Classic American Cars: Oldsmobile 442
The Oldsmobile 442 was a response to the unexpected success of the 1964 Pontiac Tempest GTO. GM’s Oldsmobile division was the first major car manufacturer to respond with a model of their own. The 442 was a mid-size car that was equipped with a full-size engine, the Rocket V8. It was first released well into the 1964 model year and was an option on the Olds Cutlass and F-85 models. It had the top model engine produced by Oldsmobile. It was the 330 CID V8 with the police package (the B09 Police Apprehender). This car became known for its excellent handling and performance. The name “442”, or four-four-two, was derived from the specifications of the car, including a 4-barrel carburetor, 4-speed manual transmission and dual (two) exhaust.
Despite the late introduction of the Olds 442 into the 1964 model year, 2,999 cars sold that year. In 1965 the four-door model was eliminated on the 442. The engine was replaced with a 400 CID V8. The marketing was improved over the previous year’s to specifically target young people and over 25,000 1965 442s were sold.
The 1966 model 442 was offered with two options for the engine and there were distinct changes to the body styling. There was an option offered called W-30, with a triple carburetor engine and a front bumper styled with openings to allow air intake for the air-induction cooling system.
In 1967 front disc brakes were added and the formerly optional automatic 3-speed Turbo-Hydramatic was now standard. The triple carburetor engine was discontinued and replaced with the L66 Turnpike Cruising Package and the W-30.
From 1968 to 1971, the 442 was no longer an option on the Cutlass or F-85, but became a model of its own. In 1968 the body was changed to shorten the wheelbase by three inches and create a distinctive new styling. A new grill design was introduced in 1969 and GM now allowed the larger engine to return. But in 1971 GM made a demand that all GM cars be able to run on unleaded fuel. This was the beginning of the end for the muscle car, including the 442.
In 1972, the 442 reverted back to an option on the Cutlass models and this continued through 1980 when the 442 option was discontinued. The 442 was brought back in 1985 on the rear-wheel drive Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. The “442” now stood to define the 4-cylinder engine with 4 valve cylinders and 2 camshafts. In 1990 and 1991 the name 442 was applied to the front-wheel drive Cutlass Calais. Due to poor demand, the name was retired after the 1991 model year.
The Olds 442 remains a true American muscle car and can boast a loyal following to this day.