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The Oldsmobile Silhouette Was a Really Weird Luxury Minivan

The Oldsmobile Silhouette Was a Really Weird Luxury Minivan
this is a 1996

oldsmobile

silhouette

and it is the original

luxury

minivan

it's also ugly and

weird

and incredibly rare which means I love it because I enjoy

weird

cars like this the

silhouette

is also almost completely forgotten in the car world but today I'm going to review this

silhouette

and we're going to remember I've borrowed this

silhouette

from a viewer here in San Diego who has an amazing group of 1980s and 1990s General Motors vehicles when he reached out and asked if
the oldsmobile silhouette was a really weird luxury minivan
I wanted to review any of them my answer was yes the

silhouette

mostly because I'm pretty sure I'll never be able to find another one ever again that's because the

silhouette

wasn't exactly a big success it first went on sale in 1990 as a

luxury

alternative to the other two General Motors

minivan

s the Chevy Lumina apv and the Pontiac Trans Sport it was a bit of a gamble because no one had

really

created a

luxury

minivan

before aside from a few trim levels of the Chrysler Town and
Country but General Motors decided to give it a shot and they boldly created the

silhouette

unfortunately the

silhouette

was terribly ugly and everyone thought it looked like a Dustbuster seriously the unofficial nickname of General Motors

minivan

s from this era is the Dustbuster vans because of this crazy sloping windshield and frankly I think it's a pretty good comparison another problem was power when this van first came out it had only a hundred and twenty horsepower later that was
increased to 160 and then 180 but still not exactly all that strong for a

minivan

another problem was quality namely the fact that there

really

wasn't any and that's one of the reasons why it's so hard to find a

silhouette

today most of these have completely fallen apart over the year but never mind the bad styling the weak powertrains and the poor quality I like this

silhouette

because it's interesting and it's quirky and it's

weird

and it's rare and I've always
wanted to check it out so today I'm going to do just that first I'm gonna take you on a tour of this

silhouette

and I'm gonna show you all of the interesting quirks and features of the first

luxury

minivan

then I'm gonna get it out on the road and drive it and then I'm going to give it a dug score all right I'm going to start the quirks and features of the

silhouette

with getting in and that means we start with probably my favorite

silhouette

feature to explain it I turn
your attention to the key father you can see there are three buttons you have lock unlock and then a button that looks like a van and not just any van but a perfect diagram of the

silhouette

with it's rather unusual distinctive styling which is a nice touch but anyway you press the van button and the back door opens automatically it's a power sliding door now this is meaningless to modern

minivan

consumers of course it has a power sliding door but it was huge when the

silhouette

came out
this was the first

minivan

to have a power sliding door and it was like the future had finally come to real-life you could push a button and open a

minivan

door it was mind-blowing now it is worth noting you didn't have to push the button in order to open the power sliding door you could also just pull on the door handle like opening the door to pretty much any

minivan

but then you let go and the door automatically did the rest so you had a power opening door either way you did it an
unbelievable feat of Technology back when this van was new but anyway once you opened the

silhouette

power door and it automatically and gracefully opened for you you gained access to the second row the rear seats and probably my second favorite

silhouette

quark / feature and that would be the built-in child seat take a look at this the rear seat behind the driver opens up and there is a built-in car seat in there for children and that means you can just open up your seat and strap your child in
you don't have to worry about clipping in your car seat and lifting it in get out of your different vehicles and dealing with all the cumbersome stuff that a car seat involves because it was literally built into the seat this is brilliant no automaker is doing this anymore and I don't understand why it seems like such an obvious feature for a family vehicle

Oldsmobile

had it almost 25 years ago now unfortunately we then get to a bit of a demerit for the

silhouette

namely the fact that
even though it has this wonderful sliding door that opens automatically it's only on one side and I don't mean that the power door is only on one side I mean the door is only on one side good to see on the other side of this band there's nothing there at all for some reason it wasn't until then 1996 Chrysler

minivan

that automakers here in North America realized hey you can put two sliding doors in

minivan

s what a brilliant idea and so before that

minivan

s had only one sliding
door on one side it was the passenger side so your children didn't ever have to get out into traffic but either way it was rather inconvenient to be able to access the second and third row from only one entry point this door on the passenger side but that was standard

minivan

practice until the 90s but anyway once you've strapped your child in to the built in

silhouette

car seat you then press the

minivan

button on the key fob again and the door closes automatically again something
modern

minivan

people take for granted but it was a big deal with the

silhouette

but to me the very coolest thing about the whole

silhouette

power door situation is none of the stuff I've already showed you instead it has to do with the noise the door makes when it closes take a listen now it's not making that noise because it's squeaking or old or broken they engineered that noise in so that children would be aware when the door was closing and they wouldn't get their fingers
caught that is a safety noise they put in the automatic door just to make sure nobody got injured take another listen to this bizarre

silhouette

door closing noise and next up our next interesting quirk with the

silhouette

is of course its styling the thing that gave the Dustbuster General Motors

minivan

s their Dustbuster nickname the

weird

est part is of course this sloping front end line which basically starts at the furthest front most point of the bumper and continues all the way to the roof
as one wild angled line the entire way this styling was certainly interesting and rather eye catching and I have a few theories about why they decided to do this one is aerodynamics I wonder if maybe it helped them with fuel economy styling the van this way just gave it a couple extra miles per gallon another theory I have is that they worked specifically intending to make something

weird

and unusual you see the Chrysler

minivan

had come out years before the General Motors Dustbuster vans and
the oldsmobile silhouette was a really weird luxury minivan
the Chrysler

minivan

had been a huge success General Motors was playing catch-up and I've always wondered if maybe they went strange with the styling to try to draw attention away from the more popular Chrysler's the other thing worth noting about the styling of this van is it wasn't that unusual at the time period there were other vans designed like this the Ford Aerostar had a similar crazy sloping front end and of course so did the Toyota previa but to me it was the

silhouette

and
the General Motors Dustbuster fans that had this design the

weird

est and took it to the most extreme but regardless of the reason for the design it's safe to say that at a lien ated people customers in the early 90s who just wanted a

minivan

didn't want to take on such a bizarre

weird

futuristic shape for their family vehicle and I'm sure General Motors lost sales because of this strange of course I'm thrilled they did it because they created one of the quirkiest

minivan

s ever
but the next generation

oldsmobile

silhouette

was just a fairly traditional boring

minivan

with a far more traditional look they abandoned the crazy Dustbuster futuristic design concept and that's probably a good thing because designing the van like this created more challenges than just the polarizing styling one challenge is clearly seen right here and that was engine access by pulling the windshield so far forward it blocked easy access to most of the engine so you can get to the front
half maybe but the back is pretty much stuck in there and trying to work on this van was a nightmare as a result of that and another challenge was the dashboard again pulling the windshield so far out to create this sloping line front end meant that the dashboard continued on for like four feet behind this steering wheel so if you put something on the dashboard it was easily able to roll down to the base of the windshield where you couldn't

really

reach it you'd have to basically stand
on the seat and get all the way forward in order to get to the front of the dashboard but to me the most hilarious challenge that comes with this design relates to the front doors in order to make the front doors large enough so that someone could comfortably get inside they have to curve back at the top and if you look at the line on the front door you can see it kind of bends backward at the top to ensure it's not too narrow for you to get your head in the problem with that is that the top
of the door then kind of comes to a point and if you're not ready for it or used to it you could hit your head and

really

hurt yourself on that sharp door top this apparently happened and it must have happened quite a bit because there's an actual warning label that specifically says the door is pointy don't hit your head on it you idiot and they've placed it at the very top of the door right by where you would hit your head you can see they've even designed the warning label
to curve around this rivet so that the label is in the most relevant part of the door I find this to be hilarious there were so many head hitting's because of this design and the doors they actually had to make a bright yellow warning label but there was more

weird

ness on the outside of this van than just the dust Buster front end here's another great one the third brake light beginning in the 1980s the US government mandated that all new cars had to have a third center mounted brake
light basically every car has to brake lights on the side and the third one on the top but not the

silhouette

instead the two side brake lights are on the top and the third brake light is in the middle below with side brake lights this is probably one of the only cars ever that has the third brake light mounted below the two normal brake lights and next up another interesting exterior quirk of the

silhouette

would be the stripes this van has seven black stripes that go around the entire van
besides the rear basically the whole thing has these black stripes on and I guess because they thought that without the stripes it just looked like too much van I also like these black vinyl decals next to the windows on the side you can see they've placed these here apparently to make it look like the window is this one continuous piece and it doesn't ever curve up like they actually do it's almost like they're admitting their design wasn't that good and they're trying
to solve the problem with decals and speaking of windows it's worth noting that the back windows in this

minivan

don't open and modern

minivan

s it's a foregone conclusion you can roll down the windows in the second row of seats but in this van there's this little clip you just kind of push it open and this is as far as the window opens basically just enough to allow a little bit of fresh air to come in it's essentially a vent and not an actual rolling down window again this
was pretty common in

minivan

s in the 90s although it's basically unthinkable by modern

minivan

s standards and speaking of windows that don't open you might be wondering how they designed the windows on the side of the van with that crazy line down the front end the answer is there's just giant triangular windows in the front and again they don't open they're just fixed in place these giant window triangles that are very strange no other car has these but the Dustbuster vans
do but anyway next we move in to the

silhouette

where there are quite a few more quirks and features I'm going to start with the airbags now this is a 1996 model the US government mandated dual front airbags in 1998 but many automaker's added dual airbags early both to protect their customers and add some safety and reassurance to their purchase now this van being both a

luxury

vehicle and a family

minivan

you would think would have gotten dual airbags the moment they were created but
instead General Motors waited until they were legally required so you had a driver airbag because that was mandated in 1995 but on the passenger side you had a storage cubby you could open it up and put stuff in it and I hope you valued that storage more than your life because General Motors certainly did actually I have to admit that storage was pretty nice to have on the top of the dashboard where the airbag would go because the glovebox

really

wasn't all that big and half of it was taken
the oldsmobile silhouette was a really weird luxury minivan
up with the fuse panel so you

really

did want some extra storage in here and they gave it to you instead of an airbag with that said this was a family van so there were more storage opportunities in here for instance below the center control stack you have this little bin that opens up and that's a fairly large storage area and on the ceiling there are several different storage possibilities the first one here has this button that was for your garage door opener in the days before home link
you would just put your garage door opener in there and then you would press the button and that would press the button on your garage door opener and your garage door would open pretty simple now behind that you have storage for sunglasses that's pretty common most cars have that today and behind that you have another little storage area for I have no idea but it does have this little nylon strap so whatever you put in there won't roll around or fall down when you open it up now also on
the ceiling over on the driver's side you have an important button and switch and that would be for the powered door the switch allows you to enable or disable the powered door if you want it off and then the door can just be treated like a manual door for safety or other reasons you can do that here the button here allows you to open the power door so if you're in the driver's seat you want to let in your child who's outside press this button the door opens and of course you can
press that button again and the door will close so you can activate the power door from the driver's seat now also on the ceiling behind all these buttons in the storage area you have some vents which is unusual but yes these vents blow on you from behind unlike in most cars where all the climate control comes from in front of you this one you have vents on the back of your head another interesting control area in this car be the climate controls you can see it's in this little square
and speaking of squares there are nine different squares within the climate controls for you to do various things there was no attempt made to make this stylish or look nice or integrate it you just add squares in a square and next up other

weird

controls are found on the sides of the gauge cluster over on the left side you have the headlight controls you have two buttons sticking off this area the top one turns on the full headlights the lower one turns on just the parking lights and then
inside this area you have a little switch you can use to dim or brighten the interior lights same deal over on the right side of the gauge cluster except here it's for the wipers the button on top you can push for the window washer and below that is the missed button if you just want like one single wipe and you're driving and missed next I'm moving on to a warning light that lets you know the tailgate is open you can see it's shaped like the van not just any van but the
Dustbuster van and next we move on to the backseat of this

silhouette

where I am conveniently already sitting I want to talk about that door a couple of other interesting items one is the fact that it's cable driven and you can actually see the cable if you look into the door jamb you can see how the door kind of opens and closes it's all attached to that cable the other interesting thing is the electrical contact you can see there are like five different pins on the door and they all
line up to this electrical contact piece on the pillar and I guess that's how the car knows that the door is actually closed when those five pins are on that piece on the pillar now one other item worth noting about the door there's yet another way to open it in here there's a little power door button on the pillar next to the door you can press that and it'll open and close the door just like the button on the key fob or the button next to the driver's seat now when you
climb in here you might be wondering why the rear seats are different colors this was not factory stock the owner of this car told me when he bought it it only had four seats and he actually uses it as a family car so he wanted to get the rest of the seats but he looked everywhere and couldn't find gray leather

silhouette

seats so this is what he has instead pretty simple now despite the fact that the

silhouette

was billed as the ultimate

luxury

minivan

there weren't

really

all that many
frills back here for the rear seats which was kind of the whole point of buying a

minivan

in the first place for carrying passengers you had that child seat which I showed you earlier and you have leather seats which is pretty nice but aside from that you were limited to basically these climate-controlled vents in the ceiling and there was a set of climate controls over on the driver's side of the rear area but it wasn't full climate controls you could only adjust the fan speed you
couldn't change the temperature all the temperature changing was left to the front seat occupants and next we move on to the third row in the

silhouette

and accessing the third row which is actually surprisingly easy you just push this latch and the whole seat comes forward and then you have an easy path to get into the third row there are a lot of modern

minivan

s and three row SUVs I get in where it isn't that simple to get back here but once you're in the third row you discover
there are

really

no frills back here nothing special nothing nice nothing particularly luxurious at this point it pretty much just becomes transport when you're in the third row and once you lift up the tailgate you'll discover that something particularly unusual back here just your typical

minivan

cargo area not very large but pretty standard with

minivan

s from this era probably the only

really

unusual thing at least compared to modern

minivan

s is that this van doesn't have fold
flat seats that invention didn't come out until like the 2000s and that meant if you wanted a larger cargo area you had to physically remove the seats one at a time so the two in the back and then three more in the middle if you wanted the full cargo area open for a larger item naturally this wasn't very practical especially because once the seats were out you had to have somewhere to put them so if you were taking the seats out unless you were at home or in your garage you were just
leaving your seats behind fold flat seats were a rather important innovation when they finally came out years after this van went off the market and next up back to the engine this was the General Motors 3400 v6 when the

silhouette

first came out in 1990 it actually used the 30 100 v6 which made only a hundred and 20 horsepower just abysmal over the years they added more power they eventually put the 3800 v6 in this van with about 150 horsepower and then this the 3400 is about 170 for the final
couple of model years but it still wasn't

really

enough for a vehicle this size and it

really

is pathetic by modern standards our last interesting

silhouette

item is this

silhouette

brochure from 1996 nothing particularly unusual in here but I love the bat color take a look at this 1996

Oldsmobile

lineup when was the last time you saw any of these cars on the road in Nice shape they're all pretty much gone but it's interesting to look at and remember and so those are the quirks and
features of the original

oldsmobile

silhouette

now it's time to get it out on the road and see how it drives all right driving the

silhouette

I have always wanted to film a video on this car as ridiculous as it may seem just because these GM Dustbuster vans were kind of an icon looking out at this windshield design I mean it's just so bizarre the windshield is four feet in front of me here it's just absolutely crazy now on the road it actually drives reasonably well there's usual
about this and this car wasn't intended to be

really

unusual it was supposed to be a pretty rational normal people mover vehicle that just happened to have kind of

weird

styling to maybe make the

minivan

seem a little bit less uncool but unfortunately from behind the wheel it's still an uncool

minivan

it still drives every bit as uncool as

minivan

s do and basically what that means is there's not much acceleration that 3.4 liter v6 was totally overmatched by the size of this vehicle
there's not much interesting here aside from the stuff I already showed you with a lot of the

weird

placement of things and buttons and switches there's there's nothing exciting about the driving experience of this vehicle or even

really

about sitting in this vehicle except that you know you're in a

weird

car ultimately it's pretty much just a van but it was a van that would have felt stylish and luxurious back in 1996 actually that's not entirely true the 1996 model
years when Chrysler introduced it's like next generation of van with dual sliding doors and way more comfort and convenience features and this thing would have been totally outclassed by 1996 but it was a little bit innovative with the power sliding door which is of course now standard fare and

minivan

and it's certainly interesting to film a video with this bizarre and unusual relic of the 1990s everybody remembers the Toyota previa because it had an unusual powertrain it was
supercharged and all-wheel drive but to me this van was always a little bit stranger it was rarer it was

luxury

for some reason it had some

weird

features and then of course the styling and I always thought the styling of this van frankly was

weird

er than that of the previa and so that's the 1996

oldsmobile

silhouette

this is a fantastic vehicle unless of course you have taste no I'm just kidding these were

weird

and controversial but that was kind of the point by the time these came out
General Motors was so far behind the Chrysler

minivan

that they had to do something interesting and crazy in order to stand out and as you can clearly see they certainly stood out for better or worse anyway now it's time to give the original

silhouette

a Doug score starting with the weakened categories styling the

silhouette

is quite unattractive and it gets a three out of ten acceleration is very slow and it gets a 1 out of 10 handling is bad not at all fun or sporty or quick or connected
and it gets a 2 out of 10 fun factor is incredibly low there's not

really

any fun to be had here and it gets a 1 out of 10 finally cool factor and I must admit these Dustbuster vans are starting to get sort of cool it gets a 4 out of 10 for a total weekend score of 11 out of 50 next up are the daily categories and features this van doesn't have any modern tech but the power door and the built-in child seat are big deals and it gets a reasonably strong four out of ten comfort is average
and it gets a 5 out of 10 quality is poor the interior isn't very nice and reliability is mediocre and it gets a 4 out of 10 practicality is excellent and it gets a 9 out of 10 finally value and these are cheap and I mean

really

cheap and there's sort of a cool thing to own for a couple grand but they're also just not very good it's a six out of 10 for a total daily score of 28 out of 50 and it up in the dug score is 39 out of 100 which places it here against some other vans
I've tested the

silhouette

s closest rival I've tested is the Toyota previa and the previa is better looking better built and a bit more engaging to drive but it can't match the

silhouette

s power sliding door and built-in child seat the

silhouette

is after all the Cadillac of

minivan

s