Oldsmobile sure was a hodge-podge brand

We’ve been doing an awful lot of recollection recently (gee, I wonder why) and for whatever reason, we keep stumbling back to Oldsmobile. Our What Would You Drive in 19-blank-5 series has a lot to do with that, especially the kitsch-tastic brochure photos taken for the Olds class of 1975, but there’s just something inherently interesting about Oldsmobile. Perhaps part of that is the bizarre hodge-podge of cars the brand turned out, particularly toward the end. 

Today’s Junkyard Gem brought this particular graphic to my attention. It’s from the back page of the 1996 Olds brochures and lists all the jewels in its crown. If you ever wanted a prime example of a brand that has absolutely no cohesion or clarity, this is it. 

Running through this collection, starting in the upper left with the Aurora and moving down the columns until we get to Bravada, we have …

The future!

The past!

The sport(?) version of an arthritic sedan

An arthritic sedan

Old but vaguely interesting midsize sedan

Old but oddly cool midsize coupe

Ancient garbage

Ancient garbage wagon

Weirdo compact sedan

Weirdo compact coupe

The Cadillac of Minivans

The Oldsmobile of Blazers

Admittedly, 1996 was perhaps the most hodge-podgey year, as a wave of new or redesigned models would signal an actual attempt at brand cohesion. The Aurora provided a much-needed common design language that would be applied to the future Intrigue (which replaced the Cutlass Supreme) and Alero (which replaced the Achieva), while a new emblem indicative of the Aurora’s debuted. That facilitated minor and mostly unsuccessful facelifts for the remaining Oldsmobiles, which continued to be a hodge-podge of badge-engineered models that shared little in terms of overall design, driving experience or character. Having an Auroraesque badge did not make the Eighty-Eight or Bravada Auroraesque. The eventual next-generation Silhouette and Bravada were no more cohesive.

Really, it’s no surprise that Oldsmobile died for 2004. No one, including buyers and the company that made it, knew what the hell it was. That doesn’t mean we can’t look back fondly, though. In retrospect, the hodge-podge is part of the intrigue. No pun intended.

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