1961 Oldsmobile Cutlass F-85 283 V8 from North America


Compact power, young executive's mustang-killer


Intermittent vapor lock problems.

General Comments:

The Oldsmobile Cutlass F-85 was my very first car; oddly enough, I bought it before I even knew how to drive. I bought for $1200 off a guy who worked on the railroad, a real 'cream-puff' (the car, not the guy). As a neophyte I didn't know what the hell I had--the pick-up (acceleration) on this car was impressive, even with the 2-barrel carb (let alone the 4-barrel) --it really threw you back into the seat, and one had to be quite careful on the throttle. The car was fast off the line and the top end was great too--I don't think I ever topped it out, probably 115 mph was the highest I hit, and the car could cruise all day at 85 mph. This light aluminum engine was nicknamed the 'Rocket'--but in this instance the marketing hype matched the reality. I later found out from a southerner that they made these things into stock-cars.

The early sixties in America saw a brief flurry of mid-size cars and the Cutlass F-85 was one of them. Too bad the trend of a powerful, low-slung, and well-handling (by traditional US standards) luxurious mid-size died out--when I was driving the F-85 in the mid 80s, though a quarter century old, it had more punch and equal handling with the 'new generation' Mustangs or Thunderbirds that were coming out.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 26th April, 2008

28th Apr 2008, 16:22

"Engine and transmission 283 V8 Automatic"

- If that's what that 1961 F-85 had, then someone put a Chevrolet 283 in there.

1st Feb 2009, 17:11

No it was not a Chevrolet 283 it was a V8, all aluminum block, very lightweight. My Dad special ordered a new '61 with a standard (3 speed), long throw transmission mounted on the steering stalk, very inefficient for any kind of competition. The suspension was also extremely soft, causing it to ride like a marshmallow. Its light weight made it very fast off the line, however.

25th Jun 2009, 21:07

"The V8 in the '61 F85 was a 215 cubic inch, pretty dinky for a V8 even by today's standards..."

What with variable valve timing, direct injection, DOHC, supercharging & today's electronics, a 215 cubic inch engine could put out close to 400 HP.

4th Jan 2011, 13:45

Those '61 Cutlasses were great cars. The engine in the Cutlass model (not the base F-85) was a very advanced aluminum V-8 of 215 cubic inches with a 10:1 compression ratio (the base engine had 8.5:1) and four barrel carb. It produced 185 HP (as opposed to 155 in the base F-85). It was VERY quick and, for its day, had a pretty decent suspension. It would indeed cruise at 85 MPH all day (back in the sixties I ran the length of the NJ Turnpike at that speed). The major weakness was the "slim jim" transmission - it would need rebuilding at 50,000 miles. If I could find a good one today, I'd buy it.

Jan Eyerman.

9th Jul 2013, 01:48

I turned my 1961 Cutlass into a street gasser. Stripped the body to a shell, installed a custom full frame with a 10-point roll cage, straight axle front end, slightly-altered wheelbase, plastic seats moved 12" back, slotted mags, M/T 32 x 10.5 ET Streets, 355 Chevy engine, TH350 trans, 12-bolt Chevy rear, long ladder bars, fenderwell headers, 3050 lbs with driver, 650 actual HP with Nitrous. Runs 10.7 at 5800 ft elevation (low 10's at sea level). Had to have something different.

On Youtube: gasser 61 cutlass.