1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 - $19,900
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It is not a perfect car but it’s extremely nice for a production car fast approaching its 35th birthday.

You might not think “Oldsmobile” when you think of performance in the ‘80s, but with horsepower on the rebound the Rocket Division wasn’t about to let you forget that they were among the first to bring performance to the masses. In the mid-80s, the Cutlass was the best-selling car in the US and Olds offered not one but two performance variants, both legends from their past: the Hurst/Olds and the 442. Most folks seem familiar with the Hurst/Olds but very few realized that Oldsmobile was also building a 442 variant aimed at a slightly more upscale buyer. Based on the top-of-the-line Salon model, the 442 brought the same high-output 307 cubic inch V8, a slightly stiffer suspension, bucket seats, full instrumentation, and exclusivity; the 442 was nearly 25% more expensive than a standard Cutlass Salon, which perhaps explains why only 4273 were built in 1986. If you want an unusual car with few compromises and entertaining performance, this 442 deserves a closer look.

The color is called Dark Blue Teal, and is the rarest of the limited 442 colors. It features the same dark gray lower body and gold stripes separating the colors as all the other 442s, but this one looks particularly handsome. Olds stylists knew their clients, so it retained the formal roofline, albeit without the padded roof, and there’s enough chrome to remind you that Oldsmobile was still delivering luxury. This car shows just 59,944 original miles and has been a cherished toy for decades so the original paint and bodywork remains in excellent condition throughout. The doors close with a solid sound and feel that you might not expect after 30 years of rattle-trap GM products and the finish is still shiny and bright, showing none of the usual GM issues that are endemic to the period. The only noteworthy details are a sliver of rust at the very bottom of the driver’s door (probably from being scraped along something at door level, not due to exposure to winter salt) and some discoloration above the exhaust tips. It is not a perfect car but it’s extremely nice for a production car fast approaching its 35th birthday. The chrome is excellent and the original decals are still intact, bright, and fully adhered to the bodywork. This is a very handsome car.

The blue velour interior makes this 442 especially rare, and it, too is in fantastic shape. There are no rips or tears in the upholstery and the bold blue color strongly suggests that it has always been stored out of the sun. It’s plush, make no mistake, and when you close the door you might have to give it an extra slam due to the thick sound-deadening seals that Oldsmobile used. Original carpets and door panels look great and the dash pad is unmarked. The 442 added a leather-wrapped steering wheel on a tilt column, as well as a full complement of gauges, including a tach (and yes, it’s normal for the tach to park itself at 1200 RPM when you shut it off). A console is a neat find in an Oldsmobile and you’ll note that the faux woodgrain is in fantastic shape. Other features include factory A/C, power locks, cruise control, rear defroster, remote mirrors, and an AM/FM/cassette stereo head unit. Kind of unusual to see manual windows in a loaded-up Olds like this, but that also helps this one stand out. Even the headliner is in good shape with two areas near the sun visors where there’s some slight delamination—that’s pretty much the deal with GM cars of this vintage. There’s also a massive trunk with the original space-saver spare and no issues hiding under the mat.

The only engine you could get in the 442 was a 307 cubic inch “high output” V8 rated at 180 horsepower. That doesn’t seem too impressive in a world populated by 500 horsepower Camaros but that would also be to ignore the 442’s superlative blend of competence and comfort. No, it probably won’t win any drag races but it feels energetic with a big hit of low-end torque that is what V8s and rear-wheel-drive were designed to do. There’s a subdued V8 hum from the exhaust, about right for a car that can still consume miles of interstate without stressing its driver in the least. And if time has proven anything, it’s that this engine is virtually indestructible. No fuel injection, just a big Rochester 4-barrel carb on top, a roller valvetrain to help make it feel punchy, and nothing so complex you can’t fix it yourself at home. Those are virtues that late-model cars have lost but which are part of the appeal of an vintage collector car. And to your benefit as a buyer, this one remains 100% stock, right down to the air cleaner and exhaust, so no worries about abuse in its past. It starts easily, idles buttery smooth, and just goes about its business without a lot of fuss. In the world of hobby cars, what’s that worth to you?

Unlike the Hurst/Olds, the 442 was backed by a 200-4R 4-speed automatic overdrive transmission, which makes it a fantastic highway cruiser, even with punchy 3.73 gears in the rear end (a limited slip was standard equipment, too!). Shifts are crisp and smooth with no signs of trouble, and this transmission has proven its worth by surviving behind some boosted Buick Grand Nationals putting out serious power. The suspension is standard Cutlass, albeit with special shocks, bigger sway bars, and upgraded bushings to help it feel a bit sportier without hurting that cloud-smooth ride quality. You’ll find a set of airbags installed in the rear springs, and we don’t know why they’re there—this car has obviously never been raced. Perhaps for load-leveling purposes so they didn’t have to alter the original shocks. There are no rust issues, just some surface scale on the heavy metal parts and undercoating on just about everything else, and the 100% original exhaust system still uses its original catalytic converter so it’s street legal in all 50 states. The handsome Oldsmobile SS II wheels were painted gold on 442s to match the stripes, and this one carries recent 215/65/15 blackwall radials that look and feel just right.

The final rear-wheel-drive Cutlasses have been popular since the day they were built. Cars like this represent great value and exclusivity, and this one is also supremely comfortable, loaded with options, and will stand out at any show you attend. For the money how can you go wrong? Call today!

Vehicle: 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442
Price: $19,900
Stock Number: 116041
Mileage: 59,944
VIN: 1G3GK4799GP377643
Engine: 307 cubic inch V8
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Gear Ratio: 3.73
Wheelbase: 108 inches
Wheels: 15-inch SSII wheels
Tires: 215/65/15 blackwall radials
Exterior Color: Dark Blue Teal Metallic over Silver
Interior Color: Blue cloth
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