HomeCar CultureRant: Oldsmobile’s Cutlass 4-4-2

Rant: Oldsmobile’s Cutlass 4-4-2

A cranky take on dumb car stuff

-

Why do people insist on calling Oldsmobile’s main muscle car a “Cutlass 4-4-2”? As an optional package or a bona fide model, the 4-4-2 had its own identity. Do people call GTOs “LeMans GTO”? Nope. Yet the 4-4-2, now deep into its fifth decade of existence, continues to suffer from being misidentified.

This example is a 1969 4-4-2 with a VIN that begins with 344, which makes it a 4-4-2. What is so Cutlass about it? A dismissive Oldsmodude would say the car was being peddled by a flipper or Chevy guy, but the truth is that plenty of people should know better.

oldsmobile, Rant: Oldsmobile’s Cutlass 4-4-2, ClassicCars.com Journal
1964 Oldsmobile 4-4-2. Notice the Cutlass badge, though no mention of Cutlass in the copy.

Oldsmobile introduced the B09 package in 1964 for any F85 or Cutlass coupe or sedan. It included a 310-horsepower 310, 4-speed manual transmission, dual exhausts, upgraded suspension, rear stabilizer and more. It was named “4-4-2” due to the 4-speed transmission, 4-barrel carburetor, and 2 exhausts, in line with Oldsmobile’s numeric naming system at the time.

Thanks to the Pontiac GTO’s success, Oldsmobile worked quickly to bring something more competitive to market, resulting in an all-new 345-horsepower 400ci especially created for the package. As the standard transmission was now a 3-speed manual, the name now derived from 400 cubic-inches, 4-barrel carburetor, and 2 exhausts. The package was available on F85 and Cutlass two-doors through 1966.

In some respects, calling a 1964-66 version a “Cutlass 4-4-2’ would not be out of bounds in order to distinguish between trim levels, as F85 and Cutlass A-bodies had different interior and exterior trim, though when’s the last time you’ve seen someone say “F85 4-4-2”?

oldsmobile, Rant: Oldsmobile’s Cutlass 4-4-2, ClassicCars.com Journal
In 1967, the 4-4-2 package moved up to the Cutlass Supreme model.

For any topic, there’s always bound to be someone who’s misinformed. Maybe someone is wet behind the ears. Or maybe Uncle Joey led them astray. Perhaps the Internet did a poor job of providing good information since it’s already a wasteland that makes it difficult to discern between good and bad information. Who knows?

Perhaps I should be more relaxed when I get annoyed when people call an Oldsmobile 4-4-2 a “Cutlass 4-4-2,” but sometimes (irony of ironies!) old habits die hard. Whether a package or model, the 4-4-2 had a unique identity that usurped its origins. Even the badge on the dashboard after 1964 proclaims it as a 4-4-2.

oldsmobile, Rant: Oldsmobile’s Cutlass 4-4-2, ClassicCars.com Journal
For 1968, the 4-4-2 became its own model.

Buick folks have a similar problem with the Gran Sport. For 1965-66, the mid-size performance car was called the Skylark Gran Sport. Starting in 1967, it became the GS 400 (plus its GS 340 stable-mate). At times, you’ll see people write “Skylark GS Stage 1” even though the GS had shed its Skylark duds several years before. What’s next, a Belvedere GTX?

That’s a story for another time.

Diego Rosenberg
Diego Rosenberg
Lead Writer Diego Rosenberg is a native of Wilmington, Delaware and Princeton, New Jersey, giving him plenty of exposure to the charms of Carlisle and Englishtown. Though his first love is Citroen, he fell for muscle cars after being seduced by 1950s finned flyers—in fact, he’s written two books on American muscle. But please don’t think there is a strong American bias because foreign weirdness is never far from his heart. With a penchant for underground music from the 1960-70s, Diego and his family reside in the Southwest.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Time to back off on the coffee consumption…maybe take a vacay to a quiet spot…leave the auto world to wobble on its’ axis by itself for a bit? Really, in the grand scheme of automotive things, sometimes you just have to breathe deeply and enjoy the ride…

  2. I loved the 64 4 4 2, but went to Vietnam and my plans were turned around. My neighbor has one and get to see and hear it a lot. Thank you for the article.

  3. Have to agree with Travia. Asking if it still has the four fourty two runs a close second. My olds has been gone for 30 years. Recently somebody asked me about the Buick I had.
    Olds the best cars, the worst marketing.

  4. It ticks me off that both the 442 and GTO came out in 1964, yet the GTO gets the credit for being the first “muscle car.” I’ve had several 442’s and they are my favorites.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Recent Posts

spot_img