4-Speed Barn Find: 1965 Oldsmobile 442

Some will say that “the first is the best”. And that’s how I have always viewed Oldsmobile’s mid-size muscle car, the 442. No doubt about it, many will consider the ’70 W-30 to be the pinnacle of Oldsmobile power, and their trading values reflect that exalted position. But the simplicity and unobtrusiveness of the ’64-’65s, coupled with their boxy design, have always been a draw for me. And today, we have just such a find in the form of a ’65 Sports Coupe, located near Ramsey, Minnesota and available, here on craigslist for $6,500.

Introduced in mid-year ’64, Oldsmobile’s 442 was conceived as competition for Pontiac’s new and successful GTO. Oldsmobile took a more restrained approach by using a smaller, but still powerful, 330 CI engine but then in ’65 moved up to something a bit more fitting and competitive. The 442 package was available on the F85 intermediate series, specifically on the Sports Coupe (two-door post sedan), Holiday Coupe (two-door hardtop), and convertible body styles.  Total 1965 production was about 25K units.

Our subject car is listed as a barn find but it looks more like a farm find. Right off the bat, it appears that the front clip of this Olds is not composed of its born-with parts and they have been pinched from a Cutlass. My initial thought is that a full-throttle blast was followed up with a “didn’t see the brake lights in time” moment and there goes the front end. While the clip is wrong, it’s completely workable with a change of trim. The sheet metal is straight but rust appears to have manifested itself in the lower passenger quarter as well as in surface form in other places. The door jambs indicate that this 442 was originally red and probably a great looking car.

Under the hood is a 345 gross HP, 400 CI, V8 engine. The carburetor, radiator, and exhaust manifolds are missing, while the distributor has been yanked and tossed aside on the top of the engine. Obviously, this 442 has not run in many moons. There is a four-speed manual transmission in place so that helps with the genuineness of the 442 moniker. The seller advises that this Olds is also equipped with a twelve-bolt positraction differential but I question that without an actual verifying image. The twelve-bolt was the province of Chevrolet, and Oldsmobile was making use of the B-O-P 8.2″ ten-bolt axle in ’65. Olds developed a differential in ’67 or ’68 that utilized 12 bolts to secure the inspection plate but it was really a ten-bolt unit and shared no commonality with Chevrolet’s twelve. Of course, this 442 could have had a genuine twelve-bolt swapped in somewhere in its lengthy past.

The interior, unfortunately, is a real sight! It’s a mess with seats from some other car substituted for the original Old’s pieces, the headliner has a stalactite thing going on, the clutch pedal is fully depressed (something’s up with that), the carpet is gone (better to see what may be questionable floors), and there is detritus strewn everywhere. If nothing else, the seller should at least exert a modicum of effort and clean all of the trash away and attempt to make the inside somewhat presentable. A lost cause? Maybe not but it’s very hard to tell.

The seller suggests, “This is a project car Has not ran (sic) in over 20 years, Hot rod muscle car restoration project Hurst olds Racecar pro Touring Classic BBC sbc LS1 LS2 LS3“. Enough with the Pro-Touring approach already, I vote for restoring this car to its original state – there just aren’t enough of these first-gen 442’s still around. What do you recommend?


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  1. Arthur

    If Roadster Shop ever bought this car and turned it into a pro-touring vehicle, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they could get it to resemble its original state through the use of the Forgeline OE1 wheels with original hubcaps, a custom interior designed to look like the original interior, and original trim pieces.

    This approach would be particularly useful if this car is somehow too far gone for a standard restoration, even though I can’t be sure of that from the photos alone.

    Like 3
  2. Dave

    “The clutch pedal is fully depressed…”

    Pretty much sums it up.

    Like 5
    • JOHN Member

      The clutch z-bar is laying in the distributor cap, pretty much explains the clutch pedal position!

      Like 1
  3. Ben T.Spanner

    Just today a 1967 442 Convertible with AC was listed on the Ft Myers, FL craigslist. Its all done. Automatic with no console. The asking price is $25,900. Can the 2 door post be restored for $20,000? Is a convertible worth more or less? You pay your money and you make your choice.
    If the convertible was in a color combo I lusted, it would be mine.

    Like 4
    • Steve R

      You are right. This car was is way overpriced based on just what’s visible in the pictures. It might make sense as a restoration at a much lower price point, as for it being the basis for a high end Pro Touring project, that idea is ridiculous at face value.

      Steve R

      Like 6
  4. Timothy Youngberg

    if it’s so valuable I did the owner let it get so messed up?

    Like 1
  5. Brian

    I had one of these in ’73-’74. Mine was originally a light metallic blue, white interior, black carpets. The owner prior to me painted it copper. It still looked good. It was a four speed, console equipped and it was fast for that time. I sold it to a “friend” who never paid me.

    Like 2
  6. Shane

    deleted by author. he took someone’s $1500 offer maybe

    Like 1
  7. Pete Phillips

    There’s a saying here in Texas, when describing a horse that you don’t want to buy, and it comes to mind after seeing the ratty interior of this car: “Rode hard and put away wet.”

  8. Brian M Member

    Buyer better hope that the flywheel is in good shape. Apparently it was a one-year, one-brand, one-engine piece, not shared with any other GM product. When I worked in retail auto parts I had a customer with a 65 442 four speed and the flywheel got severely gouged when his clutch disc came apart at the local strip. This was back in the late ’90s and we did every sort of cross referencing that we could including the bible of the time, Hollander, and found no vehicles sharing this part. I don’t know if he ever found one.

    Like 2
  9. Keith Scott

    I wish we could get cars of this calibre here in OZ. I am a true Ford man but this would still make a great restoration. I have always said no matter the condition of the vehicle if you have the time, money and equipment nothing is impossible. If you love the car and it is a not for profit restoration then go for it.

  10. Troy s

    There’s a big difference between the early 442’s and the ’70 W-30, but for me it’s the ’69 Hurst/Olds,,, all 455 cubes of it and some snazzy clothes. The W-31 350 would be another Oldsmobile that alluded my young life. Always looking and never finding.
    As for this ’65, well,,, what a mess of things.

    Like 1
  11. Charles Sawka

    I agree with the first ones being the best. I had a stock 65 except for 70 series tires. Would run consistent 14 sec. on the track, with Sunoco 260 gas. Unfortunately I did the same front end dance as this one only a wee bit harder. Definitely worth restoring those particular 400’s are stout.

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