Junkyard Gem: 1997 Oldsmobile Bravada

In this series, we look for gems of automotive history in the car graveyard, and one of the more interesting facets of that history is the frenzy with which manufacturers dove into the SUV craze during the 1990s. Once the Jeep XJ Cherokee led the way starting in 1984 and the 1991 Ford Explorer set off a mass exodus from once-beloved Detroit station wagons, the rule here became sell trucks or die. The General was already selling plenty of trucks with Chevrolet and GMC badges as the 1980s drew to a close, so an additional division was selected to get a rebadged Blazer/Jimmy, starting in 1991: Oldsmobile. Here’s an example of the second generation of the Olds Bravada, found in a Nevada self-service car graveyard.

Oldsmobile sold lots of trucks through the 1920s, with some Oldsmobile-badged GMCs being shipped off for overseas sales in the late 1930s. Pontiac had a bit more history in the truck department, building sedan deliveries well into the 1950s (Buick and Cadillac made trucks in the early part of the 20th century as well), but it was clear that just about every car marque would need at least one truck model soon enough.

Three generations of Bravada were built; the first two (1991-1994 and 1996-2001) were based on the Chevrolet S-10/Blazer platform and the third (2002-2004) was sibling to the Chevrolet Trailblazer. By the end — and by that, I mean the end of Oldsmobile itself — even Buick, Saab and Isuzu offered Trailblazer twins.

This generation of Bravada differed more from its Chevrolet/GMC siblings than did the 2002-2004 versions, with snazzy Bravada-only bucket seats and a unique center console.

The split grille and side cladding also made the Bravada easy to distinguish from a Blazer at a glance. This face would change, for the worse, with a mid-cycle refresh that brought Oldsmobile’s new Aurora-inspired emblem. 

The cladding on the Bravada was body-colored from the factory, but someone — possibly a San Francisco 49ers fan — painted the cladding and bumpers gold.

These factory wheels look good, though the gold inset color appears to have been added by the same painter who did the cladding.

It’s not anywhere near the highest-mile Oldsmobile odometer I’ve found in the junkyard (that was an ‘86 Calais with 363,000 miles), but 235,000 is respectable.

Gotcherself a sports ute, right? You’re lucky, not everyone can afford the lobster!

Let the Bravada do the thinking.

Special deals on Indiana Bravadas driven by the Olympic Committee!

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