Oldsmobile 442

Rarity, performance and historical significance are the dominant themes of Milt Robson’s car collection. These are not mainstream machines; they come from the exciting fringes of their eras. At one extreme are the “strippers” – those drag racer specials marrying the cheapest, lightest bodies with the most powerful engines available. On the other side of the bell curve lay the glamour models – the plush, well-equipped top-drawer cars with the biggest big-blocks and price tags so large that low production numbers were virtually guaranteed.

After a four-year run as a stand-alone series, the 4-4-2 became a $29 cosmetic-and-handling package (indicated on build sheets as the “W-29”) for the 1972 Cutlass and Cutlass S coupes and Cutlass Supreme convertibles.

The W-29 included the FE2 suspension components (heavy-duty springs, heavy-duty shock absorbers, front and rear anti-sway bars, boxed lower control arms, and 14x7-inch wheels), unique stripes and badges, non-functional hood louvers and a package-specific grille. Sporty cutouts in the rear bumper accommodated dual exhaust outlets if ordered with big-block power.

Cutlass 4-4-2 hardtops featured stripped-down interiors with a two-spoke steering wheel and a vinyl or cloth/vinyl bench seat with rubber floor mats. Cutlass S 4-4-2s had the deluxe steering wheel, full carpeting, courtesy lights and a variety of seat choices, including the upscale Strato buckets to which a buyer could add an extra-cost center console.

Because GM stopped advertising its engines’ “gross” ratings with the 1972 model year, the base 4-4-2’s 350-cu. in. two-barrel V-8 produced 160 “net” horsepower. For $47, a buyer could gain an extra 20 horsepower with the L-34 four-barrel 350. Big-block motivation came in the form of an optional $188 455-cu. in. four-barrel L-75 V-8 that produced 270 net horsepower and 370 lb-ft of torque.

Checking the W-30 box on the order form brought the $648 L-77 engine – a 455-cu. in. four-barrel with low-restriction exhausts rated at 300 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque under the new rating system. With its aluminum intake manifold, functional fiberglass intake hood (W-25), heavy-duty cooling system and 3.42:1 rear axle gears, the W-30 powerplant was every bit as potent as the previous year’s 350-hp V-8.

The W-30 455 could be ordered as a Cutlass hardtop coupe or Cutlass Supreme convertible and was mated to a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission. According to T. Patrick Sullivan’s excellent book Oldsmobile 4-4-2 and W-Machine, of the 9,845 4-4-2 (W-29) packages ordered in 1972, 1,171 were convertibles. Only 113 of the 4-4-2 convertibles had the desirable W-30 engine, and only 33 of those were powered by the four-speed manual. Air conditioning could not be ordered with the W-30 option, and power brakes were only available when paired with automatic transmissions.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in November of 2010 at the Robson Estate, Gainesville, Georgia.

300 hp, 410 cu. in. V-8 with 8.5:1 compression and 410 lb-ft torque, four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual transmission, heavy duty coil springs and with front and rear anti-sway bars, dual exhausts. Wheelbase: 112"

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel

Gallery: Oldsmobile 442