$3,900 Rocket: 1976 Oldsmobile 442

Remember when NASCAR played more than a small role with car companies and with car designs? This 1976 Oldsmobile 442 is a case of that. It can be found on Craigslist, or here on the CL archive, in the Big-D: Dallas, Texas. The seller is asking $3,900 for this one. Thanks to Rocco B. for this submission!

This photo is cut off a bit on each end, but the front end is what I was referring to. The last two years of the third-generation 442, 1976 & 1977, the grille was redesigned with NASCAR in mind. The famous “slant back grille” was more aerodynamic. This car appears to have been repainted, I don’t know if this could possibly be an original color scheme? I really like this era of 442, but I’m guessing that I’m in the minority on that. Most people like the first and second-generation cars only. By the third-generation in 1973, a lot of the horsepower had been regulated out of muscle cars, unfortunately.

The seller says that this is the “perfect project car” and that it’s a “numbers matching” car. You can tell that it will need work, but I don’t see any gaping rust issues. Hopefully being in somewhat dry Texas has helped to preserve the body. There are no interior photos which is super disappointing since the driver’s window is open! One demerit for that, seller. Cool car otherwise, though. They say to get in touch with them for more photos.

This dusty engine is the original Rocket 350 V8 for this car which would have had 170 hp and the Turbo-350 3-speed automatic. The seller says that this car has the Turbo-400 automatic transmission which would have been reserved for the 455 V8. 1976 was the last year for the 455 V8 in the 442 and it was down to 190 hp. Depending on the interior and any rust issues, and the usual deferred maintenance items (brakes, shocks, tune-up, belts, hoses, fluids, wheel bearings, u-joints, etc.), this could be a fun project. Are you stuck on the first and second-generation cars or are any of you fans of this era of the 442?


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  1. KSwheatfarmer

    Lost all interest in NASCAR when they stopped using stock bodies.

    Like 1
    • Suttree

      Me too on the NASCAR/Stock bodies KSwheatfarmer. Couple the fact that all seem to have the same body I’ll go farther and say NASCAR did away with real racing the day Dale Earnhardt died. Managements decision to civilize the sport has all but killed the sport.
      This car? I like the body style.

      Like 1
  2. Jay

    Meh, the obvious start of the Oldsmobile rear bumper problems. See it starting to fall off? Not sure why the Olds had that problem, but it was a BIG one.


      My dad had a beautiful triple black bro ham which was the car i got to drive on occasion in high school yrs.
      A lot of “firsts” in that car for me and i loved it. The styling holds up well even today. It was one of the best cars i ever drove.

      • Miguel

        I took my drivers test in a 1976 Brougham and aced it. It was such an easy driving car. If I could find another one, I would grab it.

  3. Taco Juan

    I’d save it. Not many of these left. I’d add rear window luvers, and a set on the quarter windows like the Grand Am of 1973.

  4. RandyS

    If I owned this would try and make lemonade by adding D hole NASCAR style steel wheels and a set of decals in Hawaiian Tropic livery.

    Little known fact is you could get these in a stick when ordered with the 260 V8.

  5. MIke

    They were complete dogs. I almost bought one no. The badges and stripes were just that, badges and stripes. Nothing different as far as the power or suspension. It was a pitiful time in life for choices of cars. Its so disappointing that they used the 442 to sell a plain Jane cutlass

  6. Gary Fogg

    I had a 76, had swivel buckets, console, air, pw, etc. But it had a 260 with a bad cam ( popped up through the carb on hard acceleration ) the rear quarters were rusted around the wheel openings so the previous owner ( let’s call him meathead to be kind ) cut a set of wheels openings off another one and popped rivited them on over the old ones. No prep, no cutting and fitting, no countersinking, just pop rivited silver partial rear quarters onto a beige car. Ya, it was beige ( another strike ) had plans to 350 it, redo rear quarters, and do a COLOR CHANGE ! As with many cars in the 80s, someone hit me up to trade for a much easier project I had all the parts for and the olds left. Great ridding car with fresh front end, brakes, etc. A few owners later I heard it got a 350 Chevy and BONDO over the rivited quarters and black primer. Too bad, it was a nice car with potential. I like those “colonnade” body cars. Great hyway cars !

  7. john m

    nominated for worst wheels ever.

  8. jw454

    When new, I had a ’77 Monte Carlo and my girl had a ’77 Cutlass Bhrougham. The Monte had the best ride but, the Olds with it’s 260 could beat the pants off the 305 Chevy on gas mileage. With gas approaching seventy five cents a gallon, we always drove the Olds. (Seventy five cents a gallon… what a dream!)
    Price not withstanding, this one a bit too rough for me.

  9. Kincer Dave Member

    It is also possible that is not a true 442, well at least not leaving the factory as a 442, those graphics are not not factory and would be super easy to call it a 442 and actually just be a Cutlass S with a 350.

    • Rabbit

      Methinks you’re right, Dave. Wrong color combo, bad tape job & wrong font.

  10. Kincer Dave Member

    This is a Cutlass S

    • Pa Tina

      This is why GM should have gone out of business in 1976.

  11. Maestro1

    Absolutely the ugliest of the 442s.

  12. Suttree

    You sure?

    • GP Member

      YOU WIN ( The other one is second)

    • Pa Tina

      Is that actually made of metal? Looks more like plywood.

      • mike

        Its real imitation metal.

    • makoman

      after having owned a 66 and 2-69 442’s and seeing this I am clutching my chest and praying for a fast and peaceful death with no memory of seeing this car , thanks pal lol

  13. Brett Member

    I had one of these! On my 18th birthday (1990) my dad and I restored one and I drove it my first year of college. Then the gulf war happened and I couldn’t afford the gas it used lol.

    Black with silver, real 442 I seem to recall the 442 graphic being closer to the front of the door but I can’t find a photo.

    Car was not fast and handled like poo.. but boy was fun working with my dad rebuilding the 350 and fixing the rust! Hard to believe how rusted out the rockers were the car was only 14 years old! Thx Syracuse winter’s!

    Funny thing it was stored at Hancock air national guard base in and old hut for like 5 of those years so was sort of a barn find!

    Long time reader first post!

  14. Troy s

    The early 442 were nice running cars, but I’m partial to late 60’s models, particularly the Cutlass S with the 350 W31 option. Just a real sleeper without the flashy graphics. I have never owned a W31 olds, and quite honestly have seen maybe two, I just know of these by reputation and word of mouth. The W30 with its twin vacuum cleaner air scoops under the front bumper were real terrors as they were intended to be drag raced anyways. Sure, the ’70-’72’s with the killer 455 were great cars, but after that I loose interest. This ’76 is actually not a bad looking car by any means, a little work here and there, maybe a juiced up motor, you never know. But the muscle car thing was way over, non existent by ’76.

  15. Doc

    “$3,900 Rocket” then I read ahead… “170 hp and the Turbo-350 3-speed automatic”

    So… it’s slower than a Kia. Got it.

  16. Todd Fitch Staff

    Nice find and details, Scotty. Looks like a high-schooler’s home-made 442, in the rare “Christmas Tribute” color scheme. If it is a TH400 it will suck even more HP from the poor 350. I’d like to own one of these Colonnade cars, Buick or Olds, 455… some day, but probably an earlier one. The net HP numbers are misleading – you can’t stop 455 cid from making luscious amounts of snow-tire roasting torque. That $50 1990s alarm is a throw-back too. It probably cycles through 12 different annoying sounds at 120 db every time a gust of wind sets off the shock detector. I’d like to see this one kept alive, even with the 350, but Deep Six the goofy tape and horrible wheels.

  17. Jose Delgadillo

    You can only buy what the companies are selling. Does anyone remember the Cutlass Calais 442 with the quad 4? Actually the Quad 4 was an impressive little motor. This colonade 442 is not a bad looking car, but not very fast when new. I think that the fastest American car of 1976 was the 400 ci. Pontiac Trans Am. My brother had one, those were pretty nice cars!

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