Rare Rides: The 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais Quad 442 W41

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

The Rare Rides series has visited a performance 442 Oldsmobile previously, when we took a look at a one-off Hurst Intrigue 442 (which most everyone hated). Today we’ll see the very last time 442 appeared on a factory Oldsmobile.

It’s a Cutlass Calais Quad 442 W41, from 1991.

The Calais nameplate was a short-lived one. It started its life in the early Eighties, and barely made it into the Nineties before it was dropped. Available with two- or four-doors, the Calais was an N-body relative of the Buick Skylark, Somerset, and the Pontiac Grand Am. At debut for the 1985 model year it was simply called Calais, and filled in as replacement for the wretched and un-missed Omega X-body compact. Circa 1987 Calais married into the Cutlass family, as someone at Oldsmobile decided 90 percent of Oldsmobile offerings needed a Cutlass badge.

Calais used a total of four different engines. Inline-four offerings included the 2.5-liter Iron Duke and 2.3 Quad 4, and six cylinder power was via 3.0- or 3.3-liter mills. Sporting drivers could select a five-speed manual, and for everyone else a three-speed automatic filled the transmission tunnel.

The aforementioned Quad 4 was the performance choice for the Calais. That engine became available in 1987, on a new trim called GMO Quad 4. Oldsmobile quickly dropped the GMO name, and the Quad 4 eventually made its way into a new halo for the Calais line: the Quad 442. The 442 used a high-output version of the same engine for a total of 180 horsepower, and was paired only with the five-speed manual. An automatic version was available, but only on the luxury-oriented International Series trim.

In 1991, for the final year of Calais, Oldsmobile added a bit more trim complexity to its compact. The Quad 442 was now available with a W41 badge in its name. That meant under hood was the W41 version of the Quad 4, which made the most horsepower: 190.

But it was all very short-lived. In 1992 the Calais saw its replacement via the revised N-body Achieva SCX, covered by Rare Rides previously. But that version of the W41 had been through some exhaust port reductions, and sacrificed five horsepower in the name of NVH and emissions. Quad 442 W41 Calais was a peak moment.

Today’s Rare Ride is located in the scenic area of Buffalo, New York, which is near Canada. Appearing with 160,000 miles and in excellent condition, this 442 asks $4k.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • JimC2 JimC2 on Jul 18, 2019

    There are three parties to blame for those miserable motorized belts, but GM (and all the carmakers who had them, which was pretty much everybody) bears much less than half of the blame. The majority of the blame goes to a few dumb folks in the gooberment and the motorists who were too dumb to buckle regular seatbelts. The former took it upon themselves to enable the latter, using Man's laws to prevent Darwin's laws from running their course. If some people are too dumb to buckle up then we'll just have to put "passive restraints" in every car that is built!! Sigh... Like a lot of top-down "good ideas," this one was implemented dumbly- anchoring the shoulder belt to a goofy motorized track in the *door* instead of bolting it to the primary structure of the vehicle. The same mentality brought us the overly powerful airbags meant to work as *primary* restraint systems, again, to accomodate/enable people who are too lazy to read a five or ten word sentence ("buckle up, airbag is *supplemental* restraint system"). Sigh... I would love to randomly meet the government officials who were responsible for this, in some kind of a social setting, and on behalf of self-respecting motorists, I would loudly berate them to the point of tears for their misdeeds of years past. Alas, most of them are probably senile or gone by now. How many "likes" can I get for this post?? :)

    • Theflyersfan Theflyersfan on May 26, 2023

      It's almost four years later, but you'll get one from me. And I 100% agree with everything typed there. Motorized or locked in place shoulder belts never used with the lap belts. Door belts that never fit right, blocked your vision, and could dump you on the road if the doors opened. 1st gen airbags that could rearrange your ribs and face, even if you're belted in. How did we survive the cars of the late 80s through the early 2000s???


  • MyQuad4 MyQuad4 on Mar 16, 2020

    Although a beautiful car, it is not a pure Quad442 W41. The owner did an amazing job of converting it to an International Series, adding I-Series front and rear bumpers, side skirting, 16" wheels, ground effects, and an interior swap.

  • Dave Has to be Indy 500. Many more leaders and front passes than NASCAR, and Monaco is unwatchable with the inability to pass on that circuit.
  • Jeff How did the discussion get from an article about a 56 billion dollar pay package for Elon Musk to a proposal to charge a per mile tax on EVs in California or paying increase registration on vehicles to make up for lost gas tax revenue? I thought such a discussion would better fit Matt's Gas Wars series.
  • Master Baiter Both people who bought ID.4s will be interested in this post.
  • Urlik Not a single memorable thing happened in the big three races this weekend IMHO.
  • Ajla If Goodyear makes rain tires that allow NASCAR to race in damp conditions at longer ovals (other that at Daytona and Talladega) then I promise to purchase at least four new sets of Goodyear tires in my remaining life.
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