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History of the 1968-1972 Oldsmobile 4-4-2
Buoyed by the success of the Pontiac GTO, in 1964 Oldsmobile began stuffing big V-8s into its midsize "A-body" hardtops and creating the 4-4-2, which variously during its lifetime stood for four-barrel V-8, four-speed transmission and two exhausts.
While the 4-4-2 package was initially available on Oldsmobile’s F-85 and Cutlass trims, for 1968, the 4-4-2 was its own model, in two-door Sports Coupe, Holiday Hardtop coupe, and convertible body styles.
The car benefitted from an attractive rounded redesign, and several engine options were offered on the 400-cid V-8. The base engine made either 325 or 350 hp (depending on automatic or manual transmission) and 440 lb-ft of torque. The W-30 option carried forced air induction. At the top of the lineup was a new Hurst/Olds – a partnership with transmission builder George Hurst that is sometimes even considered a separate model from the regular 4-4-2. The pairing allowed Olds to exploit GM’s ban on engines greater than 400 cid in midsize cars, and the Hurst/Olds carried a 455-cid V-8 putting out 390 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque. Just 515 of them were built in 1968, and the cars were good for 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds.
For 1969, Olds modified the nose of the 4-4-2 slightly and introduced a W-32 option in addition to the W-30. The W-32 used a detuned version of the forced induction 400 V-8. The Hurst/Olds also returned, though power was down 10 hp.
In 1970, GM lifted its prohibition on installing engines over 400 cid in midsize cars. As a result, Olds dropped the 400 altogether, as well as the Hurst/Olds, and made the 455-cid V-8 the high-performance option across the 4-4-2 lineup. The base powerplant was a small-block 455/365hp, while at the top of the range, the W-30 topped out at 370 hp thanks to a balanced and blueprinted 455 that had all the performance bells and whistles, including forced air induction, high-flow exhausts, special cam and performance carburetor.
Emissions and fuel restrictions led to a slight but notable drop in performance in 1971, and in 1972 Olds moved the 4-4-2 designation back to the options list on the Cutlass model and deleted it as its own model in the process. It was therefore relegated to an appearance and handling package, though the W-30 still offered decent performance with 300 hp. It’s worth noting that by 1972, horsepower ratings were by net rather than gross hp, which reduces the number further. The Hurst/Olds returned, with the high output W-30.
Moving forward, the muscle market was officially dormant, and America would enter a long, cold winter of limited performance from cars that had once carried it in spades, like the mighty Oldsmobile 4-4-2.
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