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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Hasta la Vista, Baby! Oldsmobile's Vista Cruiser defined family recreation for a generation

Technically, GM Styling designed the original 1964 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, but World War II most likely spawned its success. That's because in the postwar years, Americans were busy doing two things: building families and engaging in outdoor recreation. Conceivably inspired by GM design chief Harley Earl's 1945 Astra Liner railroad car and industrial designer Raymond [...]
https://www.hagerty.com/media/magazine-features/hasta-la-vista-baby-oldsmobiles-vista-cruiser-define...
62 REPLIES 62
Snailish
Instructor

I saw a really clean one of these for sale at an auto flea market about 10 years ago. Price was fair rather than a steal at the time. In hindsight... massive steal for something so cool and not rusted out (everything around here is).

 

This body style from GM is one of my favourites of everything. Vista Cruiser just takes up several notches in coolness of a certain kind.

audiobycarmine
Technician

I LOVE these wagons! Sure, Chevy, Pontiac and Buick all had nice wagons, but to me, the Vista Cruiser was the best.

I drove one occassionally as a "company car", and always wished it were mine. Very comfortable, smooth and powerful.

The featured model in the article is just gorgeous, with its sculptured body lines and even its wheels.

I'd still love to have one.
tmkreutzer
Intermediate Driver

My father, like some others I have heard of, was an Oldsmobile man,  But he would never own anything sleek or modern until he unexpectedly sprang for a brand new Cutlass Supreme in 1984. Instead of the fake woodgrain luxury of the vista Cruiser, my brothers, sisters and I were carried around in a 1964 Dynamic 88 wagon until the mid 70s when our dad finally "downsized" to a used 71 Delta 88 sedan. Neither of these were especially stylish, although the 2 door version of the 71 Delta 88 was quite a head-turner, but they were magnificent automobiles. I genuinely miss Oldsmobile.

Pegleg01
Detailer

Olds and Pontiac too. My God, they somehow were allowed to go off the cliff.
Ty
Intermediate Driver

God I pray for the return of the 'longroof' and an end to these unnecessary, awful, offensive to... "normal" people... SUV and CUVs?? Can we please have a renaissance of the Custom and Vista Cruisers, Estate, Safari, Country Squire, Colony Park, Town and Country (wagon) and all?! There. I've prayed it into being. Maybe if we all prayed it into being, the world would be a better place.
JGeske
Instructor

If you want to see something amazing, look up the Lingenfelter Vista Cruiser on YouTube. Lingenfelter built a 1970 up with a supercharged LS3. The thing absolutely shreds!
Pegleg01
Detailer

That sounds like something I'd love! Lingenfelter = MAGIC.
gergeizzo
Pit Crew

How about the value for 1970 / 1971 like what is seen in the photos?
ChrisMichael
New Driver

The Vista Cruiser lived on in the hearts and minds of many people, both young and old, due to the popularity of the late 90s, mid 00s sitcom, That '70s Show. I always appreciated in the show that it was called "The Vista Cruiser" by the cast, making the name a lasting (and well-known) tribute to the vehicle!
Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

A W-30 package would have been awesome. I love the old vista cruiser.
Realmongo
Intermediate Driver

Buick had its own version of the Vista Cruiser called the Sport Wagon which was even nicer. I remember when my grandfather took delivery of a new 1966 model in Yonkers, NY. That was one sweet car!
MustangJim
Technician

Mark Buick on tuckahoe road!!!!!
1951hudsonsuper
New Driver

That '70's Show had one and now with the '90's re-make it would be nice to see it again. I have the 1969 Buick version of this called the Sport Wagon . Has the same glass in the roof.
miata93
Advanced Driver

I believe my neighbor had the Buick Sport Wagon. It had the roof skylight and was a mint green metallic. Correct me if I am wrong but I remember it having wheel covers that had simulated racing "spinners".
MustangJim
Technician

Yes, they did have fake spinner wheel covers. The Buick sportwago was very cool
Oldmanhiker
Intermediate Driver

What's up with the duct tape?
Alfanorth
Intermediate Driver

Nothing more American than that, folks!
portdelmarva
New Driver

I still have a mid 70's SWB custom van that I cut the dome section off of a second gen Olds in a salvage yard and installed on the roof about 40 years ago. This was rather common during the custom van craze days and I believe that this was much of the inspiration for the aftermarket fiberglass roofs of the cruising vans that came along afterwards. What a job it was to cut it off and do the installation as it was unbelievably heavy for it's size. I was so proud of completing the task until I saw a van that had the whole top of the car installed on it. It was an awesome sight but it had to be so top heavy and scary to drive through sharp corners.
Tomcat59
Intermediate Driver

Likely the most handsome American made wagon ever produced, certainly since 1960 forward.

And since its an A body, all the Hotchkis suspension goodies bolt right up. Upgrade to C5/C6 disc brakes. Quicker steering box. Maybe a 700R4 with the 350 Rocket or do an LS/4L60 update.

Now we have a grocery getter that is competitive in CAM class at the local autocross! Or make it the coolest tow vehicle at the track. Nothing but cool options.
Smilodon
Detailer

No, no- there are many Vista Cruisers made into 442 spec lookers. The hood, dash, console- although I like the ones that use the old GTO Hurst His'n'Hers shifter- and your idea of 'Vette brakes is good. But. It's a classic Oldsmobile. A rippin' built 455, backed by a Tremec 6spd, factory scoops feeding aftermarket fuel injection. Airbrush the fake woodgrain. Hurst T-handle. Olds Rallye wheels, modern rubber. You are correct, the most handsome wagon, foreign or domestic. And so easily modified.
Pegleg01
Detailer

Agreed 1000%

Pegleg01
Detailer

So cool...The autocrosses are always well populated with mid 60's/early 70's GM intermediates of all stripes, configs and power.  

pcbrig
Pit Crew

My family had a '65 Buick Sportwagon (with similar roof windows) with the 350, 4-barrel engine. I was very little but well recall when my father picked it up (new) from the dealer. Tremendous (and very quick) car and--to my eye--superior to its sister Olds. Those were the days!
JBBearcat
Detailer

Please allow a pedant moment...
While it my evoke the "My Three Sons" era, I would point out they drove Pontiac wagons.

At a local show there is a Canadian who comes down from B.C. with a beautiful burnt orange example.
Unable to find the correct nydoc decals, he had a classy burl wood wrap on the lower sections. It looks great

Sadly, we are in the market for a hybrid CUV, (we have a deposit down for a Lexus, but the dealer has no idea when, or if, it will arrive) but would love to find one with half the style of this car.
spark123
Detailer

By the way, a bunch of the photos were taken in Niagara Falls Ontario
56NomadJohn
Intermediate Driver

I used to watch “My Three Sons” and it was sponsored by Chevrolet, every car on the show was a Chevy.
Pegleg01
Detailer

Yes, I seem to recall Fred McMurray starting the show off with a "Hi...Welcome to our show for Chevrolet!"

oldbeb
Pit Crew

Decades back I bought two 1969 Vista Cruisers. One was a rust free desert car with a LOT of miles and the other was a low mileage, well maintained, but rusty wagon. I combined the two and at the time discovered that in 1970 THERE WAS A 442 Vista Cruiser option sold (not many, although I have seen one and the wood grain was deleted). I had a 455 built for mine. At the time "A" body used parts were easy to find. I installed the 69 442 bucket front bucket seats and console and the instrument gauges with the "Tik Tok Tachometer". The front sway bar was replaced with one from a GTO (bigger) and the rear suspension trailing arms were replaced with the boxed units from a SS 396 including the rear sway bar. I did get rid of the "wood grain" and painted the car. The car was quiet, rode well, and handled fine (I installed the optional 15" 442 rally wheels and bit soft rubber radials). The 455 torque was addictive. No tire smoking, just instant sling shot acceleration with the sticky tires. To my surprise my friends really liked the "Vista Cruiser" and the longer frame meant rear seating was very comfortable and all the glass made it enjoyable. Also great for hauling home improvement materials and old car parts. Of all the old cars I've fixed up, the Vista Cruiser is the only one I regret selling.
Smilodon
Detailer

You were gentle. Every Olds 455 equipped car I've ever driven would shred the tread belts off of the tires given enough foot. My Air Force bud Bill had a '70 W-30 442 that would run through all three (automatic) gears with the tires in total haze, never get over walking speed while showing 75-80mph on the speedometer.
Kim826
Pit Crew

If these were so great, why did Clark Griswold trade his for a Wagon Queen Family Truckster?
Pegleg01
Detailer

Ford demanded exposure for it's 'GrisWoody'.

gincledon
Intermediate Driver

Because of CAFE standards the classic American station wagon has become extinct, replaced by the SUV trucks. The modern SUV exists because the CAFE standards ruled out the big wagons of our youth. All sixty and seventy kids remember being driven around in the classic mom mobile. The midsize wagons were great, but I really remember the boat car wagons of the early seventies like the Town and Country and Country Squire. When we were teens my friend was draging his moms T&C and the 440 was much stronger then the brakes and he rear ended another car when racing his friends Chevelle. I have been telling people for the last twenty years that the great American station wagon is the unappreciated classic. Something that existed for the suburbs of America.
Camarojoe
Intermediate Driver

They did make a few “442” vista cruisers for the 1970 and 1972 Indy 500. White, no wood grain. The medical staff had 2. Assume cars. Buick had the sport wagon but the Vista was the best, no question among all wagons. Not sure, but think the bodies weren’t made at Ionia (Mi) like all the wagons for every one through the mod 60ties.
Buzz
Detailer

The headroom in the back of those cars was astounding. Plenty of space for the kids to hop over into the backseat, or to load extra camping gear. Wagons have really taken off in the collector car world amongst muscle car enthusiast. There are plenty of wagons folks have modified into road runner, GTX, and Superbee versions. A quick web search confirms multiple 70-72 W-30 442 Vista Cruiser wagons have been built. I gotta say, I like em even better than the Mopar wagons. That roof is just epic.
dhaugh
Detailer

First, the people back from the war were "building families and engaging in outdoor recreation", or if they were really lucky they were doing them simultaneously, maybe even in the back of the Vista Cruiser.

My cousins had one of these gems, it was way cool as a 10 or 11 year old, I was unfortunately relegated to the way back of the Country squire, my cousins were a family of 8 and us 10, only Ford offered 10 passenger seating so the Country Squire it was. I'm not sure who thought there was room for 4 pairs of legs in that footwell, it was really cramped and full of "he's touching me" comments. And even now as I get ready to retire all these years later I still find myself often seated at the "little kids" table, when you're 3rd from the bottom of 8 kids you're always a little guy.

Thanks for the memories
OHCOddball
Advanced Driver

Bought a '68 back in 1981 while the engine was out of my Chevelle. $380. It had the 2bbl 400 and turbo 400. Weak drum brakes all around. It could hold a lot of stuff. 14 foot wood would fit stuck up tho the windshield and only a couple feet stuck out the rear. A twin size hospital bed fit in the back and the tailgate closed. The front seat didn't even have to be moved up! Not bad to drive. I scrapped it in 1986 when the gas tank sprung yet another leak. None to be found anywhere at that time and a one gallon can under the hood doesn't get you far. Mine was rusty. When I parted it out, I cut the windshield out to save and discovered that almost the entire width of the dash board under the glass had rusted away. I wish I could have saved the car. Nothing like it. Still miss it and would love to have another (in better shape).
OkJustOneMore
Intermediate Driver

We're all allright! Hello Wisconsin!
MARK400
Detailer

Dr. Oldsmobile and Hunchback Harry would be proud. \-/
Pegleg01
Detailer

Yes, I loved the old "Dr.Oldsmobile" ads...The Torque Monster Olds 442's and Buick GSX were the subtle MONSTERS of their day.  The '68 442 is the subtlest monster of all. 

DavidHolzman
Advanced Driver

I was 10 or 11 when this thing came out. Neighbors, with a daughter I had a crush on bought one. I thought the vista roof windows were really cool. But my parents were hanging onto the geriatric '57 Chevy wagon, and they viewed cars as transportation machines rather than status symbols, although the Chevy was somewhat beloved for having transported us twice between Boston and Seattle.
Maestro1
Technician

Loved these. I had a friend with one, I drove it frequently, wonderful Olds characteristics.
I moved across the Country, he Passed and i don't know what happened to the car.
1fastcat
Intermediate Driver

I have always liked wagons . I've got now ,3 , two seaters and with grandchildren I thought I needed a wagon . I bought a 55 Chevy Bel Air four door , fixed everything that needed and put all new interior in it . That now is the best part of the car ,20-20 , They only visit a couple times a year so I'm going to sell it .So much for the wagon ,
RickL
Detailer

Family had a 68 Ambassador, blue with woodgrain, 343 cu in. My Dad hauled Ramblers/AMC 60's/70's. I loved that wagon. My brother put his Cragar mags on it from his 68 AMX. It was a real nice car. Loved the interior, great for drive-ins!!!!!
Pegleg01
Detailer

Vista Cruisers are a great example of what GM did the very best.
Caddieron
Pit Crew

I was in the used car business for 38 years and I sold a bunch of these,

Chevelles, Buicks, and Pontiacs. I sold one Vista Wagon with a 455 motor and it was pretty fast for it's day. My favorite wagon that I kept for a number of years was a 1972 Pontiac Lemans with a Sport Package (GTO front clip with fake ram air hood, GTO front color-keyed bumper and grille, and fake brake vents in the front fenders). I had the original Flame Orange repainted, found some 15 inch Pontiac rally wheels, lowered it, and put some remanufactured GTO emblems on the grille, fenders, and tailgate. Out of all the classic cars and hot rods I owned in my 69 years, it sparked more interest than any others. So many people shared with me all the GTO wagons they had seen and heard of...................even though NONE had ever been manufactured!!!  😂😂😂

C4C5VETTER
New Driver

In the '70's I was a van guy. Built my own sweet custom '66 GMC Handivan.
We scoured all Auto Wreckers for Vista Cruisers just to chop the roof and R&R on our Vans.
Then I got a new '78 GMC VanDura. I ordered direct from GM with -
no windows, no seats, no wheels, bone stock - paid $7,100cdn... and did it up right!
Swivel captains chairs, fat Cragars, T/A'S, visors, scoops, flares, running boards, fridge, bar, bed, sky lights ...What a life in the 70's... think we pick the absolute best era to grow up! No complaints!
Stixx
Detailer

That's funny because I grew up in that era of post WWII and was driving myself by the fifties and I saw a LOT of Wagons in my time as to your point they were the epitome of family status and people movers . That said I never recall ever seeing anyone who owned an oldsmobile. In my town the only folks who owned any kind of Oldsmobile until the seventies were traveling salesman that needed caddys but did not want to appear wealthy . I think the vista was cool looking but really kind of impractical for hauling stuff. jusayin
TrustyRusty
Detailer

We had a silver blue 1966 Vista Cruiser, with the diminutive 330 engine. Power was okay, but we did not buy it for power. We bought it for cruising. We even camped in it, though privacy was limited! Wish we still had it, but with some minor changes, such as W-30 455, Turbo 400, wider rims and fatter tires. Otherwise, it was perfect as it was...a gorgeous car.
digger
Pit Crew

The closest thing in modern times is the Buick roadmaster (also very popular) A customizer needs to put a vista roof on one