david-krumboltz.


Correction: A previous online version of this column indicated that GM closed its Oldsmobile division in 2009. The division closed in 2004.

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