RAM AIR ROCKET
by Tim Marcotte

REPRINTED FROM MUSCLECARS MAGAZINE - DATE UNKNOWN

"The '67 Olds had a little known, late-in-the-season released W-30 ram air option. It wasn't listed in the factory literature, but that didn't stop the car from kicking butts all over the street."

     While Ford and Chevrolet were busy beating each other's brains in looking for a bigger piece of the so-called Youth Market pie, the General called on its other Divisions for help. Pontiac brought up the rear in 1964 with its GTO, the car for which the word supercar appears to have been coined for. Even though Buick did not respond until 1965, Oldsmobile was able to get its act together faster and introduced a 1964 1/2 F-85 with the new legendary 4-4-2 designation. It wasn't a lot to write home about in the area of GTO styling, image and straightline performance, but the 330 cube cruiser had an excellent suspension and showed potential.

     However, by 1967 Oldsmobile was a major player in the Supercar Sweepstakes. The brawny 400-inch motor surfaced in 1965 and by 1966 tri-power Rockets were raising hell on the street and the drag strip. The original 4-4-2 designation was justified by the car's 4-barrel carb, 4-speed transmission and dual exhaust. By 1965 it meant a lot more thanks to the 400-cubic-inch displacement. Gone was Lucille and her Merry Oldsmobile image.

In 1967 Oldsmobile enthusiasts mourned the loss of the killer tri-power option. In its place, however, was a trick W-30 Ram Air option that helped pump horsepower and image into the supercar that was often referred to as the "executive hot rod." There wasn't much new on the outside for 1967, yet in the area of real world performance the 4-4-2 was a car to be reckoned with.

     The '67 Olds Cutlass 4-4-2 (4-4-2 was still an option available on F-85 Cutlass models and not a true car model) continued to offer one of the best ride and handling packages in the industry, combined with serious horsepower and torque. The secret was in the option lists which meant that you had to do a lot of research in order to spec out a total performance car. You could get goodies like Hurst 4-speed ($184.31), Magnetic Pulse UHV ignition ($100.05), 4-4-2 Engine Trim Package ($184.31), and W-30 Cold Air Induction Package ($263.30). For superior stopping power, J-52 Power Disc Brakes ($104.79) were recommended.

     Because of Oldsmobile's traditional marketing policies, the 4-4-2 was not as image-laden as much of the competition. The powers that be in Lansing gave the car multi-color emblems, a louvered hood and some other trim, but stayed basically on the conservative side for its dealers and luxury liner buyers. Yet, when it came to under the hood and between the chassis rails, Oldsmobile Engineering did an outstanding job. Of the 24,833 Olds Cutlass models with 4-4-2 option sold in 1967, approximately 500 had the ultimate W-30 power trip. Listed as a dealer-installed option in 1967, a number of the W-30 cars were built by the factory -- including the one shown in these photos. Considering all the goodies needed for the W-30 conversion, the option price was one of the bargains of the year.


This is an actual W-30 Cutlass 4-4-2 that was factory assembled along with red fiberglass inner fender panels in mid-1967. Finished in yellow with a black vinyl roof and (ugh!) wire wheel hubcaps, listed for $4369. It was also fitted with a 4-speed and 4.33 gears. It is probably the only W-30 car with wire wheel hubcaps and vinyl roof.

The full dressed W-30 engine with chrome valve covers shows 350 hp rating. The cam in this engine was special, rated at 308 degrees duration.

Special 5-inch diameter hoses pick-up cool fresh air via scoops mounted between the quad head lamps (over and under the parking lamps) for the Quadrajet 4-barrel. Option was listed as dealer-installed.


The magnetic pulse distributor and special coil did away with points and conventional condenser. Plug life was greatly extended.

Full loaded stock 4-4-2 with flakey wheelcovers does not carry off the image end of the car very well. However, as you can see performance is not a problem. This car listed for $4369 in 1967.

This is a rare loaded W-30 4-4-2 with Police & Taxi hubcaps and Wide Oval tires. It was a mule car used by Olds Engineering in 1967 for high performance R&D work at the GM proving grounds.

This is the way a 4-4-2 should have been optioned. Road wheels are a welcome addition. Note louvered (non-functional) hood.

     Oldsmobile tried very hard not to talk about horsepower and torque figures for the W-30-equipped 4-4-2 and essentially kept both the stock and the optional 4-4-2 engines at the same 350 hp and 440 lbs./ft. torque ratings. However, the redline on the W-30 engine was upped a couple of hundred rpm to compensate for the higher-lift  long-duration valvetrain. The stock 4-4-2 max horsepower came in at 4800 rpm, while the W-30 appeared to be at 5000 rpm. Chances are pretty good that the horsepower was a solid 25 more than stock and the redline increase should have been around 5200 to 5400.

     What did you actually get for the extra $263.30 tariff on the W-30? Most obvious is the huge dual snorkel Ram Air fixture atop the Quadrajet, plus hoses, fiberglass scoops, long battery cables and a high rpm cam and kit. You could purchase the cam and kit separately from and Olds dealer (cam had four orange stripes) with Part No. 397329 used to indicate the right kit. The cam was rated at 308 degrees duration as compared with 286 degrees for the stock 4-4-2 stick.

     Since the hoses used with the Ram Air kit left very little room under the hood for the battery, the factory recommended that it be relocated into the trunk department and be placed over the right rear wheel for a max traction advantage. Long cables supplied in the kit make the hookup a simple matter -- even for dealership mechanics. For a maximum charge of cool fresh air (functional at speeds over 60 mph) the 5-inch hoses flanked the engine and ended with scoops mounted between the quad headlamps (over and under the parking lamps). The sealed setup insures that the Quadrajet would be fed only by exterior flow (a denser charge is the advantage over heated underhood air).

     In keeping with Oldsmobile's 75% commitment to engineering performance and 25% investment in image, Lansing did a lot of work in the area of handling and durability. The suspension, with its stiffly-valved shocks, beefy springs and front and rear sway bars, was rated as one of the best in the industry. Hardcore street freaks may have found it too soft and mushy, but these were not the customers Oldsmobile was looking for. The reality was that it offered the best of both worlds. One of the concessions made to the hardcore street rodder (in addition to the W-30 package) was the optional, lightweight red fiberglass inner fender panels which could be installed in place of the heavier metal assemblies. And, they looked sharp when you popped open the hood -- especially on W-30 cars with polished and plated air cleaners.

     While you could get a Hurst-shifted 4-speed or automatic in the 4-4-2, the most popular transmission choice was the excellent 3-speed Turbo HydraMatic. In 1967 Olds upgraded the 4-4-2 by doing away with the 2-speed Jetaway auto shifter and using beefed auto versions only in the 4-4-2 models. The unit used in the supercar had a special valve body resulting in higher rpm shifts, and the variable stator converter ratio was revised for greater low end (off-the-line) torque (1.9 high angle, 2.5 low angle).

     If you ordered a 4-4-2 in 1967 with factory 3.42 or 3.91-to-1 final drive ratios you automatically received a special rear designated "A-Plus". The A-Plus axle had higher capacity differential side bearings and larger diameter shafts for increased torque loads. Instead of the traditional 27-spline axles, the big rears came with 31-spline assemblies. When you opted for G-80 Anti-Spin Rear Axle ($42.13), you got an all-new unit which would better handle the torque of the 400-inch motor even under drag strip conditions. It offered increased differential effectiveness thanks to simplified construction, new friction discs, better lubrication retention and overall longer life. The F-70 Wide Ovals were the best tires available at the time, yet were relatively useless on W-30 cars that were driven hard.

     Oldsmobile did an excellent job of packaging the interior of its 4-4-2 using leather-like vinyl and nicely contoured bucket seats. The dash was Cutlass carryover, but there was a gauge option which also left a lot to be desired. It was called Rocket Rally Gauges ($84.29) and it grouped the tachometer in one cluster with amp, temp and oil pressure gauges plus a clock. It was just plain hard to read and you often found yourself shifting at 5:00 pm instead of 5000 rpm. A conventional Sun Tach could easily be fitted in the circular dash opening. A far better choice for a supercar.

     Granted, the Olds 4-4-2 was more expensive than Chevy, Ford and Pontiac supercars, and in many cases not as quick or as fast. However, in the area of compromise, giving heavy points to ride and handling and quality appointments, the 4-4-2 was the hands-down winner. You could buy a loaded 4-4-2 for less than $4300 (list sticker price) and a W-30 car for under $4500. The W-30 Olds featured here was equipped with a 4.33-to-1 Posi gear set and when new produced 0-to-60 mph numbers in the high 6s and low 7s and 14-second quarter miles with trap speeds over 100 mph. It delivered between 8 and 12 mpg on cheap Sunoco 260 (really needed to nourish the 10.5-to-1 engine). These figures were recorded after the car was dyno tuned and fitted with colder Champion J-10-Y plugs. Even in off the floor stock shape, the Olds 4-4-2 was an outstanding street performer.

     The '67 Olds Cutlass was the last of its body style and the 4-4-2 option was to be phased out as an option. The next year Olds gave the Cutlass an all new body style and the 4-4-2 became a real car, not just an option designation. Being the last of a series, the '67 Cutlass is entitled to "classic collectible" status. And, it's one collectible that's fun to drive.

 

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Because of routing the large diameter fresh air hoses through the engine compartment, the battery (left) had to be relocated in the trunk. The recommended mounting position was over the right rear wheel for improved traction.

The UHV magnetic pulse ignition system (right) delivered a super hot spark, kept maintenance cost down and could fire cold drag strip plugs on the street. It even would fire fouled plugs. Amplified with finned housing mounted on the inner fender panel. It was a $100.05 option.


Unlike the lower end competition, Oldsmobile put a lot of money in interior packaging. High grade vinyl was used throughout. Non-stock items were wrapped steering wheel and extra gauges.


Firestone Wide Oval tires were the hot ticket!The hot tire tip in 1967 was Firestone Wide Ovals which came with the 4-4-2. However, there was lots of room for improvement in the rubber department.

Musclecars magazine Page 1 Musclecars magazine Page 2 Musclecar magazine Page 3 Musclecar magazine Page 5

Webmaster's Note: Hey, what the heck is this?? Notice anything wrong with the pictures here? (Look closely!) Give up? Look at the picture of the relocated battery (in the upper right hand corner of page 3). It was inadvertently printed  rotated 90 degrees clockwise from the correct position. Shows what happens when you're rushed for a deadline, I guess!

This article was donated by someone who had removed it from the original MuscleCars magazine, but couldn't remember exactly what issue. He DID say he could narrow it down to one of the following issues:

Winter 1984-85
Spring 1985
Summer 1985

Spring 1987 Vol 5 #1
Spring 1987 Vol 5 #3

 

If YOU can pinpoint exactly what issue this article came from, please e-mail me! Thanks!

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