Monday, August 15, 2011

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado

Award Winning, Front Wheel Drive Sensation
Text and Photos by David W. Temple

The automotive press was ecstatic about an all new car in the Olds camp at the beginning of the 1966 model year – the first front wheel drive (FWD) production car since the 1937 Cord called Toronado. The editors of Hot Rod said in their October 1965 issue that the Toro was “... the most technically interesting and significant car to come out of the American auto industry since the 1960 Corvair; they have scored a technical breakthrough.” This same observation was echoed by Road & Track when they noted in their January 1966 issue that “No American car has caused such a flurry of technical interest as the Toronado has since that other extreme of American car design, the Corvair.” Those who evaluated the new creation from Oldsmobile for the February 1966 issue of Car Life had mostly praise for the Toronado, but did note a few features that were not liked. More will be said on that matter later. The people at Motor Trend selected the FWD car the winner of its annual “Car of the Year” award and lauded the engineers for their achievement in overcoming numerous technical problems to make the Toronado a “truly outstanding car” and noted that “... never in the 14-year history of this award has the choice been so obvious and unanimous. The Toronado is symbolic of a resurgence of imaginative engineering and tasteful styling in the U.S. auto industry.”
The origin of the Toronado was with Old’s 1958 Advanced Design Group project dubbed XP-784. The group was basically given a blank check in terms of investigating ideas to build a better car. Numerous concepts were explored including front-engine/rear-transmission designs; even engineering prototypes of such were tested. However, within a couple of years, the FWD arrangement had emerged as the most inviting. Even so, the FWD arrangement was seen as being packaged within a car the size of Oldsmobile’s F-85 with a look very similar to that of the first Corvair. In fact, a prototype was built from production Corvair parts, but with an aluminum 215 V6 mounted crosswise using two chains with one connecting the engine and transmission and the other the transmission and differential. Testing revealed good points (like excellent directional stability and handling) as well as bad ones. Solutions for the various problems encountered (such as shudder, chain noise, etc.) were carefully evaluated and rejected. As progress continued, it became clear another setup would be desirable. Fortunately, the Olds engineers were fully capable of solving the problems encountered.
Concurrent with the engineering side of the program, a marketing survey revealed the F-85/Corvair like automobile was not the best way to go. Instead, the study showed that buyers in the personal luxury and sports car classes were much more likely to accept something different; the FWD car would certainly qualify as different since there had not been one built in the U.S. since the late thirties. Thus, a full-size car with a big V8 became the preferred vehicle to showcase the front wheel drive technology.
As the design gelled further, the problems with the technical side were being liquidated one-by-one. Torsion bars replaced the coil springs in front; these allowed for a lower silhouette. Mounting the engine in the conventional manner made the design of the cooling system easier and freed up much needed space under the hood. New solutions led to new problems, though. For instance, the oil pan had to allow the right driveshaft to pass under the center main bearing cap, but the first design was shown to provide a possible source of oil leakage. A better design dealt with that potential, but it could trap oil in the front of the pan under some circumstances leading to oil starvation for the hydraulic valve lifters. A baffle and trough system finally remedied the situation. Eventually, chain noise, reliability, cooling, oiling, handling, damping, space limitations, etc. were dealt with successfully and the Olds Toronado adapted the General Motors developed Turbo Hydra-Matic. By separating the planetary gearbox section of the transmission from its torque converter drive unit, and swinging the gearbox 180 degrees so it lay next to the converter, the two could be reconnected by a drive chain in the transfer case. This arrangement along with the spiral-bevel gearset and all-spur gear differential drove the wheels through short shafts and constant velocity universal joints. Smoothness in the drive train came via the use of chain and sprocket components manufactured by Morse Chain Company in conjunction with Oldsmobile. The high velocity chain consisted of 124 links across its overall 46.5 foot length. The sprockets had bonded- in rubber cushioning devices to enhance drive line smoothness.
Before this system was developed, many experts for various reasons said, “It couldn’t be done.” Just in case the naysayers were proven right, GM had a parallel program in the works as a backup. The naysayers were not just thinking negatively; they had known the Cord FWD setup was not entirely ideal. (For example, it suffered from considerable wheel wobble and feedback that could be felt throughout the steering system.) However, the benefits of FWD were just too good to ignore – flat floor and full-depth cushions in both front and rear seat, large trunk space potential with the elimination of the differential hump, compact drivetrain that not only saved space but reduced vibrations and eliminated the deflections characteristic of long drivelines, improved directional stability especially in a crosswind, better handling and cornering, plus a chassis layout suited to the styling trend of the time (long hood/short deck).
The program that began in 1958 was about ready to go into production six years later. A Toronado demonstrator was ready for engineering evaluation and managerial inspection in early 1964. Everyone was impressed with the car that appeared at the proving grounds; the decision to market a production version did not take long. The project was then shifted away from the Advanced Design Group and handed over to the regular engineering team who solved the problems of interchangeability, production costs, etc.
Once the new Toronado made it into public view, it created quite a stir. The first few paragraphs of the Motor Trend report were devoted to people’s reactions to seeing the car for the first time. Car Life reported that during their testing, “... everyone encountered expressed an opinion – positive or negative – or asked a question.” Car Life’s report had many very positive comments, but their evaluation noted just a few dislikes. The most notable was in regard to braking which is not too shocking since cars of this era were often noted for less than adequate braking. For the Toronado which weighed roughly 5,400 pounds fully loaded, the test car’s total swept braking area of 328.2 square inches “... demonstrated alarmingly unacceptable fade characteristics ...” Those with the magazine who gave their opinion of the Toronado also had a rather unusual complaint – the name itself; Car Life’s writer said it seemed to be a name “designed by a committee.” Regardless of the latter viewpoint or the braking inadequacy, the Toronado itself brought many customers to a stop at Oldsmobile dealerships across the country. Nearly 41,000 of the 1966 Toronados in standard and deluxe form were sold with most buyers opting for the deluxe version by a margin of nearly 5.5 to 1.
Although the new Toro was a hit, the FWD system was found to still had a few bugs that needed to be removed. The teenage kids of GM managers were the ones who found what the engineers did not. You might say they tested the FWD system more thoroughly than the engineers – on Woodward Avenue. Early examples of the model were often drag-raced along that famous stretch of pavement. At the stop light, these street racers would hold the brake while revving the engine up and then let it go! This action fatigued the universal joints and led to failure of the parts. Evidently, those testing the car at GM’s test tracks did not drive the car often enough in a similar manner. Action at GM to correct the problem was immediate. Managers at Cadillac had decided to wait for the ‘67 model year to release a nearly identical FWD Turbo-Hydramatic for their new Eldorado; thus the appropriate upgrades could be incorporated from the start.
The featured 1966 Toronado needed some upgrades when its owner, Tom Bilse, bought it shortly after a move to Kansas City, Kansas, in 1981. Within a few months after moving, Tom spotted the Toronado at a neighboring apartment complex. As he explained, “It caught my eye because it was a Toronado and because it was autumn bronze, a color that I had not personally seen Torondao's painted before. Thoughts of owning the car ‘danced in my head’, but coming from a frugal background I continually fought the desire. Eventually desire won and I placed a note under one of the car's windshield wipers. Rain fell that night, though; I took that to be an omen to not pursue the endeavor.” Tom pursued it anyway. He placed a note inside a plastic bag next time and the owner later responded by saying he had not considered selling the car, but would think about it. The owner told Tom he had been an Oldsmobile salesman and had sold the Toro to its first owner and later bought it back from him. Soon after that conversation, he called Tom again and agreed to sell the car for $1,800. Interestingly, years after Tom purchased the car, he found his original rain-spotted note in the glove compartment.
Tom soon discovered he was “totally naive about auto restoration ...there was much to do with this car. The interior (also bronze) was in great shape, but the right rear quarter panel consisted more of bondo than metal. The top undersides of the fenders were rusty, also. Someone installed a black vinyl roof on the car, an option which was not available until the '67 model. I took the car to a man who did restorations out of his garage, but was someone highly praised for his work.” When the restoration was complete, the Toronado had had its fenders, right door and quarter panel, floor pans, and trunk floor replaced. A repaint in its original color and some detailing completed the project. The Toronado now looks and drives as its designers intended – like a symbol of imaginative engineering and tasteful styling.

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
Base Price:  $4,779
Engine:  425cid V8
Bore and Stroke:  4.126x 3.975 inches
Horsepower:  385@4,800rpm
Torque:  475@3,200rpm
Carburetion:  Rochester Quadra-Jet
Compression:  10.5:1
Transmission:  Turbo-Hydramatic
Wheelbase:  119 inches
Production:  34,630
0-30mph:  3.4 seconds
0-45mph:  5.9 seconds
0-60mph:  9.5 seconds
40-60mph:  5.1 seconds
50-70mph:  5.6 seconds
Standing 1/4 mile:  82mph@17.2 seconds
Stopping distance*
30-0mph:  29.5 feet
60-0mph:  167 feet
*Source:  “Motor Trend”, December 1965 (Car of the Year issue) road test report on 4,800lb. test vehicle

Monday, August 8, 2011

2009 Corvette Stingray Concept

The Past Meets the Future
Text by David W. Temple
Photos by General Motors

Corvette enthusiasts got a real treat in the form of the 2009 Stingray Concept, also known as the Corvette Centennial. It was unveiled to the public at the Chicago Auto Show. Unlike most concept cars, this one starred in a major motion picture, Transfomers: Revenge of the Fallen, as did another GM show car, the Camaro Bumblebee, in the earlier Transformers movie. The design of the Stingray was derived from the original 1959 Stingray race car as well as the 1963 “split window” coupe and other generations of the sports car. The end result was a car with futuristic styling; clearly that was the intent of those involved in the project. Vice president of GM Global Design, Ed Welburn, said the car “represents an exercise in exploration for the Corvette. By giving my creative team the freedom to design no-holds-barred vision concepts, it helps them push boundaries and look at projects from different perspectives.”
The Corvette Stingray Concept was developed as an internal design challenge for GM’s “Studio X” to combine classic Corvette cues with surprisingly high-tech features, modern materials, and a striking new appearance. The car is well-appointed with a clamshell hood, scissor-style doors, ergonomic seats, rear-view camera with night vision enhancement, and a high performance hybrid drive. Interactive touch controls allow the driver to customize the power and efficiency of his or her ride and share it with friends via the in-car camera system and advanced telemetrics.
Despite all the high-tech accoutrements, the Stingray is a non-runner.
Ed Welburn seemed to downplay the car’s influence on the C7 Corvette saying the Stingray was “purely a concept.” The C7 is expected to debut for the 2013 model year.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

1953 Chevrolet Corvette

E53F 001300 - The Last of the First Corvettes

The featured Corvette is the 300th and last of the ‘53s built. It is currently owned by a collector in the Houston area and has won numerous awards and honors including a two-time selection to the Bloomington Gold Special Collection and a Bloomington Gold Hall of Fame Induction.
 Photography and text by David W. Temple

Chevrolet’s Corvette has been with us for nearly 60 years. Clearly this sports car has been popular for quite a while, hence its longevity. As practically all Corvette enthusiasts know, this fiberglass car almost did not survive beyond its first three years of production. Now all of those models are in demand by collectors. However, some of them are more special than others. When a ’53 Corvette is offered for sale or displayed at a car show, the question probably most asked by knowledgeable types is, “What number is it?” The oldest known surviving Corvette, number three or E53F 001003, sold for $1 million at Barrett-Jackson in 2006. Number one is evidently no longer in existence though rumors to the contrary do persist about it. Incidentally, number two was tested and rebuilt by GM – so much so it was “phased out” of existence over time piece by piece so little if any of the original car remains. Even the body of #2 was replaced. Then there is the case of the “Last Stingray.” That ’67 model sold for $600,000 at Barrett-Jackson in 2007. First, last and oldest obviously have much meaning to Corvette fans.
VIN plate
The creation of the phenomenal Corvette was the brainchild of GM Styling VP Harley Earl who desired to produce an American sports car. Sports cars were becoming increasingly popular, but nearly all of them were of European design such as the M.G. TD and the Jaguar XK 120. However, as popular as these cars were to American enthusiasts, only little more than a quarter of one percent of new car registrations in this country were for sports cars. To most Americans, these cars had several undesirable characteristics. Zora Arkus-Duntov told a group at an SAE meeting in 1953 statistics showed that the American public did not want a sports car, but went on to question if the statistics gave a true picture. He noted the market for such a car was an unknown quantity and that perhaps a sports car designed to American tastes and roads might have a significant following.
In September of 1951, Harley Earl drove his experimental LeSabre to the sports car races at Watkins Glen and watched the M.G.s, Allards, Ferraris, and Cunninghams speed around the track. Earl said the idea for the Corvette was born while driving the LeSabre as the pace car for this race; it was a significant turning point in automotive history.
A 150hp “Blue Flame Special” powered all 1953 Corvettes. It was a modified version of the engine used in other Chevy passenger cars.
Thus was born the Opel Passenger Car Development Project. Opel, incidentally, was a name borrowed from GM’s German division, so it served to conceal the true nature of the project. Amazingly, the time to bring the car from a paper proposal to the mockup stages and then finally a functional prototype was accomplished in about eight months. One of the requirements for the proposed sports car was that it be economical to build in order to for it to meet a selling price target of around $1,850. Unfortunately, the price for the production car would be twice that of the original goal. This necessity meant that as many already existing components as possible had to be incorporated into the design. One of those was the Chevrolet chassis. Other items already in use by Chevrolet were the straight-six and Powerglide two-speed automatic transmission. A Chevrolet V8 was two model years away and a manual transmission befitting a sports car was even further into the future, so the Vette would have to settle for Chevy’s 235 inline six coupled to an automatic. Basically, the Corvette became a “crash program” thus there was a certain amount of “make do” involved with the project.
All of the 300 1953 Corvettes had a Sportsman Red interior with white accents.
Engineers were shown a plaster mockup of the proposed Corvette in early June of 1952. Barely more than one year later, the first three production cars departed the makeshift assembly line in Flint. During that time, two prototype show cars were assembled as well as a “mule” for testing. One of the show cars debuted at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, the starting point of the 1953 General Motors Motorama multi-city tour. Many of those who waited in line to see the Corvette as well as the other show and productions cars on display there indicated a serious interest in buying Chevy’s little sports car. Because of this great interest, the go ahead was given for 250 cars (later increased to 300) to be built prior to the start of the 1954 model year.
Essentially, the first 300 cars were pilot line cars with various changes made during the run. Even the way the fiberglass body parts were made changed a couple of times. Early cars did not receive the intended wheel covers because the tooling was not quite ready and therefore they had to be equipped with the Bel Air type. Because of all the improvements made during 1953, Corvette number 1 and Corvette number 300 were not exactly alike even though at a glance they seemed very nearly so. As time went by, forming and assembly techniques improved so the last of the 300 ‘53s were no doubt better than the first ones. By ’54, the bodies were of sufficient quality that colors other than Polo White were offered.
Road test reports regarding the 1953 Corvette were generally favorable, but the first 300 cars which were all built at Flint were offered to VIPs or retained by GM for further testing. When interested members of the general public discovered that they could not simply go to the local dealership to purchase one, they began to lose interest in the car. Several of the early prospects had to be called before Chevy found a buyer for a Corvette. Moreover, the lack of roll up windows and other conveniences made the car somewhat of a disappointment to many of the VIP owners. Quality control was another problem with the cars. Panel fit was generally poor and stress cracks appeared fairly quickly. The price tag of $3,490 was certainly on the high side as well and though that was the official base price, in reality the so-called optional AM-radio and heater was mandatory equipment! In reality the base price was $3,734. At the end of the ’53 model year over 180 of the 300 Vettes assembled remained unsold. At the time this did not alarm GM because so many of the cars were being used for special dealer displays to draw people into showrooms.
Those who obtained a ’53 Corvette at least got a car with great styling and decent performance. All were Polo White with a Sportsman Red interior. The six-cylinder engine received a number of upgrades to improve its performance including a trio of Carter YF sidedraft carburetors, aluminum intake, higher lift camshaft with aluminum timing gear, increased compression ratio, and dual exhausts. Modifications pushed the output from 115hp to 150. The suspension was composed of as many standard parts as possible, but included a larger diameter stabilizer bar, special front coil springs, 16:1 steering ratio, and four-leaf springs in back. Weight distribution with driver, passenger, full fuel tank, and luggage worked out to about 50/50; empty it was 53/47. The center of gravity was low – just 18 inches above the ground. Motor Trend judged the Corvette to be “an exciting car to drive” but noted it would “barely nose out an average [Buick] Century on an unobstructed freeway.” The Vette’s top speed was found to be approximately 108 mph.
Chevrolet expected to increase production to 10,000 units per year, but for 1954 sales were slow forcing a drastic cut in production which in the end amounted to only 3,640. Of those, more than 1,100 remained unsold at the end of the model year. Intervention by engineers Ed Cole and Zora Arkus-Duntov helped save the car. Many improvements were eventually made including a V8 engine, four-speed transmission, improved suspension, and roll-up windows.
Today, the 1953 Corvette is judged on its rarity as well as its great styling as it has been for many years. The long-time popularity of the 1953 Corvette has resulted in approximately 200 of the 300 built still remaining in existence including number 300 which is shown here. It is currently owned by a collector in the Houston area.
This Corvette was originally sold to a prominent physician who reportedly loved the car, but disliked the color and immediately painted it black. After keeping it for several years he sold it to a policeman. By 1971 the car had been purchased by another owner who advertised it for sale in the 1953-55 Vintage Corvette Club of America newsletter. The car appears in the newsletter looking tidy and back in its original exterior color.
In 1984 the car was purchased by a doctor in Florida who had a body-off-frame restoration performed on it by Corvette Specialists Sara Blake and Joe Meyer. Upon completion of the restoration, the car was shown around the country and it won virtually every award that could be attained. In 1998 the 300th production Corvette was sold to its current owner and soon thereafter it was freshened by Corvette Specialist Naber’s Motors of Houston. Finally, due to some crazing of the exterior paint the car was completely redone in 2006 by 1953-55 Master Judge and Restorer, Steve Newsome. The car has had an incredibly fortunate history with not one panel on the body ever being damaged. It was a two-time “Bloomington Gold Special Collection” car as well as a Bloomington Gold Hall of Fame Inductee – both uncommon honors. Furthermore, it was part of the General Motors “World of Motion” exhibit at Disney World. 
Perhaps the last ’53 Corvette was and still is the best of its kind.

Monday, August 1, 2011

1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442

Reputation for Performance
Text and Photography by David W. Temple
When Oldsmobile put its new 303 Rocket V8 into its 88s and 98s for 1949, they showed the direction the division would pursue in coming decades. Performance became a high priority in the early post-war years and would, for the most part, remain so through the early 70s. The Rocket 88 was the first step in changing the image of Oldsmobile so as to appeal to the emerging youth market. Racing was the next step. Stock car racing got a significant following and with the creation of NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Automobile Racing), Oldsmobile had a fabulous opportunity for displaying just what a Rocket V8 could do.
Olds dominated NASCAR competition by winning over half the races during the racing body’s first three years. Winning races was good publicity and it translated into sales. After the ‘51 season, Olds did not do as well on the track. However, they did at least capture prestigious victories at Darlington and Daytona for ‘53. Interestingly, their racing parts were not manufactured in house, but rather obtained through aftermarket suppliers. NASCAR instituted a rule change in the mid-fifties that disallowed that practice; all racing parts had to be available to the general public and carry a factory part number. The new rule meant Oldsmobile would need to develop a racing parts program, but that was something their budget would not allow. Also, General Motors really wanted only one division to carry the performance image and Chevrolet was emerging as the hot rod by that time although Pontiac would soon manage to carry the hot rod image, too, which would eventually have an impact at Oldsmobile.
Oldsmobile was forced to drop its performance efforts after ‘58. By this time, NASCAR had outlawed the use of multiple carburetion (as well as supercharging and fuel-injection) in its events and an economic recession prevented many from spending the extra dollars needed to buy a factory hot rod. There was talk within the U.S. Congress of looking into the way cars were made due to statistics that indicated a rising highway death toll. There was even talk of breaking up GM into other companies due to their large market share. Furthermore, the Automobile Manufacturers Association (AMA) banned factory-backed racing. The big three auto makers agreed to comply although some divisions did not in actual practice. Pontiac brazenly ignored the ban while Chevrolet thinly disguised their racing equipment with the banner “for police use only.” Olds was out of the performance game without more financial support from GM which was not going to happen. The lull in performance cars at Olds was temporary, though. A few maverick types would change the situation.
A market existed for smaller cars and by 1960, the big three had them. They were economy type cars, but within a few years the relatively light weight cars would serve another purpose. One of the smaller cars was the F-85 which appeared in ‘61. For ‘62, a Cutlass in coupe and convertible form was added to the F-85 line. The new model was quite different than the first Cutlass from Olds which was a fiberglass Motorama show car displayed across the country in 1954. Although very different, the old and new version had one thing in common -- they were both sporty. Standard equipment for the new Cutlass included a 185 horsepower aluminum block V8. Only the F-85 Jetfire provided more power via a turbocharged version of the aluminum engine.
The events of the preceding years led to GM’s philosophy of placing the smaller displacement engines in the compact and intermediate sized cars and using the larger V8s for the full-size models. John DeLorean changed that thinking at Pontiac. He was brought in from Packard to work as director of advanced engineering for Pontiac. DeLorean soon began work on compact cars like the Tempest. The second generation version is the one most remembered today because it became the basis for the GTO which put an end to the small car/small engine thinking. DeLorean pushed hard for the 389 V8 to be installed as standard equipment for the ‘64 Tempest GTO. The success of the GTO option sent a clear message and some at Oldsmobile clearly heard it. John Beltz, chief engineer for Olds, as well as other team members such as Dale Smith (who was instrumental in Olds NASCAR successes) turned the intermediate size Olds into a performance machine.
By the middle of the ‘64 model year, the Olds team fought for and won the chance to put a 310 horsepower version of the 330 V8 into the redesigned F-85 body. The 330 was topped with a four-barrel carb and coupled to a four-speed manual transmission; dual exhausts carried the burned fuel/air mix away. The combo was dubbed 4-4-2. Other standard equipment for the limited production 4-4-2 included items previously found only on Olds police cars like heavy-duty frame, shocks, springs, wheels, as well as a 0.937-inch front and rear stabilizer bars. Nearly 3,000 were sold during the short model run.
   The ‘65 model got more horsepower and was no longer a limited production car. The standard 345hp 400 cubic inch displacement engine more than matched Pontiac’s 389. Torque output of the 400 was an impressive 440ft.-lbs. The 4-4-2 option was ordered on over 25,000 F-85s and Cutlasses. By now, the 4-4-2 was recognized as an important part of Oldsmobile’s future.
A major restyle of the F-85/Cutlass body followed for the next model year; it was little changed for ‘67. More performance options helped keep the 4-4-2 in demand. The past had not been forgotten, though; advertising for the ‘66 models reminded 4-4-2 owners to drive safely and mentioned the safety features the government mandated.
The next generation got yet another major restyle with a more rounded look. This one featured curved, sleek lines, thus making the name Cutlass as appropriate as ever for the 112-inch wheelbase car; the term is defined as a short sword with a curved blade. The rear side windows were shaped like a backward facing bullet. The narrow C-pillars of the fastback roof possessed a subtle concavity that neatly blended into the bulging rear quarters. The rear panels were sharply peaked on top and terminated in a quarter arch which in turn blended into the quarter arch profile of the rear bumper. The nose had a similar rounded profile while the front fenders mimicked the quarter panel bulge. The 4-4-2 was upgraded to series status for ‘68, thus the cars no longer carried the Cutlass script anywhere on the sheet metal. The new body came in three styles - two-door hardtop, two-door post, and convertible. The 400 V8 produced 325hp when attached to the optional Turbo Hydramatic and 350hp with the four-speed manual. A 360hp variant could be ordered, however. This more potent version benefited from a ram-air setup and carried the option code W-30. (Interestingly, there was yet another 400, but this one was detuned for improved economy.) The editors of Cars Magazine were impressed with the 4-4-2; they selected it as the “Top Performance Car of the Year.”
The 1969 models were little changed; parking lights were located from the grille to the bumper and a split grille clearly distinguished the ‘69 from the ‘68 as did the revised tail lights and rear bumper. The divided grille, though modified, continued for ‘70; new tail lights also freshened the look of the car. More important to those interested in owning a 4-4-2 was the new 455 V8. The 455 weighed less than the previous 400 and provided more power as one would expect. This engine delivered 365hp and 500ft.-lbs. of torque -- more than enough to get the adrenaline pumping for 4-4-2 owners. Optional equipment like the ram air hood (option W-25), aluminum rear axle carrier (W-27), and the rear deck spoiler (W-35) made the 4-4-2 even more interesting. Despite these improvements and the additional publicity gained from the 4-4-2 being chosen to pace that year’s Indy 500, sales fell. Only 19,330 of the cars were ordered equaling a drop of over twenty-five percent from the previous year’s total. The end of the musclecar era was nearing. Rising insurance premiums hurt sales of high performance cars and would continue to do so until exhaust emission regulations finally terminated the musclecar era.
Shown here is one of the 14,709 two-door hardtop 4-4-2s built for 1970. At the time of the photo shoot, it was owned by a resident of Tyler, Texas. The car was sold soon thereafter to a Killeen, Texas resident. The California-built car is mostly original having only been maintained as needed over the years. The 4-4-2 received a repaint and an engine rebuild approximately 20 years ago. Though assembled at a California plant, the car was sold new in Ft. Worth. The car later went to Austin, then Corpus Christi before coming to East Texas. It is a matching numbers car equipped with the four-speed Muncie transmission and air conditioning, a rare combination in a 4-4-2. Other options on the featured car include power brakes, power steering, console, Rocket Rally Pac, and AM/FM radio.
The 4-4-2 model continued onward for many years, though later it was mostly an appearance package like many sporty cars of the '70s and '80s. The 1968-70 4-4-2s were some of the most popular Oldsmobiles when new and are extremely popular with collectors today. Though the end of Oldsmobile is upon us, their reputation for performance will survive for many years to come thanks to 4-4-2 enthusiasts.

1970 Oldsmobile 442 Holiday Hardtop
Base Price:  $3,376
Engine:  455cid V8
Horsepower:  365@5,200rpm
Torque:  500@3,600rpm
Compression:  10.5:1
Bore and Stroke:  4.125x 4.25 inches
Carburetion:  Rochester four-barrel
Transmission:  Muncie four-speed
0-60mph:  6.6 seconds
1/4 mile:  13.70 seconds @ 105mph
Production:  19,330 (includes 14,709 two-door hardtops)
Wheelbase:  112 inches
*Source:  “Supercar 70 1/2” road test on a W-30 equipped car