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2,933 Miles: 1977 Oldsmobile 442

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Here’s a car with a story: this 1977 Oldsmobile 442 here on eBay has less than 3,000 original miles on it due to damage sustained from a fire early in its life. According to the seller, the vehicle has been in the hands of a salvage specialist who bought it at auction in the 70s with 2,933 miles on it and has stored it in a warehouse ever since. The cleaned-up pictures and interior photos look good enough that I am inclined to believe this intriguing tale. 

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When it was nearly new, a small engine fire prompted GM to replace the 442, which seems awfully generous if a customer had already taken delivery. Perhaps it was a demonstrater, or the fire occurred while it was in a dealership’s care. Either way, the 442 went to a salvage auction where a local dealer bought the car, sold off the engine and transmission, and then left the car to sit in their warehouse.

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As you can see, it still shines up quite nicely. The 442 also lost its steering column in its many years of dormancy after the second owner removed and then it, too, was lost in a fire. If you buy this car, keep it away from areas of open flame! Seems like fire just follows it around. So, as a result, you have a nearly-new 442 with no engine, transmission, steering column, title or VIN tags. It’s being sold for parts, which is ironic considering how many years it was stored. Did it not occur to the salvage owner that without those key ingredients, this 442 wouldn’t be particularly valuable (and hence, not worth holding onto for so many years)?

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But then again, if he got it cheap enough, it’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll have time to rebuild the mechanical systems and have yourself a nearly new 442 for not much money. The interior remains in great condition and I’m sure someone out there will want to pillage it for parts. I guess I’ll never quite understand owning a car for close to four decades and not getting any further than selling off the very items that make it useful for either driving it yourself or selling to someone else. What would you have done with it?


  1. Avatar photo MH

    What a great car with a tragic story. I’ll never understand some people. Now that the originality is gone might as well do what ever you want with it. Big block with fat rear tires would be the way I would go.

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  2. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    Sorry, I don’t buy the claim. More like 102,933. Worn brake pedal, and those speedo digits do that once around, rusty jack handle and rough trunk. It just doesn’t look like something with 3,000 miles, no matter what happened to the motor.

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  3. Avatar photo Paul

    No motor no trans and most of all no vin tags? I think something fishy is swimming in this sellers listing! I dont buy the story either..

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  4. Avatar photo Hoos

    If it had a VIN, I think it would be worth something. Even if I had the ability to build something fun out of this, the lack of a VIN would be discouraging. How do you go about getting a new one?

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  5. Avatar photo JW454

    I’d like to have the interior out of it along with a few other parts. I can see selling the engine and other parts but, I wonder why the vin tag has been removed?

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  6. Avatar photo Joe Gotts

    Vin numbers are not removed just because the car is salvaged.

    Some of this story is BULL$HIT.

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  7. Avatar photo Jeff Staff

    What gets me is the interior photo. The dash plastics and the seats do like largely unused.

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  8. Avatar photo Joe Gotts


    I agree the interior is clean, however part of the story is not.

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  9. Avatar photo Joe Gotts

    If the car had a engine fire the paint on the hood would have been burnt.

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  10. Avatar photo CJay

    The story is plausible. If GM not the dealer replaced the car the title could be branded Salvage only and not be showing a VIN. In some states a car is “New” until sold, so if the car was a demo and driven for 2900 miles then sold. The new owner only had it for 33 miles before the fire.
    The photos show fire damage limited to the firewall area where the wiring harness passes through the cowl. Paint damage to cowl, hood (burnt insulation removed) and area behind the gas pedal. A relatively small fire.
    To remove the VIN the windshield and dash would need to be pulled. Seller states glass new and new trim needs installed.
    Some states will issue new VIN plates on reconstructed vehicles.
    If some one is serious about this vehicle contact the seller and find out if the original VIN is still in the original location.

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  11. Avatar photo gerry Member

    When I was in vo-tech HS back in the 80’s when GM would donate cars they would remove the VIN tag from the cowl (sometimes by punching a hole in the windshield)and when the school was done with using the car for demonstration / educational purposes they had to be crushed to where no usable parts could be sold basically the agreement was no one could profit from the car once donated.

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    • Avatar photo grant

      I remember that we had a chevy Beretta they donated back in the 90’s it’s sitting outside the high school shop waiting to be scrapped now.

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  12. Avatar photo BillB

    I thought the 442 was supposed to have a 4-speed, 4-barrel and (2) Dual exhaust. I see an automatic shifter in the console.

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    • Avatar photo RollerD

      Only in 1964.

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  13. Avatar photo AMCFAN

    Similar story as gerry. GM did donate to our school as well. A 77 Pontiac Lemans. Same Colonnade body as this Olds. 400 engine White buckets floor shift and rally wheels.The Pontiac had 7 miles and had been in a flood. The guys in the Auto shop got it to run right away. It had been there several years when I attended looking very tired by then. It sat out back and pieces started coming up missing. Carb, center caps etc. Car is long gone now and safe to assume it got sold off at an annual school surplus sale or to a scrap dealer. Car had no vin.

    Very hard to say why the Olds has no vin. Doesn’t matter it is unfortunate. It is just a parts car now. Vin swap? Wouldn’t try it. Many states do in-depth physical inspections on out of state vehicles. I certainly wouldn’t risk it. No matter how far down the chain of ownership can and will come back to you.

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  14. Avatar photo Bill

    one of GM’s first attempts at self-drive cars…..

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  15. Avatar photo Nessy

    Although the car is a mess, there are a number of hints that show the miles to be correct. I believe the story. The 77 model dashboards cracked within a few years, this one is still fresh. Looks like this was a stripped down car. Too many things show the miles to be original.

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  16. Avatar photo Jim Marshall

    After the 1970 model 442 it was all down hill for these cars as true muscle cars. The 77 442 was basically a trim package with a 231 Buick V6 as the standard engine with a 260 V8, a 350 V8 and the new for 77 403 V8 rated at a mighty 180 hoursepower the biggest powerplant available. The famous 455 was phased out after it’s last year 1976. The seller has a good feedback of 100% on ebay so his story likely checks out. I consider myself well acquainted with these cars as I sold them when new and own this 70 model.

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    • Avatar photo Woodie Man

      Sweet! That I would want!

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    • Avatar photo Mark

      The standard motor for the 77 442 was the 350 V8. I’m not sure I have ever seen one with a 231 V6…. Cutlass yes, 442 no.

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  17. Avatar photo Roger

    I worked in GM and Chrysler dealerships for 45 years. It was a common practice for the the manufacturers to donate vehicles damaged in transit to area high school and community college vocational auto programs so the students could have hands on experience. We had to remove the vin tags and return them to the manufacturer. All new vehicles come with a certificate of origin. I don’t remember if the certificate was branded as salvage or a title was obtained from the DMV and then branded as salvage only.

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  18. Avatar photo OhU8one2

    After reviewing the photo’s,my conclusion is that mileage is correct. Granted the brake pedal pad has me puzzled,but it could have been swapped from someone else while removing some of the missing part’s. The lack of wear mark’s on knobs and trim item’s. The fact there is NO trash,food particles,or dirt or dust build up. Plus these GM car’s of this era were prone to major fluid leaks with high mileage. Front crossmember is rusty but NO fluid traces at all. This also indicates motor was pulled a very long time ago. Further more I also think the motor and trans were removed by three people. One of which was left handed, and possibly from Iowa. Who else would remove VIN plates but would leave the other signature mark’s I noticed. The paint near the trunk is scratched very faintly the word ,eye, then lower down say’s Dee. Across the other quarter panel is number 10, hood has letter T. It’s all how the world look’s for detail’s.

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  19. Avatar photo Paul R.

    The front end rake really shows how much GM was committed to NASCAR at the time and Oldsmobile was a successful grand national car. The old saying of ‘What wins on Sunday sells on Monday” was very true at the time.

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  20. Avatar photo Jim Marshall

    The highest average speed record for the Daytona 500 is held by a 76 or 77 Oldsmobile with this colonade body type. Many of the top drivers in that race drove these Oldsmobiles likely due to they having the best aerodynamics at the time.

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  21. Avatar photo AMC STEVE

    My friend bought a new one when the 403 came out and the car was a dog but the one thing it could do was squeal the tires, which was the only important thing in high school.
    This one is a puzzle and will unfortunately never see the road again, unless you have another car with a vin

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  22. Avatar photo RoughDiamond

    I would say after 1971 the Olds “442” went downhill. If memory serves me correctly, (and it may not), the ’71 offered the Muncie Rock Crusher transmission and is highly sought after today due to it’s rarity.

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    • Avatar photo jim

      The 455 V8 in the 442 the horsepower and torque rating was reduced beginning in 1971 along with the compression ratio so the detuning began in 71.

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  23. Avatar photo Poppy

    OhU8one2: I think the brake pedal actually looks pretty new. It’s kinda warped on the steel pedal but the ribbing on it is definitely not worn, and I agree with you on how nice the dash controls look. I’d like to see the date code on that lower radiator hose showing in the one photo. It looks like an original GM hose.

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  24. Avatar photo van

    How about a Viper
    Tech school in Atlanta had a viper
    I don’t remember the details
    And this was a high school program

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    • Avatar photo Michael Moceri

      Chrysler took a couple of donated Vipers back from a tech school because someone took them for a joyride. They crushed them! Look it up on YouTube.

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  25. Avatar photo Rob

    My 2 cents…

    General XP2000 tires are from the 80’s and later wheels don’t match the storage story (I guess they could have been bolted on to roll the car around).

    Interior looks nice but the brake pedal looks like higher mileage than 3,000.

    The grease pencil marking on the rear window looks like police impounds markings to me.

    I’m going to go with a 103,000 mile car that was well cared for car but was stolen, stripped and recovered. Missing VIN tags removed by chop shop/thieves to make the car harder to trace.

    Purchased from police auction and being sold with a fishy story.

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  26. Avatar photo Mike

    My Dad and I bought a large number of salvage cars for the parts, a couple from State Surplus auction, we did get in on a big purchase out of St Louis, back in the early part of 82, we and another body shop in the area went together and bought up over 90 cars and assorted parts after a chop shop had been busted up and after the courts were done with it, everything was sold off from the police impound. Now Dad and the other group only bought 3 lots from this auction, but it took us nearly 2 weeks to haul everything away, and that was a trip a day with 4 trucks & trailers to get everything. We had also bought a couple from the local VoTech School and the VIN had been removed from all of the ones we bought. Most of the Salvage or Insurance cars we bought over the years had the VIN removed, they said that was so we could not sell it without disclosing it was a salvage titled car.

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