What started out as a budget-friendly, small A-body vehicle is now an iconic American ride from General Motors. Its origins can be traced back to the first Cutlass, an experimental sporty coupe designed in 1954 but was never released for public use. Seven years later, the first official Cutlass was introduced in 1961. Throughout the years, this vehicle received several upgrades. And after thirty-eight years and several generations, the Cutlass has evolved into a class of its own. The last model rolled off the assembly line in 1999, ending the production of one of the most well-known vehicles by GM.
1961-1963: First generation
Also known as F-85, the first-gen Cutlass was available in two models—a sedan and a station wagon—and in two trims—base and deluxe. A sports coupe was also introduced, which featured an optional center console, bucket seats, and a four-barrel V8. In 1962, the Jetfire was introduced. This hardtop included a Garrett turbocharged 215 V8, a stylish trim, and a vacuum gauge. The following year, the F-85 was restyled: the overall length increased and additional seats in the station wagon were removed. This led to an increase in overall sales.
1964-1967: Second generation
Changes included a new body-on-frame chassis, a longer wheelbase, and a heavier overall weight. The Roto Hydramatic and aluminum V8 were replaced with Jetaway automatic transmission and a cast-iron, small block V8, respectively. New models such as the Vista Cruiser and the 442 were also introduced. In 1967, the Jetaway transmission was supplemented with a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic and optional disc brakes, and a new model, the Turnpike Cruiser, was released.
1968-1972: Third generation
The third-gen Cutlass was given a major style overhaul. To accommodate the changes, the two-door and four-door versions were now made with different wheelbase lengths. In 1969, the ignition switch was relocated to the steering column, and the headrests became standard equipment. In the following years, several style changes were made, and the company discontinued the use of the F-85 nameplate.
1973-1977: Fourth generation
The next generation of Cutlass featured more upgrades and style changes. In 1974, smaller engines were offered to cater to budget-conscious buyers in response to the 1973-1974 energy crisis. The style changes, reliable performance, and engine options made Cutlass America’s Best-selling car in 1976 and for many years into the eighties.
1978-1981: Fifth generation
In the aftermath of an oil crisis, the Cutlass was downsized to accommodate a shorter and lighter wheelbase. Style upgrades included redesigned headlights and grilles. New models were also introduced: Calais, Supreme, 442, Cruiser, and Salon.
1982-1997: The Cutlass Family
The Cutlass nameplate was expanded into a sub-marque that included the following vehicle lines: Ciera, Supreme, and Calais.
1997-1999: Sixth generation
The sixth-gen Cutlass was basically an upscale version of the fifth-gen Chevrolet Malibu. Standard features were a front fascia with a split grille, a V6 engine, and red tail lights. Optional leather seats and chrome wheels were also offered. The last Cutlass was released in 1999.