Car of the Week: 1972 Olds Cutlass Supreme

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Story and photos by Brian Earnest

1972-Cutlass-Supreme-1Rick Glickman has been making an annual pilgrimage north from his Skokie, Ill., home to the Iola Old Car Show in tiny Iola, Wis., for about 35 years now.

So it’s somewhat fitting that the Oldsmobile-loving Glickman found his favorite car — a 1972 Cutlass Supreme convertible — during a visit to the show nearly 20 years ago. Since then car and owner have been constant companions and neither shows any sign of an impending breakup. Glickman vowed he’ll be back again in 2016 with his Olds ragtop, which now shows more than 220,000 miles on the odometer.

Glickman already had a Cutlass when he stumbled across his ragtop. The one he owned wasn’t exactly what he wanted, and he wasn’t convinced he would ever find a car that would check all the boxes.

“I had a ‘72 Cutlass convertible that belonged to a friend that I went to high school with in Louisville, Ky.,” he recalled. “I had it for a while and it had a bench seat and I was always on the lookout for another Viking Blue bucket seat car. So one time we were walking around in the Iola Swap Meet with some friends who always come with us and somebody said, ‘Hey, there’s a Viking Blue Cutlass’… but I didn’t see it. I was looking around, and he said, ‘No, right in front of us.’ So I looked up and right in front of us was this sandwich board with pictures of a blue Cutlass on it. So I tapped the guy on the shoulder. I found out it had bucket seats and a nice console, air conditioning. I said, ‘Hmm … does it have a Sport wheel?’ And he said, ‘Not a Sport wheel, a Tilt Sport wheel!” I said does it have power windows? He said, ‘And locks.” I said, OK, I wanna see the car.

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The two met up later so Glickman could look the car over, but he still wasn’t sure what to make of it. “It had bumper guards and trailer hitch and it looked OK, but it was dirty. I said, ‘What’s the deal?’ The guy said ‘I’m selling it for the guy who owns it. He lives in South Dakota and he uses it to haul airplane parts. He builds airplanes.’ The owner had purchased it from a peach farmer in California. He rebuilt it and drove it to Iowa — he had all the receipts for it and everything. And he saved all the original parts from the car. They were in the car in boxes in the trunk.”

Glickman remained a bit skeptical and wasn’t quite ready to write out a check — until he somehow convinced the seller to follow him all the way home to Illinois. “I said, ‘If you drive it to Skokie and let my mechanic look at it and he says it’s solid, I’ll pay you want you’re asking. I won’t negotiate.’ So he said OK and he had his mom follow him all the way to Skokie. It was a young guy, he drove it all the way to Skokie. My mechanic got in it, drove it around the block and said, ‘If you’re not buying it, I’ll buy it.’ So I paid him the money on the spot and that was it. I’ve had it ever since.”

Glickman’s attraction to the 1972 Cutlass Supreme provides a good illustration of why the cars were so popular — not only where they stylish, comfortable, well-built cars, but they could be everything from a hot performance car (for the time anyway), to a big family cruiser, and anything in between. The Cutlass Supremes often get lumped into the same conversations as their Cutlass and Cutlass ‘S’ siblings, but by 1972 the Supremes were their own series. The could be ordered as a big four-door Holiday hardtop on a 116-inch wheelbase, or as a two-door Holiday hardtop or convertible on a 112-inch wheelbase.

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All of the Cutlass family members were popular with John Q. Public, and that was particularly so with the Cutlass Supreme two-door hardtop, which led company sales charts with more than 105,000 built for the 1972 model year. Trailing far behind was the Cutlass Supreme four-door hardtop at 14,955, followed by the convertible at 11,571 — which was still a respectable number during a time when new droptops were beginning to fade in popularity. In fact, it was the top-selling U.S.-made convertible in ’72.

Glickman’s convertible carried a base window price of $3,433 and came with the standard 350-cid, 180-hp V-8 and optional automatic transmission. For buyers looking for more gusto, the notchback hardtop could be equipped with the 270-nhp L75 455-cid V-8 and M20 four speed transmission. Less than 100 were apparently ordered that way.

The 1972 model year was the final year for a Cutlass convertible. The intermediate droptop did not appear again in the company lineup until 1990. Standard equipment included all Cutlass items plus a higher output 350-cid engine, a special die-cast grille, woodgrain dash treatment and strato bucket seats. Interiors were slightly fancier than in the Standard Cutlass models, with nice fabrics, the bucket seat option, center consoles and the Hurst shifter borrowed from the 4-4-2, which had been demoted to model option status. Standard tire size was F78-14 and buyers could opt for Super Stock II mag wheels, which were colored to match the body.

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It no longer carries the trailer hitch, but Glickman’s Cutlass Supreme has picked up a few goodies over the years during its time in his garage.

“Within about 60 days I sold my other car for almost what I paid for this one, and over the last 18, 19 years I’ve been slowly re-doing the entire car,” he says. “The only thing I haven’t really done is the paint. I just keep buffing it out and buffing it out.

“But I’ve done a lot of work. It’s got a radical cam. It’s got an Edelbrock manifold. It’s got Postitraction, 3.42 rear end … I put the Hurst Dual-Gate shifter in. I put the Tic-Toc-Tach and gauges in. I’ve got blue tooth hands-free radio. It’s got the modern air conditioning and it runs like a modern car. It’s got Flowmasters on it, though, so it sounds like a big muscle car.”

“I love Cutlasses. I think in ’72 this was the most popular car — like the Camry was later. Everyone loved these cars and everyone has a story,” laughs Glickman. “It’s, ‘My mom had one, my aunt had one,’ whatever. Everybody either had one or knows somebody who had one.”

{Rick Glickman is one of the chief organizers of the Monday Night Car Shows Inc., a charity car show in Skokie, Ill. For information, visit www.mondaynightcarshows.com, or call 847-433-2409.}

 

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