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By Brian Earnest
Peter Guidera saw thousands of Oldsmobiles come and go from the lot during his 30 years as an Olds sales guy. The vast majority were probably more memorable than the unremarkable 1970 Cutlass Supreme Guidera took a shine to. At the time, the car was 16 years old, was headed for a trade-in on a new car, and seemed to be destined for maybe another year or two as somebody’s “beater” before its days on the road were finished.
But Guidera saw something in the sturdy, comfortable, working-man’s holiday sedan back in 1986. Even though the car had never been babied, it wasn’t in terrible shape. And Guidera didn’t see many ’70 Cutlass Supremes on the road at the time.
He figured the car needed a fresh lease on life, and he decided to provide one.
“It was a nothing car — a $100 car,” he recalled. “When I appraised it, it was like I closed my eyes and forgot about the what the body looked like, and just thought about how great the car ran. I had to have it.
“I knew everybody else would give him $100 for it, but I wanted it so I gave him $500 trade for the Ciera they were looking at.”
Little by little, Guidera, a resident of Whippany, N.J., began to give his Cutlass Supreme a makeover. Fortunately, the car didn’t need any major work. The original four-barrel 350 ran great. The interior was in excellent shape, and the original vinyl roof was plenty good.
“I parked it for two months, and when I went to start it, it started right up,” Guidera said. “Working at the dealership made it easier to do the little mechanical work, and it didn’t need much.
“In 1990, I had it painted its original color. The vinyl roof is original, and the interior is original. It’s in amazing shape and the car only has about 77,000 miles on it. Mostly what it needed was just sanding, painting and that was it. The quarters were rusted out underneath in the back and where the vinyl roof meets the trunk — these things were famous for that. Water gets under there and starting to bubble up … But the rest of the car wasn’t all that bad.”
“Everything [is original] except for the steering wheel. I got one like one the ones they had on the old Firenzas in the ’80s. I put that on because I always liked that steering wheel.”
The Cutlass Supreme was a long-running staple of the Oldsmobile lineup, lasting from 1966 until 1997. The cars were generally positioned as the plushest of the Olds’ mid-size offerings and shared many of the parts and styling traits as their base Cutlass and sporty 4-4-2 siblings.
For 1970, the Cutlass Supreme came in three body styles: two- and four-door holiday hardtops (pillarless), and a two-door convertible. They came standard with a 350-cid two-barrel engine that produced 250 hp. A four-barrel 350 with 310 hp was optional for buyers who wanted a little more giddyup under the hood. The top dog in the engine lineup was part of the Code Y-79 SX option package, which included a 455-cid Rocket V-8 rated at 365 hp.
Other standard equipment included Flo-Thru Ventilation, a deluxe steering wheel, custom sport seat, cloth or vinyl interiors and a fancier dash than the base Cutlass model. Bucket seats were available as an option, as was a center console with a floor-mounted shifter.
Aside from being a little more upscale in most areas, the Cutlass Supreme coupes had a slightly different profile than their base Cutlass stable mates. While the base models had a fast-back style roof line, the Cutlass Supreme had more of a notch-back design.
A total of 10,762 Cutlass Supreme four-doors were built for 1970. They weighed in at hefty 3,662 lbs. and had a $3,226 base price. For some reason, Cutlass Supreme sales dipped markedly for 1970. Less than 27,000 were built in total among all three body styles. Just two years earlier about 54,000 were built for 1968, and production soared to more than 81,000 in 1971 and 130,000 in 1972. After a major restyling, nearly 246,00 were built for the 1973 model year!
Guidera wasn’t really thinking about the car’s relative scarcity when he decided to buy it. He was just savvy enough to spot a keeper when he saw one.
“Mine’s got the 350 four-barrel, which was an option back in ’70,” noted Guidera. “It’s got air-conditioning, power steering, power breaks, AM radio and that’s about it. The wheels are Super Stock II’s, which would have been standard on a 4-4-2.”
By the time Guidera decided to buy a Cutlass Supreme as a hobby car, he had a long history with the marque. He was an Olds guy as far back as he could remember. “Oldsmobile was my favorite car growing up,” he said. “A ’54 Olds was my first car. Then I had a ’60 Super 88 convertible that was my first new car. My dad got it for me when I was 18 years old.
“I hooked up with a Ford dealer in ’62 to sell Fords, and then in ’63 I probably made the biggest mistake of my life — I sold my convertible! My god, I think back to those days and I can’t believe I did that.”
Guidera shutters a bit when he thinks of almost making a similar choice with his Cutlass Supreme. The car wasn’t exactly for sale back in 1989, but it almost changed hands anyway.
“This was back before it was painted. A guy comes into dealership and wanted to buy it … I could have sold it for $3,000,” he said. “I agreed to sell it to him and he comes in a couple days later with bank check for $2,500. I got mad and said, ‘No, it’s 3,000 or nothing.’ He left and I never tried to sell it again.”
Guidera estimates he’s only put between 5,000 and 6,000 miles on his Cutlass Supreme in the past 24 years. A few of those ticks came on the drag strip, however, where his sedan came up short in timed runs against his other pride and joy — a 1969 Vista Cruiser station wagon that he bought new. “There are a couple of race tracks near where I live in New Jersey, and we had it to Englishtown and it did 18.2, 18.3 [seconds] at about 79 miles an hour. The station wagon did 17.9 at 81 miles an hour. That wagon will take the Cutlass, probably by a nose!”
Guidera still takes the Cutlass Supreme on an occasional cruise and heads out for regular summertime joyrides. He has displayed both his wagon and Cutlass Supreme regularly at car shows over the years, and says the affection others have for the cars seems to grow every year.
“My cars, both of them, there are just none of them around, and I like it that way,” he admits. “People come and admire the car and say, ‘We’ve never seen one like this!’
“I’m really into Oldsmobiles. They’ve always been my favorite cars. I’ve got my two cars, and I’m loving it.”