1971 was the last of the 4-4-2’s 4-4-2’s glory years. A performance package par excellence, it was GM’s longest-lived muscle car, tracing its roots all the way back to the heady days of ’64 when a 4-4-2 combo was made available for the Oldsmobile Cutlass F-85. Possibly some of the most refined slingshots ever to come from any GM division, 4-4-2s had looks, charisma, and brawn to spare. The 4-4-2 nomenclature stood for a four-barrel carb, four-speed manual transmission, and two exhausts.
Olds cleverly raided the store room, using hotshot parts previously only available to police departments. The deal was cheap and the noise on the street shattering. At $3,551, the superswift Hardtop Coupe came with a 455cid V8, Rallye suspension, Strato bucket seats, and a top whack of 125 mph (201 km/h). The 4-4-2 package might have run and run had it not hit the ’71 fuel crisis head on. Which proved a shame, because it was to be a long time before power like this would be seen again.
From 1964 to ’67, the 4-4-2 was simply a performance option that could be used on the F-85 line, but its growing popularity meant that in 1968 Olds decided to create a separate series for it in hardtop and convertible guises.
In addition to this Viking Blue, Oldsmobile added Bittersweet, Lime Green, and Saturn Gold to their 1971 color range.
Oldsmobile never tired of proclaiming that their 455cid mill was the largest V8 ever placed in a production car.
Safety reflectors were evidence of an age where federal safety regulations were being introduced.
Apart from the badge, the twin drain-pipe exhausts were the only clue that you were trailing a wild man.
Despite legislation that curbed the 4-4-2’s power output and led to the series being deleted after ’71, the 4-4-2 had made its mark and put Oldsmobile well up there on the muscle-car map.
Advertising literature espoused the 4-4-2’s torquey credentials: “A hot new number. Police needed it, Olds built it, pursuit proved it.” The 4-4-2 was dropped completely from ’81 to ’84, but revived in ’85, lasting until the final rear-wheel drive Cutlass was rolled out in ’87.
Unleaded fuel meant a drop in engine compression and therefore in speed.
Despite the cheap-looking, wood-grain vinyl dash, the 4-4-2’s cabin had a real race-car feel. Bucket seats, custom steering wheel, and Hurst Competition gear shift came as standard.
The sports console at $77 and Rallye pack with clock and tacho at $84 were extras.
1971 Cutlasses were offered in Convertible or Hardtop Coupe guise. 4-4-2s had bucket seats, wide-louvered hood, heavy-duty wheels, and superwide bias-ply glass-belted tires with white stripes. The hot $369 W-30 option included forced air induction, heavy-duty air cleaner, alloy intake manifold, body striping, sports mirrors, and special “W-car” emblems.
“Factory blue-printed to save you money,” screamed the ads. The monster 455cid V8 was stock for 4-4-2s in ’71, but it was its swansong year and power output would soon dwindle. By the late-Seventies, the 4-4-2 performance pack had been seriously emasculated.
In 1971 Olds churned out 558,889 cars, putting them in sixth place in the sales league.
Sales literature pronounced that “4-4-2 performance is strictly top drawer,” but in reality, unleaded fuel meant a performance penalty. Sixty could still be reached in under six seconds, though.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Oldsmobile 4-4-2 (1971)
PRODUCTION 7,589 (1971)
BODY STYLES Two-door coupe and convertible.
CONSTRUCTION Steel body and chassis.
ENGINE 455cid V8.
POWER OUTPUT 340–350 bhp.
TRANSMISSION Three-speed manual, optional four-speed manual, three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic.
SUSPENSION Front: coil springs; Rear: leaf springs.
BRAKES Front discs, rear drums.
MAXIMUM SPEED 125 mph (201 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 6.4 sec
A.F.C. 10–14 mpg (3.5–5 km/l)