1999 Oldsmobile Silhouette OSV #3

1999 Oldsmobile Silhouette OSV concept van #31999 Oldsmobile Silhouette OSV concept van #31999 Oldsmobile Silhouette OSV concept van in frosty Canadian winter.

A special car with a story

Truly incredible how the universe works…

Those who know me, know that I'm a sucker for rare things - especially minivans.

Ever since I first saw the 1999 Oldsmobile Silhouette OSV Concept when I was a teenager, it was love at first sight. However, knowing that there were only THREE ever made, and all three were concept vehicles that either lived in GM museums (as part of GM's Heritage Collection) or traveled around to auto shows in a large covered trailer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-1KhZB0Ywg), I knew my chances of owning one are slimmer than none.

Fast-forward 21 years.

On December 3, something (or someone :)) made me completely randomly type in an even more random search query that hasn't been typed by me in many years.

"Oldsmobile Silhouette OSV".

I've done this exercise several times in the past, so all the links still looked familiar. All but one.

At the top of search results there was an article I've not seen before.

It did not take me too long to follow the link - I was there even before I finished reading the title...

"This high-po Oldsmobile Silhouette OSV concept is somehow for sale in Canada".

I kept reading the article, drooling over all the photos...

"Great!" I thought to myself. "Another one that got away! Maybe another time…"

As I was about to close the tab (after adding this new article to my existing collection of OSV-related bookmarks, obviously) suddenly something told me check the date of the article...

"01 December 2020."

It didn't immediately click.

"This has got to be a year-old article or something…" I thought.

My eyes quickly shifted down to the bottom of my screen to double check the current date.

"December 3, 2020."

"…This cannot be real. This can't be from 2 days ago! …IS IT STILL AVAILABLE?!".

I immediately showed it to my brother, Yevgen, who is also a big car nut.

Then my dad…

"Cool... It's in BC... Let's go get it..."

To which I could only reply with a laughing emoji…

After realizing what I have stumbled upon, I immediately inquired over email at first. Shortly after my initial shock wore off, I realized that calling the seller would probably be a quicker way to find out whether it's still available.

Ring ring.

…To my surprise someone actually picked up the phone! "Empire Motors, Kyle speaking."

I was so excited, that for a couple of seconds I forgot what car I was calling about. "uhh Yes… is your red Oldsmobile Silhouette still for sale?"

"...Yup - still here! I keep getting calls from all over US about it, but all these guys keep wanting me to ship it to them, and I just want this to be a simple sale..." said the voice on the other end of the line.

At this point I was completely speechless...

I babbled something about holding onto it for me and not selling it to anyone else while I figure out the logistics of the purchase, but in reality I had NO idea how I would even begin this entire process - not just purchasing it, but also how to get it from Kelowna, BC when I live in San Francisco Bay…

I jump into Skype Family chat and talk everything over with my parents and my brother. We come up with a quick game plan: I drive out from California on Sunday, while my brother and dad pick up a trailer and drive Yevgen's truck to Kelowna, where we'd all meet up early Monday morning right in time for the dealership to open. I then pick up the Olds and drive it back to California, while my Thunder goes to Alberta on the trailer and awaits for me to fly back and pick it up...

There was only one more thing stopping me from pulling the trigger on this entire parade: my wonderful wife.

"Surely this time she will tell me to go live in this minivan if I mention that I'm buying yet another 'project car'…" was all I could think of. But I knew I had to move quickly…

I caught up with her a moment later while she was doing her daily laps with all 3 of our kids.

Perhaps it was the combination of beautiful, warm sunshine rays of the distant December California sun reflecting in just the right ways from the surface of the heated year-round outdoor pool, or the fact that I mentioned "deep candy red", that made her decision surprisingly quick.

With a slight chuckle she replied… "Yes! Go get it!"

...Now I'm certain that anything is possible!

The next 20+ hours I spent driving to Canada.

I ended up arriving at Canadian border around 2AM, completely drained from non-stop driving. I was planning on getting a few hours of sleep at my friend's Vancouver pad, keys to which were waiting for me downstairs with concierge. Wake up, and finish the final 4-hour stretch of the journey in the morning.

"...Legally, since you're a Canadian Citizen, we have to let you through. But I'm not convinced that you will be coming back to pick up your other black van. In fact, I think you're trying to pull a scam and avoid paying taxes on an imported vehicle... You can go, but your black van has to stay in US."

This "nice" border agent was 100% serious, too.

...No thoughts come to mind.

At this point I'm completely brain dead, and all I have energy for is to gently steer my way to Vancouver for another 30 or so minutes - certainly not enough to argue with not one, but now TWO border patrol officers who now have black-listed my car (for no good reason whatsoever) and are starting to ever so slightly inquire about potential cash, guns, and drugs that I might be carrying, since, you know, I'm such a criminal...

Naturally, thoughts of being detained have started to cross my mind.

"If these people don't believe such a simple concept of me flying back to get the other car, there's NOTHING that they will believe…"

Needless to say, the only time I ended up driving into Canada was when they told me to turn around and head back to USA.

Coming back into USA, the border agent seemed much more human and understanding. In fact, he was appalled when I told him that I just drove all the way from San Mateo only to be turned around by Canadians because they didn't think I was being truthful.

I ended up driving 200 feet back into US and crashing hard for a few hours - right in the van.

I woke up feeling discouraged. But as the universe would have it, this machine was moving full steam ahead!

In the morning I finally made contact with my dad and my brother who already arrived in Kelowna, telling them about what had happened.

"Start driving back. We'll pick up the Olds and finalize everything. You'll fly down and get it once travel restrictions are lifted."

And that was my quickest "road trip" to Canada…

It's amazing that you, the reader, got this far…

"But what about this minivan? What's so special about it, Yura? Why all the commotion?"

Well, I'm glad you've asked!

"Special" is in its name.

OSV stands for "Oldsmobile Special Vehicle".

OSV department was GM's final chance to rescue the dying Oldsmobile brand.

In 1999 Oldsmobile took three of their vehicles: the Alero, Intrigue and [surprisingly] the Silhouette, and HEAVILY tuned them.

It's important to note that this wasn't a simple hand-me-down kind of a job, where a big manufacturer hires a customization shop who tunes the vehicle for them - no.

This was done by GM. In their Doraville, Georgia factory, just northeast of Atlanta.

Information on these vehicles is extremely scarce, but according to my research we ended up with Silhouette OSV #3 (of 3).

And as unique as that sounds, perhaps the most exciting aspect of vehicle #3, is that this is THE ONLY road legal one out of all the OSVs, meaning that I actually get to enjoy this piece of automotive history (others were given salvage titles, driven around in covered trailers to auto shows and now are parked in private collections).

Finally, for the nitty-gritty details.

For 1999, upgrades were nothing short of astonishing, and included:

  • custom metallic red paint with ghosted Oldsmobile logos on each side,
  • 19" RH Evolution C6 wheels featuring Oldsmobile center caps,
  • 255/40/19 Michelin Pilot XGT Z4 tires,
  • 13" Brembo cross-drilled disc brakes (on every wheel),
  • adjustable Koni coilover struts and springs,
  • custom hood,
  • custom rear hatch (with embedded spoiler),
  • custom bumpers and side skirts,
  • 6 custom Recaro seats (ALL SIX seats are heated AND cooled!),
  • Custom Borla center-exhaust,
  • custom headers,
  • and finally the legendary OSV fender badges.

As previously mentioned, this vehicle was part of the GM Heritage Collection. Now it's part of my collection of daily drivers (was never much about garage queens), so keep your eyes peeled – you might just see it somewhere between California and Alberta (but not in a trailer)! 😉

It's also worth mentioning that in a short span of just a few days of the listing, the appearance of this van has been written about in just about every big auto news publication (see last photo) - some with funny titles such as this one:

"Someone Scored A Bargain With This ’99 Oldsmobile Silhouette OSV Concept."

Believe. And anything can happen. This, I'm now certain of...!

My utmost gratitude goes out to my family for helping me through this one, and to Kyle at Empire Motors for being the most standup car dealer I've had a pleasure of dealing with!

Formatted from original post (Decembmer 12, 2020).

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