Oldsmobile 4-4-2—The Ultimate Olds
Back in 1964, Oldsmobile introduced an all-new option package for F-85 and Cutlass models sold here in the U.S. and it was called the 4-4-2. Pontiac was having enviable success with their V-8 powered 389 cid Le Mans and Chevy was leading the pack with the Chevelle. Not to be outdone, Oldsmobile soon followed suit and equipped their newly restyled Cutlass with a 330-cubic inch V-8 and with it, the Oldsmobile 4-4-2 was born. In 1965, Oldsmobile continued with the popular 4-4-2, but gave it a shot of adrenaline by putting in a 345hp, 400-cu.in. V-8.
The “4-4-2” name denotes the original car’s four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual transmission, and dual exhausts. One interesting note is beginning in 1965, the standard transmission that came in the car was a 3 speed manual. The 2 speed automatic was also available as an option as well as the 4 speed manual but regardless of which transmission you choose it is still called a 4-4-2
The 4-4-2 became a separate model from 1968 through 1971. In 1968, Oldsmobile sold more than 33,000 units and the popularity of the car was on the rise. Despite the engine displacement staying at 400 CID, the new engine build was creating significant power. Torque now came at 3000–3200 rpm as opposed to the early 400’s 3600 rpm peak, mostly attributable to a milder base cam grind. The base motor was still rated at 350 hp, but only with the standard three-speed and optional four-speed; automatics were rated at 325 hp. W-30s were rated again at 360 hp.
Oldsmobile’s Pinnacle of Performance
The 1970 4-4-2 was the pinnacle of performance from Oldsmobile and definitely one of our favorite models here on Horsepower for an Hour. In an effort to stay abreast of the competition in the horsepower race, General Motors lifted the cap on engine size in 1970, and Oldsmobile responded by making the 455 V8 the standard 4-4-2 engine. Output was now 365 hp and a whopping 500 lb·ft of torque. The 4 speed manual transmission was the most popular transmission choice but the turbo hydra-matic 3 speed was a reliable unit that was a drag strip favorite.
Most identifiable super car in the GM house
The new body style and increased performance resulted in the 4-4-2 being awarded pace car duties at the Indianapolis 500 race in 1970. Motor Trend magazine had high praise for the 4-4-2, stating that “it’s probably the most identifiable super car in the GM house”. Of all the levels of 4-4-2 models available, the most sought after was the W30. The 4-4-2 W-30 added a fiberglass hood with functional air scoops and low-restriction air cleaner, aluminum intake manifold, special camshaft, cylinder heads, distributor, and carburetor. It was the ultimate in Oldsmobile performance. Motor Trend tested a 4-4-2 W-30 with a 4-speed manual transmission and 3.91:1 rear gears, clocking a quarter mile time of 14.2 seconds @ 102 mph.
New options for the 1970 4-4-2 included GM’s Variable-ratio power steering, a console-mounted Hurst Dual/Gate shifter for use with the Turbo Hydra-matic transmission, and an aluminum differential housing and cover. The 1970 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 was arguably the best performance model the division ever produced. It was the epitome of muscle car styling, it was comfortable yet sporty and the price tag was easy on the bank account. Original MSRP was $3,376, today a model in good condition will easily fetch $40,000 or more and if you’re lucky enough to own a true W-30 it can command up to $100,000.
End of an Icon
Many years ago, the last Oldsmobile sedan drove off the line at what was then General Motors Corp.’s Lansing Car Assembly plant. It was the last Oldsmobile to ever be built, the sendoff to a nameplate founded more than a century ago. Oldsmobile lives these days in Boomers’ garages, dated photographs, curated museums and the stories of old-timers. For those of us that love Oldsmobiles, the 4-4-2 will live on forever.
If you’ve got an Oldsmobile 4-4-2, we’d love to see it! Send us your photos to: firstname.lastname@example.org