The 1970 Oldsmobile 442: A Special Place in Detroit History
September 12, 2022

A review of the 1970 Oldsmobile 442 W30. In 1970 General Motors dropped its mandate on cubic inch displacement and the result was the installation of a pavement scorching big block 455 cubic inch V8 into the engine bay of the Cutlass which allowed Oldsmobile to offer a worthy competitor Vs. the Pontiac GTO and the Chevrolet Chevelle.

A black car on a road Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Prior to relaxing the cubic inch mandate in 1970, the Cutlass was equipped with a 300 cubic inch V8 that couldn’t compete with Chevy and Pontiac on the track. The 396 cubic inch displacement Chevy big block churned out 375 horsepower while the 389 Pontiac motor equipped with an optional three two-barrel carb setup installed in the Tempest chassis was rated at 365 horsepower.

A close up of a tire Description automatically generated with medium confidence

When checking the W-30 package on the 1970 build sheet, the car was manufactured with extra performance features that included a special Rochester 4-barrel carburetor along with a high-performance camshaft to bring the heat. The enhanced 455 was rated by Oldsmobile at 370 gross horsepower and 500 lb-ft of asphalt ripping torque, and many believed the 370 rating was well on the light side. A more realistic rating was north of 400 horsepower.

The 455 equipped with aftermarket headers along with a performance rear axle and drag tires broke into the high 13-second range at the dragstrip. Back in the day this was considered a blistering time and required a skilled driver to manage the high level of torque while shifting a manual 4-speed transmission and maintaining a straight-line pass. Additionally, the W-30 performance package resulted in a heavy-duty suspension that aided in cornering along with a fiberglass hood with a metal base that included functional air vents. The air vents allowed the flow of cool air into a specially designed air filter sitting above an aluminum intake manifold exclusive to the 442. When checking the right boxes on your build sheet, you are assured a high level of success Vs. state-of-the-art muscle car offerings at the dragstrip during the 1970 decade. With weight reduction in the form of less insulation and red plastic fender wells, the factory-installed W-30 performance goodies along with a GM warranty cost you less than $800.00

A red car on a race track Description automatically generated with medium confidence

The 442 was designed to incorporate both the sizzle and the steak into the GM A-body with styled dual exhaust tips along with an optional spoiler. With either manual or automatic transmission, and a convertible option, the Oldsmobile was considered “the gentleman’s” sportscar and coveted by many upwardly mobile Americans at the time. While many modern muscle cars still incorporate hood intake vents as part of a styling package, in many cases this all-too-common styling feature is non-functional and purely aesthetic. With visually menacing functional cutouts that channeled gobs of air to the updated air filter and higher flowing cylinder heads, the 1970 Oldsmobile W-30 optioned 442 was, and still is an iconic piece of Detroit muscle. Both in form and function!

The team attends local cruise nights or cars and coffee events in our neighborhood, and we suggest you search out the Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 while attending one of your local events. While they may be few and far between, you will find a special gleam in the owner’s eye as every classic car aficionado is aware of the special place in muscle car history Oldsmobile earned with the car that offered buyers both the “sizzle” and the “steak” direct from the factory.

Auto, Marine, Home, and more.