Bold School: 1968 Oldsmobile 442
They don’t write songs about the 4-4-2 (Primus and Drive-By Truckers references aside), but they ought to. While Oldsmobile’s muscle car never gained the notoriety of those from its sister divisions at Chevrolet and especially Pontiac, when properly spec’d, it had the chops to run with any of them. The 1968 model year was a big one at Oldsmobile. GM’s intermediates, the A-bodies, received all-new, decidedly more curvaceous sheet metal. Naturally, many styling cues were carried over from previous years, most notably the ugly distinctive placement of the turn signals between the headlights. The 4-4-2 got a new engine. And last, but not insignificant, the 4-4-2 became a stand-alone model. While this probably didn’t mean much to the guy on the street then or now, it did say something about the division’s commitment to their muscle car. Related Photos: 1969 Oldsmobile 442 Hurst The 4-4-2 was offered in three body configurations: the base 2-door post, the sleek, racy hardtop coupe, and the always-sexy convertible. As with the sheet metal, the interior was completely redesigned and now featured the corporate Strato bucket seats and an updated dashboard and gauge package.
In 1968, Oldsmobile was still saddled by GM’s corporate edict capping engine displacement at 400 cubic inches for intermediate cars. This left the 4-4-2 and its corporate siblings trying to punch above their weight against their cross-town rivals. Substantially larger mills were on offer from both the Dearborn bunch at Ford and the Dodge boys.
Related: Browse galleries of muscle car photos
Oldsmobile’s base 400 engine for the 1968 4-4-2 was rated at 350 horsepower when matched with a 4-speed transmission. There was an automatic available, but this came with a mandatory downgrade in power to just 325. Double-dip of humdrum, anyone?
Though a casual glance at the spec sheets suggests the 1968 4-4-2’s engine was a carryover from the previous year, it was actually a new powerplant. The new 400 was a long-stroke, small-bore affair utilizing the crankshaft from Olds’ new 455-ci mill found in its full-size cars. Though peak horsepower and torque were unchanged from 1967, the rpm at which they occurred was lowered to 4800 rpm and 3200 rpm, respectively. This should have meant good things for engine longevity, at least in theory.
If a buyer had the foresight to tick the W-30 box on the option sheet, he was rewarded with a discreet pair of scoops beneath the bumper and 10 extra horsepower. Cold-air induction was the most obvious of the W-30’s features, but informed buyers recognized the importance of the package’s more aggressive camshaft, more robust valvetrain and fortified cooling system. Also standard with the W-30 package was the distinctive W-36 Rally stripe painted vertically on the front fenders just aft of the wheel openings.
Photos: See what the Oldsmobile 442 looked like in the 1970's
Car Life Magazine tested a 3.42-geared, 325-hp automatic and came up with a 0-60 time of 7.0 seconds and a quarter mile trip of 15.13 seconds at 92.20 MPH. They later drag-tested a W-30 version with 360-hp, a four-speed and optional 4.33 gears and recorded a fairly stout 13.30 seconds at 103.30 mph.
This model year was the high point of 4-4-2 production with 36,587 examples rolling off the line. W-30s accounted for just 1911 of 1968’s total 4-4-2 production run. How many of them have a Bocephus sticker is anyone’s guess.
Engine: 6.6L V8 / 7.5L V8
Horsepower: 325 - 360