Saturday, May 28, 2011

1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass

Action Leader of the Low-Price Field
Text and Photography by David W. Temple

This Cutlass, painted Provincial White, was owned by Bob Lorenz, Sr. of Longview, Texas at the time it was photographed. The car is equipped with the 260hp 330 V-8, automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, air conditioning, radio, console, wire wheel covers, light package, and tachometer.
Oldsmobile’s first use of the Cutlass label occurred when they applied it to a sporty two-seater Motorama show car in 1954; inspiration for the monogram came from a Navy fighter plane of the day. In 1962, the designation was used again on a six-passenger compact coupe and convertible in the F-85 series which itself had debuted the previous year in response to the growing foreign import compact car market. Standard equipment for the new Cutlass included the 185hp“Rockette” aluminum block V-8 which represented the second most potent engine available in the F-85 series. The top-of-the-line in the F-85 series, the Jetfire, had an exclusive turbocharged version generating 215hp. Olds’ larger displacement 394 was reserved for their full-size cars. Also offered for the F-85 Standard and Deluxe models was an overhead valve, cast-iron V-6 displacing 225 cubic inches. After the 1963 model year the aluminum V-8 (as well as the turbo) was replaced by a more conventional cast iron small block, but the V-6 remained in use through 1966.
A 250hp 330 V-8 was standard in the Cutlass, but this one is powered by the optional 260hp version.
Not only did Oldsmobile replace their aluminum engine they also trotted out a new body design for their F-85 series. No longer was it a compact. Instead, management opted for an intermediate size body in response to Ford Motor Company’s great success selling their intermediate 1962 and 1963 Fairlane series. Base prices for the F-85 lineup in ’65 ranged from a low of $2,344 (two-door Standard Club Coupe with V-6) to $2,983 (Cutlass convertible) making them very competitive within the price range of the Fairlane 500.
Bucket seats were standard issue on the V-6 powered F-85 Deluxe Sports Coupe and the F-85 Cutlass. Vinyl upholstery was also standard for these models.
Competition of another matter was on the minds of auto manufacturers during this time – professional racing. During the late ‘40s and ‘50s, racing became a popular sport and auto manufacturers backed racecar drivers because winning was good advertising. In mid-1957, however, the Automobile Manufacturers Association passed a ban on factory-backed racing activities. The move was intended to alleviate the undesirable attention of politicians in the federal government who were beginning to blame the way cars were made and advertised for the rising highway death toll. Many manufactures simply ignored the ban and hid their support. The Pontiac Division remained especially active in racing. Some GM executives did not like what was happening. Early in the ’63 model year, the edicts of no more clandestine support for racing and of placing smaller engines in small cars and larger engines in full-size cars became the official policy at General Motors. Specifically, no engine displacing more than 330 cubic inches was to be installed in the intermediate cars and that was exactly the displacement of the new Olds small block V-8. That presented a problem for those in charge at Pontiac. In order to maintain their racing image with the younger buyers, someone had to determine a way to get around the corporate policy. Pontiac ad executive Jim Wangers and Pontiac engineer John DeLorean did just that by creating the GTO option package for the intermediate-sized Tempest which included among other things a 389 V-8 – the same displacement engine reserved for the full-sized cars like the Bonneville. Corporate policy was not violated because the GTO was not a cataloged model – a nice loophole then and a nice one for musclecar enthusiasts today! The success of the arrangement kept the fuddy-duddy executives from being too unhappy over the sly maneuver. Olds was then free to offer an option package they dubbed 4-4-2 for their intermediate F-85 lineup; the name meant four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual transmission, and dual exhausts. Even the four-door models could get the option though only ten were ordered with it. The 4-4-2 became available late in the 1964 model year as a “police pursuit” package (option code B-09) consisting of a high-output engine and a heavy-duty suspension. Though smaller in displacement than the Pontiac 389, the 4-4-2’s engine was certainly no lightweight. The 330 that came with the option provided a 310 horsepower punch and 0-60mph acceleration in just 7.5 seconds. Its basic design would be used for the later 425 and continue in 350 and 403 cubic-inch displacements into the ‘80s.
Styling and mechanical revisions naturally emerged for the 1965 model year. Minor styling updates for the F-85 series included a modified grille and a 4-4-2 exclusive simulated air scoop ahead of the rear wheels. Furthermore, Olds limited the 4-4-2 option to the F-85 two-door V-8 models composed of the Standard, Deluxe, and of course, the Cutlass versions. The exciting 4-4-2 package of course received the spotlight in the motoring press thanks in part to a new 400cid rated at 345hp. (The new engine, incidentally, now meant 4-4-2 stood for 400 cubic inches, four-barrel carb, and dual exhausts.) However, for those wanting a sporty and luxurious car, but did not care to indulge in stop light-to-stop light grand prixs there was an alternative – the Cutlass powered with a more tame 330 rated at 250hp. Its mild performance came via a single two-barrel carburetor and 9.0:1 compression. Also, in between the base 330 V-8 and the 4-4-2’s 345hp engine was an optional 260hp 330 with a Rochester Quadrajet and 10.25:1 compression.
Wire wheel covers with the two-bar spinner were added by the owner during the partial restoration of the Cutlass. They definitely add some spiffiness to the appearance of the car.
Any two-door F-85 Cutlass with the right optional equipment was visually as sporty as the 4-4-2; only the enthusiast and the Olds dealer would notice the difference which was limited to the 4-4-2 badges mounted on the grille, fenders, tail light panel, and dash as well as the fake air scoop ahead of the rear wheels and a console between the bucket seats. However, bucket seats were standard on the Cutlass and a console with or without a tachometer could be specified for extra dollars. Options offered on the more powerful and more expensive 4-4-2 equipped Cutlass such as wire wheel covers with a two-bar spinner and a four-speed manual transmission were also available on cars without the 4-4-2 package. Such was why Olds advertised the F-85 as the “Action Leader of the Low-Price Field.” Of the 85,207 Oldsmobiles wearing the Cutlass name for the 1965 model year, 46,138 were two-door hardtops like the one shown here; barely over 25,000 F-85s were equipped with the 4-4-2 package.
The tilt steering wheel, console and tachometer on our featured F-85 Cutlass Holiday Hardtop were extra cost items.
The optional 6,000rpm tachometer is console mounted.
An AM radio is one of several options on this 1965 Cutlass.
Standard equipment for the Cutlass other than the 250hp 330 V-8 was comprised of a three-speed manual-shift transmission, deluxe steering wheel, padded dash, carpeting, heater/defroster, front seat belts, bucket seats, vinyl upholstery, and 7.35x14 tires. Extra-cost options and accessories included air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, power steering, power windows, radio, power antenna, automatic transmission, cruise control, and a positive traction rear end.
The 1965 Olds F-85 Cutlass Holiday Hardtop shown on these pages was owned by Bob Lorenz, Sr. of Longview, Texas at the time it was photographed. It has changed ownership at least twice since then. Bob first spotted the Cutlass while driving from Longview to Shreveport, Louisiana. While nearing Shreveport along I-20 he noticed the car sitting in a garage at a house along the access road. Coincidentally, two weeks later an attorney settling an estate called Bob at his auto restoration shop, R&R Restoration. The attorney was seeking an approximate valuation and a lead on a potential buyer for a 1965 Cutlass. In little time, Bob realized the attorney was asking about the very car he saw near the Texas-Louisiana border! He then proceeded to arrange for an appointment to inspect the Cutlass. Bob learned it had come from a private collection in Gonzales, Texas in the 1980s and had just recently been nicely repainted in its original shade of Provincial White. The black vinyl interior needed little to return it to factory fresh. Additionally, the Olds was well equipped in having the 260hp 330 V-8, automatic transmission, air conditioning, remote control outside rear view mirror, tilt steering wheel, power brakes, power steering, radio, console, and 6,000rpm tachometer. A deal was soon made which transferred ownership to Bob.
During a span of roughly one year, Bob and his son Bobby, color sanded and buffed the paint, buffed the stainless trim, detailed the engine compartment, dyed the headliner, and replaced the carpeting, package shelf, and arm rest bases. In addition, the drivetrain got new seals and the undercarriage was cleaned. 
Though over 46,000 Cutlass two-door hardtops were built for ’65, few like this one exist today. Those that did survive over the decades have often served as parts cars for the more collectible and rare 4-4-2 equipped examples or have become 4-4-2 clones. The allure of the 4-4-2 is clearly understandable, but the opportunity to present this car to the reader was viewed by us as a chance to show something much more typical of the ‘60s. Valuations of musclecars today tend to obscure the fact that the majority of buyers of the era simply could not afford the higher price of such models and the insurance premiums that went with them or simply were not interested in drag racing from stop light to stop light. Some just wanted a good looking, sporty, comfortable car such as the Cutlass to get them from point A to point B.


  1. Nice car. I'm looking into buying an f85 right now, with tack,stereo,tilt,260hp 330 engine and f85/330 emblems in tack. After reading this I'm liking what I see alot more.

  2. What i loved most about about this 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass car is the wheels! They are out of this world! Those wires just give the vehicle an amazing look. Good article David.

    1. Sadly they are not what they appear.They were a "fake" clip on wheel trim available as an extra cost option on various models - 1 of 4 types you could order with your car.

  3. I hope no-one takes offence at me posting the corrections above.I didn't set out to upset anybody but I, like most classic car owners am a often quite passionate about their chosen toys and the history behind them.It still gives me a buzz starting the Cutlass up and going for a blast.My Cutlass has a mildly warmed up engine (about 350hp) and a modified,shiftkitted TH350 3 stage transmission which always causes the car to break traction on the 1st to 2nd shift.Puts a lot of "muscle cars" to shame.Drives beautifully as well.Something the 442s were always known for from day one was handling although mine could be better in that area,Cheers

  4. I have a sweet 65! 1969 455 with C heads headers aluminum edlbrock intake. Turbine wheels. She's in primer. Has new floor. Any takers? 4000