1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera XC Edition Sedan

The Cutlass proved to be such a big-selling model for Oldsmobile— particularly during the middle 1970s— that The General saw fit to apply the Cutlass name to three unrelated Oldsmobiles during the the mixed-up-muddled-up-shook-up period of the 1980s. There was the Cutlass Supreme, a midsize rear-wheel-drive G-body sibling to the Chevy Monte Carlo and then, a bit later, the front-wheel-drive Chevy Lumina. There was the compact Cutlass Calais, based on the same platform as the Pontiac Grand Am. And there was the Cutlass Ciera, closely related to the Chevy Celebrity and made famous by its starring role in the film “Fargo.” Confused? Don’t be! All you need to know is that today’s Junkyard Gem is a rare example of the special-edition Cutlass Ciera sold to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the very first Oldsmobile car.

The first Oldsmobile hit the streets of Lansing in 1897 and the 90th-anniversary Oldsmobiles rolled off the Lansing Car Assembly line for the 1988 model year. XC is the Roman-numerals method of representing 90, hence the name of the edition. Because the Oldsmobile Division’s marketers had spent decades trying to convince younger buyers to desire their cars, you didn’t see many references to the early days of Oldsmobile in the XC Edition’s advertising… but the XC Special Edition must have been so good that it remained in production through the 1990 model year. Oldsmobile was gone after 2004, and if there was a 100th-anniversary Olds I’m not aware of it.

40 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera XC in Colorado junkyard photo by Murilee Martin

You didn’t get any high-zoot powertrain hardware with the XC (the gnashing Iron Duke 2.5-liter four-banger was the base engine), but the $489 (about $1,050 in 2021 dollars) XC Special Edition package came with orange trim accents and some of the spiffy appearance items from the International Series Calais.

09 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera XC in Colorado junkyard photo by Murilee Martin

The original purchaser of this car was wise enough to wish to avoid the harshness of the 110-horsepower Iron Duke, so it got the 160-horse 3.3-liter V6 under the hood.

49 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera XC in Colorado junkyard photo by Murilee Martin

There was no manual transmission available for this car, but at least the buyer chose the extra-cost four-speed automatic over the fuel-economy-sapping three speed slushbox.

47 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera XC in Colorado junkyard photo by Murilee Martin

Most Detroit cars still didn’t have six-digit odometers by 1990, but this one did. Not quite 150,000 miles, though I’ve seen a junkyard Calais with better than 350k miles.

39 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera XC in Colorado junkyard photo by Murilee Martin

Sold near Denver, will be crushed in Denver.

48 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera XC in Colorado junkyard photo by Murilee Martin

A four-speaker AM/FM/cassette system with auto-reverse was pretty decent audio hardware by 1990 standards.

A mere $176 per month!

It appears that marketing for this era of Calais was all about price, price, price.

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