Oldsmobile 442

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Keywords: Oldsmobile 442
Description: This is sort of a prickly subject because the factory was concerned with producing vehicles, not the desires of collectors thirty years later! So you will find some (maybe a lot) of stock, factory,

This is sort of a prickly subject because the factory was concerned with producing vehicles, not the desires of collectors thirty years later! So you will find some (maybe a lot) of stock, factory, not mickeyed, un-numbers matching vehicles.

It seems to be a matter of record here on the list that Olds was kind of "loose" with the correspondence between the series designation in the VIN and the style number on the body plate, in the period of 1968-1969. As much as we would like to think that Olds inscribed those numbers on the cars purely for the sake of collectors verifying the correctness of these cars thirty years after the fact, the real purpose of them was convenience and record-keeping in the production process. So, if the Lansing plant was able to produce 442's efficiently, with the right parts, by simply installing all the parts in the regular Cutlass bodyshell (which would differ from the 442 shell by only two digits in that data plate), then there's no reason for them not to. Of course, the VIN would have to reflect the models that the dealers actually ordered, and since different prices were given for the different models, a dealer who was expecting a VIN beginning with 344 would feel cheated if he got a list of an incoming car beginning with VIN 336.

After all, these were just humans who built this car, so it's conceivable that a body destined for a regular Cutlass ended up being assembled as a 442. When you've got three plants producing these cars, each at times with its own peculiarities in procedures,it's certainly a possibility. You could always search out the title on the car to see where that VIN has been, and what it's been affixed to. Also, check that the engine stamping matches the VIN.

In theory, the VIN and Body (cowl) Tag should match, but it is really the VIN that counts. For example, Lansing 442's (at least) came off the line with regular Cutlass body plates, even though the VIN is correct for a 442. However, someone could have changed the VIN - check for new rivets! One other way to think about this: if someone did alter the car to look like a 442, why would they add the VIN, but not the body plate, from a 442? A body plate is a lot simpler to replace; would someone with an original 442 try to pass it off as a regular Cutlass by installing a "336. " body plate?

The fact that the body unit # doesn't match the VIN serial number is not unusual either; it's the sequential number of that body, not the whole car that the body sits on. Unless you have evidence that the VIN has been doctored, you indeed have a 4-4-2.

If the engine number matches that would clinch it, but if it doesn't, that doesn't mean that your car isn't a 4-4-2 -- it just means the engine has been replaced. The VIN is the key. It sure sounds to me like your car is legit.

From 1968 to 1971, 442 became a model, like Toronado or 98 was a model (as in, a unique VIN). So the VIN started with 34467, 77 or 87 depending on the body style, to designate a 442. The 3 is for Olds, and the 44 stood for 4400 series. Only the 1968-71 442s carry a unique VIN.

From 1964 to 1967, the 442 itself was an option package, not a model. Then again in 1972 (to 1980 or so), 442 became a option again, available on certain F-85 and Cutlass models. Option code W-29 signified the 442 option during these two time spans. So in essence you could order a 1972 Cutlass with a 350 2 bbl carb and put the 442 option on it. For 1972 only, the W-30 option was a Cutlass that had the 442 package and a special engine that was designated in the VIN with the letter X.

Here's another opinion on this subject. In '72 and IMOO (in my own opinion) I don't believe there are any fake 442's, only Cutlasses with the 442 options added to them. Unless you consider a real 442 something that the factory put out, however many of the 442 options in '72 were dealer installed on regular Cutlass S models. Actually, the 442 model was dropped in '71. 1971 was the last year that Olds actually made a 442 model. In 1972 the 442 was just an option. So to recap if you see a '72 442, it's really a Cutlass S with the 442 option added, not a true 442 model car. You would actually refer to it as a Cutlass S with the 442 option. Which in most cases consisted of a suspension and stripe package. Other options were the OAI hood, 442 rear cut bumper. So, if you want to tell if the 442 option was added by the owner of dealer/factory just look very closely at the emblems, and other options and see if they were added correctly/professionally. That's it. OK.

Actually, while we're at this, let's not get too caught up in the "my 68-71 442 is 'real' and your earlier/later one is not". Come on. all GM did was mix and match parts in a given body shell (witness the 336- body plates on the 68-69 4400 series). Sure, documentation is important if you are attempting to promote the car based on its originality. Just keep in mind that the factory did a lot of screwy things over the years, which leaves us a lot to talk about (sort of like stamp collectors putting a premium on the mistakes).

Look for any type of documentation for the car. (Window Sticker, invoice etc.) This is really then only true way to verify this car. The are very easily copied.

Do a title search and try to find the original owner and ask him some questions. This should verify that the car is not stolen.

Check the engine and heads for the correct codes, and the intake manifold for the date codes for the year the 442 was produced. Air cleaner snorkel on a 442 faces the passenger side.

Check the serial number on the engine, stamped on a pad below the drivers side head at the front of the engine. This will probably require a mirror and possibly some cleaning. This should be 8 characters long and match the last 8 characters of your VIN.

Should have boxed lower rear control arms and a sway bar. These were usually the only cars of this series to get one. Also check for upper rear control arm to frame stiffeners, and front fender braces (behind the front wheelwells). Should have rear bumper cut-outs, 1968 - 1972.

Also, it would be a good idea to check the last six digits of the engine serial number (located on small machined pad below head, behind the alternator) against the last six VIN digits.

[ Thanks to Joe Padavano, Bob Handren, Bob Barry, Ray Moriarty, Kurt Heinrich, Fernando Proietto, Collyn Eastham for this information ]

Olds didn't release it until late summer 1964. The 442 was a parts bin special, squeezed out the door as a GTO-competitor. They basically took the B09 police option (290hp 330 V-8, HD suspension), mated it with the already available 4speed, added dual exhaust options, gave it a dual snorkel air cleaner, a cam (all of which brought the engine up to 310 hp), rear stabilizer bar, 442 badges, and called it the 442.

My guess is that the Olds engineers already had the 400 CID V-8 designed and tested, but not tooled for production, when the marketing department said "we need a 442 now!" or Bobut said "I require a 442. NOW ". The Marketing folks probably required at least 300hp, so the engineers took the B09 police pursuit package (a 290hp 330, dual exhaust option, stab bar), added the badges and sold 2999 units as a 442. A number of drag racers in southern Florida campaigned 290hp 4-speed F-85s in stock classes and did quite well.

As far as I know, Oldsmobile did no further advertising or promotion of the meaning of 442 after the 1965 advertising campaign.

The Turnpike Cruiser package included a 400 engine with a 2bbl. It was the 2-bbl 400ci motor, along with highway gears (2.56:1, usually), that was optimized for, you guessed it, cruising on the turnpike. In 1967 Olds offered the Turnpike Cruiser option on non-442 Cutlii. This was a 400 cu in 2 bbl motor with an unusual air cleaner assembly which used a hot air stove to help atomize the fuel for better fuel economy.

In 1968 a similar 2 bbl 400 cu in package was also offered, but that year it was on the 442 only. Also, the 400 was offered in the Vista Cruiser during those years. Press releases for '67 imply it was available on Cutlass Supreme sedans as well, but there was a later "downgrade" option for the '68-'69 442 with this type of combination, for those more concerned with effortless cruising than all-out performance. This idea was carried over for the early-production 2-bbl '70 SX, which came with the highway gear.



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