Monday, February 1, 2016

Oldsmobile's Curious Vista-Cruiser Station Wagon

The Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser station wagon and the similar Buick Sport Wagon were built in three series, 1964-67, 1968-72 and 1973-77, as this reference mentions.

Only the first two series concern us because they featured a raised roof aft of the C-pillar with slit-windows at its front and sides.  These cars featured a third row of seats, so perhaps the raised roof and its fenestration were marketed as amenities for the passengers stuck in back.  The third-row seatbacks (and the seats, presumably, though they were placed over the differential) were at the same level as the other seats, so the extra height was probably not necessary for headroom purposes.  But the feature might have lessened any claustrophobia for passengers during daylight hours.

The "Vista" label was borrowed from a railcar concept (see here), marketed as Vista-Dome by at least one railroad, the Burlington.  So it was a short marketing step from Vista-Dome to Vista-Cruiser for Oldsmobile.

Sales of nearly 60,000 first-series Vista-Cruisers (plus perhaps 25,000 Buick Sport Wagons) were enough to justify continuing the concept when Oldsmobiles and Buicks were redesigned for the 1968 model year.

Although there was nothing really wrong with the Vista-Cruiser concept, there was little that was right about it either, so far as I am concerned.  It was basically a fairly small market niche that General Motors could afford to fill in those days.

As for styling, the raised roof added bulk to the overall design of the car and unbalanced it somewhat.


1964 Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser

1964 Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser advertisement
This links the car to the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, where General Motors had a pavilion.

1967 Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser, rear 3/4 view

1968 Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser
The style appeared again when Oldsmobiles were given redesigned bodies.

1972 Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser
The final version.


Anonymous said...

This 68 olds vista cruiser was the first new car my father bought. He actually ordered it from the factory with the 455 and TH400 transmission.
we spent many happy hours in the third row seat.This car had power everything. From whistler mountain in Canada, to Tijuana in Mexico, we had good times in this very comfortable, reliable wagon.

Anonymous said...

We had a 67 as a family car. The thing squeaked a bit but it ran until it finally died in 1976 with many miles on it. Fond memories.