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Oldsmobile 4-4-2
The 4-4-2 is maybe the best thing that has happened
to Detroit since they started building cars there
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Car & Driver - December 1966
reprinted from Car and Driver
December 1966

67 Oldsmobile 4-4-2The Oldsmobile was one of the first post-war cars to earn a performance image...and one of the first to lose it. In the early Fifties, the hot cars in southern stock car racing were the Hudson Hornets and the Oldsmobile Rocket 88s. The Hudson disappeared, of course, and the Oldsmobile...well, the Oldsmobile sort of disappeared too, displaced from the attention of the performance-conscious public by such makes as Pontiac, Ford, Dodge, Chevy, Plymouth, Mercury, and even Buick, for heaven's sake.

There was a time too, when Oldsmobile was considered General Motors' experimental division -- all the trick stuff was tried out on Oldsmobiles first, then passed on to the other GM divisions. Oldsmobile owners felt special; they got the first crack at new engineering features. For instance, the first of the high-performance V-8s, the Rocket engine, was first introduced by Olds. And it was in a small, light car --making it a prototype GTO, 15 years ahead of its time. And the Hydra-Matic transmission debuted in the Oldsmobile line even earlier.

This aggressive, pioneering spirit seemed to have been lost in the tasteless days of the mid-Fifties, and for a decade Oldsmobiles were near-invisible non-cars. The 1958s were probably the worst, but matters were hardly improved by the spaceship look of the early Sixties. The bright young engineers were channeled elsewhere, and the styling studios were staffed by gorpy, unwitting creators of Pop Art. The cars suffered a decline of both popularity and quality, and their character was, at best, innocuous.

InteriorTwo years ago, the atmosphere suddenly brightened. Oldsmobile's reputation as an experimental division was brought back powerfully with the introduction of the unorthodox front-wheel-drive Toronado. The performance image was somewhat more difficult to recapture. There is a corporate ban on any form of racing, on power-to-weight ratios of less than 10 lbs./bhp, and, besides, Oldsmobile didn't have any engines hotter than any of the other GM divisions. To get a competitive edge, Oldsmobile needed a gimmick. Olds' engineers decided to take off at a tangent to the rest of the industry by concentrating on handling. The 4-4-2 model, introduced in 1964, was an experiment to test public reaction to a fully roadworthy car. Thus far, the public at large seems no more excited about good handling in a hot intermediate than it did in the compact Corvair, but we think it's maybe the best thing that has happened to Detroit since they started building cars there. The 1966 version of the 4-4-2 won our six-way "Super Car" test hands down, and the '67 is even better.

The 4-4-2 is the best-handling car of its type we've ever tested. Instead of the typical horrendous understeer generally found on domestic cars, the 4-4-2 is basically neutral under all conditions, although anyone who want to hand the tail out can easily induce power oversteer, with 440 lbs./ft. of torque driving through a 3.08 rear axle ratio. In the terminology used by Oldsmobile engineers, the 4-4-2 is a "high-gain, high-response" car. This means it reacts to steering input by changing direction rapidly, and that the car is capable of making quick adjustments from one attitude (straight ahead) to another (turning) without any loss of stability. In more familiar language, it's a driver's car.


Last year our major complaint with the 4-4-2 was the absence of a disc brake option. This year front discs are available, and we strongly recommend them. The normal drum brakes are adequate for the mild usage most F-85 models will encounter, but the gutsy 4-4-2 demands the extra stopping power for repeated use that only discs can offer. In fact, the front-disc and rear-drum combination on our test car gave the shortest stopping distance of any car we have tested. In our normal series of panic stops from 80 mph the 4-4-2 stopped in 272 feet on the first run, for an average deceleration of .78 G, and showed very little fade on subsequent attempts. On the fourth run, it stopped in 329 feet (.65 G) and throughout the test series, pedal pressure required remained almost constant from start to stop, with the car easily maintaining a straight line.

Complementing the brakes and handling is an improved three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission, an option that replaces the former two-speed Jetaway unit. This year, the Hydra-Matic has been built especially for the 4-4-2, with torque converter ratios of 1.9 and 2.5 perfectly mated to the 400 cu. in. engine. It features a shifting arrangement that allows downshifts at any time, providing the resulting rpm do not exceed the 5200-rpm engine limit. Downshifting is automatic, simply by dropping the lever into low range and waiting for the speed to equalize with the engine rpm. Zap, second gear at 88 mph. Pow, first at 53 mph. Maximum gear retardation without worrying about matching rpm with gear ratios; no more double-clutching that manual four-speed, or cursing the inept automatic. The necessity, and much of the desirability, of having a four-speed manual transmission is swept away tby the introduction of the Oldsmobile 4-4-2 Turbo Hydra-Matic.

An additional change to the 1967 drive train is the new rear axle, which is now made by Oldsmobile. It uses 31 splines on the axle stubs and an 8.75-in. ring gear to give 32 percent more strength than in 1966. Our test car was not equipped with the limited slip option, but Oldsmobile engineers say it is an improved model with hardened case and re-designed friction plates for more positive lock-up with less heat production.

The 350-horsepower, 400 cu. in. engine is unchanged from 1966, with the exception of a new magnetic pulse generator that replaes the breaker points and condenser of the standard ignition. This device allows a wide variety in spark plug gaps and heat ranges, without the usual accompanying power loss.


Of course, the 4-4-2's major selling point is its superb suspension, which is based on stock F-85 components. The front suspension consist of unequal-length upper and lower wishbones, with high-rate springs, heavy-duty shock absorbers, and a 0.937-in. anti-sway bar. At the rear, Oldsmobile engineers relocated upper axle control links at the chassis to provide more positive control, and topped things off by fitting a 0.875-in. anti-sway bar.

The only complaint we might register is a small one (and we've said it before): the rear axle bottoms too easily with a 4- or 5-passenger load. Without stiffer rear springs, which would increase the rear roll couple to the detriment of cornering adhesion, it's a 2-passenger car.

The 4-4-2's interior is pleasant, but not outstanding -- mainly because it's a compromise between standard F-85 pieces and someone's idea of what a GT car's dashboard should look like. It contains all the right instruments (if you specify the Rally Pack option), but they are condensed into one illegible dial flanking the speedometer on the left. In the center of this dial is the smallest tachometer we've seen on any car, with oil pressure, water temperature and ammeter gauges spread around at 120-degree intervals. It looks more like a chrome-spangled battlefield than a serious attempt to convey information, and is totally out of keeping with the quality of the engineering features on the rest of the car. The driver's postion is also compromised -- you sit too close to the steering wheel (not available with the telescoping option offered on larger GM cars). The only aspects of the interior that save the 4-4-2 from mediocrity are the comfortable bucket seats, the well-located small controls, and good vision in all directions except the rear quarters, which are blocked by the currently stylish wide roof supports.

Despite these minor criticisms of the interior, the 4-4-2 is the best balance of performance and practicality we have seen. It handles well, stops fast, and rides comfortably on almost any road surface. If these are the things America really wants and needs in its passenger cars, then the 4-4-2 experiment will be a success. Spread the word.

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Specifications
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Oldsmobile 4-4-2

Manufacturer: Oldsmobile Division, General Motors Coporation, Lansing MI
Number of dealers in U.S. : 3500
Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger sports sedan, all steel body with separate chassis.
Price as tested: N/A

(Prices for the 1967 models had not been released by the manufacturers at press time. Our unofficial estimate would be ca. $4033.08, as our test car was equipped.)
Options on test car: Deluxe front and rear seat belts, electric four-way bucket seat, reclining seat back (passenger side), vacuum trunk lid latch , Rally Pack (tachometer, oil pressure gauge, ammeter, water tem. gauge), remote control outside mirror, console, power front disc brakes, electronic ignition, handling package, automatic transmission, tilt steering wheel, wheel cover, courtesy lamps, AM radio, electric antenna, power steering.

ENGINE
Type: Water-cooled V-8, cast iron block and heads, 5 main bearings
Bore and stroke: 4.00 x 3.97 in., 101.6 x 100.8 mm
Displacement: 400 cu in, 6504 cc
Compression ratio: 10.5-to-one
Carburetion: 1 x 4-bbl Rochester RPD
Valve gear: Pushrod-operated overhead
Power (SAE): 350 bhp @ 5000 rpm
Torque (SAE): 440 lbs/ft @ 3600 rpm
Specific power output: 0.87 bhp/cu in, 53.9 bhp/liter
Max. recommended engine speed: 5200

DRIVE TRAIN
Transmission: 3-speed automatic, plus torque converter
Max. torque converter ratio: 2.5-to-one
Final drive ratio: 3.08-to-one

Gear Ratio Mph/1000 rpm Max. test speed
1 2.48 9.8 53 mph (5200 rpm)
2 1.48 16.4

88 mph (5200 rpm)

3 1.00 25.2

130 mph (5200 rpm)

R 2.08 -6.4

N.A.

DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Wheelbase: 115.0 in.
Track: F: 58.0 in., R: 59.0 in.
Length: 203.2 in.
Width: 75.8 in.
Height: 53.6 in.
Ground clearance: 5.6 in.
Curb weight: 3684 lbs.
Test weight: 4284 lbs.
Weight distribution: F / R: 56.4 / 43.6%
Lbs/bhp (test weight): 12.2
Battery capacity: 12 volts, 66 amp/hr
Generator/Alternator capacity: 444 watts
Fuel capacity: 20.0 gallons
Oil capacity: 4.0 qts
Water capacity: 17.0 qts

SUSPENSION
Front: Independent, unequal-length wishbones, coil springs, anti-sway bar
Rear: Rigid axle, coil springs, trailing arms with upper lateral links, anti sway-bar

STEERING
Type: Recirculating ball
Turns lock-to-lock: 4.5
Turning circle: 41 ft.

BRAKES
Front: Delco Moraine 11.00-in vented discs
Rear: 9.5-in x 2.0-in cast iron drums
Swept area: 291.01 sq. in.

WHEELS AND TIRES
Wheel size and type: 5.5J x 14-in, pressed steel disc, 5 bolt
Tire make, size and type: FIrestone F70-14 Super Sports Wide Oval (nylon cord 2-ply tubeless
Test inflation pressures: F: 28 psi, R: 28 psi
Tire load rating: 1280 lbs per tire @ 24 psi

 

CHECK LIST

ENGINE
Starting
Response
Vibration

 

-
-
-

 

Excellent
Very Good
Good

DRIVETRAIN
Shift linkage
Shift smoothness (auto.)
Drive train noise

-
-
-

Good
Good
Very Good

STEERING
Effort
Response
Road feel
Kickback


-
-
-
-


Excellent
Very Good
Poor
Very Good

SUSPENSION
Ride comfort
Roll Resistance
Pitch control
Harshness control

-
-
-
-

Very Good
Very Good
Good
Very Good

HANDLING
Directional control
Predictabliity
Evasive maneuverability
Resistance to sidewinds

-
-
-
-

Very Good
Excellent
Very Good
Very Good

BRAKES
Pedal pressure
Response
Fade resistance
Directional stability

-
-
-
-

Excellent
Excellent
Very Good
Excellent

CONTROLS
Wheel position
Pedal Postion
Gearshift postition
Relationship
Small controls

-
-
-
-
-

Good
Very Good
Good
Fair
Very Good

INTERIOR
Ease of entry/exit
Noise level (cruising)
Front seating comfort
Front leg room
Front head room
Front hip/shoulder room
Rear seating comfort
Rear leg room
Rear head room
Rear hip/shoulder room
Instrument comprehensiveness
Instrument legibility

-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

Very Good
Good
Good
Very Good
Very Good
Excellent
Fair
Poor
Fair
Good
Very Good
Fair

VISION
Forward
Front quarter
Side
Rear quarter
Rear

-
-
-
-
-

Good
Good
Very Good
Poor
Good

WEATHER
PROTECTION

Heater/defroster
Ventilation
Weather sealing

-
-
-

Excellent
Good
Excellent

CONSTRUCTION QUALITY
Sheet metal
Paint
Chrome
Upholstery
Padding
Hardware

-
-
-
-
-
-

Very Good
Very Good
Excellent
Very Good
Very Good
Excellent

GENERAL
Headlight illumination
Parking and signal lights
Wiper effectiveness
Service accessibility
Trunk space
Interior storage space
Bumper protection

-
-
-
-
-
-
-

Very Good
Good
Excellent
Good
Very Good
Good
Good

PERFORMANCE
Zero to 30 mph: 3.0 sec
Zero to 40 mph: 4.2 sec
Zero to 50 mph: 5.7 sec
Zero to 60 mph: 7.8 sec
Zero to 70 mph: 9.8 sec
Zero to 80 mph: 12.4 sec
Zero to 90 mph: 15.6 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 19.4 sec
Standing 1/4 mile: 15.8 sec @ 91 mph
80 - 0 mph: 272 ft (.78G)
Fuel mileage: 11-17 mpg on premium fuel
Cruising range: 220-340 mi

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Car & Driver - Dec. '66 - [Page 1 of 4]

Car & Driver - Dec. '66 - [Page 2 of 4] Car & Driver - Dec. '66 - [Page 3 of 4]

Car & Driver - Dec. '66 - [Page 4 of 4]

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Car & Driver - 1967 Yearbook

Car & Driver - 67 Yearbook 442 Review - Page 1 of 2

Car & Driver - 67 Yearbook 442 Review - Page 2 of 2

A slightly abbreviated version of this road test also appeared in the 1967 Car & Driver Yearbook

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