Vintage Car & Driver Road Test: 1967 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 — “It’s The Best handling Car Of Its Type We’ve Ever Tested”

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”?