Monday, March 7, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1975 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442

The bigger they are, the harder they fall. This, my friends, is an Oldsmobile Cutlass 442. It certainly looks quick, doesn't it? It has mag wheels, racing stripes, bucket seats! It must surely be a real barnstormer.

The 442 was first introduced in 1964 as the hottest car in the Olds stable, a muscle machine with four barrel carburetor, four speed manual and two tailpipes. What it meant by the time this car was built, in the height of disco and the depths of the fuel crisis, is anyone's guess. For one thing, in 1975, the standard engine for the 442 was a 250 cubic-inch straight six. If you shelled out the money for the top-of-the-line 455 V8, you had 190 horsepower on tap. That's all. And catalytic converters. And you could order it with an automatic. "442" probably meant four seats, four wheels and two doors.
The body was decently clean and straight when I shot this car. I actually had to re-shoot it the following week when I saw it a second time, to get better pictures of a couple of angles.
I've always been hit-or-miss about post-1973 GM "Colonnade" coupes. The Oldsmobiles have some interesting details, though the overdesigned side scallops kind of ruin it for many people. I'm not sure what's going on with the maroon stripes, but given their combination with matching stripe trim around the wheel arches, I wonder if it's factory. The white-painted Olds Rally wheels probably are. [EDIT: The stripe package is factory, along with the louvered hood and body-color wheels. Color looks like it may be Cameo White over Cranberry.]
As a muscle car, it's not the greatest example; more of a mid-'70s disco cruiser for men who weren't ridiculous enough for a Trans Am. Still, it's a piece of history and I'll take any 442 I can find. Having shot it ten months ago, I hope it's still on the road.

Update, Aug 2018: It is still on the road! Plates obscured per owner's request.

Photographed March-April 2010


  1. Love the disco bodywork shame about the antiquated performance :-)

  2. Beautiful pics, I must say.

    You are right on about 190hp max (stock) hp for this car as well as a few other things, but I take issue with your general perception, as well as some of the details in your posting.

    Yes, Oldsmobile took a sensitive proactive stance during the fuel crisis and I applaud them for that. Also, yes, the W29 package (442 package) for this era was mostly cosmetic, though there were some suspension upgrades (FE2) for the 442. However, the bottom line is that this is a beautiful car that could easily be tinkered with (if desired) to produce the power of the classic 442. As you noted, the 455 was indeed still an option for this year, though the 350 V8 was the most common. The truth is that the 455 coupled with the TH400 could be made into a beast not to be messed with, easily enough.

    These cars had an elegance that the 60's era muscle cars didn't have. Can you say "swivel bucket seats"? :-) Many muscle car fans may not like the elegance aspect, however, many do. I'm not a disco fan, but I would buy this car in a second. In fact, if the owner wants to get a hold of me... ;-) dbrooke at euca dot us...

    Regarding the stripes, those look original to me. That year had both a crimson and a cranberry color... so they are close if not original.

    Anyway, like I said, great shots!


  3. Nice car. I own a 74 442 that is similar. Mine is Zodiac Blue with white stripes and a 455. I have to agree with Donovan. They are nice looking cars and were the musclecars of that era. Yes they were down on horsepower, but so was all of their brethren.

  4. To those who took issue with my perception of this car, I can't blame you. What I was getting at was that people who bought these in the mid-70s, probably weren't buying them for screaming performance like they did back in the 1960s. Following the OPEC fuel crises, one would naturally expect power to be severely reduced in the interest of economy and emissions. Honestly though, for a car with 442 badging (aside from the 1990 Quad 442) I was pretty disappointed when I looked up its stats and available options. In the context of its era (which I wasn't around to see), I went based on the looks and the reputation of garish "performance" cars built during that time that ended up going to the demographic mentioned above. Absolutely it would be possible to build one up now and have a screaming fast machine. Assuming this one is factory, though, it isn't much of a muscle car in the traditional sense.

    Also, Donovan, if I had the owner's contact info I would happily pass it on to you. Unfortunately I do not. Sorry!


  5. Hello Jay,
    I ran across your blog while trying to find stats about the 1975, 442. I'd like to know how many were produced and how many still exist.
    I have the same 1975, 422. (I also have a 71 cutlass S) I live in Riverside, CA.
    The color of that car is called "Colonial Cream" and it is a factory color. It's rare to see these beauties. I thought mine was the only one left in Cali that still had it's originality. Most have been overly modified. If you'd like to see pics of mine, send me your email.

  6. This 1975 Cutlass 442 is a clean good looking nlce handling car.Also the factory stripes look great.The 350 is ok but the 455 is a tire buring torque monster.Both engines are easy to get 100+ extra horsepower out of them.Then the 1970's cars are really fun to drive. I have a 1975 Cutlass 442 black with white stripes.It has a built up 455 and runs with the best of them.

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