This 1966 Oldsmobile breaks the 4-4-2 code and looks stellar doing it

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The 1960s were an interesting time for the naming of automobiles and trucks. Nonsense names like Camaro appeared on dealer lots with the same frequency as conglomerations of letters and numbers. The alphanumerics seem to be winning the battle as of late, but there was one car that pulled off the three-digit code better than any other: The Oldsmobile 4-4-2.

The 4-4-2 nameplate joined the Oldsmobile lineup in 1964 as an options package on the existing Cutlass model. The numerical name derived from the added four-barrel carburetor, four-speed transmission, and dual exhaust. Then, an interesting thing happened in 1966. The L69 engine option replaced the single four-barrel atop the 400-cu-in V-8 with a trio of Rochester two-barrel carbs. Since the “342” name didn’t have the same cachet, 4-4-2 stuck—and made for a mean luxo-muscle car.

The 1966 4-4-2 Leno takes a look at in this episode is one of 2129 that got the L69 option that year. (We like the coupe, but some 240 ambitious L69 buyers opted for a convertible, which makes for one rare Olds.) The three-carb, 400-cu-in V-8 was rated at 360 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque. Route that through the standard Muncie four-speed transmission and you have a potent recipe for a fun-to-drive car.

Leno’s experience taking the car out on California roads backs up the promise of the spec sheet. This Olds stands out in all the right ways: The rumble of the exhaust note alludes to the power under the hood, but isn’t so loud that it screams, “Look at me.” The 4-4-2 is a car for those in the know—and now you can count yourself as one of them.

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