By on September 30, 2010

The Pontiac GTO generally gets bragging rights as the first of its kind: the classic intermediate-sized Detroit muscle car. It first appeared in 1964, and pretty much defined the category. But the Olds 442 also first saw the light of day in ’64, as a special performance package available on the F-85. The main differences between them: 59 cubic inches, 15 horsepower and healthy dollop of marketing savvy. The last one made all the difference: the Goat outsold the 442 by over ten to one in ’64. Chalk it up to John Z. DeLorean and the Mad Men.

Here’s the only 1964 442 ad I could come up with. Pretty odd too, showing a four door, in police trim. The 442 package was available on all ’64 F85s except wagons. But production figures show that a grand total of seven or eight of the four doors were ever built, out of a total of some 3k 442s that year. And its questionable if any of them were cop cars. Maybe they weren’t too hot on the four-speed stick. Oh well. But if you come across a four door ’64 442, don’t sell it cheap; who knows what that would be worth today.

That ad does make it clear what 442 stood for in 1964: 4-barrel carb; 4-on-the-floor; and dual exhausts.

Here’s a couple of ’64 GTO ads. Makes the 442 ad look like something from the forties. Never underestimate the power of (good) advertising. Pontiac sold over 32k GTOs in ’64 alone, and that was just the beginning.

Olds eventually changed agencies or demanded a new campaign, but it took a few years, and in the glory years of the 1970 W-30 455 CID 442, Olds’ 442 advertising featuring the diabolical Dr. Oldsmobile was pretty cutting edge, if not even ahead of its time (here’s a story on Dr. O). But it was too late; the 442 never sold as well as the GTO or the Chevy SS396 Malibu, although the margin was narrowed considerably. In 1968, Pontiac moved 87k Goats, Chevy sold 67k SS396s, and Olds delivered a respectable 35k 442s. The corporate laggard was the Buick GS (20k), which was late to the performance party.

The 1968 GM intermediates were all-new, and the coupes rode on a shorter 112″ wheelbase. That gave them a distinctly more close-coupled look, and they were arguably the handsomest of the whole genre, perhaps ever. And the Olds version was the second best looking of the bunch, after the remarkably clean ’68 GTO with its pioneering body-colored nose. Unfortunately, the vinyl roof on this one rather mars the best feature of these cars: the C-pillar which creates a continuous plane and unbroken continuity of the lower and upper body halves. This was pioneered (in the US) by the ’66 Toronado, and the Cutlass/442 show it off very well indeed, when there’s no vinyl roof to interfere, that is.

Enough styling nitpicking. Performance was the 442’s calling card, and it delivered that, in varying degrees. The ’64 used a 310 hp high output 330 CID version of Olds’ new “small block” engine, which actually was just a short deck/short stroke version of the excellent big 425 CID engine. That’s because the corporate edict of no “big” motors in the intermediates. DeLorean managed to sneak the GTO by that surreptitiously. Once the GTO’s success was obvious, GM raised the limit to 400 CID.

The ’65 through ’67s 442s used a smaller bore version of the Olds 425, resulting in 400 CID. This engine had a forged crank, and was an ideal basis for further performance mods. But in 1968, Olds upped the big motor to 455 cubes, via an increase in stroke. For whatever reason, the 400 now shared the 455’s cast crank, but with a substantially reduced bore to keep it at 400 CID. The result is what has to be one of the the most undersquare modern American V8s: 3.87″ bore, 4.25″ stroke. Not ideal for maximum top-end performance, but undersquare engines tend to have a fabulously rich torque curve down low.

Since this is an automatic, it probably has the mild-cam 325 hp version anyway, anything but a wild and snorting performance motor. The manual transmission engine was rated at 350 hp, and 360 hp hi-po version was optional. The combination in this car is actually ideal for how this car is used: a daily driver by a young law student.

If that 400 engine looks small, it’s because it is, sort of. The big Olds was a remarkably compact engine, and not really a “big block”. Except for having a taller deck to make room for the longer stroke, it was otherwise essentially identical to the smaller 330/350 CID motors. Olds engines always enjoyed a good rep, especially for the quality of their blocks, which had a much higher nickel content than the Chevy engines. Well, at least through 1970; after that nickel for the castings became a victim of GM’s nickel and diming.

The 442 had its day in the sun in 1970, when the 455 finally found its way into the engine compartment, and Dr. Oldsmobile was pushing the W30 hi-po version, (under)rated at 370 hp to stay within GM’s 10 lbs. per hp edict. Additional performance packages were available above that even. By 1971, lowered compression for unleaded started the long decline. The 442 name was (ab)used by Olds for decades, even some four cylinder version of the Quad Four. Lets not even go there, at least not today.

It’s refreshing to run across cars like this being used as daily drivers. I’ve seen what seems to be an increase in vintage sixties performance iron around town near campus, in varying states of condition from decent to rough. Stay tuned.

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100 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1968 Olsmobile 442...”


  • avatar
    william442

    Even with the low compression W-30, my 1972  442, 455, was the best car I have owned. I had no major problems in seven years, and it would consistantly run in the very low 15s.
    GM admits to four four doors.
    Most of the engine parts, water pump etc., were Buick parts. ??

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Beautiful stuff, Paul. You do need to fix the link to the Goat ads.

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    An Olds Cutlass of that vintage, although not a 4-4-2, was featured in this video, one of my favorites, by BRMC:

    A road trip done right.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Now that’s what I rave on and on about! A real “CC”! This car is a stellar example of what was done right so long ago – true pillarless hardtop styling, rear windows that roll down, vent windows, chrome and lots of style. I think GM could pull this off again if they set their mind to it, and no apologies to “safety”, either.

    A friend and I used to drool over a bright red 442 that some store manager in a local shopping center owned complete with black stripes, front air intakes, white roll and pleated interior, chrome wheels – simply the most beautiful car in our community at the time in the late 1960’s.

    Great find, Paul!

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Faptastic. I’ve seen one here, 70 but in the condition one would expect from an old car here and an owner who doesn’t know what it has in its hands: full of bondo and repainted 1000 times, I guess the 455 or 400 is long gone.
     
    I’ve also seen a SS396 in the same city, I followed the owner once, who offered to sell the car to me (reasonable price) but it didn’t have the original engine, it had you guessed it a 350 but I guess he had it stored somewhere… however I didn’t have the cubic Bolivares to purchase. Both cars are still in the same city, some 20 kms from where I live.
     
    And I’ve seen a silver Cutlass, a very beatiful one. In the city I lived about 5-6 years ago.
     
    Of those A-Bodies, I find the Olds to have the better styling. And the interiors seem to match the exterior.
     
    And before hitting the submit comment button, I just remembered having seen a 69 SS396 on the highway. Olds are not very popular over here, and SS Chevelles neither, but Chevy > BOP in sales numbers. here.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Oh Lord, I am sooooooo over any Volvos. There was only one GM brand I ever truly liked, Oldsmobile (I do like a few new Caddys). My dream vehicle is a 70 Vista Cruiser with a 455 and HD suspension, basically a 442 wagon. But, I’d like to have a 442 coupe sitting next to it.
    I love the torque from the Olds engines, of course Buick would beat them with the 70 Buick GS-X 455 (held the factory torque-rating record until the 2nd gen Viper came out).

    It makes me unbelievably happy to see this car daily-driven. And jealous as well. 

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Torque rules. Requiescat in pace, Dr. Oldsmobile.  Buick may have been “Go Fast With Class” but to me Oldsmobile was “Go Fast With Class & Style!”

    • 0 avatar
      Lokki

      I agree with Dan –

      Back in the day, I felt that the SS 396 was a beautiful car, lean and fast but the Olds 442 was for the motorhead with class and money – might give up a 10th (might) but it was ever so much more car. Respectably goddamn fast.

      Fast Eddie Felton (Paul Newman) drove an Oldsmobile in the movie ‘The Hustler’  – it was a emblem of success in 1961 and even that was still true in 1970. 

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Dr. Oldsmobile and his “W” machines, indeed, but let’s not forget my favorite: “Elephant Engine Ernie”! That’s the guy with all the chains. Those old ads in HOT ROD magazine used to crack us up. We referred to the “W” as “Oldsmobile Washing Machines”, being rabid Chevy fans only at the time, but when one was 17, 18 yrs. old at the time, that was the expected response.

    Boy, I wish I had one now, my old ’64 Chevy notwithstanding! A world that isn’t ever coming back, that’s for sure. At least cars are a lot better “appliances” these days, so maybe that’s some consolation, if not necessarily a good thing at the expense of class and character.

  • avatar
    pauldun170

    I risk losing my man card over this but I do not have much love for these cars.
    Crap brakes, mediocre handling, numb steering, rust prone, poorly assembled and unreliable when new. Those still on the road are hailed as reliable on new modded engines and modern replacement parts. So would a Yugo if you replaced most of the wiring, yanked the old drivetrain and put in a new custom built one.
    These are one of those culture vehicles that I just could not get caught up in.
     

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Quick question’s “pauldun170”. Did you grow up in that era? If so, what did you drive?

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      Pretty true; this was the era my father went from Mustang to Camaro to BMW CS and never really looked back. Granted as the 70s ended and BMW changed character (along with marriage, kids and the like) I ended up riding in the back seats of matching Accords with slightly stiffer springs and lightened flywheels.

      And, of course, stories of Mustangs with no traction, Camaros that couldn’t stop, BMWs that overheated, and poor reliability all around, particularly when compared to an early 80s Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      These cars have to be judged in the context of their time. Compared to a 2010 Camry or even a 2010 BMW 3-Series they were unreliable and rust prone. Only problem is that, in 1968, the 2010 Camry and 3-Series didn’t exist.

      Compared to its contemporaries, Oldsmobiles – the F-85/Cutlass, Delta 88, Ninety-Eight and Toronado – were reliable and relatively well built. Most imports of that time were even more rust prone and less reliable. Oldsmobiles had a good reputation for above-average quality control in the late 1960s, and the mechanicals on GM cars – particularly the Oldsmobiles, Buicks and Cadillacs – were pretty well sorted out by this time.

      My parents had a 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 Holiday sedan, bought in 1972 with 19,000 miles on the odometer from an elderly neighbor. Over the next fivew years, they put almost 100,000 more miles on that car with minimal maintenance. Despite some rough Pennsylvania winters, and my parents’ rather casual attitudes towards car care, that car was only barely starting to rust, and had no engine or transmission problems, when they traded it in late April 1977 on another Oldsmobile (a 1976 Delta 88 Royale Holiday sedan). I doubt that most imports of the time could have withstood that type of use.

      The imports did have the decided advantage in handling and braking, that is true. GM should have made disc brakes standard on ALL Cutlasses, let alone the 442.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      pauldun170:

      Lousy brakes – YES
      Mediocre handling – YES
      Numb steering – YES
      Rust-prone – YES
      Poorly assembled – For the times, no.
      Unreliable when new – For the time, no.

      As I recall, when one bought a new car back then, if you got two years before rust appeared, that was pretty much normal, in salt country. Reliability was par for the course.

      This was pretty much “cream of the crop”, relatively speaking for the time. Nowadays, not a chance! We have come pretty far, but at the expense of what I wrote above. Perhaps the younger generation doesn’t feel that way and I respect that, but all the complex shapes on and inside a car in the world have little value to me unless it has some class to show it off. After all, as expensive as cars are, some “bling” should be available. 

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      i grew up in the detroit metro area.  my dad bought a new olds every 3 years. 

      i think the biggest problem he ever had was that once his radio antenna was snapped off.  i don’t recall his cars as having rust on them at the time of trade in. 

      the guys who bought olds were guys that liked to think of olds as GM technology division without flash; that they were getting value for money responsibly spent. 

      caddies were for the guys that made it to the top and wanted to show it. 

      buick was for doctors, except riviera, which was for slickers. 

      pontiac first for old people, then after bunkie, jzd and wide-track, then for the sporty and young types.  

      chevy was for every man, but with a little bit of sporty (ss) and later near luxury (caprice and monte carlo) to keep from losing too many sales to the other divisions.

      These cars were no worse then their best competition, which was, at the time, from Ford MC and Chrysler Corp.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      As far as Olds musclecars go, everyone remembers the 442 (esp the Hurst and W-30 scooped models), but for a musclecar that actually stopped and went around corners (well, as good as it got in the sixties), the little-known W-31 ‘Ram-Rod’ 350 was hard to beat. Besides better weight distribution, Olds was also the only company that offered a rear sway bar. Although they improved handling, the manufacturers didn’t like using them because they felt it made the car feel ‘twitchy’.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    As a purist, I must say it:  An automatic ain’t a “4-4-2”!

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      From ’68 or ’69 on, the first “4” could represent either the 400 or 455 w/ TH400 rather than 4 speed stick.  Our ’69 442 had the (de-bored 455) undersquare 400 w/ quadrajet, duals, and TH400 which tended to slip quite a bit.  Our tail pipes (originally) ended with the rocket extensions, but those kept getting stolen and replaced so much that my dad finally gave up and left it as straight tail pipes – like the car featured here.  Our convertible top was also sliced up several times in Atlanta.

      The 442 (“four-four-two” or “four-forty-two”) was the gentlemen’s muscle car.  It had lots of class – not so racer boy tacky.  And yes, we had our share of maintenance issues, which were normal for that time.  The breaker point ignition was a weak item – the damn thing didn’t want to start half the time.  But when it ran, we had our fun.

  • avatar
    mikey

     As a kid ,myself and most of my buddies drove old junkers. There was one kid that had a 68 442. I guess his dad was willing to co sign a loan. Very similar to the one in the photo,sans factory air.

     Anyway,my other buddy had a homemade 68 Swinger 340. It had started life as Grannies slant 6 auto. They put a drive train from a wrecked 69 340 and painted it flat black. It was so ugly. It was even uglier parked beside the 442.

     As I remember, the rattle trap old Dart would beat the Olds in the 1/4 mile everytime.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    That’s a pretty nice example in the pictures.
     
    The name “4-4-2” is marketing genius.

  • avatar
    dingram01

    Mention of the reduced compression ratio for post-lead gasoline raises a question.  What do owners of cars designed for leaded fuel run them on today?  Are today’s high-octane fuels a suitable substitute for leaded fuels or does one need to employ additives?

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      There are “lead additives” you can buy in auto stores to lead up your gasoline.  You can also have hardened valves installed on the old engines.  My father just fills his 1967 Mustang up with high test, and he’s never had any problems.

    • 0 avatar
      TR4

      I run my ’63 Triumph TR4 on unleaded premium which is usually 93 octane using today’s average of Research and Motor ratings.  I figure this would be about 97 Reseach octane or still a few points below the 100 of 1960s leaded premium.  I set ignition timing 4 degrees retarded from the factory setting to avoid knock.  The whole bit about lead being necessary to prevent exhaust valve seat wear was way over blown and mostly applied to engines run at full power for long periods.  A reasonable approach is to just run the unleaded with the cast iron seats and only install hardened seats if and when necessary.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Having just seen one on the street in Santa Monica this weekend, my vote for the best example of this design language is the 1966 Buick Riviera, even if not quite as fast.
    The example I saw was in good, although unrestored, condition, complete with the fake wire wheels.
    To my eye, it was still a handsome car, albeit in the design language of that era.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      The Riviera was a pretty car, but the 66 Toronado was a stunningly minimalist design with very little compromise.  A real show car on the street.
       
      If they had included brakes as standard equipment it really would have been spectacular.

  • avatar
    geeber

    A great find! It’s nice to see one that is used as a daily driver. Around here, in the Salt Belt, these are either in the junkyard or stored in heated garages.

    I had a 1972 Cutlass Supreme Holiday coupe in the 1990s, and, even though it was 20 years old by that time, it was one tough car.

    Supposedly the 442 had one big advantage over the GTO – handling. If I recall correctly, Oldsmobile went the extra mile to firm up the suspension and install both front and rear antiroll bars on the 442 from day one – something that Pontiac didn’t offer on the GTO until a few years later. Of course, neither car had disc brakes as standard, which they both desperately needed.

    These cars always seemed more “polished” than the GTO, but Olds didn’t have Jim Wangers on board. He was constantly finding new ways to keep the GTO in the public eye and make sure it was the “hip” car for the times. He also made sure that the GTO’s image radiated to the remainder of the Pontiac line.

    Olds didn’t really get the message right until the Dr. Oldsmobile ads of 1970s, and by then the Muscle Car Era was about over.

    Interestingly, in his book, Glory Days – When Horsepower and Passion Ruled Detroit, Wangers said that he considered the 442 to be the GTO’s stiffest competition, at least until 1968, when the Plymouth Road Runner debuted.

  • avatar
    phantomwolf

    CAR LUST IN PROGRESS :P

  • avatar
    pauldun170

    Zackman summed it.
     
    “For the time”
    Also for the time it was ok for pregnant women to smoke and drink.
    Doesn’t make the car any better NOW.
     

  • avatar
    pauldun170

    We have a 72 Chevelle 4dr daily driver in the family and growing up I was around plenty of cars built off  the A platform. Everything from daily drivers to the money pits of those trying to restore them at the expense of their families ranging from 1965 to 1982  . I’ve driven quite a few from our Chevelle to cutlasses to a nicely done GTO.
    I simply do not have the romance for these cars.
     

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    One detail I always enjoyed when the sidemarkers were introduced, was that a few of the GM divisions used their badge as the rear sidemarker. Just a cool detail, much better than the one-size-fits-all rectangle that became more common. Otherwise, I’ve never been a fan of non-integrated sidemarkers or reflectors.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Let’s see, the clue was the last post of the 29th, posted after I last checked TTAC, and the answer is the first post of the 30th, so the next morning, the clue and answer are posted back to back. Come on – where’s the build-up? Where’s anticipation? Where’s the SUSPENSE?

  • avatar
    obbop

    But would that little old lady from Pasadena drive it?

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Nope she had a “brand new shinny red super stock Dodge…”
       
      Rumor has it now she drives a 1996 Roadmaster with the Gran Touring Suspension & LT1.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      You’ve got it all wrong…she stuck with MOPAR. After the shiny red super stock Dodge, she went through a dismal row of poorly executed R- and M-bodied 318-powered sedans (she never quite liked the LH-sedans). Her New Yorker was finally replaced by a 300C.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    You have hit two of the cars of my youth.  Although neither was a 442, I spent a lot of time in both 64 and 68 Cutlasses.  My parents bought a new 64 Cutlass.  2 door hardtop with the 330 and a 4 barrel.  Bucket seats, console and floor shift automatic.  Alas, the automatic was one of penny-pinching GM’s 2 speed units (the Jetaway).  When my mom was in the right mood, she could smoke an unsuspecting teenager at a stoplight.

    By 1968 my parents had divorced and my dad had remarried.  My stepmom got a new 68 Cutlas Supreme 2 door hardtop with the 350 and bucket seats (but a column shifter).  If memory serves, it was still that crappy 2 speed automatic. 

    Personally, I always liked the look of the 64 better.  (But I have to admit that the 64 GTO was even more attractive) Both of them were very trouble-free.  The 64 was very rust resistant.  My mom even got 7 years out of the factory battery, which should tell you how easy that car always started.  The 68 was not quite as rust-resistant, but was still a very solid car for the era.  Although I was a Mopar and Ford guy (even as a kid) nobody else’s door shut with that solid thunk of a “Body by Fisher.”

    I grew up in an Oldsmobile family.  My mom replaced the 64 with a 72 Cutlass Supreme, and my stepmom replaced the 68 with a 74 Cutlass Supreme.  Both of these were also very trouble-free cars.  It was our next door neighbor who had the series of GTOs – a 66, a 68 and a 71.  They did seem cooler than our Cutlasses. 

    As an aside, I recall reading that during the design of the 68 intermediates, the GM chassis engineers concluded that there was a peculiar ride characteristic that hit vehicles with a wheelbase around 114-115 inches.  This is why they went with 112 on the 2 doors and 116 on the 4 doors.  Maybe this was PR, but this is what they said then.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I believe that you are referring to the phenomenon of “freeway hop.” There was an article in the old Road Test where a reader described his experiences leasing a 1966 Impala Super Sport, and he mentions the car experiencing “freeway hop” on California’s interstates.

      GM was using fairly flexible frames in the 1960s – the theory was that the frame would “flex” and thus absorb the bump before it reached the passenger compartment – and this may have contributed to the phenomenon.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I don’t know what you mean by “freeway hop”, but I drove a 1965 Impala on Cali interstates in 1971, and the one “feature”  of the car that unnerved me was whenever I passed a semi, as soon as I got even with the front wheel well of the truck, the air out of the wheelwell pushed my Impala violently to the left.  I started moving two lanes over to pass semis. The next year, I bought a ’68 Mercury Montego, and it never did that.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I think this is a nice looking car. I’m not sure about the build quality or any of the important parts, because, well, I wasn’t around then and can’t read C&D and the like because they all sound the same about everything. Blah.

    With regards to the GTO the story I always enjoy hearing is the story about how my grandmother apparently popped the clutch in her GTO (I always forget the year) and did a wheelie down the street. I don’t remember many details, but I know that she scared herself into probably needing new…er…dainties.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      A wheelie? Really? I find that hard to believe; nostalgia aside, normal versions of these cars weren’t very powerful or fast. 0-60 times in the sevens and eights… A wheelie w/ 250whp and crap tires?

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I’ve found out that the car this happened in was a ’64 and if I understand my grandfather he would have gotten the most powerful version of the car he could find. I’m not sure if it really happened, or if something less dramatic but equally frightening happened, since I’m hearing this at least 2nd hand but probably 3rd hand. My mom was 4 years old when the car was new and I’m not sure if my grandfather bought it new or used. However, I don’t believe my mom would lie about something like this.

      Either way it makes for a great story.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      With a loose enough front suspension and a low rear axle ratio, I have no doubt it surely felt like a wheelie when the front end lifted from a full-acceleration, standing-start.

  • avatar

    Dennis Urban, who’s done a lot of research on the subject, says the non-deluxe F-85 B09 four-doors were indeed police cars (for the Lansing PD, evidently), although it doesn’t appear the Deluxe four-doors were. (See http://www.hemmings.com/mus/stories/2004/11/01/hmn_feature2.html on that.) I think most police cars were pretty stark; local municipalities weren’t too keen on paying for the deluxe-y trim packages.
    I wrote about the Cutlass and 4-4-2 on AUWM earlier this year: http://ateupwithmotor.com/sports-cars-and-muscle-cars/46-oldsmobile-cutlass-442-history.html

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      If the vehicles were for the Lansing PD, I would have to wonder what kind of discount Olds gave its local PD (the Lansing PD) to get the endorsement, or test mileage, etc.

      Reminds me, once in around 1990, in Dearborn, I saw a Lincoln in Dearborn PD livery (I think it was a Town Car or a Mk).

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Back in those days the PDs supported their local factories.  I always wondered what the Buick cop cars used in Flint were like.  Although that actually reminds me that they used Pontiac cop cars in “Smokey and the Bandit.”

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      Going beyond movies and TV, Pontiac and Oldsmobile definitely had decent sales of police-spec cars in the Sixties and Seventies when those divisions had their own V-8s. After that, Chevy captured that market. Still, I did see FWD full-size GM cop cars like Delta 88 or Bonneville in big city PDs during the early Nineties.
       
      I’m sure it must have been pretty easy for Buick to put together a police setup for the Flint PD. I can’t recall the same elsewhere, unless you count TV cops like Kojak’s ’74 Century 455.
       
       
      Olds even offered Delta and Cutlass packages into the Eighties. I don’t recall Buick having near

    • 0 avatar

      I’m pretty sure Buick did a good business for various highway patrols in the fifties — I’ve seen a number of mid-fifties Century cars in police livery. I don’t know about the sixties and seventies, though.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Beautiful find as the ’68 A-body seems to be the least common of the ’68-’72 model run.

    As I recall, GM still had a ban on 400+ c.i. engines in anything other than a B-body (full-size) or a Corvette. Oldsmobile did put 455 c.i. engines in the ’68 442 but I think it was the Hurst model only. They were able to get around the rule that way because the car was not considered a production model due to the Hurst re-working. Additionally, Chevrolet used the COPO system to skirt the rule in 1969 with the inclusion of the 427 c.i. motor going into the Camaro.

    By 1970, the engine cap was dead and 454’s and 455’s were common in GM’s A-body cars. 

  • avatar
    findude

    I had the (mis)fortune that I learned to drive in a 1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass sedan. Yeah, it looked like a 442 except for the extra doors and missing badges (oh, and the lesser power plant under the hood). I really lusted after these because as much as I appreciated the occasional and free use of the Cutlass, a 442 would have been so much cooler.
     
    Bonus: AC equipped cars had the famous crotch ventilator mounted just under the steering column. A lot of cars from that era had them, though as a die hard user of pants I probably never fully appreciated it.

  • avatar
    jj99

    Back in the late 1980s, a friend of mine in college drove a 1970 442 W30 convertible. It was beautiful, and he got it on the cheap. But, he crashed it after too many drinks, and it now sits in his garage smashed. He should have had it fixed years ago when parts were still available.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    FYI, the headline leaves out the “d” in Oldsmobile; thought you’d want to know.

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    I had ’69 Olds Cutlass “S” in my youth.  While it wasn’t a 442, it did in fact have four barrel, four on the floor and dual exhaust.  One of my favorite GM cars of all time and surely one of the best cars available in that era.  It was still my daily driver in the eighties and one of my big regrets is that I sold it.  I figured I had more important things to spend my money on when I had young kids on the way, but I still regret it.
    It’s true that these didn’t have the best brakes or handling, but that wasn’t what the car was all about.  And they were surely among the best built and most durable of their era, and vastly superior to the craptastic cars that soon followed.

  • avatar
    Loser

    Never had a 442 but I have always wanted one, a ’69 model. IMHO Oldsmobile is/was the best GM division GM had. Olds built the most reliable and bullet proof V-8 engines I have ever owned, well….barring the 260 V-8 my ’79 Cutlass had.

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      My family owned a ’69 442 – here’s a rundown of some of the good, bad, and ugly. 

      My dad bought a ’69 442 in ’72 and kept it until 1980.  During the 8 years we owned it, it ran for about 5 of those years and then we parked it long term from ’77 to 1980 (long story).  I was 6 when he bought it and 14 when he sold it – just before I turned 15 and would have been able to drive it – dammit.  It was (crap) colored brown with white pinstripes and had a white convertible top.  It had a 400 (the very undersquare and de-bored 455) with a Quarajet and true dual exhaust with no crossover pipe (although I have read that a crossover pipe will increase low end torque, but anyway it didn’t have one).  The tranny was the 3-speed auto TH400 that slipped alot on road trips (I have read that the transmission fluid pump was weak in the TH400s).  The shift console was in the center, like the car in the photos, and the ignition key was on the steering column.  It had an AM radio w/ 8-track player.

      If memory serves me, it had it’s share of maintenance problems and was a bitch to start – the weak breaker point ignition and smaller gapped plugs coated with lead deposits were more than likely the reason.  The plugs needed to be replaced like every 12k miles.  The 400 for ’69 was rated at 325 gross HP w/ auto, the manual rated at 350 Horses.  The air cleaner was not the cool dual snorkel with hoses going down to the front bumper, but rather a normal single snorkel air cleaner with hot air pipe and thermostatically controlled inlet door.  The only emissions controls that I was aware of was a PCV valve, the hot air snorkel to help with cold starts and warm-up, and a vacuum actuated mechanically operated solenoid that retarded the ignition timing when the transmission was in high gear to reduce NOx emissions.  The engine was painted bronze and the air cleaner red.

      The neatest thing about the car, other than the convertible top, were the two rocket exhaust tip extensions – they kept getting stolen.  After about the 3rd or 4th time that my dad bought new replacement extensions, he just gave up and ran it with straight tail pipes – like the car in the photos.  The exhaust note was cool, especially rumbling along in town at lower rpms.  It was distinctive but not fatiguing or overpowering.  And the few times on the interstate that my parents floored it to pass someone or merge from an on ramp, the exhaust note and carburetor honk gave me goosebumps.  Like the gentlemen’s muscle car that it was, it hinted at power but did so with understated class.  It wasn’t a perfect car or the fastest, but it was what it was – a  2 door convertible that was stylish, mostly fun (when it started), and had a touch of class without being over the top tacky or too boy racer.  I could’ve done without the ugly brown color, but it wasn’t my choice.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    GM msy hsve been the first to come out with the so called “musclecar.” But the mopars had it all over them in the engineering department. The gm intermediates in 64 had 9 inch drum brakes, the same size that slant 6 A bodies used.
    The gm products used the 2 speed powerglide automatics, they had the torsional rigidity of a rubber band, and the mopars were light years ahead in suspension design, not to mention the more rugged engines and drivelines.

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      +1, Moparman.  Actually, Mopar did it first with the really strong 62 Fury and Dart/Polara that were pretty much intermediate sized cars available with genuine full-performance big block engines and would outrun and outhandle anything in the US except maybe the corvette.  Only they were really ugly and did not sell well to anyone other than performance geeks.  With the 64 GTO, GM made them pretty and cool and the musclecar boom took off.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      As stated in the article, in comparison to the superior 442 (and the Mopars, for that matter), the GTO is a perfect example of GM doing what GM does best, i.e., market the sh!t out of something, regardless of whether it’s really very good or not. It doesn’t matter if the grungy 389 in a Goat was easy meat for most of the competition on the street (or strip). A stock 383 Mopar (or even a 325hp 396 Chevy, to say nothing of the Olds or Buicks 400s) would easily take a GTO.

      OTOH, a single, black/white copy of a lame-ass drawing of 4-door 442 just isn’t going to sell nearly as many cars as multiple pictures of the GTO coupe’s performance gear in action. Having a catchy, popular song didn’t hurt matters any, either.

      The only musclecar that a stock GTO usually had a chance against were the old 390 Fords. It’s remarkable how much most of those sixties’ Ford musclecars were stones when one considers Henry Ford II’s commitment to ‘Total Performance’ at the time with stuff like the Cobra Daytona and (later) GT40. The old 427 engine was okay, but it was never a true RPO in either availability or price (an equivalently priced Hemi was a whole lot easier to get in a Mopar intermediate). It wasn’t until the cheap/fast 428CJ was released that Ford started garnering some street cred and respect.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    You’re right, the Fifties, I forgot about the ’55 Buick Century driven by Broderick Crawford in “Highway Patrol.” http://www.highwaypatroltv.com/photos.shtml
     
    I’m sure there were some Buick cop cars in the Sixties and Seventies since Chrysler and Mercury had them. I don’t know what programs Buick Motor Division had, though. Any Buick experts out there with an answer?
     
    I’m on my way, ten-four.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    It’d be cool to take a v6 camry back in time, and challenge some guys to stop-light races.

    The real question is: how far back would you have to go for a v6 camry to be competetive in a grand prix?

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      It would never be cool to take a V6 Camry anywhere.

      Plus, put the Camry on leaded gas, bias-ply tires and it won’t be doing any better. Yes, technology moves forward…and not just with engines.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      They weren’t solely limited by tires, though. And the tc/esc/abs would probably help – though it’s possible they’re coded tightly enough that they wouldn’t handle a bias ply tire’s slip curve well. I doubt that, though.

      I’m pretty sure the camry would spank them severely even on equiv tires.

      As far as fuel goes – I’m actually curious. I know that leaded fuel will screw up emissions stuff something fierce… Would a modern ecu just give up and go into limp home mode?

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      Yes, PeriSoft, an OBD-II car would go into open loop mode because the lead in the gasoline would render the catalytic converter(s) “dead”.  In turn, the oxygen sensor downstream from the converter would register out of parameters, indicating that the converter wasn’t working.  In turn, the ECM would go from closed loop to open loop and the car would run like crap, giving low power and using more fuel.

      BTW, comparing a modern V6 Camry to a 40 year old GM intermediate is apples to pancakes – you know that.  If the Camry was retro fitted with breaker point ignition from a mechanical distributor (giving up to a 15% misfire rate with small gap plugs in a high compression ICE), a carb in place of the port fuel injection, drum brakes in place of the rotors, no engine management system, etc., then a more fair comparison might be made.  Or another way to look at it, if a Chinese Cherry 40 years from now was transported back in time to 2010, we would see that it runs 0-60 in 4.1 seconds and gets the equivalent (running on hydrogen) of 85 mpg from a 2 cylinder ICE, all at an affordable price for 2050 currency.  I’m stating the obvious, but it’s all relative to the cost-effective technology of the day.  The 1970 muscle cars could outperform an early 30s Ford coupe w/ flathead V8, just like a V6 Camry could out perform some 1970 musclcars, just like a 2050 Cherry…

  • avatar
    amca

    I sure hope that nice law student gets a great job and makes enough cash to permit him to restore this handsome beast.

  • avatar
    probert

    In general I think oldsmobiles were better engineered than most of the gm stuff.  The 442 with the small block was considered a better balanced car than the gto.  It had a beefy suspension, 4 speed manual, and the small block. Drum brakes can only be so good but I got the feeling that olds took engineering seriously and, within it’s constraints, tried to make a really good car. The same can’t be said for all the muscle cars.
     
    Many think it was the best of the breed.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    The very definition of craptastic.
     
    I was a kid back then and I found them almost as ugly and useless then as I do now.
     
    In 1970 you could lust after any Cobra, a Lambo Muira, a Lambo 350/400GT, any number of Fezzas, Benz 6.3s, wait a year for the DeTomaso Pantera, ad infinitum, or…
    Buy this ugly rattlebag lower-middleclass POS? Really?

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      But it is beautiful relative to this mess:
      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/curbside-classic-outtake-1970-mercury-montego/

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      Well, it’s obvious that not everyone could level at your level of wealth and had to make due with lower-middle class offerings. With that said, the Benz 6.3, was and still is the ultimate muscle car. Nothing beat it back then and nothing ever will (subjectively, of course).

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I hadn’t realized that Madison and Sierra from My Super Sweet 16 were posting on this site…

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Just because I lusted after them. does not mean that I could buy them.
       
      Always amusing/disheartening that knowledge and research are somehow construed as negative in our country.
       
      I was raised to believe that America (and Capitalism) were about striving, not settling.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Compare apples to apples, please.

      The cars you listed, with the exception of the Mercedes, were basically one-trick ponies that were far inferior in everyday use than any GM (or domestic) car. Like today’s Accord or Camry (or Fusion) the GM cars were able to function with minimal maintenance and in a variety of different climates, something that could not be said for the fussy exotics.

      As the editor of Road & Track once said, “Any engineer worth his salt can design a water pump for a Rolls Royce; it takes a genius to design one for a Chevrolet.”

      It took more talent to design this Olds 442, knowing that it would be expected to run 365 days a year in all types of climate without much maintenence (all the while remaining affordable to the average American), than it would have been to design a pampered, cost-no-object Ferrari that spent most of its life in a heated garage or racing one day a week.

      Looking down on them as too “working class” shows a rather startling lack of knowledge of how cars are used in the real world and what people look for when they buy a brand-new vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Geeber,

      Indeed, let us compare apples. Were that rattle-trap 442 POS half as reliable as you suggest, I would have to grant you the point.

      But it wasn’t, and if you were alive at the time you know it too.

      If we are going by current standards, gimme 20K and I’ll make a 308GTS carbd as reliable as an early 90s Civic.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I was around, and GM’s intermediate cars were very reliable for the time. Much more reliable than virtually all of the imports on the market at that time, especially the fussy, high-strung exotics.

      Reliability wise, these were the Camrys of their day. They ran and ran, without much maintenance or loving care.

      And after you have spent that $20,000 on an old Ferrari, you really won’t have an old Ferrari anymore. Your example is largely meaningless.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      geeber,
       
      I’m speaking of idealized lust. A 442? A freakin’ Goat? Butt-effen-ugly (let alone Cro-Magnon tech) to the core compared to it’s ‘exotic’ counterpoints.
       
      Yes, I agree that 6 45DCOE Webers and Magnetti Marelli does not mean ‘reliable’ is a fact, but a Carter 6-Pack and a Delco points ignition was hardly a recipe for 5K reliability either.
       
      The 60-70s were full of unreliable junk. Tech sucked back then.
       
      Regardless, the ‘I wanna f this car’ of the Muira versus the ‘corporate snooze’ of the same year ‘Vette/GTO/F-Bird?/ANY Domestic? Really?

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    JP…technically speaking you are correct. The 62 mopars were close in size to the GM intermediates, and with the unibody construction they were also close in weight.
    They were available with big block engines, so in my book they would qualify as a musclecar.
    The 426 versions would clean a goat’s clock, and later versions of the 383, like in the road runner would also.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    “I don’t see how that’s germane to the situation.”
     
    “Son, the goddamn Germans got nothin’ to do with it. I’m in hawt purr-suit!”

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    @zackman, the round 68 markers on the mopars are quite popular. They are commonly reffered to as “bullethole side markers.”
    As far as the goat goes, it was not the  killer car that  many people believe it was. There were alot of cars that could take one down.
    It’s reputation was formed by the beach boys and advertising hype.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    I have a January 1975 Car & Driver with David E. Davis Jr.’s recollection of the ’64 GTO vs. GTO fraud (errr….comparison) and he said that while the Goat would burn tons of rubber, it really wasn’t all that fast compared to the other Detroit muscle.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I’m incredibly jealous of the young person who owns this car. I had the 1972 small-block version of the 4-4-2, hands down, the best car that I’ve owned so far. There wasn’t any punishment that I could mete out that this car couldn’t take, just Mother Nature’s relentless assault on the chassis and body (Winter and road salt). The only thing she couldn’t pass was a gas station…
     
    There’s a guy up the road from me that has one similar to the featured car, but no vinyl roof and it has the rally stripe that runs across the hood and down the front fenders. I think his kid drives it, I can’t imagine someone my age (late 40’s) putting dubs on a car like this. it’s really a sacrilege…
     
    Thanks for featuring that car, and making my day!

  • avatar

    I have built and raced 68-71 442’s for over 20 years. My last project was the first 68 442 sold in Pocatello Idaho in 1968. I bought it as a basket in 89. It was the same color scheme as the car featured in this article. When I restored it, I omitted the white top.

    The car is for all practical purposes as it was  the year produced. It does have radial tires, and 15″ rallies. The engine is a rare steel crank 455 from a Delmont I bought in 1n 1970. Other than a 260 Isky cam, the engine is stock. I do have a G block 400, but I have a sentimental attachment to the 455 that’s in it because it came from the 2nd car I owned. My mother wrecked the Delmont in 73, but I kept the engine and tranny.

    It goes without saying that efficiencies have improved cars, and it’s not really fair to compare the performance and driveability of a 68 A body with contemporay machines. My 00 Chev pickup with the 5.3 is faster and more comfortable than the 442.To try to draw a comparison with Camrys and other contemporary shitboes is falacious.

    Consider this, however. Low compression 455’s in 3700 pound 442’s in NHRA stock eliminator F/SA  are running in the low 11’s, that’s stock eliminator. Show me a shit box that fast or competitive in any class comparable to stock eliminator. That’s from an engine that hasn’t been produced since 76, and with a quadrajet carb.

    The other salient fact is that these cars just look good. The line are smooth, striking and beautiful. They don’t resemble eggs. They sound good, unlike a pissy fart-canned honda.

    As neil Young said, Long may you run.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    What’s funny are the people comparing the camry to musclecars. What will a camry do in the quarter, 16’s-17’s?

  • avatar
    cleek

    A high school buddy had an orange 442 just like the one pictured in the ad.
    Another friend and a ~1970 vintage, monster V8 Buick version of the Cutlass, but I can’t recall the name.
    Making runs back from Wisconsin those two and my 429 Ford LTD gave the Illinois state troopers plenty of interesting evenings.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I have liked Oldsmobiles up until they went  wrong wheel drive. GM pissed away a legit connection to Ransom E. Olds. A century of automotive heritage lost. The F 85 right  up  to  maybe  mid  70s was a neat looking  car.  Yah  yah, compared to  modern cars they dont  measure up. they handled like boats.  They looked  better than they  were.  But  they looked  good.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    The coil spring rear suspension on those cars was lousy, from a performance standpoint. Once you started making power mods there wasn’t much you could do to the suspension to get better traction, like on a leaf spring setup where you could bolt on traction bars and add leafs if necessary.
    The coil spring setup was good for a smooth ride and little else.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    snore. period.

    ANYBODY with 20K and a few functional IQ points can run in the 10 second world.

    ‘Tis so easy it hurts.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    You think it costs 20k to get into the 10’s? One could build a naturally aspirated big block ford, mopar or chevy with 1,000 HP for about half that much, and that’s using all top notch parts.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Moparman426W,
       
      Nope. I know that it takes a used 928 4.7 and about 3K in parts to get into the 10s.
       
      I was being generous, as I know it takes that  much in a pathetic “musclecar” to get into the 10s.
       
      An ‘off the lot’ C6 will smoke any of the “legendary”‘ Vettes of yore. ZL-1? Bested by dozens of crate engines mit  5 PSI. Snore….

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    The olds engines did seem to be the best of all the GM engines, from a reliability standpoint. All of their other 8 cylinders had at least one major flaw.
    The small block chevies had the famous cam wear and oil burning problems, as well as leaky valve covers and oil pan seals.
    The big block chevies were always noted for valve spring breakage, and even worse cam wear than the small blocks. It wasn’t uncommon to see a big block chevy with a flat cam with less than 40k on the clock.
    The buicks had the infamous oiling problems, the oil pump gears rode against the bare aluminum timing cover and wore it down to the point that the pump would fail, grenading the engine.
    Both T/A performance and poston now make oil pumps and timing covers for those engines that take care of that problem.
    The pontiac engines were notorious for bottom end failures due to the use of cast iron connecting rods.  Cast iron isn’t even acceptable as connecting rod material in a 4 cylinder.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    First off, porsche, there was never such a thing as a “carter six pack.” As far as points go, they normally went 12-15k miles between replacement, cost a couple of bucks to buy, and took about 5 minutes to replace.
    People stopped using points in older cars many years ago, because it’s so easy and inexpensive to either switch to a pertronix unit or swap in a later factory electronic distributor or aftermarket unit.
    As far as the other things go, I won’t even bother, because you’ve shown long ago that it’s highly doubtful that you’ve ever even been to a dragstrip, let alone driven down one.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      True, they were generally Holleys (or Webers downunder, esp on the 6 banger). But there were factory Carter 6Ps. BTDT. Saw them new back in the 70s.
      As far as points, if you actually understood how they worked, they seldom were optimal after 5K miles. In order to set them truly “right” you needed to spend around an hour with a dwell gauge, cranking the engine by hand, then applying the correct ‘Kentucky windage’ to keep them aligned as you tighten the plate screw.
       
      5 minutes? Feeler gauge and hope it’s close? I learned better back in the 70s.
       
      Yes, dragstrips bore me and I spend little time in the one dimensional snorefest, as it is one of the few  things more boring than NASCAR. Or golf. NHRA rules require stoneage tech, and the people who think a high 3 quarter is impressive bore me as well. Off-the-shelf could easily yield a low-3 almost 400MPH 1/4.
       
      Three days and 5K will build an Impala that runs under 10. A 1500+HP STREETABLE Viper is about 15K in parts (but I’ll charge you 50K to build it).
       
      Yeah, I know the drag types you speak of. They really believe “musclecars” are still quick/fast regardless of the fact that I can go to the local Chev/Ford dealer and buy any one of several new cars off the lot that would embarass their pinnacle by any metric. I look down on 60s/70s junk as I have driven them.
       
       

  • avatar
    mculbert

    I had a 68 Cutlass ‘S’ convertible this same color in high school for a couple of years (1985-86). It was a column shift automatic, with a bench seat, power steering and non-assisted brakes.
    I paid $650 for it; the body was pretty much shot from rust, but the 350 4bbl ran well & it was a blast to put the top down and go. The exhaust was full of leaks from the manifold back, so I opted to have duals with “turbo flow” mufflers installed to take advantage of that great Olds V8 sound. My dad thought I was crazy to sink $125(!) worth of duals on such a beater, but he had to admit he loved the sound.
    Anyone know why Olds V8s had such a distinctive sound? Back then you could ID an Olds V8 coming down your block with your eyes closed…

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I won’t even bother regarding your post, but I can’t help but reply on your comment about points.  First of all, you did not need to use a feeler gauge and bump the engine over on gm products.
    They had a little window on the distributor cap that lined up with a hex screw that you turned to set the points with. all you had to do was preset the gap so it was close, then you could start the engine and adjust the points with it running using the dwell gauge. It took just a few seconds to do!
    No need to mess with the plate screws, as their only purpose on the gm’s was to hold the points set in place, all of the adjustment took place from the separate hex screw that I mentioned earlier.
    The fords and chryslers had to be set the other way, but it sure didn’t take an hour, maybe a few minutes of you were slow. And you did not have to rotate the engine by hand, you could either have someone bump the ignition key or you bumped the engine over from under the hood with your remote starter, which cost about 10 bucks for a good one back then.
    Points ignition systems are irrelevant since practically no one uses them anymore, so why even bring them up? I’m not even wasting my time on your posts anymore.


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