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Another Forgotten Musclecar

1976 Olds 442
Posted October 23 2008 04:18 PM by Johnny Hunkins 
Filed under: Hard Driving

Ad for the Olds 442 in the June 1976 issue of PHR.

When performance had to take a back seat due to federal regulations, Detroit stepped up the luxury and styling.

Many readers look at the mid ‘70s as the dark ages of performance, and for the most part, they are correct. But the ‘70s weren’t all bad, especially if you had to live with your new “muscle car” as a commuter. Such was the case with the ’76 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442—which is shown in this ad from the June 1976 issue of Popular Hot Rodding. Equipped with a comfy FE2 Rallye Radial Tuned Suspension, “super stock” wheels, white-letter tires, bucket seats, five-speed overdrive trans, and a new 403-ci Olds Rocket V-8, the 442 was the car for the young, upwardly mobile male.

Back then, the 442 was still pure Olds, including the 403-ci power plant. The styling—which featured a fairly extensive revision for 1976—featured a beveled grille, which was unique to the 442, and to the Cutlass S model, just below the 442 in the line-up. All other Cutlasses had a vertical grille, which gives the Cutlass a much more blocky appearance.

The beveled grille of the 442/Cutlass S had a major impact on aerodynamics in NASCAR, and had a profound effect on the win column in the 1978 NASCAR season. Truthfully, it was the ’75 Chevy Laguna—platform-mate to the Olds Cutlass—that was NASCAR’s golden child in those days. But when Lagunas started winning too many races, NASCAR slapped restrictor plates on them, and teams quickly rebodied Lagunas as Oldsmobiles, and continued to lay waste to the field. I don’t know whether the beveled grille was a deliberate plan on the part of Olds to slingshot through the NASCAR field, or whether it was just a happy accident, but the design resulted in winning 10 out of 29 Winston Cup races in 1978. Lennie Pond even won his only Winston Cup race—the Talladega 500—in an Olds 442 that year.

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