(first posted 8/28/2013) The Pontiac GTO generally gets bragging rights as the first of its kind: the classic intermediate-sized Detroit muscle car. The GTO 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 4-4-2 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. Seeing the difference already?
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. 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 nearly 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, starting 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”, despite the displacement of up to 455 cubic inches (7.4 L). 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 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.
My favorite Oldsmobile #s, 442 and 455 Rocket. The Dr. Oldsmobile adds were pretty trippy, its too bad he couldn’t have stayed around a few more years. There is one rough old late 60s 442 convertible running around Gallup, NM.
How rough? Well I’ve never actually seen the top UP which makes me assume that it went down at one point and didn’t want to go back.
This one brings back a lot of memories. My stepmom had a 68 Cutlass Supreme hardtop, very similar to this down to the vinyl roof and bucket seats. Hers, however, was dark green with that lime green vinyl upholstery and a black vinyl roof. Hers also had vanilla wheelcovers and a column shifted automatic.
This would be one of the last family cars purchased without air. I was about 8 or 9 when they got it, and I vividly remember that really high dashboard that made it hard for me to see out of the windshield as a front seat passenger. I also recall those odd recessed knobs in the dash and the fact that the glove box door never fit right and was hard to open,
I drove a riding lawnmower into the drivers door when it was not too old. Why my father let me drive the riding lawnmower at that age, I have no idea. And yes, I was hooning it. The paint soon cracked all over the repair, and the car looked like crap for the rest of its life.
After they replaced it with a 74 Cutlass, they kept the old one just for fun. It mostly sat outside and deteriorated, but i was allowed to practice driving it on a horse-shoe shaped gravel road in a rural subdivision. I guess it was the first car I got to drive by myself.
Where did Oldsmobile go wrong ? They made great looking cars like this and were the front runners of GM technology,got a new idea let Oldsmobile make it happen.A lot of automobile firsts we now take for granted first appeared on Oldsmobiles.A brown 442 like this one nearly tore my head off when the driver floored it,great looks and the performance to back it up,what a shame Oldsmobile was flushed down the toilet.The CC effect strikes again as I’ve been watching Sons of Anarchy with Dr Tara’s Cutlass being driven by Tig the scary Sargant at Arms
Yeah Gem these go with a capital G, and some cool cars on the Sons, it doesnt surprise me you’re a fan
Good music too Bryce,I was hooked from episode 1.
Where did Oldsmobile go wrong? Easy. Oldsmobile became Chevroletpontiacoldsmobilebuick. Don’t bother buying a specific marque. Just buy the one from the dealer who’s willing to undercut his local competition.
(from the Fletch movies, upon seeing his ex-wife’s attorney in a new 1st gen H-body Oldsmobile)
So how do you like your Oldsmobuick?
The funny thing is, the car Fletch refers to as the “Oldsmobuick” is a Nova…..
What? Like they couldn’t find a real Oldsmobuick?
Though I always liked Fletch’s boat tail Riv.
He should have said; “How do you like your Novamegaventurapollo?”
He never actually says that, the line is more along this:
“As I pulled up to my palatial, imitation apartment building, I noticed the familiar red OldsmoBuick of Mr. Arnold T. Pants, Esquire. Attorney for the former Mrs. Irwin M. Fletcher…… Time to use the service entrance.”
A sad end to a once admired mark dying out slowly making,me too Chevys and Pontiacs and Buick lites.
Now THIS is a real classic!
As for those ads, my favorite character was “Elephant Engine Ernie”. Just hilarious with all that huge chain wrapped around his neck!
I told this account before, but at a shopping center near our home in Jennings, MO – Northland Shopping Center – a real stainless steel and brick modern architectural classic in its own right (no longer there), a bright red with white interior and black striped Cutlass 442 always sat near the Radio Shack in the parking lot. A stunningly beautiful car, and every time my buddy and I went there to pick up a vacuum tube or two, or at least test them (ha ha!), we’d drool over that car.
These were good quality cars back then, and the only model I would prefer over a Chevelle.
The Cutlass 442 is a real classic that holds a dear spot in my heart along with my avatar and 1972 Nova.
I love the characters from old car ads/brochures. Oldsmobile and Buick were among the best at placing interesting characters with their cars.
I’m too young I guess to remember those, Joe Isuzu was my favorite.
68 442 hell yeah! That is the very definition of a Curbside Classic right there! Nice to see its still serving as a real car too.
In 1968, if you wanted a serious street car and didnt want to deal with the care and feeding of a Hemi or 427 Vette (or couldnt afford one,) you got a 440 Mopar B-Body, an L78 Chevelle or a 442.
Agree about Olds and the 440-4v Mopars, but the SS396 L78, not so much, due to the constant solid lifter adjustments required. If you didn’t care about that, though, the L78 was definitely one of the hottest tickets. Along with the Ford CobraJet, these were the cars the smart guys drove because they were not only among the fastest for drag racing, they were tractable enough for everyday use, as well.
While Oldsmobile might have been late to the musclecar party (like Ford with the terrific CobraJet engines), when Olds did finally show up, they could run with the best of them. Besides the early 455 Hurst/Olds (which got around the 400ci displacement limit by being an ‘aftermarket’ installation), one of the best balanced and handling cars was the little known W-31 or ‘Ram-Rod’ 350. Besides being lighter, Oldsmobile was one of the few manufacturers that used a rear anti-sway bar in addition to a front. The logic others used in not having the rear bar was that it made handling ‘twitchy’ but the reviews of the time all loved the Oldsmobile’s handling.
Although the 442 doesn’t get quite the accolades and legend status of the other players during the musclecar heyday, Oldsmobile would have the last laugh. When big-block engine performance began winding down in the seventies, as everyone else died out (including the one that started it all, the GTO), Oldsmobile would be the last man standing. Suddenly, the Cutlass, even with a low-performance mid-seventies drivetrain, was selling like mad during the brougham era.
But then, in typical GM fashion, they killed their golden egg laying Oldsmobile goose, badge engineering the poor Cutlass out of existence by not only slapping the Cutlass emblem on generic corporate cars, but tacking Cutlass onto damn near every other Oldsmobile that wasn’t full-size, as well. Soon enough, there just wasn’t a good enough reason to spend the extra money for an Oldsmobile, people quit buying them, and when GM (finally) hit the skids in a big way, the brand was, sadly, terminated.
Agree. My brother had a ’69 Camaro with the L78 396 back in ’73-74, and he was ALWAYS adjusting the valves on it. Fun car, however 🙂
yeah I could see where the solid lifters on the L78s would make them as tempramental as a Hemi; maybe the 396/350 in a Nova would have been a better example of a Chevy street racer. I know the L78s ran hard though. And yeah the 428 Cobra Jet finally gave Ford some street cred but they didn’t come out until mid-68.
Im a big Mopar fan but I would have had a hard time walking away from a 442 in 1968. And how about a Hurst Olds. Oh my.
I miss Oldsmobile 🙁
Yes the L78 was a beast. The day my brother brought this Camaro home, I was 9 at the time (he is almost 12 yrs older than me, he was 21 at the time) and he was so excited to take me for a ride in it that I did not even have time to tie my shoes. Long story short, I was bent over tying my shoes when he nailed it. Flew backwards so hard the seat back stop broke, and I ended up in the back seat. This was pre seat belt law days. Fun car, but high maintenance! Like my girlfriend…
Now we are getting into real cars these Oldsmobile 442s were quite something the engines are capable of big horsepower on the stock components, I bet you dont find more than one bearing size on a crankshaft too not like a SBC I’ve seen, I didnt believe the dude so he showed me a 25,000 mile 350 with 2 different sized big end bearings in it, What are you people smoking the Japanese wont let junk like that out of the factory never mind installed in a car and in a foreign country it was in a barely driven Camaro that was being given a refresh after being imported and complied
Make mine an F-85 with the 350, 4 spd, HD suspension, & 3.42s.
There was an ad for the GM 1968 A body Hi Po cars, it show what you could order, Olds had the most stuff to choose from. Lots of gear ratios, wide or close ratio gear boxes, suspensions, & engines. That didn’t include the base models, which you could order up like a 442 but with a 350.
Great, well-preserved find! These were such good looking cars! They’re the first thing that come to mind when I think of ’60s GM.
I’m usually not a fan of the vinyl roof, but this white one actually looks good with the blue. It’s nice that this 442 isn’t bright orange with ridiculous graphics all over. Most of them I’ve seen are like that.
It’s also nice to see an interior from the years before the Great Cheapening only a few years away.
As you hinted, the power of marketing should never be underestimated.
I love the lines on this coupe — especially that delicious C pillar — except for the dreadful headlight/grille treatment. What was Olds thinking?
The 400 was changed in 1968 for two reasons. First it reduced costs by sharing the same crank with the 455. Second, the smaller bore reduced the quench area which reduced the hydrocarbon emissions. The new 400 was a cleaner burning engine. Small bore V8’s like the 305 Chev or the 255 Ford use a similar idea.
Yup — also, to reduce emissions and fuel consumption (in theory, anyway), Oldsmobile stroked most of its engines for ’68 while raising (reducing numerically) their axle ratios. The 400 ended up getting the short end of that particular stick because while the other engines got bigger when they were stroked, the 400’s displacement was capped by the aforementioned corporate edict.
Its those crazy wide eyed headlights Olds simply wouldnt conform would they,
We will put the headlamps where we damn well please just fill it with horsepower and watch em rush the showrooms it looks fine from the inside.
And it worked 4 barrels 4speeds manual 2 exhausts sign me up too I like the one piece look it was cribbed from the Toronado probably that cars only really useful feature, it looks really good on this car. The police issue cars should have been fun our highway cops always got manuals ,if you want to wring the best out of a car a slush is a waste of space in old cars
I prefer manual cars but much preferred automatic buses during the 10 years I was a bus driver.I learned to drive buses with a semi automatic gearbox,a truly horrible thing
Driving the manual transmissions of the era does make it clear why so many people preferred automatic, though. Remember that for most American cars, the manual transmission was a three-speed, usually mounted on the column. Three-speeds often didn’t have a synchronized low gear, used a linkage that was about as vague as a politician being cross-examined on national television, and was rarely accompanied by a usable rev counter. (Even if you had a tachometer, it was as likely or not to be on the console pointed toward Jupiter.) If you wanted a four-speed, it would cost you nearly as much as an automatic and wouldn’t necessarily be much better than the three-speed to use. The four-speed transmissions themselves were often pretty good, but their linkages were a very mixed bag, especially on cars with a transmission tunnel floor console.
If one is used to decent European four- and five-speed manual boxes, it’s hard to understand why people would prefer automatic, but driving a vintage three-on-the-tree and all becomes much clearer…
I’m quite farmiliar with tree shifts it was a Aussie feature in everything often removed and an aftermarket floorshift installed on a 3 speed box our cops got V8 Belmont strippers column shift manual they were only Cresta fast but accelerated better a mate got a used one still black and white it had a well tuned 253 engine and went hard it had a limited slip back axle and could pull 90 in second and pulled ok from 30mph in top the extra gear is needed why? Once the HQ series Holden arrived with its understeering Camaro chassis you could get away from cop Belmonts in a Vauxhall the previous HG model not so much it handled better.
Had a happy trouble free 2 years with my 3 on a tree Vauxhall Cresta.The nearest i got to a 60s Chevy.
It’s not a Camaro chassis under the HQ! And I find the Olds the best looking of GM’s 68-73 A bodies. Just don’t tell my Skylark I said that.
I’d also rate the 442 a close second behind the GTO for my favorite of the 1968 crop of GM muscle cars. For the entirety of the 1968 A-body lines (all body styles/trim levels), Olds would be my pick overall. I really do like the profile on the 2-doors, of course the Vista roof wagon, and the front and rear styling looks clean and cohesive.
This particular car features interesting equipment, with the vinyl roof, tape deck, A/C and power windows skewing it more toward the “luxury sport” end of the spectrum where Oldsmobile would have comfortably played. I think that presented a marketing dilemma, as how do you combine “more mature” attributes with muscle car capability? The Doctor Olds ads are very interesting (and so much better than the 1964 ad–that one is terrible!), but still not sure exactly who they were aiming for. Kids would gravitate to the GTO and SS (and of course Road Runner), while adults would feel the tug of a Supreme. No wonder fortunes reversed in the broughamazing 1970s and Olds became the intermediate king as the market migrated to its sweet spot, while Pontiac miserably lost its way.
As for Marketing, I think Pontiac’s overall work in the 1960s was some of the best car advertising ever. That 1964 GTO advertising was just leagues ahead of the competition and clearly set it up as a lust object.
From reading John DeLorean’s book, it was clear that he understood the importance of good advertising. During his Pontiac years, he always believed that he picked up a lot of customers that Chevrolet was missing because of what he viewed as Chevy’s horrible and forgettable advertising of the 60s. Can anyone remember a 60s Chevy ad campaign? But once he got there in 1969, that changed. But he paid a lot of attention to Pontiac advertising while he was there. It showed.
As proof, one of the more memorable 1970 SS396 ads was the one with the car held down with heavy, marine rope. It was surely done during Delorean’s tenure as head of Chevrolet.
However, since I’m sure most of the musclecar fanatics here already know the ad, here’s one that wasn’t used. A shame because it looks like it would have been just as effective as anything else at the time:
I always liked the one with the 396 SS Camaro and the 427 Corvette side by side with the tag line: “We’ll take on any other 2 cars in this magazine”
This is way off topic, but the ad copy I’d love to find that was never published was the one that was vehemently nixed by GM brass because it explicitly referred to the GTO as a ‘goat’. It had a young kid with a pail of water standing in front of a new GTO in a driveway with the simple caption, “A Boy and His Goat”. Delorean mentioned the ad in his book and how it demonstrated to him how out of touch GM executives were with what was going on in the real world. They could not comprehend that calling a GTO a ‘goat’ was not derogatory in any way but more of a term of endearment. That’s just how they were known on the street.
Jim Wangers, himself, tried a couple of times to get it through, to no avail. Instead, GM’s ‘better’ idea was to promote ads saying that GTO stood for ‘The Great One’, a take-off on how the popular Jackie Gleason referred to himself at the time. It was cute, but not nearly as effective if GM had let Wangers and Delorean officially refer to the GTO as a ‘goat’.
DeLorean also had to explain why getting rid of the HURST logo on the side of the shifter was a bad idea, there were people in upper management that though they should be promoting a non-GM product on a GM product.
Amusingly, the guys at Ford were doing the exact opposite when the ’71-’73 Mustang 4-speed had a Hurst-stamped shifter ‘handle’, but the linkage itself was all Ford!
I am not a fan of the 68 grill, it looks to me like it was cobbled together. I might be a bit biased as we have a 1972 in the family(Cutlass S with 455) which was bought from a family friend for $1000 years ago.
Its sad that when one thinks of GM performance in the 1960’s and early 1970’s they think of a Chevelle or a GTO when the Skylark and Cutlass were just as potent
Here is a pic of the 1972 Cutty in the family
Here is a pic of an F85 in the local pick it pull it junk yard. It was extremely intact with no rust except on the place where the license plate was and a little corrosion on the underside of the trunk lid. It was sad to see it there.
Oh that is a terrible fate for such a handsome car, ugh.
Heartbreaking. You can’t save ’em all . . . . this ’65 is real clean and straight and begs to be taken home. Sadly, it’ll wind up crushed, shipped to Oakland and loaded onto a scrap carrier headed to China . . . .
On closer inspecton, it looks to be a four-door. That’s probably why it’s there. As good-looking as it is, there just isn’t much of a market for four-door sedans of this era. The previous owner may have tried to sell it and gotten no takers.
Indeed it is(or was) a 4 door. The interior was the same green color as the exterior. It is sad as it was nice looking. Oldsmobiles sell like made in Maryland. A body ones in particular. I am guessing some idiot inherited this from a relative and scrapped it instead of trying to sell it.
The hubcaps live on on my 1985 Cutlass
The ad for the ’64 442 looks like something out of the 1940s–and a four door sedan no less! No wonder the Pontiac GTO completely ecipsed the 442 in sales. What was Oldsmobile thinking?
They weren’t. Nobody considered the idea that such a car would sell until the GTO came out. And the advertising and promotion were at least as important, if not more important, than what was under the hood.
We have the advantage of cheap hindsight. At the time, there was no marketing strategy for such a car, because that car did not exist prior to their introduction. You’re expecting GM brass to have ESP or something like that.
Also, it’s important to remember that Estes and DeLorean regularly got in trouble with senior management over Pontiac’s advertising and promotional strategies. Pontiac’s approach was frequently at odds with, if not actually in violation of, various GM policies and the main reason Estes and DeLorean got away with it is that Pontiac was selling like mad. It wasn’t that Oldsmobile’s Harold Metzel and John Beltz didn’t grasp the market, it was that they were a little more constrained by policy. One must admit it takes a certain sort of chutzpah to keep doing something when your boss, the president of one of the largest corporations on Earth, has called you personally on the phone to tell you to cut it out.
Probably the same ad agency since the 1940s.
The 1964 442 ad is aimed at adult men i.e. “Don Drapers” of the time, an understated car with power. But DeLorean aimed at up and coming teens/20s who wanted rebellious cars, and was an uptapped market. Turned out the “Mad Men” types really wanted a Cadillac, so then we got ‘Broughams’.
Most important aspect of GTO was the new mid size body with large, near 400 ci motor, since ‘standard’ size cars had grown heavy, It was not a ‘Pony Car’ with it’s own body shell, as some younger fans think. [One car fan online claimed “Mustang was Ford’s answer to GTO”].
At some point someone has to step in here and point out that the 1962 Plymouth Fury and Dodge Dart did what the GTO did two years earlier, only with more power. OK, and with more ugliness too. I have often wondered if the guys in Pontiac engineering saw the success that the 62 Plymouth and Dodge had in racing (drag racing, in particular) and thought “damn, a 389 in our new Tempest could do that too.” I will grant you that the 62 Plymouth was a big fat sales flop, so the GTO two years later certainly deserved the fame by adding good looks into the equation.
Well, the GTO was better-looking, but mainly I think the distinction is that it was a much clearer merchandising concept. The ’62 Plymouth was not exactly a well-conceived car from a marketing standpoint and its success on the dragstrip wasn’t really something Chrysler-Plymouth planned or promoted.
The GTO emerged because Pontiac was wondering how to maintain the sales momentum of their performance image after GM started cracking down on the division’s under-the-table racing support. I don’t know how much Plymouth was even on the radar at that point; it often wasn’t.
You are correct in that the ’62 Plymouth/Dodge duos were successful in drag racing (thank you Ramchargers), but they were big fat duds in NASCAR and USAC. It wasn’t until the rebirth of the Hemi in 1964 that Dodge/Plymouth became a dominant force in NASCAR.
But on the street the Hemi was a dud pretty much for the same reason that the Ford 351 Clevelands and 429 Bosses were-too much breathing. Big valves, big carbs, and lumpy cams are great for racing, but stink on the street. All of this go-fast stuff may read great on paper, but on the street it translated into no low-end or mid-range torque. An average Barracuda or Dart with a 360 could wipe a Hemi Super Bee or Roadrunner on the street.
The ’62 ‘Max Wedge’ Mopars may have had some influence at Pontiac, but it was probably more with the lightweight, ‘swiss cheese’ frame, full-size 421 specials. In 1963, the still compact sized Tempest got the 326, which was externally the same dimensions as a 389. For a guy like Delorean, it was a no-brainer to see how easy and cheap it would be to slip the 389 in next year’s redesigned, larger intermediate Tempest and how much of a difference it would make in performance. He just had to figure a way to do it without violating GM rules. It’s one of those ironies in the automotive business that if the GTO had floundered, Delorean would have been fired and forgotten. But when it turned out to be a smash success, Delorean became an auto industry rock star, only equaled by Iacocca and the Mustang.
But I can’t imagine the lighter, smaller, full-size Mopars having any kind of direct influence on Knudson, Estes, or Delorean creating the 1964 GTO. The cars were just too different.
You are probably right. As for the GTO and GM rules, the car absolutely did break the rules, which forbade any engine in the A body of more than 330 cubic inches. Pontiac developed the GTO under the subterfuge of calling it an “export model”. When it was ready, they quietly dropped it into the lineup and the brass on the 14th floor of the GM building blew a gasket when they realized what had taken place. As you noted, the car was a hit and the maximum engine size was quietly raised to 400 cubes.
I think Oldsmobile wanted a piece of the same youth market that Pontiac was tapping, but weren’t able to do it as effectively, not because of lack of talent or will but because they were more held back by corporate edict. (Again, it takes chutzpah to repeatedly do things that you know are either against corporate policy or that your boss has explicitly told you not to do!) The original ’64 4-4-2 smacks of a GTO response that has been carefully calculated not to get Olds in trouble — probably sensible considering that nobody yet knew how well the GTO was going to do. Pete Estes bent a number of rules with the first GTO, recognizing that he was going to have to pay the piper if it didn’t sell; I can’t really blame Olds officials for not wanting to go out on that particular limb with him.
As you pointed out there really was no way of knowing how the GTO was going to do, Oldsmobile calculated that it would be small volume, the changes they made to add a sway bar to the 442 were almost hand made ad-ons at the end of the line, I’ll give Oldsmobile credit for going even more slightly hardcore than the GTO, at least transmission wise, it only came with a 3speed manual standard(with a Hurst shifter) and an optional 4speed manual or automatic, all 442’s were 4 speeds their first year.
I always thought the silly characters and “Youngmobile Thinking” ads were incredibly stupid. Most of the ones I’ve seen and own show one picture of the car, cheesy characters, and a less than glib blurb, adding insult to injury.
Pontiac ads typically only showed a single picture (or painting) of the car but at least they were elegantly done.
As for the 1968 442, it’s beautiful. Everything about the styling appeals to me. I find the grille and taillight treatment much more attractive than the ’69 model and better looking than the ’70-’72 cars. This example is a real peach with its color and option combo. What a nice car. Love the Rocket side markers.
All of this is interesting, but suddenly I’m thinking of the W31 350 in the monochromatic “Rallye Olds” . . . . kind of like if you got a ’13 or ’14 Mustang “Pony” package; all of the bigger cars goodies with a smaller (but still powerful) engine, good handling at an easier to afford/insure price . . .
Not the ’68 model, here a vintage ad showing the 1970 442
But you might enjoy this vintage road-test of the Hurst/Olds created by “Doc” Watson
My next door neighbor in Maryland rebuilt a 1969 Olds 442 convertible with a honking 455. He enjoyed coming by to show me the parts he was able to destroy. I can still remember the pinion gear that he sheared just before the gear. The girth of the part reminded me of the Monty Python (or was it Chaucer?) statement-“it was as large as a bull’s pizzle”.
He thought that my running a 1456 cc Rabbit at the drags was ludicrous. I was running low 17s, but he was running high 12s, about 2 seconds above where he should have been. But I showed him. I blew my transmission that cost far more to replace than his pinion. Na ni na ni boo boo! I win!
His license plate read “DR OLDS”.
I like these quite well, especially the 68-69 bodies, though the 70 and 71 models too.
I also liked the mid 60’s larger Olds as well.
Anyway, have good memories of old friends whom had a 69 Old’s Vista Cruiser, gray with wood sides. I recall that dash very well, and loved the unusual knobs it had, and the ashtray door that tilted like a solid panel garage door of yore. That fascinated me as a little kid.
This one looks to be not only original, but very nicely kept. I think this one has AC, noting the end and center dash vents as usually an American car of that period, and up through the 70’s when not equipped, had at least the center vents, if not just the end vents, but never both.
If I recall, the 74 Nova I had never had AC and only had 2 vents, one on each end. The 68 Chrysler had only the 2 vents below the radio, but non on the ends, though it did have the under dash Airtemp (didn’t work though). A factory installed AC in the Chryslers of that period had the end vents in the black band on the end of the dash as well as the center ones. I know as relatives of good friends had the ’68 Chrysler 300, and it had the factory AC.
Anyway, nice find there Paul.
I went to Mumford High School in Detroit, graduated in ’66. We used to hitchhike to and from school everyday, frequently we would get picked up by a senior driving a ’64 442 convertible, red on white. As a sophmore I felt like a king in this car especially with the top down, it was fast and beautiful. Because of this i always preferred this car over the GTO, when I was cruising Woodward on Friday nights watching the other teenagers dragging from the stop lights.
Some day I’ll tell you about hitching a ride with Jack Ruby’s sister. He’s the guy that killed Lee Harvey Oswald. [I sorta remember her car also.]
Somebody once said the white/black ’68 442’s look like bowling pins put on their side and now whenever I see one I think of that! I wonder if they made any ’65 four door 442’s. I’m kind of partial to the clean cut styling of the ’64-’67 models but I wouldn’t turn down the fastbacks, not to mention the beast under the hood.
I agree on the earlier A-bodies. My favorites are the ’66-’67’s. When I first saw the ’68 Cutlass at the auto show, while impressive outside, the cheapness of the interior was shocking for a mid-priced brand and compared to the ’67’s. Now I realize it was at least partly due to the new Federal safety standards that discouraged chromed metal on the dash that might kill you.
I never got to drive, or even ride in a 4-4-2, which became a dumb marketing designation once the Hydramatic became available, but have fond memories of easily smoking the 14 inch bias ply’s of a friend’s ’66 SS 396 4-speed.
Yes, Olds may have been the “engineer’s” GM division, but a youth brand it was not, and never intended to be under the system. The 4-4-2 and even lesser known Buick GS were never going to be volume sellers compared to SS Chevies and the GTO.
A friend of mine, who tragically died at 27 from drugs, had a ’70 442, the same color as the one in the pics, but no vinyl top. It was a nice runner, but not really all that quick. It had a lot of mods done to it, but it was never much quicker than my ’74 Roadrunner with only a 360 in it, and my later modded 403 Trans Am would destroy it. I think part of the problem was he had a giant lumpy cam in it and too high gears. Last time I saw it, he was selling it after having his license suspended after an incident where he got high, stole his mom’s ’76 Nova, and was in a high speed pursuit that I heard live on my scanner. After he wrecked the Nova, he got the crap beat out of him by the Las Vegas cops, and that seemed to be the beginning of the end. His parents tried everything to get him off drugs, but one day his mom tried to wake him up, and couldn’t. The autopsy showed his heart was severely damaged from all the coke he did.
I had a ’71 Cutlass that was the same color too. I only had it about 18 days before it was wrecked. I really liked that car.
Favorite (worst) memory of my 67 442 was screaming up the mountains on the way to a concert in San Diego. With the gas pedal buried, you could actually see the gas gauge creep from full towards empty. But, oh what a feeling! Being PRESSED into the seat
like an astronaut being blasted into space. And gas was only 42 cents a gallon back then. A bunch of kids and combined pocket change was all it took.
The Aldi grocery store’s address in town here is 442 N. Jefferson Ave. Many years ago, the Oldsmobile dealership was on the same location as that store is today. I like to think that the 442 address was deliberate and historical on the part of that dealer.
Everything I’ve ever read about the 64 442 4doors is that no one has ever seen one. Possibly the Lansing PD may have had one or two, but apparently no pics survived.
I’ll take any of the BOP A-bodies over a Chevelle. Period. Paragraph. The end.
Excellent eye candy for those who attended MACAN in Rosemont last November:
I never knew the 442 was conceived not as a muscle car but as a civilian version of a police cruiser, for people who want a car with a cop motor, cop tires, cop suspension, and cop shocks….
In that vein, showing a four-door in the ads makes sense.
But none were ever built that way. There is/was absolutely no demand for a 4-door cop car with a manual transmission, 4-on-the-floor or otherwise. Well, maybe the occasional Sheriff Bubba in the deep south somewhere. I doubt he’d have been impressed with a 330 CID engine, however.
I thought a few were made for the Lansing Police Department. None were sold to the public that way.
To my eye, ‘64 thru ‘67 were the best looking 442s. I had a HS classmate who had a later model yellow Hurst version.
Bought a beat 70 442 w30 in 78. Several yrs of parts chasing and rebuilding ended up with a nice car. Luxurious and a great performer. Was a much nicer car than its predecessor, a 70 r/t 6 pack challenger. The dodge while fast was a terrible handler with poor build quality.
Those were the days. Current ride is an 18 accord. Engine is the size of a small suitcase. Car is great, comfortable, quiet and quick. Yearn for a toy car, but just don’t have the time, patience or disposable income for one. Just gotta live vicariously through this site.
My friend Albert had a ’70 442 that he really liked. It was a near duplicate, looks wise, of my very short time owned ’71 Cutlass S that was wrecked about 2 weeks after I was given it to drive. Med blue, no vinyl top, the same wheels in the pics above. There was an abandoned dragstrip in the Las Vegas area, and Albert and I decided to make some runs on it, his 442 against my ’74 360 Roadrunner. The Runner was stock, except for a couple of minor mods, such as flipping the air cleaner lid over and getting rid of the nonsensical Orifice Spark Control from the vac advance hose and bumping the timing up about 4 degrees. The 442 was totally showroom stock, Albert seemed to be a real fanatic about not modding a car at all.
He barely beat me. I never won one of the 6 races, but each time, I got better on the launch and got closer and closer to catching him on the top end. I was about 3 feet behind him at the end of the last race and was closing on him fast. We had to stop due to police coming and telling us to leave. Soon my car had headers and some other add ons and he refused to run me at the “new” dragstrip at all. Even when he put slicks on it, he couldn’t break into the 13’s, while I did it with my OE tires, if I drove it very carefully. Sadly, Albert soon was in a motorcycle wreck and was never the same. He died at the ripe old age of 26, from heart failure due to drug abuse. It’s so sad he never lived to see the crazy powerful cars we have today.
Friend of mine have for a sale a custom build 68 Cutlass with 455 and modern 5 speed Tremec transmission, car is overally in top quality. Located in Europe, all import taxes paid. I have driven it few times and it’s a beast!