Oldsmobile Ciera

Cutlass Ciera (also known simply as Ciera in later years)- first introduced in 1982, was Oldsmobile's first front wheel drive mid-size car. Front-wheel-drive was a bold move in the family car market. Olds held on to the rear-drives in case the new cars didn't catch on as hoped.

Built off of a stretched version of the then new GM X car, the Ciera rode on GM's front drive 'A car platform' shared with the Chevrolet Celebrity, Buick Century, and Pontiac 6000. These new, pricier A-bodies shared those compacts’ 104.9-inch wheelbase, but tended to avoid the X-car’s trouble-prone reputation.

Platform Evolution Ciera "A-Body FWD"

GM A RWD Platform - 1923 to 1981
GM G RWD Platform - 1978/1982 to 1988 (early A-body cars were redesignated as G-body when FWD A-body platform introduced in 1982)
GM X FWD Platform - 1980 to 1985 (Olds Omega was on this platform 80-84 - X-body was an early FWD platform in North America)
GM A FWD Platform - 1982 to 1996 (Derived from the GM X FWD platform, it was a stretched version of GM X FWD)
GM W FWD Platform - 1988 to 2016 (W Platform began phasing out GM A FWD in 1990, but GM A FWD production lasted to 1996)

Cutlass Ciera Production Start

Cutlass Ciera production began September 28, 1981 at Doraville Assembly in Georgia for the 1982 model year.

Sold from 1982 to 1996, Ciera proved to be a strong seller for Oldsmobile, with most years seeing over 100,000 units sold. To the surprise of many, including product planners at Oldsmobile, the conservatively styled Cutlass Ciera repeatedly outsold the sleek and aerodynamic Cutlass Supreme.

The Ciera succeded, primarily because it offered utility as both a sedan and wagon, and could be reasonably equipped for as much as $4000 less than comparable midsize domestic and import models.

CAFE was one definite motivation for the smaller midsize Olds- the Cutlass Ciera. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards were regulations in the United States, first enacted by the US Congress in 1975, after the 1973-74 Arab Oil Embargo, to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks produced for sale in the United States.

1982-1988 Models | Cutlass Ciera

Cutlass Ciera replaced the rear wheel drive Cutlass and Cutlass LS (Cutlass Supreme however continued on as the RWD intermediate size) in Oldsmobile's line up for 1982. It was originally available in 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan, and 4-door wagon body styles.

Engines included the 2.5L Iron Duke 4 cylinder and the Buick based 3.0L V6. A new 4.3L diesel engine was also offered, but sold far less than the gasoline engines. Rapidly falling gas prices in the mid-1980s meant that fuel economy was no longer a selling point. Later years would see the 3.8L V6 (1984-1988) a 2.8L V6 from Chevrolet, 2.2L 4 cylinder (Iron Duke replacement for 1993-1996) 3.1L V6 and a 3.3L V6. Transmissions included 3 and 4 speed automatics, as well as the one year only (1984) 5 speed manual transmission from the Pontiac 6000 and Chevrolet Celebrity.

Mid 80's Facelifts

For 1985, the Cutlass Ciera received its first facelift with a new grille, sleeker headlamps, and new taillights. For 1986, the Cutlass Ciera's grille had expanded ventilation sections than the similar 1985 model. Additionally, the coupe received a new, more rounded roofline that was not shared with the other A-body models.

When the 1986 Cieras came out, the sportiest of them were GTs. From the start, Ciera’s crisply tailored notchback styling was popular, but the two-doors were nearly indistinguishable from the four-doors. Oldsmobile addressed this with a curvy new two-door roofline that was a dramatic visual improvement over the old box top. It was an Oldsmobile exclusive until Buick picked it up for the ’89 Century.

For 1987, the Cutlass Ciera was facelifted again with a new grille, and the steering wheel had the Oldsmobile logo moved from the right to the very center, and the 2.8 L LE2 V6 engine was dropped.

After the 1987 introduction of the Cutlass Supreme, the Ciera began to take on a new role as the traditional and value priced mid sized car in Oldsmobile's line up.

For 1988, the base and Brougham trim levels were replaced by S and SL, the 3.8L was dropped after 1988, and the Iron Duke was tweaked to gain 6 hp over the 1986 models. 1988 saw the addition of a sunroof for sedan models, as well as a driver information center.

Aero or composite headlamps were standard across the board for 1988 after being introduced on coupes in 1986 and on Brougham models for 1987.

1989-1996 Models | Cutlass Ciera & Ciera

The Cutlass Ciera was updated for 1989, with the sedan receiving a modern roofline (similar to the coupe), and revised bodyside moldings. Hood ornaments were gone, as the new model featured less chrome trim than before in an effort to appear more up-to-date. Rear seat shoulder belts were added. Both coupe and sedan models had updated rear-end treatments, the 1989/1990 taillights were Oldsmobile-themed — squared with a center emblem.

The 1989 International Series had revised rear-end styling mentioned above. Under the hood, the 3.8L V6 was replaced with a 160HP 3.3L V6.

For Cutlass Ciera in 1990, the front seat belts were moved from the B-pillars to the doors. This would also be the last year for the 'International Series'.

The changes for 1991 included a new instrument cluster with a trip odometer and an engine temperature gauge, and 1991 to 1996 models moved to a  three horizontal-sectioned taillight lens.

Ciera coupe dropped & Minivan competition

For 1992, the Cutlass Ciera coupe was dropped, and the Cieras could only be had in sedan or wagon form. Either in 'S' or 'SL' designations. The Cutlass Ciera wagon now had some internal competition in the form of the new Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan (itself based on the Cutlass Ciera's A-platform), offering buyers a choice of traditional station wagon or a multi-configurable minivan.

For 1993, there was a new 2.2L 4 cylinder was under the Ciera hoods this year with 120hp.

Cutlass Ciera becomes just Ciera

In 1995, the 'Cutlass' nomenclature was removed from the sedan and the car was known simply as the 'Ciera SL'. Brochures from Oldsmobile refered to the Ciera as simply 'Ciera' in print, but the photos in the 1995 brochures still showed 'Cutlass Ciera' (perhaps they had used old artwork for photos). Wagons were still named Cutlass Cruiser.

1996, the final model year, the 'Ciera SL', continued to be available in 'Series I' or 'Series II' equipment levels. The chrome "Oldsmobile" badge above the driver's headlight was deleted. During this time, Olds attempted to revitalize itself to a European-styled upscale make with new products such as the Aurora, but Ciera's continued strong sales proved almost embarrassing due to its dated design and perceived image as an "old man's car". On the other hand, because the tooling for the A-body platform had long since been monetized, GM was guaranteed a profit off each Ciera. Ciera was at the time among the oldest designs on the market.

Ciera was also among the last cars to wear the older Oldsmobile Rocket emblem.

1996 Last Oldsmobile CieraThe very last Ciera produced, a Ciera SL Sedan Series II

1996 Last Oldsmobile CieraThe very last Ciera produced, a Ciera SL Sedan Series II

Special Editions | Cutlass Ciera

Like many cars of the era, Special Editions were very popular. Cutlass Ciera offered a "Holiday Coupe" (1984-1986, RPO WJ5) "GT" (1985-1987) "ES" (1984-1987) and "International" (1988-1990) models. While Holiday Coupe models put the emphasis on luxury and traditional style; GT, ES, and International all added sporty flair to the Ciera line with V6 engine and blacked out or body color trim, as well as a host of other sport accessories. 

1983 Cutlass Ciera ES1983 Cutlass Ciera ES

The GT was an option package (introduced in 1985) for two- and four-door models that gave Ciera’s clean exterior a carefully considered makeover with a front air dam, lower-body aero add-ons, and blacked-out trim. The result was a mix of 80s “Euro-look” and early 3rd generation Chevrolet Camaro Z28. The styling remains handsome three decades on, especially when wearing the black-and-silver paint favored for factory photos.

Interior revisions added GT-specific trim that included a back-to-basics “Rallye” instrument cluster with four round analog gauges, reclining bucket seats, and a rear bench trimmed to suggest a pair of buckets.

GT chassis upgrades included FE3 suspension and 14" lace style aluminum rims with P215/60R-14 Goodyear Eagle GT tires. Ciera’s top powertrain was included in the GT package - a Buick-built 3.8L V6 with sequential port fuel injection at 150 hp and 200 pound-feet of torque. Transmission was a 4-speed overdrive automatic with console-mounted shifter.

1986 Cutlass Ciera GT1986 Cutlass Ciera GT

International Series was introduced in 1988. The International Series included the emblem with the flags of various countries below the nameplate, it was available in three bodystyles, and came equipped with a standard Buick V6 engine, a 4-speed automatic transmission, a dual exhaust system, front bucket seats, and power windows.

Convertibles | Cutlass Ciera

Between 1983 and 1986, most sources state that 814 Cutlass Ciera convertibles were made by Hess & Eisenhardt/Car Craft.

In the foreground of the photo below, we see the high style, high tech Cutlass Ciera PPG Indy Car World Series Pace Car at the 1983 Chicago Auto Show. The Oldsmobile design staff made this one of a kind Ciera to pace the world's fastest and most sophisticated race cars in the CART-sanctioned events.

Cutlass Ciera PPG Pace Car at 1983 Chicago Auto ShowCutlass Ciera PPG Pace Car at 1983 Chicago Auto Show

Some sources state that the PPG convertible was made in 1986, however 2 dated articles show it as first being seen in 1983.

Cutlass Ciera PPG Pace Car in 1986Cutlass Ciera PPG Pace Car in 1986 (however this date has not be verified)

The convertible pictured below is a special model called a Princess Ciera. Hess & Eisenhardt made 33 of these convertibles as festival cars for the 1985 IndySeries.

1985 Princess Ciera Convertible1985 Princess Ciera Convertible

They were used as parade cars, promotional vehicles, and pace cars for races other than the Indy 500. Easy ways to spot these are that they were all 1985 models. All were white, all had the console interior, and all had special Indy winged emblem below the name emblem on the fender (as you can see in the pictures) as well as the H&E applique on the dash.

1985 Princess Ciera Convertible1985 Princess Ciera Convertible

The number of cars (33) and the name ‘Princess Ciera’ indicate a connection to the Indianapolis 500 Festival and its 33 princesses.

Indy 500 Princesses on parade float in 1985A few of the Indy 500 Princesses on the parade float in 1985

Ciera Gallery

  • 1982 Ciera
  • 1983 Ciera
  • 1984 Ciera
  • 1986 Ciera
  • 1986 Custom Cruiser
  • 1989 Ciera
  • 1995 Ciera
  • Ciera Convertible Ad

: 1982-1996
Generations: 2

Platform: A-body
Related Cars: Buick Century, Pontiac 6000, Chevrolet Celebrity

Predecessor: Oldsmobile RWD Cutlass and Cutlass LS
Successor: Oldsmobile Cutlass (1997-1999)


Ciera Yearbook

1982 Ciera LS Coupe1982 Ciera LS Coupe

1983 Cutlass Ciera1983 Cutlass Ciera

1983 Cutlass Ciera Brougham Sedan1983 Ciera Brougham

1984 Cutlass Ciera1984 Cutlass Ciera

1984 Cutlass Ciera Sedan Coupe1984 Cutlass Ciera LS

1985 Cutlass Ciera1985 Cutlass Ciera

1986 Cutlass Ciera S1986 Cutlass Ciera S

1986 Cutlass Ciera SL Coupe1986 Cutlass Ciera SL

1986 Cutlass Cruiser1986

1987 Cutlass Ciera Brougham1987 Ciera Brougham

1987 Cutlass Ciera Sedan1987 Cutlass Ciera

1988 Cutlass Ciera International1988 Ciera International

1989 Cutlass Ciera International1989 Ciera International

1989 Cutlass Ciera SL1989 Cutlass Ciera SL

1989 Cutlass Cruiser1989

1990 Cutlass Ciera International1990 Ciera International

1990 Cutlass Ciera SL1990 Cutlass Ciera SL

1991 Cutlass Ciera SL1991 Cutlass Ciera SL

1992 Cutlass Ciera S1992 Cutlass Ciera S

1993 Cutlass Ciera SL1993 Cutlass Ciera SL

1994 Cutlass Cruiser1994

1995 Cutlass Ciera SL1995 Ciera SL

1996 Cutlass Ciera Interior1996 Interior

1996 Ciera SL1996 Ciera SL - Notice this is the same picture
as 1995, only they have removed "Cutlass"
badging from the side fender.