It seemed impossible to believe that a marque that had been around since 1897— longer than any other GM division, predating Buick by a couple of years— would be terminated after such a storied history, but that’s just what happened in 2004. The first rock-and-roll song was about an Oldsmobile, the Cutlass was the best-selling car in America for much of the 1970s and the very first car I ever rode in (coming home from the hospital after my birth) was a ’56 Olds. The Oldsmobile Division painted each of the last 500 Intrigues, Bravadas, Silhouettes, Auroras and Aleros to roll off the assembly line in Dark Cherry paint and applied special Final 500 badging. The very last Olds was a 2004 Alero, so today’s Junkyard Treasure represents some serious American automotive history.

Here's how you can identify a Final 500 Oldsmobile.

Murilee Martin

I’ve been trying to find a Final 500 Oldsmobile in a wrecking yard for years now, and I’ve got alerts set up in Row52 for 2002 Intrigues, 2003 Auroras, 2004 Bravadas, 2004 Silhouettes and 2004 Aleros; nearly all of them turn out to be the wrong color or trim level to be a Final 500 vehicle. Whenever I’m visiting a yard that isn’t covered by Row52, I check the GM section for any Oldsmobile in Dark Cherry paint. Finally, all that work paid off when a purple Alero showed up at the U-Pull-&-Pay in Aurora, Colorado. I raced over there right away and found a genuine, numbers-matching Final 500 Oldsmobile.

The Final 500 Aleros got special seat embroidery, floor mats and sill plates, in addition to the exterior badges.

Murilee Martin

This car’s VIN shows that it was one of the earlier Final 500 Aleros to be built at the historic Lansing Car Assembly site in Michigan. I don’t know how much Bravada and Silhouette production overlapped Alero production, but we can be fairly certain that this is one of the last thousand or so Oldsmobiles to be manufactured (the very last Olds was born on April 29, 2004).

The engine was nothing special, just a 3.4-liter 60° V6 rated at 170 horses.

Murilee Martin

Mechanically speaking, the Final 500 Aleros didn’t get any exciting hardware; they were just nicely-equipped top-trim-level cars with unique badging and upholstery. It would have been nice if GM had sneaked the new 201-horse LX9 engine and Getrag 5-speed manual transmission into these cars, but spending that kind of money to celebrate a doomed brand wouldn’t have made much sense.

Yes, I grabbed this Final 500 floor mat. It now graces the entrance to my garage.

Murilee Martin

Fortunately for me, this yard had its legendary All You Can Carry Sale a few days after I found the Final 500 Alero, so I went back and grabbed all the badges and the floor mat. No, they’re not for sale, because I prize my garage art.

Here's why it got junked.

Murilee Martin

A very nice Final 500 Oldsmobile is worth much more than a regular 21st-century Oldsmobile, but a rough one becomes a good example of the Rare But Not Valuable phenomenon (RBNV). Once a car like this gets hit in an area requiring unibody straightening and major paint work, it joins the RBNV ranks, and it goes to the junkyard soon after. If you’ve ever wanted a Final 500 Oldsmobile, go out now and find a restorable one for a reasonable price.

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