When thinking of the first muscle car, the 1949 Oldsmobile doesn’t immediately spring to mind.
Truthfully, the term hadn’t been coined yet and most just looked at the “Futuramic” offering of the new overhead-valve Rocket V-8 as progress. When paired as an optional engine in the Olds 88-Series two-door sedan, things became interesting.
The most powerful engine in the lightest car was the recipe that made Oldsmobile the one to watch for performance. Through the 1950s Oldsmobile continued to produce posh and powerful automobiles and it was the performance boom in the ’60s that led to a new recipe for a muscle car option on the 1964 Olds F-85 Cutlass with the 4-4-2 package.
The 4-4-2 name initially meant a four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual transmission and dual exhaust. It also included heavy-duty suspension, dual-snorkel air cleaner, oversize tires and special 4-4-2 trim badges. A strong seller among the younger performance buyers, it became the Cutlass Supreme 4-4-2 in 1967.
With more buyers looking for optional automatic transmissions the 4-4-2 name now meant 400 cubic-inch V-8 engine, four-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust. While performance was the mainstay of the 4-4-2 option, a host of comfort and style items were available on the option list.
Winnipeg’s Louis Grimard purchased his 1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme 4-4-2 in 1981 from his friend Terry Hayashi in Grand Rapids. Not being winter driven, the body and frame on the car were clean, but the trip back to Winnipeg revealed the car was tired and in need of work.
Intact and unmodified, the 4-4-2 had its original engine, M-20 Muncie wide-ratio four-speed manual transmission and an impressive list of power options for a performance car.
“While I like my Ford cars, I bought the 4-4-2 because of its rarity, straight, rust-free body and unmolested condition,” Grimard says.
While it wasn’t a frame-off rebuild it was close, as Grimard spent the next 10 years removing and replacing nearly every component on the car. At the heart of the build was the original 400-cubic-inch V-8. While a full rebuild was an option, Grimard chose to replace the engine with a larger 455 V-8. With the original engine in storage, the 455 was rebuilt and balanced by Barry Dawson at Dawson Performance, with an 0.030” overbore, yielding 462 cubic inches.
Keith Black Pistons, UltraDyne hydraulic performance camshaft, deep sump oil pan, ported and polished cylinder heads and an Edelbrock aluminium intake manifold with vintage Quadra-jet four-barrel carburetor was chosen to top it off.
A Crane ignition module lights the fire, while the exhaust is handled with a set of Hooker ceramic-coated headers, leading to a three-inch diameter custom dual exhaust system with Flowmaster 40-series mufflers and factory exhaust tips.
A four-core custom radiator and clutch fan keep the big engine cool. Now producing over 430 horsepower and 500 lb.-ft. of torque, it far exceeds the original performance figures.
The original four-speed transmission was rebuilt by Asperline Transmissions Ltd. and leads to a 3.08:1 ratio posi-traction rear axle. For suspension, there’s urethane bushings used throughout, KYB gas shock absorbers, larger front sway bar and the brakes have been upgraded to 11-inch power assisted front discs from a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Wheels are 15-by-seven-inch SSII, with 235 series, BF Goodrich T/A radial tires.
The body of the car was stripped to bare metal and finished in a two-stage base/clear, Medium Garnet Red Metallic by Bertrand Auto Body. While the door panels and headliner are original, Keystone Upholstery installed new carpet, dash pad, package tray and seat upholstery.
Options abound, both factory installed and sourced during the rebuild. There’s power steering, power brakes, bucket seats, centre console, clock, back-up lamps, park brake light, trunk light, console-mounted vacuum gauge, power windows, four-way power driver’s seat, GM accessory oil and temperature gauges and a period-correct Sun tachometer. Road tunes flow from an AM-FM Bi-Phonic radio with rear speaker and rear fender-mounted power antenna.
After several years and two manila file folders full of parts invoices the 4-4-2 now has a scant 1,126-kilometres on it since the rebuild.
“The car performs beyond my wildest dreams, at any time and in any gear and is a great driver,” Grimard says. “I just have to constantly remind myself to behave, because I don’t want to be sleeping in a jail cell or worse laying in the morgue!”
While the ’67 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 would continue to carry the familiar Oldsmobile signature styling with 24,829 leaving the Lansing, Mich., assembly plant, this was clearly not your father’s Oldsmobile. Cracking the throttle on a short drive around the block told you, this was a performer. For 1968, new fastback styling would usher the 4-4-2 to become its own model and helped Oldsmobile solidify its place in the muscle car market.