Diehard 442 enthusiasts cherish one particular option above all else -- the W-30. This performance package transformed a good-performing car into a tire-melting brute that was able to hold its own against just about anything that came from Detroit. What made the W-30 442 special? Let's take a look.
The 442 made its debut late in the 1964 model year to compete with Pontiac's hot-selling GTO. And although the 330 V8 ran well for its size, it couldn't run with the Tri-power 389s then on the street. 1965 was really more of the same, and by this time public perception was that the GTO ruled the streets (this carried on throughout the '60s, even though many of Detroit's super cars would outrun the GTO).
In 1966, the group at Lansing set about to change this. The Tri-Carb 400 making 360 horsepower debuted (the standard 442 engine was a single 4-bbl 400). This leveled the playing field somewhat, but Oldsmobile engineers had another surprise up their sleeves.
The 1966 W-30 442 was Oldsmobile's best-kept secret. The option package was unknown to the vast majority of the general public, and to most dealers as well. The option was aimed at increasing the 442's competitiveness in the Stock classes of sanctioned drag racing events. The theory was winning drag races would translate into increased showroom activity and sales (sound familiar?). As such, the option was never advertised, and in fact wasn't listed in the factory brochures and spec sheets for 1966.
As a result, only 54 cars were built by Oldsmobile with the W-30 option in 1966. Certain dealers in-the-know performed "Track-Pac" (or "Drag-Pac") conversions to other 442s. This entailed installing the special W-30 equipment, available over-the-counter, to an otherwise standard Tri-Carb L-69 400. The cars came with a Force-Air system that included a special chrome-plated dual-snorkel air cleaner that attached to scoops in the front bumper via large tubes. The air cleaner was stamped with a sequential number from 1-54 on factory-built cars. The battery was moved to the trunk (better weight distribution, and the driver's side air cleaner tube precluded mounting the battery in the stock location). The W-30 cars were 4-speeds only (all Tri-Carb 442s were 3 or 4-speeds), and a special 4.33:1 ratio rear gear was used.
1966 W-30 cars got a hot camshaft with 308 degrees duration and .474" lift. High tension valve springs were fitted, and the engines were blue-printed at the factory. The engines wore chrome valve covers, and had a unique heat riser shutoff valve in the intake that kept exhaust heat from the carburetor when turned (all Tri-Carb 400s had this feature).
A testament to the serious "strip-only" nature of the first-year W-30 is that most factory-built cars didn't have radios, and some were built without heaters. Unfortunately, since the '66 W-30 was little known, finding road tests of the car is virtually impossible. As such, we don't have any performance numbers for the W-30 in particular.
Motor Trend tested a Tri-Carb 442 and reported a 1/4 mile time of 15.1 seconds at 96.56 mph. It would be safe to assume a W-30 equipped model would better this by a considerable margin. The W-30 442 did take the NHRA's C/Stock category in 1966, fulfilling the engineer's desires for drag racing success.
Oldsmobile at least acknowledged the existence of the W-30 package in 1967, and the result was an increase in production to 502 cars. The Track-Pac conversions were still available over-the-counter, so there were more W-30 cars on the street than the factory assembled.
The big change for 1967 was in carburetion. Gone was the Tri-Carb 400, replaced by a 400 with the infamous Rochester Quadrajet. GM mandated that no cars except the Corvette could be built with multiple carburetors, thereby making the '66 L-69 442 a one-year-only animal.
Carried over from the '66 was the Force-Air air cleaner (for a single 4-bbl now) with tubes running to slightly different scoops in the front end. Instead of taking air below the headlights, the '67 scoops fit between the headlights above and below the parking light. The battery was once again mounted in the trunk.
The 442 package, and thus the W-30, was only available on the Cutlass Supreme for 1967. The '66 models could be had on the spartan F-85 model all the way up to the Cutlass Supreme series.
The 308-degree duration camshaft and special valve springs were retained from the '66. W-30 distributors used a modified advance curve which, according to factory technical bulletins, improved the idle quality somewhat (a concern with the longer duration camshaft). W-30 heads had a "C" cast into the left front of the driver's side head. This was the same head casting as the standard 442.
The transmission options for '67 were the M-21 close-ratio 4-speed, or a modified Turbo 400. The TH400 was identified by the stamping "W-O-G" on the serial number plate, and featured more firm full-throttle upshifts at higher engine speeds than the garden-variety transmission.
A new feature in 1967, one destined to become a W-30 trademark, was red inner fenders. These fenders were installed from the factory on W-30 cars only, and were a good way to distinguish a factory car from a Track-Pac conversion (not the case at all these days, there are too many reproductions out there).
A heavy-duty third member was available in three different ratios for '67: 3.55:1, 3.90:1, and 4.33:1. All the rear ends used the cone-type Anti-Spin limited-slip differential.
Even on the heavier Cutlass Supreme platform, the '67 W-30 remained a very strong performer. The August 1967 issue of Super Stock magazine tested a 4-speed, 4.33 geared W-30 and ran a 13.99 at 102.4 mph through the quarter mile. This puts the W-30 right in the hunt with the quickest cars of the year (a '67 3x2 bbl 427 Corvette tested by Hot Rod ran a 13.80, while Car Life got a '67 Ram Air 400 GTO to run a 13.90).
Check out the write-up in Musclecars magazine on the W-30 option in the Media Reports / Road Tests section!
To read some more about the 1967 W-30, check out the W-30 History Page (off-site). There is also a little about all W-30 models, not just the '67.
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