1970 Olds 442
Image: Hugo90 2008
At the very beginning of General Motors, the divisions competed against each other, launching rival products in each other's markets, stealing sales and confusing customers. Under the iron rule of President Alfred P. Sloan, inter-divisional rivalry was all but eliminated.
Each marquee was assigned a place on the GM hierarchy and each was given an image. Cadillac was positioned at the high end of the luxury market and Buick took lower end. Pontiac became synonymous with performance while Oldsmobile developed the reputation of being GM's experimental division. If one wanted to drive tomorrow's technology today, it would be found first on an Oldsmobile.
But lines blurred in the 1960s and competition between sister divisions was fostered and rivalry, once forbidden, grew suddenly intense. One of the very hottest GM cars to hit the street in 1970 was Oldsmobile's 4-4-2 series. drafted from Cutlass and F-85 variants, the beefy 4-4-2 was welcomed into dealers' showrooms for its third season as a five-passenger coupe, a five-passenger hardtop and a drop-top.
Sizzle is what 4-4-2 did best standing still. The swoopy two-door had been downsized in 1968, wheelbase shortened to the 112" wheelbase it had when originally conceived as a Rambler-beating compact, back in 1961. Now fully evolved as a muscle car, engineers gave the Olds heavy-duty springs, stabilizer bar, special shock absorbers and wheels, special emblems, hood louvers, unique paint stripe, special tires and a high output engine. In 1968 the 390-hp version could go from 0-60 mph in just six seconds and did the quarter mile in 12.97 seconds. Oldsmobile was sizzle and steak.
Pleased with their results, for '69 engineers turned up the heat on their performance Olds. The special "W-30" package was offered to the speed needy, a throaty "Force-Air" inducted 360 hp version of the 400 CID V-8. Tricked out with special grille, stripes and unique identification cues these unforgettable motion machines were benighted with heavy-duty drive shafts, special handling packages, heavy-duty wheels and a wicked straight-through exhaust system. Just to be extra safe, Oldsmobile's also added side-impact bars which were welded into the doors and head rests became mandatory equipment on all vehicles.
A 455 CID V-8 churning out 365 horsepower was introduced. It would be the largest ever offered. The bore was now 4.057 while the stroke was shortened up to 3.385 inches. A special honor was bestowed in 1970, for the third time in the division's history an Oldsmobile would pace the Indianapolis 500. An Olds 88 had done the job in 1948, a much larger Olds 98 had served in 1960. Now a Cutlass 4-4-2 convertible would do brickyard duty at the most prestigious automobile race in the world.
Production tumbled by nearly a third in 1970 despite even beefier performance packages. Insurance companies sounded the death knell for the entire muscle car genre as accidents climbed. "Four-barrel, "four-on-the-floor" and even "bucket seats" became dirty words that automatically shot insurance policies into the stratosphere. In 1971 just over 7,000 of the hot Oldsmobile's would be produced and for the last two years of its life, 4-4-2 was reduced to an option on Cutlass 'S' models.
Jim and Audrey Frey of Coleville, Saskatchewan own this 1970 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 convertible. Jim swapped a restored '57 Chevy for the ragtop nearly twenty years ago while ice fishing with a buddy, who--good guy that he was threw in a rebuilt motor and a paint job. This Olds has the 455 CID V-8 with 400 Turbo-Hydramatic transmission and 327 Posi-Trac rear axle.
The couple has been busy restoring their pride and joy ever since they acquired it in 1980. Over the years the Oldsmobile has received a new top, front seat upholstery, carpeting and numerous interior bits and pieces.
This GM offering is just not another pretty automotive face, either. The Frey's Olds hauled two kids and a big dog around all summer for years and even today the 4-4-2 easily zips pasts transport trucks while hauling a 17-foot trailer on family holidays.