The 442 was the first model in GM’s lineup to copy the GTO’s winning formula and, like the Pontiac, eventually transitioned from a trim package to a stand-alone model. By 1969, the car had come into its own, bringing with it some of the best performance available on the market. Although Oldsmobile had a reputation for building cars for older buyers, their muscle car had a winning combination of handling, looks and performance.
1969 Oldsmobile 442 Coupe by the numbers
The model name doesn’t refer to the displacement but to the combination of a four-barrel carburetor, a four-speed manual and dual exhausts used in the original 1964 model. Its popularity prompted Oldsmobile to add a range of high-performance options under the nameplate. Although it had an A-body like the Pontiac GTO and Chevy Chevelle SS, Olds had a unique, heavy-duty suspension that gave it superior handling. It also got the high levels of equipment buyers expected from the brand.
Power of the Coupe
The ’69 442s used a 400-cubic-inch big block, which was the largest engine GM allowed in midsize cars at the time. The engine was equipped with either a two-barrel carburetor good for 290 horsepower and 425 pound-feet of torque or a four-barrel carburetor making 325 or 350 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque, depending on whether the car had a manual or automatic transmission.
Olds got around the displacement limit by partnering with Hurst shifters. The technically aftermarket Hurst/Olds came equipped with a 455, producing a whopping 380 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. Although desirable, these cars were overshadowed by Olds’ internal efforts.
The Monstrous Creations of Dr. Oldsmobile
Olds was able to shed the company’s stodgy image through a successful ad campaign featuring a mad scientist who introduced the new “W” cars. The W-30 fed forced air induction through scoops mounted under the bumpers to the Ram Rod 400, a version of the 442’s motor with triple carburetors, high overlap cams and bigger valve openings. Officially rated at 360 horsepower, it could get the W-30 through the quarter mile in 13.3 seconds, two seconds faster than a standard 442. However, the cam made it run so rough at idle that it didn’t have enough vacuum to operate a power brake booster. The W-32 “Street W” used a milder cam to run power brakes and was only offered with an automatic transmission. Exterior changes for both cars were minor, but Olds used red plastic fender wells with holes to clear the Ram Air tubes.
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