Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The Oldsmobile Aurora V-8

oldsmobile_aurora_1995_images_1 Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a feature in which we try and introduce you to muscle cars you may have never considered as such, and to try and convince you that they in fact are… Once again, I am here on this site trying to convince you that another FWD Sedan with a V-8 Engine can be a Modern Day Muscle Car. Most of the FWD cars that have been profiled have engines that are somewhat powerful and driving the Front Wheels, and with the correct electronic aids they not only perform as well as some of the real Fire-Breathing Muscle Cars of the past, but they also handle well. We have inducted other GM FWD Cars like the Pontiac Grand Prix GXP, but rejected the very similar Chevrolet Impala SS, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, as well as the Pontiac Bonneville GXP. Well, let’s try and see if this Oldsmobile model can be inducted into the Obscure Muscle Car Garage. Introducing the Oldsmobile Aurora, powered by a smaller version of the Cadillac Northstar V-8 under the hood… aldenjewell_olds_aurora The Oldsmobile Aurora was seen as a last ditch effort to revitalize the stagnant Olds product line, which was then in a free-fall as far as sales. The sales plummet was very dramatic, and the once proud Oldsmobile nameplate dropped from a high of 1,066,122 units in 1985 to just 389,173 in 1992. The advertising slogan used at the the time period was doing the company no favors what-so-ever… “This is not your Father’s Oldsmobile…” was bloody awful, and it violated the golden rule in advertising, which has always been taught as never use negatives when describing the product you are selling (Except, this is perfectly reasonable when it comes to Political Ad Capmaigns). 96OldsAurora Something had to be done with the brand, and the engineers at General Motors started with an almost clean sheet design for a top spec sedan. Design elements included frameless side windows, a full width tail light, wrap around rear window, and a grill-less front end. Under the hood, and with much protest from the Cadillac Motor Division, a re-sized version of the Northstar V-8 would provide the motivation, along with a 4T80-E 4-speed automatic that was exclusive to Cadillac. The 4.0L V8 produced a silky smooth 250 hp at 5,600 rpm, with 260 lb·ft of torque. Acceleration times were decidedly mid-pack, with contemporary testers reaching 0-60 times in 9.4 seconds. 4.0_L_V8_Aurora Speaking of road tests, the Los Angeles Times described the smaller engine this way: “The Northstar engine–although diluted by some 20 horsepower to prevent Oldsmobile stomping on Cadillac’s turf–is a throaty, muscular thing built to humiliate all lane laggards and on-ramp turtles. This is an effortless car, one of high performance and matching grandeur shod with premium wheels and tires that willingly remove the noise and vibrations of freeway hammering from the concern of its owner.” 1998_oldsmobile_aurora_4_dr_std_sedan-pic-33466 The interior was almost a clean break from the GM Designs of the recent past, and featured a driver-centric dashboard layout. All the major controls were centered around the driver, including all controls on the center stack. Unlike Muscle Cars of old, this was a feature rich automobile, and standard equipment included dual-zone climate control, an overly complicated trip computer, remote linked seat memory, genuine burled walnut trim, and an anti-lock braking system. 100_0353 With all this emphasis on a clean break for Oldsmobile, you would think the Aurora would have been a roaring sales success, but other than the elongated introductory year, sales were lackluster at best. The first year saw 45,677 Auroras shipped to Oldsmobile dealers around the country, and subsequent years hovered around 20,000 units for the next 4 years. 2001_Oldsmobile-Aurora_2001-04 The second generation Oldsmobile Aurora made its debut in February 2000 as a 2001 model year, and it was somewhat of a haphazard redesign. You see, Oldsmobile was planning on going further upscale with their offerings, with the Aurora leading the charge. There was suppose to be an all new Delta 88 called the Antares to take the spot of the former Aurora, but there was severe limitations on the overall GM development plans, so much so that the planned successor to the Buick Riviera (which shared quite a lot with the former Aurora) was cancelled, and with it, the new upmarket Aurora was DOA. So, Oldsmobile had to use the stillborn Antares body to develop an acceptable update for the Aurora. Oldsmobile-Aurora_Indy_Pace_Car_2001_800x600_wallpaper_01 Only, it really wasn’t that special. Yes it still retained the 4.0L Northstar V8 (although it also stuck with the antiquated 4T80-E 4-speed automatic) which still produced 250HP, the rest of the car was rather bland and characterless at best. This version of the Aurora was also available with a V-6 version of the Northstar, called the “Shortstar”, which produced 215HP, barely enough to motivate the Auroras nearly two ton weight. It too was saddled with only a 4-speed automatic. 2nd_gen_Oldsmobile_Aurora The new car was also a shell of its former self when it comes to style, looking like just about every other Oldsmobile during this time period. There was no frameless glass, taillights were nondescript, and the nose was festooned with grill openings. It was shorter, not quite as wide, and higher that the original, yet retained most of the interior roominess of its predecessor. It was also less expensive on the showroom floor, which helped move over 53,600 Auroras during its long 2001 model year (the best ever for a single model year). 64265482 Alas, only 10 months after introduction of the Aurora, General Motors announced plans for shutting down the division within the next few years. This was a well documented failing on the part of the General, which it was never to repeat again. The shut down of the Oldsmobile division cost General Motors hundreds of millions of dollars, mostly through litigation from dealer closings, customers loss of value, and supplier contracts (which is why the pre-packaged bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler, only a few years later, was the preferred method of shedding unprofitable divisions, factories, and workers; Very little litigation.) olds_aurora_philly_03_dv_05 Aurora Sales started to slide, with 2002 sales of over 10,800, and 2003 sales of less than 7,300, including the last 500 Burgundy and Chrome final editions. I know we didn’t really talk about outright muscle, but these cars when they were produced, competed very well with the European performance sedans then coming into vogue. They were silky smooth performers, with acceptable road manners, and comfortable interiors. So, I have to ask… Is the Oldsmobile Aurora V-8 an Obscure Muscle Car, and would you vote for entry into the Obscure Muscle Car Garage? Remember to leave your comments, and let me know what you would like to see highlighted for this series. 1997Aurora2 [poll id=”227″] Oldsmobile-Aurora_Indy_Pace_Car_2001_1280x960_wallpaper_03 Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You! olds aurora 012

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