Why did it take so long for Detroit to add a rear anti-roll bar to their cars? Their cars invariably understeered; quite typically badly so. It really took the fun out of driving them; no wonder little sporty imports and the Corvair were such a revelation. It wasn’t necessary to plow furrows into the pavement to get around a fast tight curve or corner.
Studebaker had been using them on Hawks since 1956. In 1964, Oldsmobile, GM’s “experimental division” finally took the plunge with their first 4-4-2 package on the F-85/Cutlass. It made a significant difference, and the 4-4-2 quickly got a well-deserved rep for its handling.
C&D rightfully points out that since Olds didn’t really have anything on hand to readily differentiate the 4-4-2 from the madly successful GTO and the other similar muscle cars from Chevy and Buick, never mind the competition form Ford and Chrysler, it decided to focus on handling right from the start. But just how much interest was there in that quality, given American’s apparent greater interest in straight line performance and just the image of performance? “Thus far the public seems no more excited about good handling in a hot intermediate than it did in the compact Corvair.” Well, that rather reinforces the common myth that the Corvair sold in smaller quantities than it did: actually it vastly outsold the GTO in its best years, by a margin of 2.5:1. But the point is relevant, as undoubtedly many bought Monzas because it was small, cute and hot in its heyday. But there was of course a considerable contingent of Corvair buyers tired of plodding understeer; welcome to oversteer! How about just…neutral?
Here it is: “Instead of the typical horrendous understeer generally found in domestic cars, the 4-4-2 is basically neutral under all conditions…”
Of course the husky 400 cubic inch V8 had plenty of torque to induce power oversteer at will.
The ’67 4-4-2 was available with front disc brakes, and they yielded the shortest stopping distance of any car C&D had yet tested. Hooray!
The three-speed THM-400 was an improvement over the previous Jetaway two-speed unit. More than just an improvement; it was superb, as good or better than any other automatic. The 4-4-2’s unit was specially set up to function optimally with the 400 V8. And it delivered manual downshifts that were fast, crisp, and consistent; the lever could be shifted into a lower gear at any engine speed; if it was over 5200 rpm, the transmission just waited until it was at that (or below) before the shift occurred.
The Torqueflite had finally met its match, or its better.
The interior was deemed “pleasant”, but the driver’s position was too close to the wheel. But the tach was a ludicrously tiny thing that had to share the left round dial with other instruments in the optional “Rally Pack”. The lack of legible tachometers was an near-universal issue with American performance cars back then.
Performance was pretty typical for these standard-issue performance cars: 0-60 in 7.8 sec.; 1/4 mile in 15.8 @ 91 mph.
The final word: “It handles well, stops fast and rides comfortably on almost any road surface“. Did they forget “goes fast”?
Oldsmobile was really hitting its stride by 1967, and this car shows it. Also, it hard to overstate how much of an improvement the Turbo Hydramatic was over the earlier 2 speed automatics that GM seemed so wedded to.
I had to look up that Rally Pak multi-gauge that the magazine complained about. It is true, there was a lot going on in that pod next to the speedometer. But then again, I have never been one to complain when real gauges found their way into a 60s GM dash.
I feel like the limitation of the Rocket Rally Pack is that it’s not an ideal way to situate a tachometer (to say nothing of the inaccuracies factory tachs of this era suffered). It’s better than sticking on the console or in the middle of the hood, but it’s certainly not ideal.
My father had a ’67 442 convertible, red with an white interior. My earliest memory is of riding in the back seat of the car, top down, with dad driving and my older sister in the passenger seat.
First car was a red 66 OLDS Dynamic 88 convert. Larger than this and a dream! 425 engine gave plenty of power to this beautiful comfortable car. 66 was one of best years for Oldsmobile styling. Can se the family resemble in the Cutlass, but as usual prefer the larger version 88S. ALWAYS believed that part of Oldsmobiles death was at least partly due to OLD being part of the name. Youth market was going for fast smaller cars. Cutlass should have appealed to that market and did, but still not enough to save OLDS in the long run! 😎
I once read that the reason the Big 3 were loath to include a rear anti-sway bar in their cars was that it would make the handling too ‘twitchy’.
But, in any reviews of a car that had a rear anti-sway bar, all I ever read was how much better they handled than those without one.
Oldsmobile’s lone inclusion of the rear anti-sway bar is definitely an opportunity missed. Decades later, GM tried to portray Oldsmobile as the ‘international’ division, and the whole rear anti-sway bar thing would have went a long way to legitimizing that idea.
I think the issue is that neutral or slightly tail-out in a RWD car is considered “good” handling on dry surfaces by people who actually know how to drive whereas understeer is considered “safe” handling for much of the population outside of car reviewers that just wants to get somewhere and not have any hairy moments while doing so. In wet conditions that neutral handling may turn to tail-out quicker depending on how the driver treats the pedals. A vehicle marketed as a performance car should of course be aimed at the real driver with traits that support that, yet many performance cars were and still are marketed to, sold to, and purchased by people who don’t really have any idea what they are doing, especially in places where driving is considered a right rather than a privilege and the generally low levels of driver training reinforce that. Witness innumerable example videos of cars’n’coffee event exit “incidents” etc…
This is true, but with cars like the A-body intermediates, the rear anti-roll bar doesn’t mean they don’t understeer, just that they understeer somewhat less. So it’s tidier without dramatically changing the overall handling balance.
We’re talking a two ton Cutlass with a heavy V8 on a 115” wheelbase here, not a Corvair or Porsche 911. Neutral is an overstatement, it’s *more* neutral compared to other A bodies, but crucially the handling is more responsive and predictable, which is good in any road condition for any driver. Rear sway bars were widely adopted later on similar cars, many Collonades had them, G bodies, and later B bodies and Ford Panther full sizers had them to the end, and obviously they weren’t high performance enthusiast machines, and just like springs sway bars vary in spec to suit the car’s needs.
The issue was to manufacturers a rear sway bar was an unnecessary expense, they usually offered two levels of suspensions; regular and HD for police and “in the know” buyers, with the former providing cloud like ride quality and the latter being harsh but good(relative)handling. Sway bars bridged the gap, allowing suspensions to have good ride and handling, which became an important quality with the rising popularity of imports.
is an overstatement
Is it? C&D clearly states “the 4-4-2 is basically neutral under all conditions” unless the tail is provoked out with the throttle.
It’s not that hard to make any car handle neutrally, no matter how heavy it is (which has little or nothing to do with it).
Well, “basically neutral” in this case was an on-the-road subjective judgment rather than a technical assessment, and other testers (e.g., Car Life) pretty consistently said the 4-4-2 was still basically an understeerer, which is not a big surprise looking at the specifications. The 4-4-2 had about 57 percent of its static weight on the front wheels, and the 4-4-2 chassis package included stiffer front springs (425 lb/in compared to 305lb/in for the regular Cutlass) and a bigger front anti-roll bar (0.9375 in compared to 0.875 inch), all of which would contribute to greater slip angles at the front. The 20% increase in rear spring stiffness and the rear anti-roll bar would counter some but not all of it.
Knowing how to correct oversteer used to be taught as part of learning to drive once upon a time like when every side road here was gravel, if you can do power slides on low traction surfaces doing the same on a bitumen road is easy.
You mention Studebaker- All Avantis, as well as GT Hawks and Larks with the R1 or R2 “Super” package, included a rear sway bar. They also included rear traction bars, and disc brakes, standard. Studebaker was trying, right up to the end.
I added an ADDCO rear anti-sway bar and switched to radial tires at the same time in my ’74 Malibu, and it became an entirely different car, in all the right ways.
I bought a used ADDCO larger front sway bar for my Volvo 122S. $15 in the local classified paper. The 122S certainly understeered but the reduced body roll plus some negative camber I cranked in seemed to help reduce it despite more front roll stiffness. Radials helped too. I was curious if ADDCO is still around. Yes it is, and they even offer a rear sway bar for 1951 to 1956 Oldsmobiles.
But nothing for older Volvo’s. I guess IPD is the only source.
Interesting comment by Evan. My dad bought new 70 Volvo 145. Very cool car, may write it up some day. My dad told me that when he chagned to radials he thought it got power steering! Then years later, my friend bought a 62 Fairlane (which I later bought, another story). When i first drove it and took a moderate curve at ?? 30 40 I noticed how HORRIBLE it felt, IIRC (it was 30 years ago!) it felt as the steering simply got heavier and heavier as I cranked the wheel. (it had bias ply). Told my friend that radials would make a difference,,HELL YES.
Re the bars, I hopped up my 87 Golf with bars from ADDCO..bigger in front, and added an absent rear bar. Huge and wonderful result.
Last was the 84 Crown Vic , in addition to the 5.0 HO transplant (a story in itslelf) , I stripped a junkyard cop car and got the larger front to upgrade, and the rear to add. Absolutely relevatory. (slightly larger tires and STIFF shock added later for a very pleasant ride.
The just visible rear bars were fun to spot on unmarked cop cars.
Lastly, i helped a friend working on an avanti and was impressed by the presence ot F and R ar bars
Oldsmobiles were probably the favorite cars of families in the upper middle class neighborhood where we lived in the sixties and most of them were Cutlasses.
The assistant scoutmaster in the Boy Scout troop I was in was an engineer and an Olds man. He traded in his 62 F85 and bought a 66 Cutlass Supreme 4 door hardtop equipped with a 4speed manual transmission and a Hurst shifter. It had the 330 CID V8 with a Quadrajet.
Olds had an interesting option for the Cutlass in 67 called the Turnpike Cruising Package. It used the 400 CID V8 and a small 2V carburetor with a high (numerically low) rear axle ratio to achieve high gas mileage on freeways. Pontiac did a similar combination by offering a 400 CID V8 with 2V carburetor and a 2.29 to 1 rear axle ratio. Consumer Reports tested a Catalina equipped like this in their January 68 test of full size sedans. They praised its powerful engine and flexible drive train that excelled in turnpike driving.
Paul has an article on the Turnpike Cruising Package, reposted last summer:
Impressive for a medium-priced car at the time: The 350-horsepower, 400 cu. in. engine is unchanged from 1966, with the exception of a new magnetic pulse generator that replaces the breaker points and condenser of the standard ignition.
I put a ADDCO rear anti-sway bar on my ’86 4Runner when it got pressed into commuting duty for a few months, back in the 90s. It really did improve the handling of that tall, tippy vehicle. Turns were much flatter, highway manners were improved.
Summer 1969 17 yr old me bought a used 67 442. Added a Stewart Warner tach on the column. Switched to 15 inch slotted chrome rims and upped to H70 Firestone Wide Ovals. Red lines. Best car and best girl friend ever for any 17 yr old that summer. Both handled extremely well.
One frustrating point about the A-bodies is that on the ’67s and later models, the two-speed ST-300 automatic was only “previous” on the hot big-engine supercar models. If you bought a regular Cutlass with a 330, the automatic was still the two-speed.
As the various Car Life analyses show, ST-300 and Powerglide compared better than you’d think with three-speed automatics in strictly numerical terms like standing start acceleration, especially against the contemporary Borg-Warner automatics, but it starts to feel like GM was really dragging its feet when you could get the excellent TorqueFlite even on a six-cylinder Valiant.
I believe it was in 1969 that the Oldsmobile began offering the Turbo Hydra-Matic 350 on the Cutlass Supreme, S, base Cutlass and F-85 models.
Yeah, TH350 was added for 1969. Before that, the A-body Olds only offered TH400 with the 400, and prior to 1967, that also was mated with ST-300.
More than 20 years ago, I put a 1-inch rear stabilizer bar on my ’64 Impala. It made a tremendous difference in reducing body lean. The car is a cruiser, but with a good set of KYB shocks and wider tires (still the original 14″ wheels), it handles remarkably well for a big, softly sprung Detroit boat. And the ride is still Jet-Smooth. Very well-damped and no float or wallow.
I think that one of the reasons automakers shied away from rear anti-roll bars is that they still tended to think of heavy-duty suspension packages as trailer towing or load-hauling options, rather than handling options per se. Some manufacturers had multiple towing packages and brochures discussing how to select the best one for your anticipated needs. If you’re going to tow a trailer, or if you have a station wagon or ute you expect to often load heavily, you may want heavy-duty springs, but you probably DON’T want a disproportionate increase in rear roll stiffness. (Unless you do: A couple of years after this, Oldsmobile built an engineering prototype of a 4-4-2 Vista Cruiser, which several of the magazines had fun testing.)
Obviously, some people did want handling suspensions that were not intended for towing or load-hauling, but i think there was a lot of conservative intransigence and not getting it (“Who the hell would want stiff-riding springs if they’re not going to tow? We can’t sell that!”), both within the divisions and among the dealer body. In the seventies, it became more common, so you got packages like the Chevrolet F41 suspension, but that was rarer in the sixties even on sporty cars (which depended on parts-bin engineering to keep prices down).
That’s a great point about towing, for standard suspensions manufacturers likely perceived most buyers were ok with those suspensions and that the HD satisfactorily covered everyone else’s needs, be it police duty, towing, or motorsport, so why equip an extra item that’s not necessary in the improvement of both? The thing with sway bars and handling is the main spring rates can come considerably down and have virtually the same cornering performance, but they aren’t a substitute for heavy duty springs for towing. Without the public demand for having a satisfactory medium, the added expense of equipping cars with them simply seemed to be an unnecessary cost.
Only with the rise of imports, or even the compact/ponycars of their own, people got more exposed to the benefits of good handling in normal feeling cars and Oldsmobile was one to try to answer that demand in a larger car with this setup
And in terms of cost, many manufacturers were accustomed to having a selection of different springs to suit different combinations of engine and options (so a Chevrolet with a big V-8 and air conditioning got different springs than a six-cylinder model, for instance). Adding one more spring variation wasn’t a big deal in terms of manufacturing costs and didn’t involve any meaningful difference is assembly labor, and so optional stiffer springs often cost only a few dollars.
An anti-roll bar isn’t that complex or expensive (it’s a metal bar), but installing it involves a few additional assembly operations, and I suspect it’s the latter that really pushed the “Why bother if there’s no demand anyway?” argument
CD point out that that the rear springs on the 442 were decidedly on the soft side, as it bottomed out all-too easily with passengers in the back seat. This was a trade-off for having the rear sway bar.
Yeah. The AMA specs show that the 4-4-2 suspension’s rear spring rate was still only 144 lb/inch, compared to 120 lb/inch for other V-8 Cutlass models.
One problem with a rear sway bar is that it can cause a “sideways whipping” motion as the car crosses a longitudinal groove or rut in the lane. You can feel your neck whipping to the side with the car. If you are an experienced motorcycle rider you don’t get too shocked by automobile chassis movements. On n/b I680 in Milpitas there is an illuminated sign on the shoulder that reads: Caution, dip ahead. I guess they feel the driving public is so clueless that they’ll fly into a panic if they feel the car’s suspension compressing and extending. I’ve been over that section of road hundreds of times and have never found anything alarming or concerning about it.
Though that car is obviously equipped not as a boulevard bruiser, but in the manner of a “kinda’ fast” and comfortable coupe, the 3.08 rear screw in that test car can’t do it any favors in the acceleration department. I’d say given 3.55s or even 3.36s and some minor tinkering that thing could be in the mid or at least high 14s and the mid 90s.
The black car in the “modern” photos is just flat out gorgeous. 4-speed car too. I’m so envious of the owner.
I owned a 1966 Oldsmobile 442 they were killers, I out ran everything, of course I got everything squared with Oldsmobile, with what I was told to use every part was from Oldsmobile, I had 1 4 barrel carburetor and a good friend had 1 with 3 carburetor’s. We was told not to go to the same strips, the 3 carburetor’s was just a little faster, about a half fender in a quarter mile.
I understand the 66-67 W-30s were high revving fire breathers. I always liked those stealthy cold air intake systems on the 66s and 67s: all business ( plus that too cool chromed air cleaner/plenum for the ram air ducts ).
May dad..offered to buy me a 67 cutlass in 1970…I said.hell no..I want ss396 chevelle not a old man’s car like the olds..well I won out…a 66ss396 chevelle. Was towed back to my house.nov.1970.with some motor issues..but he I got the ss396 chevelle that I wanted..and still have it.mrj
I have to admit I really struggle with these, Oldsmobile’s styling in this period was to me boxy and ponderous looking, which is ironic given the emphasis on handling. Even the super boxy Dodge and Plymouth B bodies of 66-67 didn’t look this conservative. If not for the distinctive A body tunnelback roof I almost struggle telling apart the Cutlass from the big Deltas, so they have an image similar to the last gasp full size performance cars of the era rather than the popular intermediates. I wasn’t there, but that’s the vibe they give me, your story supports it.
GTOs and the Chevelle SS by contrast were both arguably at their pinnacle, and despite sharing the same body appear attractive in a way that still translates well today. The 67 Cutlass on the other hand looks like the kind of car someone with high regard for the styling of box Panthers would appeal.
67, Midnight blue, Baby blue interior , 4 speed Hurst , My buddy’s bought a used one with 40,k miles on it from a Old guy who babied the Car , Never got on it, When he got the Car tuned it up , He could pull the wheels off the Ground, The car was incredible fast ,I’d say the zero the Sixty time was 6 seconds, He didn’t loose any race on the street , I believe if you break a Engine in Properly can really differ the power from another, I had a 47 Chevy like that , 283 beat my neighbor 350/350 nova ,He was besides himself, But the beautiful 442 lost control in the Snow and Got totalled, As his other brothers 396 SS Marina blue 4 SPD Chevelle got stolen ! Beautiful car with a great stance , Today I have a 67 SS Marina blue 4 SPD 396/375 hp Convertible and a 1971 GTO , Hood tach, Spoiler and judge stripping , So the influenced me and it’s alot of fun