1964 – 1973 Oldsmobile 442 History
For those that don’t know, Oldsmobile has played a massive role in muscle car history. Looking back to the late 1950s, Oldsmobile was arguably the first manufacturer to cram a massive performance V8 into a smaller chassis than intended. The Rocket 88, powered by the Oldsmobile Rocket V8 engine, is arguably the first muscle car ever built, which, although contested, is a major indicator that Oldsmobile was the real deal back in the day.
As the middle division in the General Motors hierarchy, Oldsmobile focused more on civilian cruisers more than anything else until the mid-1960s. By that time, the muscle car race was in full sprint and Oldsmobile had some serious competition. However, with the success of cars like the Pontiac GTO and Chevrolet Chevelle, Oldsmobile was ready to show the world what they could do. In the very same year that the Pontiac GTO claimed the “King of the Streets” title, Oldsmobile put out the Oldsmobile Cutlass 442, expanding on the already successful Cutlass model.
Just as the Pontiac GTO began life as a performance package for the Pontiac Le Mans, the notorious Oldsmobile 442 package was a hefty parts package for the Oldsmobile F-85 and Cutlass. Obviously, the most important part of the 442 Cutlass package was the inclusion of the 330 cid V8, and the even more powerful 400 cid V8 in 1965. One of the primary muscle car pillars is a massive V8, and the Oldsmobile 442 certainly has that covered. The 442 name actually meant something at first, but later became arbitrary. So, what does 442 stand for when it comes to Oldsmobile? Oldsmobile called it the Cutlass 442 because it initially had a 4-barrel carburetor, a 4-speed manual transmission, and a dual exit exhaust. While other options like the three-two-barrel carburetor and three-speed manual made the name irrelevant, the 442 was a name that stuck well with the American public.
Although never the fastest or the best seller of the GM A-bodies, the Oldsmobile 442 was known for its balanced performance, exceptional handling and the “W” and Hurst editions that would come out in later years.
1964 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2
After taking a look at Pontiac’s sales figures, Oldsmobile was set on creating a rival for the GTO in 1964. While Oldsmobile engineer and performance enthusiast John Beltz wished to create a car that could hold its own in the powerful V8-dominated American performance car landscape, his team decided to dial back the instanity for the first Olds 442 model. Before the 442 moniker stuck, the F-85 and Oldsmobile Cutlass performance package was called the “B09 Police Apprehender Pursuit.” With a name like that, its no wonder that the three-number title stuck.
Despite the comical branding, the package came with a significant number of upgrades. While the Oldsmobile 442 came with a less powerful 330 cid V8 than the 389 Pontiac V8 found in the GTO, the 442 Cutlass came with an upgraded L97 V8 with a four barrel carburetor, shorter valve spring retainers, longer pushrods, and a more aggressive camshaft. That increased the output to 310 horsepower. In addition, the 1964 Olds came with a 4 speed manual transmission, and dual exhausts, fulfilling one of the 4’s and the 2 in the 442 name. The other 4 would come later.
Beyond just the Cutlass, the 442 package was also offered on the F-85 and a number of other midsize Oldsmobile models. Despite the impressive performance figures, the 442 didn’t sell well at all in 1964. Only 2,999 Oldsmobile 442’s were sold that year. Compared to the 32,450 Pontiac GTOs sold in 1964, Oldsmobile had some catching up to do.
|1964 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442||Production Numbers||Engine Options||0-60 (Seconds)||Horsepower||1/4 Mile Specs|
|Holiday 2D Hardtop: 2,999||330 V8||330/310: 0-60 in 7.4 sec||310bhp @ 5200 rpm, 355 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm||1/4 mile in 15.6 sec @ 89 mph|
1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2
For the 1965 model year, Olsmobile stepped up their game for the 442. One of the most limiting attributes about the 442 Cutlass when it released was its underpowered 330 cid V8. In 1965, the 330 V8 was replaced with the larger and more competitive 400 V8, which put out only 10 horsepower less than the GTO. The name now signified the 400 cid engine, 4 barrel carb, and dual exhausts. The 1965 Oldsmobile 442 received minor aesthetic changes as well, including chrome body scoops, a chrome air cleaner, and 442 badging all around.
The 442 was offered in four different body styles, with Oldsmobile opting to eliminate the package on four door models. The jump in performance from the year prior was extremely significant and was reflected in the 1965 Oldsmobile 442’s 0-60 and quarter mile times. The 1965 442 was very popular with critics which then translated to commercial success. Those that drove the 1965 Oldsmobile 442 claimed that it was one of the best handling of the intermediate muscle cars and an all-around balanced performer. Due to the praise and the more competitive performance of the 1965 442, sales improved to 25,003.
|1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442||Production Numbers||Engine Options||0-60 (Seconds)||Horsepower||1/4 Mile Specs|
|Holiday 2D Hardtop: 21,535||400 cid V8||400/345: 0-60 in 5.5 sec||345 bhp @ 4800 rpm, 440 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm||1/4 mile in 15.0 sec @ 98 mph|
1966 Oldsmobile 442 Cutlass
By 1966, the Oldsmobile 442 had been introduction for two years and was already beginning to make its mark in the muscle car space. The mid-1960s were prime years for the muscle car movement, and Oldsmobile was proving that they deserved a spot next to the big boys at GM and Mopar. For 1966, the 442 was restyled again, this time with a new sweeping C-pillar and inset rear window. It also featured more modern “coke bottle” rear fender styling, making it appear more aggressive.
Beyond just aesthetic modifications, the 1966 Oldsmobile 442 also received new and updated engine options as well. The 400 cid V8 remained an option on 1966 442s, but received a different carburetor configuration. The 400 L69 V8 was offered with three two-barrel Rochester 2GC carburetors, bringing power up to 360 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque. The base 400 L78 V8 was also tuned to produce an extra 5 horsepower. Another, extremely rare, engine option was also made available in 1966, with an option for a W30 V8 engine also available. Only 54 factory 1966 W30 V8 Oldsmobile 442s were ever made, making it one of the rarest muscle cars out there.
A long list of options were available including five transmissions and eight axle ratios. Handling remained top-notch due to suspension upgrades and critics again proclaimed the 4-4-2 as the most balanced muscle car. Oldsmobile also quietly made available a new performance option only for the triple carb engine that consisted of an air-induction system, front bumper openings and internal engine modifications. The option was known as W-30.
|1966 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442||Production Numbers||Engine Options||0-60 (Seconds)||Horsepower||1/4 Mile Specs|
|Holiday Hardtop Coupe: 10,053||400 cid V8||400/350: 0-60 in 7.1 sec||350 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 440 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm||1/4 mile in 15.5 sec @ 91 mph|
|2D Coupe: 1,430||3×2 Carb 400 V8||400/350: 0-60 in 7.1 sec||360 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 440 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm||1/4 mile in 15.5 sec @ 91 mph|
|2D Sports Coupe: 3,937|
|Hardtop Coupe: 3,827|
1967 Oldsmobile 442 Cutlass
1967 was the final year of the first generation Oldsmobile 442. During that year, some significant changes came to the 442, including a not-so welcome change in GM engine requirements. GM banned tri-carb setups for their vehicles (except for the Corvette and Corvair) just one year after Oldsmobile implemented the three two-barrel Rochester 2GC carb 400 V8 in the 442 Cutlass. So, as a result, Oldsmobile continued to offer the W-30 400 V8 package which served as the top engine choice of the model range. The W-30 package was a resious one, with the “forced air induction system” included special air ducts, fan shroud, camshaft, heavy-duty springs, chrome valve covers, and an air induction air cleaner that had huge hoses connecting it to special air induction slots above and below the parking lights.
For those looking for a 442 that was a bit easier on the pocketbook from a gas mileage standpoint, Oldsmobile also offered a grand-touring 442 package called the “Turnpike Cruising Package.” The package included a less powerful two-barrel carb 400 cid V8 engine that put out 300 horsepower. The Oldsmobile 442 package was now only available on the higher price Cutlass models, including the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, which combined comfort and performance.
|1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442||Production Numbers||Engine Options||0-60 (Seconds)||Horsepower||1/4 Mile Specs|
|Holiday Hardtop Coupe: 16,514||L66 400 V8||N/A||300 bhp @ 4600 rpm, 425 lb-ft @ 2600 bhp||N/A|
|2D Sports Coupe: 5,215||400 cid V8||400/350: 0-60 in 7.1 sec||350 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 440 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm||1/4 mile in 15.5 sec @ 91 mph|
|Convertibles: 3,104||W30 400 V8||400/350: 0-60 in 5.1 sec||360 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 440lb-ft @ 3600 rpm||1/4 mile in 13.9 sec|
1968 Oldsmobile 4-4-2
Comments: 1968 would prove to be a dramatic year for the 442. For the first time, the 442 became its own model, still based on the Oldsmobile A-body midsize platform. For 1968, all GM A-body two doors lost three inches of wheelbase and gained shapely new sheet-metal. Although both the standard and Force Air induction engines sported an increased stroke and decreased bore (the opposite of general practice), their displacement and power ratings remained the same. The Force Air engine now had air intakes positioned under the bumpers while the Turnpike Cruiser engine was detuned slightly.
The big news for enthusiasts was the introduction of the Hurst/Olds. The prototype had been designed as a one-off by Jack “Doc” Watson for his boss George Hurst, the designer of the Jaws of Life and the most respected name in transmissions. Watson took a 442 and dropped in the 455 cid V8 from the Oldsmobile Toronado. Encouraged by the success of the transplant, Jack Watson was able to convince Oldsmobile executives to authorize a limited run of Hurst/Olds. All Hurst/Olds featured Force Air systems and Turbo Hydromatics with Hurst Dual-Gate shifters and came in only one color combination, Peruvian Silver with Black accent stripes and rear-deck panel. Only 515 were produced for 1968, and they are highly prized today.
1968 Oldsmobile 442 Production Numbers and Engine Options
2D Sport Coupe: 4,282
Holiday Hardtop Coupe: 24,183
(L66) 400 V8 290 bhp @ 4600 rpm, 425 lb-ft @ 2600 bhp.
400 V8 350 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 440 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm. (Manual transmission)
400 V8 325 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 440 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm. (Automatic transmission)
(W-30) 400 V8 360 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 440lb-ft @ 3600 rpm.
(Hurst/Olds) 455 V8 390 bhp @ 5000rpm, 500 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm.
(Hurst/Olds) 455/390: 0-60 in 5.4 sec, 1/4 mile in 13.9 sec @ 103 mph.
1969 Oldsmobile 4-4-2
Comments: 1969 saw the introduction of several “W” options on the Oldsmobile 442 which sported a new grill design. The W-30 option returned with its Force Air induction, and below bumper intakes. A new W32 option replaced the “Turnpike Cruiser” option and incorporated a detuned Force Air induction engine. This was joined by the W-31, which was available on several F-85 and Cutlass models. This package incorporated a 350 cid small block with a special carb, valves, and camshaft. The Hurst/Olds returned, with a new regal gold and white color scheme, outrageous hood scopes and the 455 cid V8 that was detuned slightly from 1968.
2D Sport Coupe: 2,475
Holiday Hardtop Coupe: 24,193
(W-31) 350 V8 325 bhp @ 5600 rpm, 360 lb-ft @ 3600 bhp.
400 V8 350 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 440 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm. (Manual transmission)
400 V8 325 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 440 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm. (Automatic transmission)
(W-32) 400 V8 350 bhp @ 4800 rpm, 440 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm.
(W-30) 400 V8 360 bhp @ 5400 rpm, 440lb-ft @ 3600 rpm.
(Hurst/Olds) 455 V8 380 bhp @ 5000rpm, 500 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm.
(Hurst/Olds) 455/380: 0-60 in 5.9 sec, 1/4 mile in 14.03 sec @ 101 mph.
1970 Oldsmobile 442
Comments: 1970 saw the lifting of GM’s ban on engines greater than 400 cid installed in midsize cars. Although Oldsmobile had gotten around that rule in 1968 and 1969 through the Hurst/Olds, this now enabled Oldsmobile to offer its 455 cid V8 in all 442s. The Hurst/Olds was dropped from the lineup and wouldn’t reappear until 1972. The Oldsmobile W-30 hit its performance peak and included a balanced and blueprinted 455 V8 with a hotter cam, performance carb, low-restriction exhausts and the Force Air induction system which utilized two prominent scoops on the hood.
The W-30 package also included a lightweight fiberglass hood, plastic inner fenders, aluminum differential carrier and cover, and less sound insulation in an attempt to cut weight and improve performance. The W-30 option was offered only on Cutlass models, but a new option, the Rallye 350, was offered. Powered by a 350 cid engine, the smallest displacement Oldsmobile muscle car sported the most outrageous exterior, which was only painted in a very bright yellow. Even the bumpers and wheels were painted yellow. This would be only a one year option as the performance market would collapse after 1970.
2D Sport Coupe: 1,688
Holiday Hardtop Coupe: 14,709
(Rallye 350) 350 V8 310 bhp @ 4200rpm, 490 lb-ft @ 2400 rpm.
455 V8 365 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 500 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm.
(W-30) 455 V8 370 bhp @ 5200 rpm, 500 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm.
(W-30) 455/370: 0-60 in 5.7 sec, 1/4 mile in 14.2 sec @ 100mph.
1971 Oldsmobile 442
Comments: 1971 saw the beginning of the end for all muscle cars, and the 4-4-2 was no exception. To comply with a GM decree that all engines must be able to run on unleaded fuel, all engines saw a drop in compression and a corresponding drop in power ratings. This was further compounded by the move to rate engines with all accessories attached (the “net rating”) which lead to some drastic changes over the previous “gross” ratings. The standard 455 dropped to 270bhp net (340bhp gross) while the W-30 dropped to 300bhp net (350bhp gross). The W-31 and Rallye 350 were dropped, and the Hurst/Olds was still unavailable, but the W-30 was still available for the enthusiasts, and sported the familiar Force Air induction system and the 1970 hotter cam.
Holiday Hardtop Coupe: 6,285
Engines: (SAE Net)
455 V8 270 bhp @ 4600 rpm, 370 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm.
(W-30) 455 V8 300 bhp @ 4700 rpm, 410 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm.
(W-30) 455/300: 0-60 in 6.5 sec, 1/4 mile in 14.8 sec @ 98 mph.
1972 Oldsmobile 442 Cutlass
Comments: The 4-4-2 reverted back to an option on the Cutlass models for 1972 as the market turned away from gas guzzling, high insurance cost muscle cars. The 4-4-2 package became just a handling and appearance package available on any V8 Cutlass and included a heavy-duty suspension, wheels, and appearance items. For those who still craved performance, the W-30 option was still available, with its Force Air induction 455 V8 and enthusiasts cheered the return of the Hurst/Olds, although it was nothing like the 1968-1969 models. The Hurst/Olds was only available in Cameo White with black and gold accents and could be order with numerous luxury options.
Holiday Hardtop Coupe: ?
Engines: (SAE Net)
350 V8 160 bhp @ 4000 rpm, 275 lb-ft @ 2400 rpm.
350 V8 180 bhp @ 4000 rpm, 275 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm.
455 V8 250 bhp @ 4200 rpm, 370 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm.
(Hurst/Olds) 455 V8 300 bhp @ 4700 rpm, 370 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm.
(W-30) 455 V8 300 bhp @ 4700 rpm, 410 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm.
1973 Oldsmobile 442 Cutlass
Comments: 1973 saw a drastic change to the shape of the Cutlass as it gained all new sheet-metal and a new euro look. The 4-4-2 package was now labeled as the W-29 option and was only available on the Cutlass and Cutlass S coupes. The package included the same handling and appearance items as the year before. The W-30 option was dropped from from the lineup leaving only the Hurst/Olds to carry the performance banner.
The Hurst/Olds came in Cameo White or Ebony Black with gold stripes and a white vinyl roof. But the fancy trim couldn’t hide the loss of 50bhp as the 455 was further detuned to meet increasingly tough emission standards. Hurst/Olds models would be built in 1974, 1975, 1979, 1983, and 1984. But none of the successors could match the power of the originals. Oldsmobile withdrew from the performance market after 1973, and although the 4-4-2 name would later resurface on numerous models in the next two decades, none of them could match the sheer brute strength of the true muscle car models of the sixties and early seventies.
Holiday Hardtop Coupe: ?
Engines: (SAE Net)
350 V8 180 bhp @ 3800 rpm, 275 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm.
455 V8 250 bhp @ 4000 rpm, 370 lb-ft @ 2100 rpm.
(Hurst/Olds) 455 V8 250 bhp @ 4000 rpm, 370 lb-ft @ 2100 rpm.