The Oldsmobile product line has hosted some of the most powerful and unique performance vehicles in the General Motors arsenal. The Cutlass namesake appeared on Oldsmobile's premier performance rocket ships of the past. After the oil crisis of the seventies, Olds needed to shave some weight, re-design some looks and increase the comfortability in its typically no-frills mid-sized performance cars.
1978-1988 Cutlass Information
The Cutlass Supreme was downsized for 1978, along with the rest of the Cutlass line. An upscale Cutlass Calais model was added, differing from the Cutlass Supreme only in minor trim details. The new notchback Cutlass Supreme proved to be far more popular than the controversial fastback Cutlass Salon coupe and sedan introduced at the same time.
Both the Cutlass Supreme and Calais were optioned with T-tops and/or a factory sunroof, even on the base Cutlass Supreme coupe with the factory radio delete option.
From 1978 through 1980, a high-performance 442 model was available, and for 1979, a special-edition performance model, the Hurst/Olds was offered. These used the Supreme's notchback body, rather than the standard fastback coupe's. Around 2,499 Hurst/Olds were produced - all were powered with an Oldsmobile 5.7L gasoline engine sourced from the full-size Delta 88 and Ninety Eight Regency.
In 1978, the Cutlass line featured taillights which had a lighted Oldsmobile rocket logo in the center.
In 1979, the taillights on the Cutlass line dropped the rocket logo.
In 1980 the two-door models went back to four headlights. A 4-door notchback sedan (known as Cutlass, Cutlass LS, and Cutlass Brougham) replaced the 4-door Salon. The Supreme Brougham package was available on and off throughout 1978-1988 production. This was also the first year GM introduced the OBD-I computer controlled engine management and emission control system.
In 1981, the Cutlass Supreme coupe received an aerodynamic restyle (with a "shovel-nose" front header panel), and would continue with this basic design until the final rear-drive Cutlass was produced in 1988. The 4-door sedan remained unchanged with a slight taillight lens restyle (resembling a touch-tone dial or Rubik's Cube - this lens style was used until 1984). It was this restyled body that (along with the Monte Carlo, Buick Regal, and Pontiac Gran Prix) ushered in the down-sized cars into NASCAR cup competition. While the Cutlass looked almost identical to the Buick Regal (which scored 35+ victories in the 1981 thru 1985 seasons), the Cutlass (like the Dodge Mirada) didn't take one checkered flag, and many teams moved away from it in 1983 to the Regal, Grand Prix, and restyled Monte Carlo SS. This was a rude awakening to Oldsmobile, which was getting used to wins on the NASCAR circuit.
The Cutlass Supreme parted mechanical company with the rest of the Cutlass line in 1982, when continuing high sales convinced GM to continue production of its rear wheel drive mid-size cars alongside the new V6-powered, front-wheel drive A-body, known as the Cutlass Ciera. The rear-wheel drive sedan and Cutlass Cruiser wagon became part of the Cutlass Supreme line in 1982. The wagon was dropped for 1984 as a new Cutlass Ciera-based model was introduced.
When the Cutlass Calais became a separate model on the GM N platform in 1985 (as the Calais until 1988), the rear-wheel drive Cutlass Calais was renamed Cutlass Salon (taking its name from the upscale Supreme coupe and sedan that preceded the Calais).
1987 was the final year for the rear-wheel drive sedan, and both coupe models received a restyled header panel with composite headlights. A Buick 231 was the base motor alongside the Oldsmobile 307. For its final year, the 442 package was moved to the Supreme model.
1988 was the final year for the rear wheel drive Cutlass Supreme. It was badged Cutlass Supreme Classic, and 27,678 were built. The 2-door coupe (produced alongside the Chevrolet Monte Carlo at GM's Pontiac, Michigan plant) continued, until the new front-wheel drive version was released in December 1987. The Olds 307 was the only available engine.
1979-1984 Hurst/Olds Information
Another car, now called simply the Hurst/Olds, appeared in 1979, based on the Cutlass Calais coupe. It used the L34, Oldsmobile's 5.7 L (350 in³) V8 engine. A Hurst Dual Gate shifter was standard. After a 3 year hiatus, the H/O returned in '79 on GM's newly downsized Cutlass body. The first H/O to be built entirely by Oldsmobile Division, it was also the first H/O that did not offer a 455 engine. But it was the only GM A-body to offer a 350 V8 in '79. White and black again were the color choices, but with a wider choice of interior trims than ever before. Gold paint covered the hood, most of the top, and the very rear of the trunk. The aluminum wheels were also painted gold, along with the grille. This H/O was built by Oldsmobile at the Lansing plant and didn't get sent off for additional work at Hurst Performance Products or Cars and Concepts. For this reason, there would be no possible loophole around the then current EPA regulations.
In part and summary, those regulations stated that as long as an engine/transmission combination had been certified in any production model for that year, the same combination could be used in any other model that the factory desired, so long as less than 2,500 were produced. If 2,500 or more were built, the engine/transmission combination had to be certified specifically in that particular model. The "R" code Olds 350 engine in combination with the TH-350 transmission had already been certified in the 88 models for 1979, so legally that same combination could also be used in the Cutlass body without specific certification as long as less than 2,500 were built. That's why 2,499 1979 Hurst/Oldsmobile's were produced. Now, there were no 350/4 speed combinations already certified by Oldsmobile in 1979, so certification would have been necessary.
Known as the W-30, it was produced for the following year in the 1980 Olds 442. The only major differences between '79-'80 were the headlights, and '79 had the dual gate Hurst shifter.
After the Cutlass line was split between the front-wheel drive A-body Cutlass Ciera and the rear-wheel drive G-body Cutlass Supreme in 1982, GM again offered a limited-edition Hurst/Olds - it was the 15th anniversary of the first Hurst/Olds introduced in 1968. The Hurst Lightning Rod floor shifter was introduced in the '83 H/O. For its 15th Anniversary Edition, the '83 H/O came only in black with silver rocker panels. Chrome 15" wheels fitted Goodyear GT tires, and a power bulge hood and rear spoiler gave the car a purposeful look. A modified version of Oldsmobile's 307 CID V8 was installed, along with 3.73 gears. Dual exhausts with rumbling mufflers meant there was no mistaking the H/O for a garden variety Cutlass. A new style "Hurst/Olds" emblem was introduced, and red and silver stripes separated the black and silver paint.
Demand for the car was very strong. Originally, 2500 units were scheduled to be produced, but Olds had to up that number to 3001 because of high demand. That may have been a factor in bringing the H/O back for '84. The paint scheme was reversed, with silver being the main body color, and black on the rocker panels. In most respects, the '84 was mechanically identical to the '83. The '84 did get a stronger 8.5" rear end. 3500 units were produced in 1984
A fully loaded 1984 H/O model tipped the cash register at $19,500 (base price ~$11k)
1985-1987 442 Information
The 442 name was revived in 1985 on the rear-wheel drive G-body Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. The name was now defined as referring to the car's 4-speed 200r4 automatic transmission, 4-barrel carburetor, and 2 exhausts. This W42 model replaced the 1983 and 1984 Hurst/Olds model and used the same 5.0 L LG8 V8. The shifter was mounted on the floor in a console between the front seats, and the upgraded F41 suspension package was included. 3,000 were produced in the first year, and all were sold quickly. 4,273 were produced for 1986, and 4,208 were made in 1987.
The 1984 Hurst/Olds and 1985-87 442 were equipped with an 8.5" GM corporate differential usually with a 3:73 ring and pinion gear. Rather than using the weaker 7.5" rear differential found in the Monte Carlo SS, these models used the same stout unit found in the Buick Grand National.
The 1983-84 Hurst/Olds and 1985-87 442's are distinguishable by there being a "9" as the engine code found in the 8th character of their VIN's. These were the only models to get the hotter VIN 9 307 cubic inch engine, and it was the only engine available. From 1983-1985, this engine was flat-tappet valvetrain, and rated at 180 hp/240 ft·lbf torque. In 1986, the 307 engine received a roller-camshaft valvetrain and new swirl-port heads to improve economy and low-end torque. HP dropped to 170, with torque climbing to 250. The 1985 442 used an OZ code THM 200-4R transmission.
Origin of the 442 name
Some people mistakenly believe that the designation "442" referred to the displacement of the engine in cubic inches. The reality is that a 442 has never had a 442 cubic inch engine. Rather, the genesis for the name 4-4-2 came from the attributes of the 1964 model:
1964 (Original meaning)
4: Four Barrel Carburetion
4: Four On the Floor
2: Dual Exhausts
With the 4-4-2 moniker established, later editions did not officially follow any adherence to features stemming from the numerals "4-4-2". However, in some later model years, the features did informally match the 4-4-2 numerals, as described below.
1965 (First year of automatic and three speed manual transmission option on 442)
4: 400 Cubic Inch Displacement
4: Four Barrel Carburetion
2: Dual Exhaust
1966 (First and only year with multiple carburetor option L69)
4: Nothing, Tri Carb L69 was an option above the 4 bbl quadrajet.
2: Dual Exhaust
1967 (First year a 2bbl was available)
4: 400 engine
4: Nothing, 2bbl Turnpike Cruiser option available
2: Dual Exhaust
1968-71 Official name of car was 442
1972 Reverts to option package W29, but with no connection to the numerals 442.
1985 to 1987 (Last of RWD 442s)
4: Four speed automatic
4: Four barrel carburetor
2: Dual exhaust
1990 and 1991 (FWD 442)
4: Four cylinders
4: Four valves
2: Two camshafts