General Motors obviously did a lot right in 1969. Almost everything the company produced that year has its own fan club and remains a staple at classic car shows. If the past few months are any indicator, Oldsmobile’s Cutlass is a contender in the fight for Favorite GM A-body. In the last few weeks alone, we’ve introduced a 986/1000 point 442 convertible and a near mint ’70 Cutlass S W-31. Both are getting plenty of attention and we suspect this 1969 Cutlass S W-31 will do the same. The subject of a frame-off restoration, the car features a date-code correct Ram Rod 350 backed by the original Muncie 4-speed and a stout GM 12-bolt. Drivetrain aside, the color combination is one of the coolest factory pairings in existence. If a sinister A-body with a hot small block sounds like your kind of car, take a minute to learn about this ’69 Cutlass.
While there is plenty of supporting evidence that this car is a true W-31, verifying ’69 models without a build sheet can be tricky. We’ll do our best to cover all relevant details. To start with, here’s the decoded VIN:
87:2-door Holiday coupe
M:Lansing, MI (All W-31s were assembled at Lansing)
239XXX: Sequence number
And trim tag highlights:
01A:Built the first week in January 1969
10/10:Black upper and lower body paint
935:Red bucket seat interior
Looking through the build pictures, restoration efforts began in the mid-90s when the car was torn down for a frame-off restoration. Nobody likes painting over unknown substrates, so the entire car was sandblasted for a fresh start. The frame was painted a gloss black while the pans received a coat of satin black. With the underside neatened up, efforts turned to the upper half where the original GM lines were covered in correct code 10 Ebony Black paint. Even now, the color has a nice luster to it. You don’t get much more honest than black paint, so rest assured all the metal work beneath is straight and free of any notable blemishes. Shut lines are commendable and, overall, the car makes a solid first impression.
The W-31 package more or less took 442 visuals and applied them to your choice of an F-85 or Cutlass S. This particular Cutlass is subtle overall, but all those classic cues remain in place. At the front, quad headlights frame a vertical grille which is split by the hood. Below, a pair of air intakes pull cool air directly into the engine bay from their spot underneath a factory chrome bumper. While the scooped W-25 hood may be the most memorable of the 442 pieces, it didn’t make an appearance until 1970. The hood on this Cutlass S is sculpted and subtle, giving the car more of a sleeper feel than later model years. At the sides, only corner markers, chrome door handles, and the nicely aged stainless trim surrounding the crystal clear glass serve to distract from the Ebony Black side profile. Follow the downward-sloping C-pillar to a rear capped off by distinctive taillights and a large chrome bumper which tucks neatly against the body. Without the token side stripes, the car has a simple but sophisticated look that aligns well with what the Oldsmobile brand once stood for.
Hoist the hood to find a date-code correct Ram Rod 350ci V8 that’s ready to be seen. GM brass rated the package at 325hp and 360lb/ft of torque – impressive for a car focused on economy. In this case, those numbers are probably a little higher thanks to a handful of smart upgrades. The foundation is one of Oldsmobile’s ultra-strong nickel-infused blocks which wears gold paint alongside an appropriate 3955582 casting number. The cast-iron cylinder heads sport the correct “5” casting as well as painted valve covers. Up top, an upgraded Holley 4-barrel carburetor is concealed beneath the cartoon-like air cleaner assembly which features a chrome lid, correct Ram Rod decals, and two giant air tubes that connect to intakes at the front of the car. The front of the engine spins little more than an open-face alternator and a six-bladed fan that works with the stock radiator to keep things cool. An MSD ignition system gets things started, sending spark through bright red MSD wires. Exhaust gases spiral out through long tube headers which connect to true dual exhaust system below. The car starts, idles, and operates with the reliability you would expect from a GM small block while details like the correct QX oil fill decal and reproduction Delco battery keep presentation sharp.
Underneath the car, the solid work continues. In the middle of everything, a Muncie M20 4-speed offers full control of the small block V8 up front. Power spins down the driveshaft and out to a GM 12-bolt rear end that sports steep 4.30 gears. Despite all their trim levels, Olds kept suspension options pretty limited. This Cutlass wears the standard direct-action coil springs with ball joints and a stabilizer link under the front half. The rear consisted of a factory four-bar setup with boxed lower control arms, semi-floating axles, and coil springs. New shocks at all corners complete the package. When the roads get curvy, manual steering offers direct control over the front wheels. Due to the massive cam Oldsmobile utilized, there simply isn’t enough vacuum for power brakes but the manual drums do a good job at bringing the car to a halt. Those brakes tuck neatly behind chrome Super Sport wheels wrapped in 215/70R14 and 245/60R14 BF Goodrich Radial T/As. If the T/As don’t do it for you, don’t worry - a set of red line tires is included in the sale.
For what was meant be a somewhat stripped-down variant of the Cutlass, the interior offers plenty of visual cues that give it a much more upscale feel. Open the doors to find rich red door panels accented by bright stainless hardware. Step past the Fisher Body door sill covers and clean red carpet, protected by matching floor mats, covers the solid original panels below. Nicely finished bucket seats with headrests feature a stylish pattern while offering plenty of support. Between the seats, the factory center console starts with an elevated armrest/storage area that flows into the lower panel where the gear selector lives among a stainless-trimmed black accent piece. From the driver seat, Oldsmobile instrumentation keeps an eye on fuel, temperature, oil pressure, speed, revs, and time across three gauges. Controls for the lights and heater/defroster remain within easy reach while the AM radio takes the center spot. In front of the passenger, a Cutlass badge remind visitors they’re in the presence of greatness. Behind the seats, the trunk is equally well finished thanks to correct decals, a factory trunk mat, and a full-size spare tire in case of an emergency.
The sale of this Cutlass S W-31 includes an original owner’s manual as well as a CD that contains images of the restoration. You also get the aforementioned red line tires should you prefer the vintage look.
With the hot small block and that steep final gear, this Cutlass S is a fun car to cruise on warm summer nights. Factor in the great color combination and head-turning details and you’ve got one seriously appealing A-body on your hands. The time of the Cutlass seems to be upon us so, if you’re thinking about adding one to your collection, don’t put it off. Oldsmobile enthusiasts, much like the cars themselves, are always a step ahead.