I don’t remember the first time I saw an Oldsmobile Aurora. There wasn’t this ah-ha moment were one drove by and my life changed forever. It was more of a slow burn, with these unusual cars burrowing their way into my psyche over time. The more of them I saw, the more I was captivated by their style.
As a 14-year-old passively into cars, I was fully aware of all the ‘cool’ cars on the road in 1994. Camaros, Mustangs, Corvettes, Ferraris – those were instantly recognizable. But regular cars didn’t capture my attention. Except the Aurora did.
The sleek, wind-tunnel designed shape looked like nothing else on the road. It had this presence about it, both modern and cool. It was like the future driving down the road. The impossibly small, flush headlights and wrap around taillight seemed so fantastic. Even the interior had a sleek, asymmetrical look to it.
The fact it was made by Oldsmobile instead of a Japanese or European luxury manufacturer added to the appeal and my interest.
Oldsmobile Aurora GTS-1
About a year after I started to appreciate the Aurora, we went on our yearly pilgrimage to Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park). One of the series racing there was the IMSA GT championship. A multi-class series, it featured prototype racers as well as two GT classes using vehicles that resembled road cars (GTS-1 and GTS-2).
As the GTS-1 cars took the track, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There before me was the most beautiful racecar I had ever seen – the Oldsmobile Aurora GTS-1. My interest in the car became full-on love at this moment. Although I didn’t know it at the time, the Aurora used a race prep version of the cars V8 engine that made about 650 hp and could hit a 10,700 rpm redline.
Not just menacing and gorgeous, the Aurora GTS-1 was successful during its short run, notching up several victories. There is quite a following for these cars and they are starting to draw impressive numbers on the auction block.
A Deeper Dive
As I got a bit older, my interest in automobiles intensified. I began to learn more about the Aurora. I started to appreciate just how unusual a V8 front-wheel drive car was. I was intrigued (no pun intended) that Oldsmobile had been allowed to make a smaller version of the Cadillac NorthStar engine for exclusive use in this flagship sedan.
With 250 hp, the Aurora wasn’t going to set the world on fire but is was on par with the competition in terms of output. For example, BMW’s larger 4.4L V8 made 282 hp at the time, just 1.5 more hp per liter than Oldsmobile. It also sounded quite good with the mufflers removed as heard here and here.
The four-speed automatic was a bit out classed though and the Aurora was reportedly nothing special to drive other than a nice highway cruiser. But that didn’t stop me from being unapologetically fascinated by them. These domestic spaceships with their unique drivetrains still caught my eye every time I’d pass by on, even years after their introduction.
I finally Drive One…Sort Of
In the summer of 2000, I had a job working as a lot jockey at a Chevrolet Oldsmobile dealership (in Canada, GM brands were almost always partnered up at dealerships). The general manager of the store would send me out to buy him a coffee every morning at the local Tim Hortons. Now this may sound a bit demeaning, but I didn’t care because he would always let me drive his company car to get the coffee – an Oldsmobile Aurora. Ok, this was a second generation, 2001 Aurora with the V6 engine, but I was still finally driving an Aurora.
Truth be told, as nice as that car was, it never captivated me like the original. Its styling was far more conservative and contemporary, and the drivetrain hadn’t been updated at all. It felt like the last-minute plans-changed-rush-job that it was instead of the well thought out, groundbreaking original.
It has been over 25 years since the original Aurora debuted and I still have an irrational love for it. I still think it is one of the coolest designs to ever be created.