Delightful Dustbuster: 1996 Oldsmobile Silhouette – SOLD!

by | Aug 2023 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Free For All Friday

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August 18, 2023, Update – We confirmed the seller of this “Classifind” deleted their listing, so we’re now able to call this one “SOLD!” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

Seeing certain cars of a certain model year have a tendency to jar my memory.  This 1996 Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan for sale, first spotted on Craigslist in August 2023 in Chatanooga, Tennessee, is one of those rides. Why? By the mid-1990s, Minivans were the hot ticket for young, growing families, and in 1996, I found myself wanting to replace my wife’s 1990 Mercury Sable GS station wagon. While we both loved that car, we swore up and down every time we put our infant son into his car seat as we banged our heads on the severe rear door angle.

My short list of minivans to replace the Sable was down to two contenders in 1996: The then brand-new, second-generation Chrysler Town & Country or the six-model-year-old Oldsmobile Silhouette.  We ended up choosing the Chrysler as it offered a game-changer at the time: dual rear sliding doors.  Combined with contemporary but not futuristic styling, that made it an easy choice that we enjoyed so much we bought a second 2000 (and now very rare) all-wheel-drive model.

Fast-forward nearly thirty years and RAD Era (1980-1999) car enthusiasts clamor whenever they see a rare U-Platform General Motors (“GM”) first-generation “Dustbuster” styled minivan.  On paper, the first-generation Dustbuster minivans had a lot going for them: first was a galvanized steel space frame wrapped in composite plastic body panels that were impervious to rust and minor dents and dings, a manufacturing technique developed on the Pontiac Fiero and also used extensively on General Motors’ Saturn line of vehicles. With three versions offered by Chevrolet (Lumina APV), Pontiac (Transport), and Oldsmobile (Silhouette), each offered seating for seven, with the five lightweight (34-pound) rear seats being individually reconfigurable and removable.  Unfortunately, the Dustbuster styling was too radical for many buyers, including me.

As a second data point, the downloadable  Old Cars Price Guide Valuation Report 2023 reveals the seller’s ask falls between this guide’s #4 “Fair” estimate of $2,100 and its #3 “Good” appraisal of $4,200.

The 1996 Oldsmobile Silhouette is a minivan model produced by the American automaker Oldsmobile, a division of General Motors. As part of the first generation of the Silhouette model, which was introduced in 1990 and ran until 1996, the 1996 model year brought several improvements and refinements to this family-oriented vehicle.

The 1996 Oldsmobile Silhouette featured a sleek and aerodynamic design for a minivan of its time. Its smooth lines, rounded edges, and integrated body cladding characterized it. The front end sported a grille with horizontal slats and the signature Oldsmobile logo in the center. The headlights were rectangular and flush with the body, contributing to the vehicle’s modern appearance. The rear end featured vertical taillights and a rear hatch for easy access to the cargo area.

The Silhouette’s interior was designed with family comfort and convenience in mind. It typically featured seating for up to seven passengers across three rows. The minivan’s layout allowed for flexible configurations, with the ability to fold down or remove the rear seats to create additional cargo space. The second-row seats were often captain’s chairs, which improved passenger comfort and allowed for easier access to the third row.

Interior Features:

  • Power windows and door locks
  • Air conditioning and heating for front and rear passengers
  • Available leather upholstery
  • AM/FM stereo with cassette and later CD player options
  • Power-adjustable driver’s seat
  • Cruise control
  • Tilt-adjustable steering wheel
  • Overhead console with storage compartments and reading lights
  • Rear-seat audio controls and headphone jacks (available in some models)
  • Optional features such as a built-in entertainment system, power sliding side doors, and remote keyless entry

The 1996 Silhouette typically came equipped with a 3.4-liter V6 engine paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain offered a balance of power and efficiency suitable for a family-oriented minivan. The engine produced around 180 horsepower, providing adequate acceleration and highway cruising capabilities.

Safety: In terms of safety features, the 1996 Silhouette included:

  • Dual front airbags
  • Anti-lock brakes (ABS)
  • Child safety locks on rear sliding doors
  • Three-point seat belts for all seating positions

The 1996 Silhouette provided a smooth and comfortable ride, making it well-suited for long family trips. The minivan’s suspension was designed to absorb road imperfections and provide stable handling. It’s relatively compact dimensions and power steering made maneuvering in urban settings more manageable.

The 1996 Oldsmobile Silhouette and other models from the first generation marked Oldsmobile’s entry into the minivan market. While it offered many features that were competitive for its time, the minivan market was becoming increasingly competitive, and the Silhouette faced stiff competition from other well-established minivan brands.

The Shooting Cars YouTube Channel provides a nice modern overview by a younger enthusiast who nicely captures the reasons why these “Dustbuster” vans are now highly desired by RAD Era enthusiasts:

Despite being equipped with plastic panel bodies, you don’t see many decent examples of GM first-generation U-Body “Dustbuster” Minivans for sale very often.  That’s especially the case with Oldsmobile Silhouette versions, which sales were dwarfed by the more popular Pontiac Transport and Chevrolet Lumina APV.  This 1996 Oldsmobile Silhouette for sale represents a rare treat in RAD Era (1980-1999) minivan ownership for pennies on the dollar.

If you are serious about buying this Silhouette, you can start the conversation by using the contact information provided by the seller in their Craigslist ad.  When you connect, please mention that you saw their Oldsmobile Dustbuster minivan here on Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“1996 Silhouette, 85400 miles. Runs great. The side back door must be opened and closed manually right now. The cable was disconnected years ago, but I can hear that the motor works. It also has an incorrect replacement cruise control and blinker arm that doesn’t affect either. Cold air! Everything else works as it should. The body is nearly excellent, and the original paint shows minor scratches from wear. Comes with the original 2 key fobs. Clear Florida title in my name. New tires and headliner! Fun car! It gets lots of attention. Asking $3950.00

Show or go: what would you do with this 1996 Oldsmobile Silhouette “Dustbuster” minivan for sale?  Please comment below and let us know!


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