Middle-of-the-Road Muscle: The Oldsmobile Cutlass and 442


Oldsmobile downsized the Cutlass in 1978 along with GM’s other A-body intermediates. The new Cutlasses were closer in size to the old Y-body senior compacts, 197.7 inches (5,022 mm) on a 108.1-inch (2,746mm) wheelbase. The smaller dimensions did not dampen the cars’ popularity; Oldsmobile sales topped a million units in both 1978 and 1979, more than half of which were Cutlasses.

Eager to exploit the apparent power of the Cutlass name, Oldsmobile applied it across a broad swath of its line-up. By 1982, there was both a front-drive A-body Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera and the rear-drive Cutlass Supremes and Cutlass Salons; they had little in common except the name.

In a fit of nostalgia, Oldsmobile revived the 442 in 1985 as an option on the rear-drive Cutlass Salon coupe. Returning to something like the original meaning of the designation, the new 442 had a four-barrel carburetor, four-on-the-floor (albeit an overdrive automatic, not a close-ratio Muncie), and dual exhaust. The engine was now Oldsmobile’s 307 cu. in. (5,033 cc) small-block V8 with 180 net horsepower (134 kW). Even by 1985 standards, its performance was not exceptional; Car and Driver‘s 1985 test car ran from 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in around 9 seconds and had a top speed of 113 mph (182 km/h). It handling was nothing special either, but the limited run of 3,000 cars sold out quickly. It received an encore in 1986, little changed, and appeared again in 1987, its last bow. The last rear-drive Cutlasses died the following year, along with the final G-body Monte Carlo and the Buick Regal, Grand National, and GNX.

1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon 442 front 3q
The mid-eighties 442 was an option package for the rear-drive Cutlass Salon in 1985 and 1986; the 1987 package was offered on the cheaper Cutlass Supreme coupe instead. Production totaled about 3,000 in 1985, a bit under 4,300 in 1986, and about 4,200 in 1987. (Photo: “1986 Olds 442” © 2007 Bamman; resized 2010 by Aaron Severson and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic license)

By then, Oldsmobile had hit the wall. The Olds brand had already become rather anonymous and Roger Smith’s mid-eighties reorganization stripped it of any remaining distinction from its Chevrolet and Buick stablemates. Increasingly anonymous styling and lackluster performance didn’t help and most yuppie buyers ignored Olds completely. Its traditional customer base was aging and the division was no longer adding many new buyers. Sales tumbled by more than 35% in 1987, falling an additional 20% the following year.

Noting the success of the front-drive, N-body Pontiac Grand Am, which Pontiac had successful marketed as a poor man’s BMW, Oldsmobile revived the 442 nameplate in 1990. Now called “Quad 442,” it was based on Oldsmobile’s own N-body, the Cutlass Calais, powered by the Olds-designed Quad 4 engine with 180 horsepower (134 kW). This time, Olds claimed the designation meant four cylinders, four valves per cylinder, and two overhead camshafts, but buyers were not convinced. Sales were dismal and the Quad 442 vanished after 1991.

The Cutlass name, now diluted beyond recognition, slowly faded away in the nineties. The Cutlass Ciera died in 1996, the Cutlass Supreme the following year. The last Cutlass, a clone of the undistinguished N-body Chevrolet Malibu, ended production in 1999.

Oldsmobile spent much of the decade trying to reposition itself as GM’s sophisticated “import-fighter” division with the sleek new Aurora luxury sedan and the midsize Intrigue. It was to little avail. The middle-class customers who had made Olds so successful in earlier years had since turned to Japanese sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

In December 2000, GM announced that it was pulling the plug on the Oldsmobile division. Production ended in April 2004.


Despite its remarkable longevity, the Oldsmobile 442 remains one of the more obscure Detroit Supercars, perpetually overshadowed by the GTO and the big-engine Mopars. In some respects, it was a better car, but its conservative looks, obscure name — even Oldsmobile often seemed unsure what “442” meant and it didn’t exactly roll off the tongue — and half-hearted marketing left it feeling a little stolid.

By contrast, the same middle-of-the-road quality that kept the 442 from being a serious contender was exactly what made the regular Oldsmobile Cutlass such a success. The Cutlass was a thoroughly ordinary car, but it made a decent stab at being all things to all people, offering everything from Vista Cruiser station wagons to personal luxury coupes. It was much like that great exemplar of American culture, the all-you-can-eat buffet; the food wasn’t great, but there was something for everyone and the price was right.

Unfortunately, in its pursuit of the mass market, Oldsmobile sacrificed any semblance of brand identity. When it began losing its traditional buyers, it had no outstanding qualities to attract new ones. Later offerings like the Intrigue were competent, but not exceptional. In some ways, they were just as good as their Japanese rivals, but there was no compelling reason to buy one instead of a Camry or Maxima, so few buyers did.

We’ve said before that the blind pursuit of greater volume is a perilous endeavor. In the short term, it can be extremely lucrative, but the tastes of the mass market are always changing and if you sacrifice too much of your brand identity, you’ll have nothing left when their attention shifts elsewhere. It’s too late now for Oldsmobile — and perhaps GM — to learn this lesson, but Toyota and Honda would be well advised to pay close attention.



Our sources for the development of the F-85, Cutlass, and 442 included the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, Encyclopedia of American Cars: Over 65 Years of Automotive History (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, 1996); Linda Clark, “1964 Oldsmobile 442: Muscling in on the Ponycars,” Special Interest Auto #69 (June 1982), reprinted in Cutlass And 442: Muscle Portfolio 1964-1974, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1998), pp. 124-131; Daniel Strohl, “Objectified Oldsmobile,” Hemmings Muscle Machines November 2004; and Helen Jones Earley and James R. Walkinshaw, Setting the Pace: Oldsmobile’s First 100 Years (Lansing, MI: Oldsmobile Division of General Motors Corporation, 1996). Additional details came from the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, Auto ’90 Vol. 516 No. 1 (1990), and Encyclopedia of American Cars: Over 65 Years of Automotive History (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, 1996); Keith Dickson, “OLDSmobility – The 1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass and 442 Resource” (3 March 2003, www.oldsmobility. com, accessed 9 February 2010); James M. Flammang, “1962-63 Oldsmobile F-85 Jetfire: First Wave of the Future,” Collectible Automobile Vol. 19, No. 6 (April 2003), pp. 9-17; John Gunnell, ed., Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975, Rev. fourth edition (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2002); John Heilig, “Cutlass Supremacy: The Story of Oldsmobile’s 1973-77 Intermediates,” Collectible Automobile Vol. 22, No. 2 (August 2005), pp. 8–21; Tim Howley, “1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire: Turbo Before Its Time,” Special Interest Autos #152 (March-April 1996), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Oldsmobiles: driveReports from Hemmings Special Interest Autos magazine, ed. Terry Ehrich (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2001); John Lee, “The J-2 Rocket Engine,” Special Interest Autos #114 (November-December 1989), reprinted in ibid; “Olds FAQ — 442” (10 October 2000, Oldsmobile Mail List Server Community, The Olds FAQ, www.442. com/ oldsfaq/of442.htm, last accessed 8 February 2010); and B.T. Van Kirk, “1968-84 Hurst/Oldsmobile: Executive Hot Rod,” Collectible Automobile Vol. 17, No. 3 (October 2000), pp. 8-21. Former Pontiac ad executive Jim Wangers also offered some useful observations about the late John Beltz in a telephone conversation with the author on 17 September 2009.

Information about the Vought F7U Cutlass came from Greg Goebel, “[1.0] Crusader in Development,” v2.0.8, Air Vectors, 1 December 2014, www.airvectors .net/avcrus_1.html, accessed 1 December 2014; Jim Winchester, “Type Analysis: F7U Cutlass: The Navy’s ‘widowmaker,'” International Air Power Review Vol. 15 (2005), pp. 98–113; and the Wikipedia® entry (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F7U_Cutlass, accessed 8 February 2010). Background on the abortive McDonnell XF-85 Goblin came from Joe Baugher, “McDonnell XP-85/XF-85 Goblin,” www.joebaugher. com/ usaf_fighters/p85.html, accessed 8 February 2010.

We consulted the following period road tests: “Car Life Road Test: Oldsmobile F-85 Jetfire,” Car Life Vol. 10, No. 4 (April 1963), pp. 31-35; “Oldsmobile F-85” Motor Trend February 1961; “Car Life Road Test: Oldsmobile F-85,” Car Life May 1961; “Oldsmobile F-85,” Car and Driver May 1961; Bob McVay, “Oldsmobile F-85 Cutlass: Softly sprung F-85 offers luxury and performance sans blower,” Motor Trend July 1963, reprinted in Oldsmobile Automobiles 1955-63 (Brooklands Road Test Books), ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1989); “Oldsmobile Cutlass 442: Springs and Things Put This Olds Right ‘Where the Action Is,'” Car Life August 1964; Bob McVay, “Hot Olds F-85 Cutlass Road Test,” Motor Trend September 1964; “Car and Driver Road Test: Olds 442: A comprehensive, sophisticated package of options, aimed right at the Pontiac GTO market,” Car and Driver May 1965; “Car Life Road Test: Oldsmobile Cutlass 442: Handle Bars Make the Difference,” Car Life May 1965; Bob McVay, “Olds F-85 442: Mighty 442, a real driver’s machine, fuses lightning-fast performance, excellent handling with family comfort and utility,” Motor Trend May 1965; John Ethridge, “Olds 442 Road Test (The ‘2’ could also stand for ‘dual personality’),” Motor Trend June 1966; “Car Life Road Test: Tri-Power 442: Oldsmobile’s Performer Meets the Challenge,” Car Life August 1966; John Ethridge, “Olds swings a pair of keen Cutlasses,” Motor Trend February 1967; Roger Huntington, “Turnpike Cruiser: Oldsmobile Designs a Long-Legged, Strong-Willed Gas Miser,” Car Life April 1967; “Cutlass (Kut’las), n. a short, heavy, slightly curved steel weapon,” Road Test February 1968; “Car Life Road Test: The Handler: Olds 442: Long one of America’s most surefooted Supercars, this swift new version still shows its claws in corners”, Car Life June 1968; Mal Bracken, “The Opulent Olds Cutlass SX,” Motorcade April 1970; Joe Oldham, “Hurricane Outrageous…the ‘O’ is for Dr. Oldsmobile’s stormin’ W-30,” Cars August 1972, reprinted in Cutlass And 442: Muscle Portfolio 1964-1974, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1998); “Car Life Road Test: 1964 Oldsmobile Cutlass Holiday,” Car Life December 1963; Eric Dahlquist, “Olds 442,” Hot Rod March 1965; Danny Collins, “Olds Rocket Launcher,” Auto Topics September 1965; “Car and Driver Road Test: Oldsmobile 442,” Car and Driver December 1966; Bill Sanders, “Olds 442,” Motor Trend October 1968; “Olds W-30: As if W-31 wasn’t hot enough,” Road Test, March 1970; “Car Life Road Test: The Great Escape: If we had a getaway to make, we’d do it in a W-30 442,” Car Life March 1970; “RT/Test Report: Olds 442,” Road Test May 1971, reprinted in Oldsmobile Muscle Portfolio 1964-1971, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1999); Martyn L. Schorr, “CARS Road Test: 1,000 Miles in a 442 Olds,” Hi-Performance Cars April 1967; Bill Hartford, “Popular Mechanics Owner’s Report: What Cutlass Owners Say About Their Cars: Olds Cutlass: Performance Yes, Economy No!” Popular Mechanics May 1967; “We compare the $4,000 American Sport Sedans: Cyclone GT – GTA – GTO – 442 – GS400 – SS396 – GTX – R/T – Rebel,” Road Test June 1967; David E. Davis, Jr., “Modern Muscle: Grab your Frankie Valli cassettes and we’ll see you at the beach,” Car and Driver Vol. 31, No. 1 (July 1985), pp. 38-43; Michael Jordan, “Oldsmobile 442: Lean, mean, and born to run,” Car and Driver Vol. 23, No. 8 (February 1978), pp. 64-70; Alex Meredith, “SIA comparisonReport: 1966 GTO vs. 1967 4-4-2: First-Generation Muscle Machines,” Special Interest Autos #122 (March-April 1991), pp. 18–26; and Bill Sanders, “Now You Can Have It Too: Econoperforleration* (*Economy, Performance, Acceleration): Oldsmobile Has Added It for 1968,” Motor Trend Vol. 20, No. 7 (July 1968), pp. 94–97.



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  1. I owned an 83 Hurst/Olds, bought it brand new, same body style as the last picture, black with gray rockers, red interior, chrome Olds mag wheels and t top, compared to the “mid size fast cars of the day it flew,routinely raced that bitch and could beat super coupes and lemans. Nicest driving long hauler I ever owned, the Hurst lightning rod shifter was a joke but looked cool. Then I got married and my wife rolled the damn thing in a snow bank, Detroit locker rear end was shit on snow, got more compliments on that car and some day I will find one to collect

    1. We’ll actually be talking about the Hurst/Olds next week.

  2. Nice article. I always liked the Cutlasses from the 1960s and 1970s. The 4-4-2, in particular, always seemed to be a cut above other muscle cars in sophistication and substance.

    What Olds didn’t seem to get in the 1960s was the importance of marketing and image. The cars were usually as good as anyting else out there, and in some ways better, but the division’s image was far too staid, at least until the Toronado came along for 1966.

    In 1965, for example, Pontiac ads were shouting about GTO Tigers and using very stylish artwork to make the cars seem even longer, lower and more glamorous than they really were. The television ads were just as effective and carried the same message.

    Meanwhile, log on to youtube.com and enter “1965 Oldsmobile commercials,” and you’ll be treated to a series of black-and-white ads featuring a stern, short, middle-aged, balding guy barking out the attributes of the 1965 Oldsmobiles. He looks like a typical crabby high school principal. Hardly a great way to cultivate a “with it” image during the go-go years of the mid-1960s.

    In the 1970s, Oldsmobile really hit its stride.
    My parents faithfully bought Oldsmobile Delta 88s. Oldsmobile hit the sweet spot during those years with people like my parents. They didn’t want a Chevrolet or a Ford (too common), but a Cadillac or a Lincoln would have been too ostentatious. Pontiac seemed to be adrift without any real image, aside from the Trans Am, and respectable suburbanites did not dream of baiting the police in a black-and-gold F-body.

    Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth were hardly worthy of notice, and had questionable quality reputations even back them. Mercury was a glorified Ford. The only real alternative was Buick, although my parents, if they had been willing to stretch a little, would have considered a Ninety-Eight. That was their “dream car.”

    Meanwile, many younger people were buying the Cutlass Supreme coupes. They were considered quite stylish during the day.

    In some ways, for people of a certain age, it’s still hard to believe that Oldsmobile went away. But then, we would never have believed that GM could go bankrupt, either.

  3. [quote=pennsycarfan]What Olds didn’t seem to get in the 1960s was the importance of marketing and image. The cars were usually as good as anyting else out there, and in some ways better, but the division’s image was far too staid, at least until the Toronado came along for 1966.

    In 1965, for example, Pontiac ads were shouting about GTO Tigers and using very stylish artwork to make the cars seem even longer, lower and more glamorous than they really were. The television ads were just as effective and carried the same message.

    Meanwhile, log on to youtube.com and enter "1965 Oldsmobile commercials," and you’ll be treated to a series of black-and-white ads featuring a stern, short, middle-aged, balding guy barking out the attributes of the 1965 Oldsmobiles. He looks like a typical crabby high school principal. Hardly a great way to cultivate a "with it" image during the go-go years of the mid-1960s.[/quote]

    You’re absolutely right, and it’s important to note that Oldsmobile advertising is exactly what GM corporate management thought their marketing should be like. Pontiac’s aggressive approach gave Jim Roche and Fred Donner (GM’s chairman and president in that period) absolute fits — they were constantly making angry calls to Pete Estes and later John DeLorean, telling them to tone it down. DeLorean said Roche particularly hated the tiger theme. By 1967, the corporation demanded that Pontiac show them all ad spots before they ran, trying to keep it in check. Once DeLorean left in early 1969, subsequent Pontiac management was much more acquiescent, which is why (as you note) Pontiac’s image was sort of adrift in the seventies.

  4. When I was a kid, we owned a 1962 F85 4-door up until 1977. It was a fine car, but the generator charging system just wasn’t reliable. I remember changing brushes on the generator several times with my father and the voltage regulator a few times as well. The 215 V8 was a great engine. We never had any problems with it. The induction sound was intoxicating. Someone actually offered to buy the car to use the engine for racing.

    The model we had was basically a stripper. Manual steering, manual drum brakes, manual windows, no air-conditioning. Nothing. Just an engine, transmission, body, 4 doors and that’s it.

    As far as the transmission, I could have sworn it was a Turbo Hydramatic.

    I remember many fine summer days driving with the windows down and enjoying the wind in my face.

    1. The 1961-1963 F-85 and Cutlass used the Model 10 Roto Hydramatic. Other than the name, it had nothing in common with the later (and far superior) Turbo Hydramatic. The Roto Hydramatic was essentially a scaled-down, simplified version of the old dual-coupling H-M, removing the front planetary gearset (cutting it from four speeds to three) and fluid coupling and adding a stator to the second coupling to make it a torque converter.

      The Turbo Hydramatic was also a three-speed torque converter automatic, but the similarities ended there. The THM used a Simpson gearset, and its operation was very different. It was also positive and durable, which could not be said of the Roto Hydramatic.

  5. I own a 64 f-85, has a 308 with center console,tach, and bucket seats. Two door. Can’t find any information about this car. Any thoughts?

    1. A 308? Cam? Engine?

      A stock ’64 F-85 or Cutlass would have a 330 cu. in. engine (with either 230 or 290 gross horsepower, depending on carburetion); that was the only engine available that year. If it has an Olds 307, it’s the result of an engine swap — the 307 was a much later derivation of the Olds small block, introduced in 1979 or 1980.

      Olds did have 308-degree [i]camshafts[/i] for both the small-block and big-block engines; it was used on the W-31 engine a few years later. I’m not sure if that cam would work with a 330, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

      The buckets, console, and tachometer were all regular production options, so there’s nothing particularly unusual about those.

  6. The 1967 white “442” with blue stripes is a clone and a poor attempt. A true 442 has a non-functional louvered hood, blacked out tail light surrounds & trunk strip and the grille bar on the cutlass model was the thick one pictured here.
    Sorry, I spent allot of time researching them whilst looking for one for my dad to restore.

    1. Okay, thanks. I’ve amended the pictures and captions; I don’t have other photos of the ’66-’67 4-4-2 to replace them with at the moment, although I’ll looked to do that in the future.

  7. As the bean counters slowly usurped the reins of GM, marketing became even worse as was demonstrated in the 90’s with their ad “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile”. It certainly wasn’t. That was a 442 and your grandfather’s was one of the Rocket 88’s with all their racing accolades. It showed how little marketing pinheads knew about the history of their own company. Not surprising, it was the first to get the ax. So, Pontiac’s next and I guess it’ll come down to one car, probably Chev, which will be nothing but a Toyota with Chev decals.

  8. Just stumbled upon your site recently (a reference from TTAC), and I have to say, I’m hooked. I see you also have an article about the Hurst/Olds, but what about the forgotten Olds factory hot-rod, the Rally 350, often referred to as the “executive’s hot rod”?

  9. I owned a ’69 442 from 1979 to 1981. My car was equipped with the 400 C.I. V-8, Muncie “Rock Crusher’ 4 speed with factory Hurst shifter, 3.73 12 bolt positraction rear end and the Tick-Tock-Tach. The ’69 442 was a torque monster and a pretty good handling car for its size. I autocrossed the big Olds very successfully against Mustangs and Camaros since the Olds was always bumped up to the pony car class.

    The Olds had a hard life before I bought it. I straightened out the body and painted it Charcoal Gray to offset the Dark Red interior and Black vinyl top and finished it off with black stripes. I sold the car to a 16 year old in the fall of 1981. The last time I saw the car was in Youngstown, Ohio around 1985. It is one of the few cars I wish I’d kept.

    1. In 1969 I bought my first Oldsmobile, a 1966 442 two door coupe; red with a black vinyl
      top. It came equipped with tri-power and a four speed. I think it had a hurst shifter. It was used when I bought it. It was my corvette,road runner eater. It was extremely fast and also a great road car. I got into a lot of trouble with that car. Never lost a race except against my buddy’s 57 chevy with a 454 tunnel ram. Top speed was over 130 mph as recorded by the highway patrol. Possibly the best car I ever owned. Still miss that car!

  10. You give short shrift to the 1968 version of the Cutlass, which is a shame–those cars 9esp. the versions from 69-71) were quite remarkable. The first car I ever bought was a used 71 Cutlass coupe. It was a fantastic car–smooth, fast pick-up, surprisingly crisp handling, and a comfortable ride. It was the the perfect road trip car, and more fun than bigger vehicles. The 69-71 Cutlasses and Skylarks were legendary for their reliability and durability. The bodies sometimes were undermined by salt (mine wasn’t for some reason), but it was not unusual for people to get 125-150K miles out of the drivetrains, which was quite novel for US cars of that era. Mine was totaled in a relatively low speed accident (no damage to me) with over 100K miles, but I never owned a car that so well combined power, comfort and handling until my 1999 Passat which lacked the Cutlass’ reliability and durability. Those cars also had really classic styling in the coupes (the 4 doors had more awkward proportions–Chevy did a better job with those). The next generation cars were not only less well built, they just seemed bulky by comparison.

    1. Except for an unfortunate typo (which I just fixed), I’m not sure how the ’68 Cutlass is shorted here, since it has a whole section of an article on the whole run. I just didn’t have any photos of the ’68 at the time of writing.

      I’ll freely admit I’m not a fan of the looks of the 1968-69 A-bodies, although I do think the 1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass is the best-looking of the bunch. I agree that the two-doors look better than the four-doors (as with a lot of cars from the ’60s and ’70s, one gets the impression the two-doors were done first and the sedans were an afterthought).

  11. I’m looking at a 1963 F85 cutlass convertible that claims to have an original 394, 345 hp. 440 ft. lbs. torque engine. I cannot find anything to support this engine being offered as an option in this car. Only available in the dynamic 88 or police cars as I see it. Any thoughts on this?

    1. The 394 was never a factory option in the F-85 or Cutlass and certainly not in 1963. Even when Oldsmobile had authorization to off an engine bigger than the 330, they went for the new 400, not the relatively elderly 394. So, while there were occasionally odd factory one-offs built for VIPs or favored customers, that one sounds unlikely. Is it actually a 1963 Cutlass? The most obvious explanation would be that somebody is misreading the VIN (which changed format after 1963) or something like that.

  12. Will a non over drive floor shifter work in a over drive floor shifter 1987 cutlass salon

    1. I can’t advise you on modifications and repairs, sorry!

  13. I apologize if this has been covered, but two of the differences in a 442 compared to GTOs and SSs and GSs were the rear sway bar, which every 442 hack (and became common later on Chevelles with the F-41 suspension), and the “convertible”frame, which every 442 had at least thru the 60’s. Instead of being just an open inward facing “C” channel in the middle, the perimeter frame rails had an additional slightly smaller “C” channel nested inside with the opening facing out, giving you a “fully boxed” frame, a ” boxed girder”. Far far stiffer for a minimal weight increase.

    Used on convertible, taxi’s, and police cars – and all 442s. The convertible frame was an option on 64/65 Chevelle sedans and hardtop, and it was cheap, but very few were bought and it wasn’t an option after 65. I’m a Chevy guy, but the difference the frame made can’t be overemphasized.

  14. I have a black 1975 442 Cutlass with a built up 455.The car is a larger and heaver than the 1964 – 1972 cutlass, doesn’t look as classic ether. But does have it’s good points.It is a more modern driving car than the older years.Because of the stronger frame better steering, factory disc brakes and rally suspension.It is also more aerodynamic and comfortable at speed.Belive it or not this cutlass body style has aged well,with the chrome and the curvy body.The factory white stripes look great on the black body.The black interior has swivel buckets also.It is to bad Oldsmobile only made 6,227 in 1975.About 2% of cutlass sales.It is a overlooked fun big blocked car from the 70’s.

    1. The Colonnades had their faults, but the chassis really was much improved compared to earlier A-bodies. The earlier 442 was, in some respects, more a mitigation of the flaws of the midsize A-body chassis than anything else; “less bad” as opposed to “more good.” I’m not much of a Colonnade fan from a styling standpoint, but I will agree that with the right combination of trim and color, they can look pretty sharp.

    2. One thing to point out is that Olds continued the 442 package for all of the 1973-77 Colonnade era. GTO and Malibu SS were only ’73, and Buick Gran Sport ’73-’75, [with no Stage-1 455 in ’75].

      IMHO, these 442’s were the best of the attempted ‘continuations’ of sporty A body coupes.

  15. Appreciate the article! I own one of the 148 F-85 Base Club Coupe 442s from 1964. Bench seat, vinyl floor, four on the floor.

  16. Why did GM ban multiple carburetors? I’ve heard they can be hard to service and with low sales it might have been difficult to train mechanics to warranty fix them. Or maybe because they don’t add much power, just for looks. My experience with cars of that era is that their is much more power to be gained on the exhaust side than the intake. Most cars had very restrictive exhaust manifolds, so more carbs didn’t help much until you installed headers. But then you had to tune all those carbs all over again. Have you read anything about why they banned them? My favorite line in this article is about how offering multiple carbs really threw off the 442 name.

    1. If it were just a matter of sales or of feeling like there wasn’t much benefit relative to a big Quadrajet, I imagine it would have been left to the discretion of the individual divisions. I don’t know exactly what the rationale was for the corporate edict, but from the timing, I assume it was either 1) not wanting to appear to promote performance too much (a constant GM corporate preoccupation in this period); 2) concern about meeting emissions requirements, which were already in effect in California and about to take effect federally the following year; or 3) some combination of the two.

  17. Some bloggers/commenters on internet will exaggerate and claim “Cutlass Supreme coupe was the #1 selling car in the mid 70’s!”

    But, it was the whole 1976 mid-size Cutlass line-up that was #1 that single model year, not just the Supreme coupes. Included in the sales #’s were 4 doors, wagons, and [non-Supreme] coupes. Some either forget, or don’t know, that there were other Cutlass models in 73-77.

    1. I think the other issue there is that people forget that the ’76 Cutlass Supreme series was not limited to coupes (although those were the best-selling iteration). There was also a Cutlass Supreme sedan and a Cutlass Supreme Cruiser wagon that year.

  18. From the article, “The obvious question is why Olds did not simply use the big 394 cu. in. (6,460 cc) Rocket V8, which offered up to 345 gross horsepower (257 kW). While it was 73 lb (33 kg) heavier than the small-block 330, the 394 was not a great deal heavier than Pontiac’s 389 and probably would have fit under the hood of the F-85 without much difficulty. On the other hand, the Rocket was then nearing the end of its long life; it was due for a ground-up redesign for 1965.”
    This is very misleading, as the so-called “redesign” actually was realized in the 330 cubic inch engine that was introduced in model year 1964. The 400 and 425 cubic engines introduced for model year 1965 have identical architecture and detail design to the 330 engine, except for a raised deck, longer stroke and other secondary dimensions.
    As always, my input is intended to be constructive, to the purpose of bringing your tremendous body of work closer to perfection!

    1. Fair enough. I changed the second sentence there to read “On the other hand, the existing Rocket engine was then nearing the end of its long life; it was due to be replaced for 1965 by tall-deck derivatives of the 330, which was a new and significantly more modern design.” The point I was trying to make was that it probably wouldn’t have made a lot of sense trying to fit the outgoing “big” Rocket engine, since it was shortly to be replaced. And, of course, once it was, Oldsmobile did indeed install the new 400 in the 4-4-2.

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