Tell Us About Your Car: 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S W31

1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S W31

1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S W31

As told by the owner of this car:

I bought the car in 1998 from Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Illinois. I had owned a 1977 Pontiac CanAm that was a one-year-only model, brainstormed by Jim Wangers, and marketed as the “new” GTO. While only producing 225 HP from its 400 ci engine, that car proved to be a model that would in later years become a sought out car (naturally I sold it before then!). Before selling the CanAm, I had been looking for a 60s muscle car for some time, and really wanted a car that was somewhat unique. That eliminated all the Camaros, Mustangs, GTOs, Challengers and Chargers. I was partial to Pontiac, and was hoping to find a 67-69 Firebird, but noticed two Oldsmobiles that piqued my interest; a 72 442 and this great looking, numbers-matching 1969 W31 with 30K original miles. I took them both out for a test drive. By 1972, the 442 had been detuned to lesser horsepower but still had the torque expected from a 455 ci big block. I had researched the W-machines and knew that the W31, although a small block 350, was a rare car in terms of production numbers. Oldsmobile only made 569 Cutlass S W31s in 1969, and, in total, there were only 913 W31s produced in that year. In addition, all engines were factory-blueprinted, with oversized valves from the 455, resulting in around 350 HP (although listed at 325, for obvious insurance reasons). Because of the oversized valves and performance cam, vacuum was too low to include power brakes; all w31s had manual brakes. Oldsmobile released the W31 as a small block to counter the rising insurance rates for big block muscle, and this little baby could easily smoke some rubber. It was called the, “baby W30”.

1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S W31

1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S W31

Besides the low production numbers on the W31, this particular car was optioned out to the hilt, with options like remote vacuum-operated trunk opener, power antenna, and the like. The options list on the window sticker goes on and on (please refers to the attached picture of the window sticker). Obviously, for the era’s muscle car buyer, the norm was to have as few options as possible.

After some negotiations, I bought the car and drove it home. Battery went dead in the middle of an hour and a half drive, forcing me to buy a new one from a local service station. Naturally, I started to wonder what else was ready to fail. Luckily, with an engine with just over 30k on it, nothing else has gone wrong in the 14 years of ownership. I learned from the people at Volo that the car had been completely disassembled and restored to factory specs back in 1992. The paint job was immaculate, with the exception of a chip in the passenger door. I had that door completely repainted within a month.

1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S W31

1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S W31

Since then, I’ve done minor work on the car, mostly detailing, both interior and engine compartment. The car was pretty much perfect when purchased (except for the battery!). In the first 5 years of ownership, I would attend maybe 3-4 car shows per year, mostly of the local variety. Nevertheless, the car won several trophies at some of the major shows, with reactions from attendees always something like, “wow, I’ve never seen one of those”. In the 30 or so car shows that I’ve attended, I have only seen ONE other W31.

I have always regretted not obtaining the seller information from Volo when purchasing the car. When I finally tried to determine some ownership provenance, it was too late, and their records were no longer available. With only 32k miles on the odometer, though, I suspect that the ownership chain isn’t very long. Unfortunately, Oldsmobile doesn’t have historical records, but someone with some research time could probably develop the history.

The W-Machines are legendary, and with Olds now defunct, the next owner of this beauty will have a rare piece of Oldsmobile history.

For information on other Oldsmobiles, see our post on the 1961-1964 Oldsmobile 88. For other muscle cars see our post on the 1968-1970 Dodge Charger.

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3 Responses to Tell Us About Your Car: 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S W31

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