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Thread: 1989 Cutlass Cruiser

  1. #1
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    Default 1989 Cutlass Cruiser

    I figure it's time to start a build thread. (Copying some text and pics from an introduce yourself post.) I just picked up this 89 Cruiser in July. 70k-ish. Previous owner said it needs head gasket (good excuse for 3.1 swap) but shockingly completely rust free on the unibody, even the trailing arm mounts. Just surface rust on the cradle. Interior is like new too. Must have been stored mostly inside, as the dew strips are in good shape. All the windows and locks work smoothly. Unlike the locks on my other cars which have stiffened up to the point where the power lock is useless. Plan to do the engine, add full gauges, and early Silhouette steering wheel and crosslace alloys. And probably other things.





    Still don't have my house back so I'll get more pics as I am able to.

    Today I had the afternoon off. So I got insurance for it, then went and transferred my Tracker plate to the Cruiser. My Celebrity and Tracker had the original Mackinac Bridge plate, which was voted world's best new license plate. Soon after, they redesigned it to ho-hum since cops found it hard to read. But we can keep using our original plates until they're 10 years old. Random web pic, not my plate number.



    So I took it out to run it a bit, to fill the tank along with some drygas, as the previous owner said the gas is last summer's. Not sure yet about the bad head, no water in the oil. Seems to run hotter than the Celeb just feeling with a hand, but temp light isn't on and no boiling coolant. Temp sender could be shot. Would like to figure out what's up before pulling the engine but I'm not putting money into this old engine.

    I've got a full cluster for it. Only thing it is for a 3 speed 2.8 car. Just gotta modify the PRND21 with one that shows OD, I've got plenty of gauge parts laying around. If my replacement engine came from a car with gauges, I'll swap in its sensors with my cluster to get more vitals.

    Trans shifts good. Will do fluid and filter for good measure.

    Engine is starting to smooth out with fresh gas but the tires are old and cheap and feel way out of balance. And the wire wheel covers make creaking noises here and there. Not a big deal as I'm putting on 15" Silhouette alloys which I'm picking up Saturday. Brakes are also worn down to the bone. Since I'm getting 15" wheels, and since I've gotta replace the brakes anyway, I might consider upgrading to 92+ U-van brakes. Along with the rear discs I saved from my last wagon before scrapping it, maybe reworking it for a larger rotor if I decide to increase the fronts. I've done custom disc brake setups before.



    Picking up my engine tomorrow morning. 3.1 from a 1989 Grand Prix with 60k ish on it. Will store the engine in the garage until I'm able to do it.

    Other than that, just little things. Cig lighter is probably shorted, no big deal. Headliner sags, I've done those before getting good results with polar fleece and contact cement. Need to find one of the later hood prop rods. And though the paint is excellent, the rear wing is peeling. I might just remove it, as I have a set of non-wing hinges I saved from another wagon. Grille is good but is in the back, as it needs a hood cable (pretty sure I saved one of those from another a-body too).

    As I've had zero luck finding a blue Silhouette style steering wheel (other than the one that's on Ebay for hundreds of dollars), I might pick that gray one up from the yard tomorrow when I get the engine, and try my hand at painting it blue. At some point anyway, and when it's warm enough.

    That's it for today, the car goes back to parked under the trees, under a car cover. Hopefully I can get it in the garage before winter, but it won't be driven in the snow, ever.
    Last edited by tlc1976; 03-26-2019 at 11:53 PM. Reason: New pic hosting site
    1989 Celebrity CL 4 door, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, summer daily driver
    1989 Cutlass Cruiser wagon, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, special summer ride
    1996 Cherokee XJ 4 door, 4.0, 5 speed, winter daily driver & towing vehicle
    1991 Tracker 2 door, 1.6, 5 speed, needs work
    Previously several Celebritys, 6000s, & 2 U-vans



  2. #2
    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Might I suggest reinstalling the 2.8 upper intake once you complete the swap? The 2.8 and 3.1 intakes are identical aside from branding. It would lend a bit of sleeper cred.
    Daniel
    Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 214-SFI. 201k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. Transmission time, again. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
    Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 132k miles. Current DD.
    Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for an LR4.

  3. #3
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    That's a thought, which I might entertain if Michigan ever started requiring vehicle inspections. But I prefer my work to show every time the hood is opened, knowing that this car never came with this engine from the factory, but it looks like it did, like one of those rare options. When I did the Celebrity 3.1 swap, I made sure to swap over every lift bracket, cooling line, etc. to look as factory as possible. I'll do the same thing on the Cruiser.
    1989 Celebrity CL 4 door, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, summer daily driver
    1989 Cutlass Cruiser wagon, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, special summer ride
    1996 Cherokee XJ 4 door, 4.0, 5 speed, winter daily driver & towing vehicle
    1991 Tracker 2 door, 1.6, 5 speed, needs work
    Previously several Celebritys, 6000s, & 2 U-vans

  4. #4
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    I got my engine Friday morning just before going in for oral surgery. It's still in my trailer. Also picked up that Silhouette steering wheel which is dark gray leather wrap. If I don't paint the wheel, I might consider painting the column housing dark gray like they did on the Silhouette, that would be more work but easier to get a good result.

    Saturday went and got my wheels. Almost didn't get them due to lack of communication on their end, but I insisted and they dug them out for me. Got them home and realized one is for an Olds 88, so it's just a little different. Now I see the difference in the original photos they sent, though they did list all 4 as from a Cutlass Supreme / Silhouette. I'm in contact with another yard and I will get another one to match. Also ordered a nice looking set of machined center caps off ebay for $10, now I know what the center bore is.

    Not doing much this week, not supposed to chew or strain or lift anything.
    1989 Celebrity CL 4 door, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, summer daily driver
    1989 Cutlass Cruiser wagon, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, special summer ride
    1996 Cherokee XJ 4 door, 4.0, 5 speed, winter daily driver & towing vehicle
    1991 Tracker 2 door, 1.6, 5 speed, needs work
    Previously several Celebritys, 6000s, & 2 U-vans

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    Tonight I removed my cover which got ripped in the wind. And pulled it in the garage for awhile. Here are some pics. Still can't believe how rust free the underbody is.


    New hood prop rod from later model Ciera.


    Engine with shredded underhood insulation. Removed during first drive.


    Passenger front view in garage.


    Driver rear view in garage.


    Undercarriage, driver side front.


    Undercarriage, driver side center.


    Undercarriage, driver side gas tank.


    Undercarriage, driver side trailing arm area.


    Undercarriage, passenger side front.


    Undercarriage, passenger side trailing arm area. Amazing, this is usually the first thing to rot.


    Undercarriage, passenger side muffler area.

    I also pulled the dash apart and swapped clusters. The new cluster was from a 3 speed so I swapped gear indicators. I swapped the odometer wheels. The trip odometer is iffy though. And enough bulbs to make it all function. I also swapped the oil and temp senders from my new engine, so I can see what's really going on with the existing engine. The ctsy fuse was removed, probably due to a shorted cigarette lighter which I removed so I put the fuse back in. Now the radio and dome lights work, radio sounds good. I didn't totally put the dash back together yet.

    Then I jacked it up and removed the front wheels to inspect the brakes. Thankfully the wire wheel key was still there. I pulled all the covers and put them in back. I had to take a small sledge to the rims to get them off. I think tomorrow I'm going to throw a cheap set of pads on there, so I can drive it for now. The pads are right down to the bone, but all else looks good, even the hoses. Bearings are solid, linkages are tight. The rears are sticking but such is my experience with all GM rear drums. Eventually this one will get rear discs.

    I also added the clip from the old prop rod, and made it work with this one, using an existing bolt that holds on the front clip. A new underhood pad is also in the future.

    I'll try to get more pics tomorrow.
    Last edited by tlc1976; 03-27-2019 at 12:00 AM. Reason: New pic hosting site
    1989 Celebrity CL 4 door, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, summer daily driver
    1989 Cutlass Cruiser wagon, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, special summer ride
    1996 Cherokee XJ 4 door, 4.0, 5 speed, winter daily driver & towing vehicle
    1991 Tracker 2 door, 1.6, 5 speed, needs work
    Previously several Celebritys, 6000s, & 2 U-vans

  6. #6
    Senior Member Century7667's Avatar
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    Wow. That's.....clean.

    Ken T.

  7. #7
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    I pulled the rears and the drums have very little wear. No shoe grooves. So I tightened up the adjusters a bit, and decided I'll keep the existing brake system for now. Until more parts start needing replacement, I'll do the brake upgrade then. Even though the pads were digging into the rotor, the caliper slide pins were nice and smooth. So I got some new rotors and pads for the front and put them on, and that's all it needs. I put in a new thermostat too, even though the one that came out looked almost new.

    After the first few miles today, I smelled something burning even though the engine wasn't hot. I pulled over and removed the shredded underhood pad, no more smell. I drove it about 40 miles today, even up a lot of good size hills. The temp gauge stayed about 1/4 the whole time after warmup, only varying very slightly. Engine wasn't abnormally hot to the touch either, but warm enough to open the thermostat and keep OD locked in. I went to my friend's house to show him the car. After it cooled off, I checked the coolant and there was still no loss, and nothing in the oil. But it looks like the previous owner put block seal in the cooling system. I guess it's doing its job. I'll hold off as long as I can before I have to drain the system to put antifreeze in for winter.

    My friend noticed there was no rear defrost grid, and no dash switch for it either. Never paid attention, kinda just take it for granted around here. Between that and the body condition, and the caliper pins better than any I've had here, I think it is likely to have been a southern car. I probably won't add the defroster, since I won't ever be driving this in the winter.

    Tomorrow I'll put the dash back together and get some photos.
    Last edited by tlc1976; 09-23-2018 at 04:54 AM.
    1989 Celebrity CL 4 door, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, summer daily driver
    1989 Cutlass Cruiser wagon, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, special summer ride
    1996 Cherokee XJ 4 door, 4.0, 5 speed, winter daily driver & towing vehicle
    1991 Tracker 2 door, 1.6, 5 speed, needs work
    Previously several Celebritys, 6000s, & 2 U-vans

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    Today I put the dash back together and cleaned the interior. Not much to clean except some dust and a very small amount of finger grime.


    Front seat. Great condition.


    Rear seat. Looks like it was never used.


    Old cluster with unused gear indicator and odometer reading. Nice but doesn't tell me anything.


    New cluster in place. Everything I need to know. I put a full cluster in any car I get, if it doesn't already have one. I still might Dremel a hole for the trip odometer and use the old plastic, it has fewer flaws.


    Current dash. Next year I'll do the windshield. I can get one myself and put it in for about $50, done many of them over the years.


    Silhouette steering wheel to use in future.


    Non-wing hinges to be cleaned up.

    I found a bunch of paperwork in the glove box. It was always a Michigan car, but bought new or 1 year old by a 72 year old couple and was barely driven. The husband died within a year, the wife drove it until she couldn't anymore and and it appears one of her relatives ended up with it before I got it. She died 3 years ago. Dealer serviced for most of its life, even oil changes. 73k on the odometer is accurate.
    Last edited by tlc1976; 03-26-2019 at 11:44 PM. Reason: New pic hosting site
    1989 Celebrity CL 4 door, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, summer daily driver
    1989 Cutlass Cruiser wagon, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, special summer ride
    1996 Cherokee XJ 4 door, 4.0, 5 speed, winter daily driver & towing vehicle
    1991 Tracker 2 door, 1.6, 5 speed, needs work
    Previously several Celebritys, 6000s, & 2 U-vans

  9. #9

    Pontiac6ksteawd's Avatar
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    You can always add the rear window defroster. From my understandings, it isnt to difficult.
    Brian - Carpe Diem

    I dont have to love my president, or any god, to love my country!!
    More people have died in the name of "God" than in all wars combined thruout history
    01 Pontiac Aztek GT AWD 120k - 04 GMC Envoy SLT XUV 182k - 05 Mercury Montego Premier AWD 52k

  10. #10
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    The window is easy, I have one on a spare tailgate out back. I'd have to find a switch and proper trim panel (since I don't want to just hack a hole in the existing trim panel). The wiring is there in back and in the dash.
    1989 Celebrity CL 4 door, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, summer daily driver
    1989 Cutlass Cruiser wagon, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, special summer ride
    1996 Cherokee XJ 4 door, 4.0, 5 speed, winter daily driver & towing vehicle
    1991 Tracker 2 door, 1.6, 5 speed, needs work
    Previously several Celebritys, 6000s, & 2 U-vans

  11. #11
    Senior Member Century7667's Avatar
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    Ciera will always have the advantage on the gauge cluster over the Century. <sigh> Ironically, that cluster looks nearly identical to the '84 Buick Skyhawk cluster I had.

    Ken T.

  12. #12
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    Got all my wheels now. Just have to clean them up at some point. I did Pontiac 6000 wheels before in a tub of water using various grits of sandpaper on a sanding pad. Getting up to 600 grit, I sanded in a circular motion to leave the marks similar to the factory grooves. Changing the water with each grit. Did 1 wheel a night.
    Last edited by tlc1976; 03-26-2019 at 11:41 PM. Reason: New pic hosting site
    1989 Celebrity CL 4 door, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, summer daily driver
    1989 Cutlass Cruiser wagon, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, special summer ride
    1996 Cherokee XJ 4 door, 4.0, 5 speed, winter daily driver & towing vehicle
    1991 Tracker 2 door, 1.6, 5 speed, needs work
    Previously several Celebritys, 6000s, & 2 U-vans

  13. #13
    Senior Member
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    1989 Celebrity CL 4 door 3.1, 1989 Cutlass Cruiser 3.1
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    Today I found the hood cable I saved from a 6000, so I put the hood cable into the Cruiser and put the grille back in. Also I got an old Alpine CD changer same as I have had in the Celebrity for 15 years. Nice I can swap magazines. The Celebrity has a console so I put the changer there. In the Cruiser I put it in the glove box, and will have to fab up a nice looking mount for the face of the ashtray.

    I'm on the 3rd wheel being refinished. Got some new tires and chrome lugnuts on order for next week. Will be nice to drive it without wobbly old tires, not to mention my favorite Olds wheels.

    Next to it is my Celebrity. Same year but with over 4x the miles. Next year I would like to redo the paint. Back in 2006 I put a lot of work into the body, and it looked nice. It's time again.
    Last edited by tlc1976; 03-26-2019 at 11:37 PM. Reason: New pic hosting site

  14. #14
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    I've put a few hundred miles on the Cruiser so far. Was fine for awhile but it's finally starting to lose coolant and boil it after driving. So good, I know now not to waste my money on antifreeze for winter. I'll just drain it and leave it until I can get the new engine in. Got 3 of the 4 wheels done. Been out for another endoscope too, need surgery for the hiatal hernia, about the only things I can eat anymore are pudding and mashed potatoes.

    Got my house back finally. She's still got a few things around but she's officially moved out. Spent the week digging up the septic, doing some serious house cleaning and bringing in my furniture. They barely cleaned in almost 3 years. Got a 40 lb (volume) bag of dirt and hair from all the carpets, then called in the steam cleaners. Unfortunately everything I had stored in the garage in boxes has started to mold, due to being there for almost 3 years. Thankfully I did bring in my essentials early on. So I'll have a huge pile at next year's spring cleanup. Now I can get the Cruiser stored before it snows, and finally start getting my garage the way I want to, with a nice workspace.
    1989 Celebrity CL 4 door, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, summer daily driver
    1989 Cutlass Cruiser wagon, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, special summer ride
    1996 Cherokee XJ 4 door, 4.0, 5 speed, winter daily driver & towing vehicle
    1991 Tracker 2 door, 1.6, 5 speed, needs work
    Previously several Celebritys, 6000s, & 2 U-vans

  15. #15
    Senior Member Tyson's Avatar
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    Coming along nicely! That's in nice shape for 29 years old!
    1986 Celebrity Classic 2.8 (First car - sold)
    2013 Acura ILX
    1994 Acura Legend (x 2)
    1992 Acura NSX
    drivetofive.wordpress.com

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