2 December 2014

Oldsmobile 4-4-2: Happy 50th to a ‘Police Car’

Whatever you do, don’t call it the “four-forty-two.” It’s the “four-four-two.”

It’s the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Oldsmobile’s muscle car, the 4-4-2. Sad to say, we’re also marking the 10th anniversary of the Oldsmobile Division’s demise. That’s too bad, because General Motors’ current portfolio of powertrains and rear-drive platforms could have yielded a genuine, 400-plus horsepower 4-4-2. Oh well.

Pontiac had pulled a fast one to get the 1964 GTO into production, hiding its 389 cubic-inch V-8 inside an option package to skirt General Motors’ 10-pounds-per-cubic-inch limit rule. That is, a 3,400-pound Tempest should not have had anything larger than the Pontiac 326-cube V-8.

Oldsmobile had previously tried to boost performance in its F-85 compact, offering the turbocharged Jetfire coupe in 1962 and 1963. The results were problematic, to put it kindly. But even when the 1964 GTO’s instant success and profitability swiftly put an end to the “10 pounds” rule, Oldsmobile followed a cautious path to build its first muscle model.

Late in the 1964 model year, Olds cooked up the 4-4-2 package, also known as the “Police Apprehender Pursuit” package, which turned its compact into a credible muscle coupe or sedan. The 4-4-2 upgrade cost $285 on an F-85 and $136 on the upscale Cutlass.

The small 4-4-2 badges denoted the package’s 4-barrel carburetor, 4-speed manual transmission and dual exhaust. It must have been confusing to see a magazine ad for the 4-4-2 that showed two uniformed policemen in a sedan, though Olds did make a few 4-4-2 sedans that one season.

Oldsmobile built the 4-4-2 around its new 330 cubic-inch V-8, a low-deck version of its second-generation V-8. A high-deck version would yield the 400- and 425 cubic-inch versions the following year. The 330, which offered 290 horses in the Cutlass, was tweaked with a hotter cam and dual-snorkel air cleaner to yield 310 hp and 355 lb.-ft. of torque. While just 15 hp off the base GTO’s engine, the 330 was substantially down from the Poncho’s 428 lb.-ft. torque peak. And Olds had nothing to counter the GTO’s TriPower three-carb option.

The rest of the 4-4-2 package, however, reflected Oldsmobile’s focus on all-around performance. Olds gave the F-85 chassis a good going-over, using a stiffer frame and the police suspension package. In addition to stiffer springs and shock absorbers and wider redline tires, the package added a thicker front anti-roll bar and included a novelty at the time — a rear anti-roll bar.

Also something of a novelty, the only transmission you could get in the 1964 4-4-2 was the heavy-duty 4-speed. That would change in subsequent years, to meet market demand.

The first 4-4-2 was perhaps too low-key for the buyers the GTO was attracting. Olds gave the 4-4-2 redline tires but had yet to discover the youth appeal of hood scoops, chrome exhaust splitters and styled wheels. All of those would come in later seasons.

Motor Trend ran an Olds 4-4-2 from 0-to-60 in 7.5 seconds and the quarter-mile in 15.5 at 90 mph. The performance was just a bit off the pace of a standard GTO, but the Olds showed better handling prowess. The lack of a GTO-like image, along with the lack of tire-burning torque and lack of marketing, held 4-4-2 sales to just 2,999 for 1964 — 1/10 of GTO sales.

Olds learned the ropes quickly, and the 1965 4-4-2 package got the new 400 V-8 with 345 horses and 440 lb.-ft. of torque, plus the option of a two-speed automatic. The meaning of 4-4-2 became somewhat flexible; for 1965, it indicated a 400 cubic-inch engine, 4-barrel carb and dual exhausts.

Performance options, muscle car design cues and youth-baiting advertising escalated with each season. Among the highlights: the three-carb option for 1966-1967; the W-30 package with Forced Air induction and other performance upgrades; becoming a separate model for 1968; and getting the 455 engine in 1970 (after it had been used in the Hurst/Olds for two years).

Sales of the 4-4-2 peaked in 1968 at about 33,000 — a pretty good showing against 63,000 SS-396 Chevelles, 87,600 GTOs and 84,000 Plymouth Road Runners.

The Olds 4-4-2 left an indelible mark in the muscle car segment, even if Olds tarnished it somewhat by turning it into a trim package in the 1970s. A Hurst/Olds revival model in the early '80s gave way to a new 4-4-2 for 1985-1987, with a 4-speed automatic transmission, 4-barrel carburetor and, of course, dual exhausts for its Olds 307 cube V-8. About 11,500 were made over three years.

The final car to carry the 4-4-2 badge, a front-drive Olds Calais with a 4-cylinder, 4-valve, 2-cam Quad-4 engine, offered a quick ride but lacked the old muscle car magic.

40 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Harry Debra Motor City December 3, 2014 at 16:31
    And inspired a song by Blondie too. Maybe baby I could ride with you?
  • 2
    Marvin Surface Hutchinson, KS December 3, 2014 at 16:32
    Great article. It's always good to read about the history of one of the greatest muscle cars of all times, the Olds 4-4-2.
  • 3
    Barry Perque Westwego, La December 3, 2014 at 17:12
    I had my first 64 Olds Cutlass back in 1969. It had the 330ci and a three speed on the floor that quickly went away and I installed a four speed. It was my second car and first hot rod. Had much fun with that car and I made the mistake of letting it go I think sometime in the 70's. But in 1997 I got another 64 cutlass 442 clone that I still own. It has a 70's 455ci with a variable pitch turbo 400 and 3.23 12 bolt posi rear end. I think this car may have to go to my sons when I depart this earth.
  • 4
    RayM Aptos, CA December 3, 2014 at 17:23
    I had a 1966 4-4-2 convertible in the late 70's. With over 110K miles on it, it would STILL beat the "new" MBZ 450SLC both off the line, and top speed. I miss that car.........
  • 5
    Duane mrazek United States December 3, 2014 at 17:35
    1968-1972 BEST 442 EVER
  • 6
    Terry Bowman Howard City, Mi 49329 December 3, 2014 at 18:58
    Finally a little respect for 64 65 four four two's. I had my first 1965 almost new, when I was 17. I never got over her. Its a long story but after 40 years of dreaming. I finally have the use of one. She has saved my life. fighting a terminal disease. when I stop for gas often someone my age gets the 5 mile stare their shoulders drop, and they mumble something about memories. Can you identify.
  • 7
    Mark United States December 3, 2014 at 19:06
    Three carb was 1966 only.
  • 8
    Bo Barone Manhasset NY December 3, 2014 at 19:08
    What was the HP on the 1966 442 with the W-30 package? I owned a red 442 with tri-power but no ram inductions or special trim. Also what was the stock rear end ratio provided with the 4-speed.
  • 9
    John B NE Indiana December 3, 2014 at 19:18
    Minor correction, the 6-bbl L69 option was offered only in '66 and was required w/ the W30 OAI (outside air induction) option that was also introduced that year.
  • 10
    robert macioce massena, ny December 3, 2014 at 19:32
    owned a 67 442 4spd in 68, it was a awesome ride. raced many 68 GTOs and 383 Road runners and beat them all, wish I still had it. Mace
  • 11
    Frank Lansing December 3, 2014 at 19:43
    The only year the Tri-Carb was offered was 1966. Also, this is actually the 50 1/2 anniversary of the 442. By this time 50 years ago Olds was pumping out 65 442s.
  • 12
    Bouv United States December 3, 2014 at 19:47
    I have a 77, but have owned several over the years.
  • 13
    p johnson Rochester hills mi December 4, 2014 at 13:35
    great memories in a 65 yellow convertible ,I learned to drive a stick-shift on that one, WOW
  • 14
    Jeff Jones Tulsa OK December 4, 2014 at 17:35
    But the Buick lives on!
  • 15
    ferd the cloud December 4, 2014 at 18:25
    When I was in High School but not old enough to drive a guy down the street had what we felt was the perfect girlfriend - a very good looking blonde who drove a 1972 442 convertible. It was gold with black stripes and interior, and a manual transmission. It sounded great and she would light up the tires for us. We got mad at that guy for breaking up with her... his next girlfriend drove a dark brown Pinto.
  • 16
    Dean Shaffer Alabama December 4, 2014 at 07:05
    I have been a OLDS person since 1984 when I purchased one of the Hurst/Olds referenced in this article. I still have this car and have it insured through Hagerty. My purchase lead me to learning and collecting numerous items from both the 4-4-2 and Hurst. Great line of cars. Dean
  • 17
    jim johnson ga December 4, 2014 at 07:20
    Olds had the 370 hp 425 in 1965, If they had put that in the 442, they would have had a sure winner. I have a jetstar 1 with that enjine. It's a real Hoss.
  • 18
    Rick Charette Terryville, Ct. December 4, 2014 at 21:10
    I bought my 67 Olds 442 on my 17th birthday back in 71. That's where i discovered I had the need for speed. Have lots of great memories with that car even if it was short lived, I totalled it less than three months later.
  • 19
    joe leroux norwalk,ohio December 4, 2014 at 10:17
    I just got a 1971 olds cutlas s with yes 13042 miles on it!you can drive it with your baby finger on the wheel.we have had many old cars and this is one of the best ever built!!
  • 20
    J. Bruce Weeks Michigan December 4, 2014 at 10:21
    I had a '64 442 convertible, fully documented by the Olds History Center including the build sheet located under the back seat. I loved that car and would have another if I could find a good example to restore. The styling was better (in my eye) than the '65. I currently have two '66 Corvair Corsa's, one of which is getting the mid-engine V-8 conversion.
  • 21
    Doug Adkins Flat Rock MI December 4, 2014 at 10:27
    I needed a back seat, so I traded in my 1962 Corvette with 340Hp for a new 1964 442. I did not plan on mixing it up on the street, it just happened. First race was a GTO 3 times the 442 beat him. Surprise for me and him. Later I moved to Calif hooked up the 2 snorkel air cleaner to air tubes through the high beam head lights like the Ford Thunderbolts. The little Red 442 was a freak, any one that ran up against it in San Fernando Valley would remember it. The police suspension gave this car a leg up on all other muscle cars at the time.
  • 22
    H H Coffield Salisbury, NC December 4, 2014 at 11:23
    No pictures of an actual 442 police vehicle for your article, Hagerty? Come one, gotta be one out there somewhere.....
  • 23
    Phil Schostak Huntington Woods, Mi. December 4, 2014 at 11:30
    There is a 400+ HP rear drive GM performance mid size car available now. The Chevy SS is a fabulous, fast and luxurious sport sedan available now with a 6 speed tranny, Standard Brembo brakes and magnetic ride control! What a sleeper!!
  • 24
    Jim Koscs Hawthorne, NJ December 4, 2014 at 11:47
    Thanks to readers who caught the 1967 tri-power error.
  • 25
    Gary Schreiber Washington December 5, 2014 at 18:28
    I had a 1967 442 when I was 17 and going through high school and beyond and enjoyed every moment of that car and learned the Love of Oldsmobile. I sold it to my brother when another car fell in my lap and he then sold it to another friend all who fell for it as well. 11 years ago through a friend I was able to purchase the best of all a 1968 442 W-30 it has been an enjoyable experience and has some great race history and trophy's from the early 70's Black on Black with the Orange band on the fender. Best Car Ever.....
  • 26
    M Rothert Holland, MI December 5, 2014 at 10:02
    Bought a white, convertible when I got out of the Army in 1966, met my wife when driving it and still have it! Wonderful memories
  • 27
    Gary Wiley Oak Bay NB Canada December 5, 2014 at 10:46
    I once owned the only W30 Olds that came to Canada in 1966. It was made to go straight. I in the last 7 years have found a 66 in the woods of Northern Maine and have it restored. Would like to find a 400 or a 425 to replace the 455.
  • 28
    Dan Peterson Bremerton, WA December 5, 2014 at 00:48
    1964, finished finals and ready for summer break. I got a call from mom that I needed to pick up a 442 Police Apprehender Pursuit and drive it to the Olds dealership where she worked. It was about a 1 1/2 hour drive. I'm sure I made it in and hour! I eventually bought a 68 442. It really hauled.
  • 29
    Rod Dittmar Dexter, MI December 6, 2014 at 17:27
    Aahhhhh, my first new car! I was 19 years old when I went to Rowan Olds in Ypsilanti, MI and placed an order for a 1965 Olds Cutlass 442. I wanted a 2-door hardtop in Nocturne Mist with a light blue vinyl interior. 400 cubes, a 4-bbl carb & dual "crinkle pipe" exhausts. 3:55 posi rear end, 3 speed transmission (yes, that's correct) and a Hurst shifter on the floor. No A/C, no power steering, no power brakes, and the driver's outside mirror was a delete option. It had redline tires, a heater, and an AM radio. Awesome fun, I kept it for 15 years. I often wonder where it went…..
  • 30
    Chris Campbell Traverse City, MI December 6, 2014 at 22:35
    In 1969, my little brother talked my mother into buying a red 4-4-2. It was an automatic but a very nice car. I inherited it in about 1973 and kept it until I had to move in 1994. One interesting feature of that car was a speedometer that read about 10 mph under correct speed at 70. I discovered that the hard way with my grandmother in the car. Must have been the wrong drive gear.
  • 31
    Tony Greco St. Petersburg Fl. December 7, 2014 at 14:43
    I have one of the last 1987 442 made - Black & Silver, maroon interior, Non T type. Have won 2 best of show trophy's. Fun to drive.
  • 32
    Tom Bryant United States December 7, 2014 at 15:34
    I bought a new 1967 442 in June of 1967. Holiday coupe, white with red buckets and THM400. Had I ordered one in time it would have had disc brakes. Those little drums were just plain scary. Can't believe now that I drove that fast on the original 2 ply white stripe tires. Man I loved that car. I practically lived in it up to the time I was drafted. Got it back from my brother years later and had many more good times.
  • 33
    Walt Wozniak Garden City Mich December 8, 2014 at 15:38
    I had a 64 convertible, man wish I could have kept it but VietNam called and had no place to keep it.
  • 34
    Jack Faett Good Hart, MI December 8, 2014 at 17:46
    My Dad sold Oldsmobile's 1964-1968. His 1966 demo was a 442 - maroon - white top - buckets 4 speed. Have had a thing for 442s since. I now have a 1965 442 Convertible - just like the one in the picture for this article except white interior. Always an eye catcher the local shows!
  • 35
    STEVE NEW YORK December 14, 2014 at 14:07
    i have one of the last 1987 442 blue with blue interior ab=nd the sliding moon roof sweet car and fun to drive
  • 36
    Roger Doehring Michigan December 15, 2014 at 10:21
    I bought my 1966 Olds 442 brand new and added the W-30 package a few years later. (Only 54 were made from the factory) I still own it with 41,000 miles, original like new red paint, and original white interior, with 4 speed & 3.90 gears. I still love this car an still having fun taking it to car shows. It is a attention getter.
  • 37
    Mike Kasinsky Hastings,Mi December 20, 2014 at 17:24
    I own a 67 442 Holiday Coupe. Still has the original 400 and 400 TH (Turbohydramatic) both were rebuilt about 6 years ago. My wife and I thoroughly enjoy driving & showing it. Once, when someone asked me what year our GTO was,I told him to look at the front fender and tell me if there were three letters or numbers. He went and looked then said "my mistake"
  • 38
    Robert Stokes California December 23, 2014 at 20:58
    I bought my '67 442, 4-speed Holiday Coupe in 1970. I still own it and my eldest daughter has laid claim to it when I can't drive it anymore. This car has been a blast since the first day I drove it home and still turns heads everywhere I go. The cars of today may have more horsepower and better handling but there's nothing like getting behind the wheel of a classic muscle car!
  • 39
    mike krussell mt. prospect il. January 5, 2015 at 19:09
    I married in 1980. Had a 1966 G.T.O. for ten years prior that I constantly put a lot of time and money into. Decided to sell it to eliminate future problems. Some guy that was interested came by with a1964 4-4-2 for a partial trade . It was a post sedan. I due to my ignorance dismissed as a fake.Many years later I learned only 4 were built along with 7 hardtop sedans. Oh forgot to mention it was that turquoise with matching guts ........so I ran.
  • 40
    Rod Winston-Salem, NC January 8, 2015 at 13:09
    my first car was a 1964 f85. I recently found a restored 1964 f85 cutlass badged as a 442. The seller did not sell the car as a 442 cause he did not have documentation but did te same research as I've done and everything checks out that the car is a 442 with the exception that it has a bucket seats with console, tach on console and a three speed rather than a four speed. According to the family legend of this car, the original ordered it this way. Can this be a legitimate 442?

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