Junkyard Find: 1991 Oldsmobile Quad 442

This may not be what you picture when you hear the numbers 4-4-2. Most of us picture the mid-sixties muscle car, so you can imagine my surprise when I spotted those iconic numbers on the back of this Oldsmobile while pursuing a local junkyard. Honestly, I had no idea there was a performance version of the Cutlass Calais. Who would have thought?

Most people probably pass by this poor car without a second glance. The front-wheel-drive Cutlass Calias wasn’t anything to get excited about when it was new, nor is it today. These were normally fitted with an Iron Duke four-banger and a lazy shifting automatic transmission. The “Quad 442” badging was really the only hint that there might be something special going on here.

Well, and that rear spoiler. I’d never given this era of Olds much consideration, but the heritage of the model name piqued my interest. Obviously, this 442 doesnt have much in common with its predecessors, but perhaps this performance package is more than skin deep? It was fun trying to figure out what exactly made this car different than a base Cutlass.

It’s not a big V8, but that definitely looks like something special in there! The valve cover reads, “High Output Quad 4”. That sounds interesting. Oh wait, there’s a 16v and a DOHC on there too! The phrase high output is always good to hear, but the fact that this thing has 16 valves and dual overhead cams gets me even more excited!

A quick search reveals that the Quad 4 was good for 180 horsepower and 160 foot-pounds of torque. Not crazy numbers, but pretty good for the time. There was even a W41 version that added an extra 10 ponies! I’m not sure if the 7 second 0-60 mph time shown in the video above was for that engine or this one, but this Olds must have been tempting to at least a few guys who were missing the good ol’ muscle car days.

What? No way! There’s a four… five on the floor! When was the last time you saw a 5-speed manual transmission in a nineties Oldsmobile? There’s an ongoing debate about what 4-4-2 really stood for, but I’m guessing it stands for 4-cylinders, 4-speed (actually 5), and 2-doors here. What do you think? Either way, these cars were only built for a few years and I doubt there are many still around. Could it be rarer than the original?

Maybe not, but I doubt the original could have done 171,000 miles without a rebuild. These cars were obviously better built than the cheap looking interior and trim would lead you to believe! Someone loved this car. It may not look very nice in the photos, but I bet this thing was actually in good shape when it was sold to the scrapyard for a hundred bucks.

What a shame. One does wonder why a special edition car like this would end up here. Was there a mechanical failure that was too expensive to fix? Or did its previous owner pass away and the family didn’t want to hassle with showing it to potential buyers? We may never know. One thing is for sure though, there is one less Quad 442 out there…

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Comments

  1. Howard A

    I think it’s a disgrace to call this a 442, from what I hold dear, anyway, but there’s no denying, a lot of people put a lot of miles on these cars. My 1st reaction to the motor was another belt driven cam interference engine, but was surprised to read, these were chain driven cams, to me a BIG difference. I bet it had plenty of steam. @170g’s, I’m sure it’s tired, and something is puked, which is why it’s in the yard in the 1st place. Next stop,,Shredderville,,

    15
    • 408 interceptor

      Subarus are decent cars but require a new timing belt at 100,000 miles or risk damaging the engine. I wonder how my second hand Subie owners are aware of this when they buy one? So you end up having to shell out close to a grand on a car that might only be worth two or three thousand. Probably why I see more and more Subarus sitting out in pastures. I’ll take a timing chain over a belt any day.

      8
      • Bruce

        My Subaru SVX flat six is a non-interference engine.

        2
      • Doug

        Having replaced several Subaru timing belts, it’s a small price to pay for a reliable car that can handle the severe weather of Donner Pass for years and years. My ’01 Forester, bought used in ’04, with 84K on the clock, lasted me 14 years, until a head gasket finally let go at 279,861 miles. Since it has some body damage, I’m donating it to the local high school auto shop program, as the cost to properly do the heads would exceed the value of the car when done. I’ve replaced it with an ’03 with only 133K on the clock. As soon as the weather warms up a tad, I’ll be replacing the timing belt and water pump, just for peace of mind. It’s really pretty easy, if you have a few tools and a Haynes manual. The things that aren’t mentioned in the manual are that if you remove the battery and the air box on the passengers side, you can avoid disconnecting the A/C compressor and the power steering pump and just lay them into the vacated spaces, securing with a bungie cord. Remove the radiator and fans as a unit, and place a piece of 3/8 plywood on the back side of the A/C condenser to protect it. A Harbor Freight strap wrench ( the larger one in the set of 2 – less than $10 ) will come in handy for keeping the driver’s side camshaft pulley in the correct position while installing the new belt. The belt kit from NAPA is available either with or without the water pump, and contains all new pulleys and tensioner that the belt rides on.

        4
    • Mike

      I agree, the badging is an insult to the asphalt burning REAL 442 cars of the ’60s

      1
    • Jerry Brentnell

      the very reason died in its tracks! when gm started building crap like this! same thing with pontiac! and they have the nerve to to still build that ugly turd they call cadillac and look at the front end of the 19 chev pickups! hope the mexicans enjoy buying there heaps because as a canadian I never will!

  2. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    Hey nice find, Jesse. These things were cool in their day. There was even a spec-racing version like the Dodge Neon ACR. They peaked around 205 HP I believe. I drove a buddy’s 165 HP automatic version around Boston once. It had plenty of grunt to burn the tires. When few four-cylinders made much over 100 HP, these things were a hoot. We used to joke about 4-4-2 meaning “Four Wheels, Four Tires, and Two Mirrors,” or something like that. The exact combination changed every couple beers. Thanks for the memories!

    33
    • Tom

      They were more of a fun type car. The Quad Four motor wa fun until it broke……and they did that a lot. They were common to eat head gaskets a lot of timing chain tensioners failed the cover on top had an ignition module on it and a really screwy spark plug housing setup. Look up the water pump replacement…lol…why GM, why….They were better in later years, but they were slow to improve the design flaws.

      9
      • dr fine

        There are no spark plug cables. Aluminum rods are embedded in a solid white plastic block that attaches to the ignition module and then slips over the spark plugs. Seems like it would be durable, but some weird voodoo happens and the spark moves through the solid plastic and shorts the rods to each other, leaving the car limping and sputtering. I’m sure many went to the wrecking yard over a cheap and easy replacement. I finally got one with a lifetime warranty and it hasn’t gone out yet.

        1
  3. NotSure

    Thirty or forty years from now someone will find this post and wish that this car was available for him/her to park in the garage next to his/her electric three-wheeler or solar powered roller skates….

    25
    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      The more things change the more they stay the same, NotSure. I’m positive that some older folks look at the cars that you treasure and think, “Hmpphh.. big deal, that’s not a car, this 1920s / 1930s Packard / Lincoln / Cadillac is a real car.” Thinking like that has caused a lot of younger folks to stay away from old car websites knowing that they aren’t welcome because of what interests them. Just so future generations like something, anything, we’ll be ok in the collector car hobby.

      18
  4. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Nice find, Jesse! I’m all over badge engineering and/or graphics packages on cars like this. I don’t know if I’ve seen this era 442 or not but we’ve seen a few of the Calais 500 Pace Car editions here on Barn Finds. They had a much cooler interior (in my opinion) but it’s hard to beat a manual transmission like in this 442.

    9
  5. dmose Member

    Jessie can you share what name of yard this car is? We have one of these in warehouse and need a few bits on this one! Great find & you can help one live!

    17
  6. dmose Member

    Great find Jesse we have one of these with W41 option! In any case what yard is this at I need some bits off it. Let me know so we can save one! Thanks David

    5
    • firemedic2714

      While it may not appear so, especially to this generation, but the Quad 4 was the General’s first successful foray into a high performance high economy 4 cyl. and IIRC, it was GM’s first DOHC, 4 valves/cylinder engine (someone correct me if the Corvette ZR1 had that first) 180 h.p. from a normally aspirated four in 1991 was huge! For perspective, my 1992 Trans Am only has 225 h.p.

      5
      • dweezilaz

        And the last engine on which Oldsmobile headed development.

        4
      • Naptown mark

        By the nineties, 4-4-2 meant four holes, four valves and two cams. Mock them not; at the close of the car guy dark ages, offerings such as this constituted the pulse that showed American automakers still had some engineers in the ranks rather than all bean counters.

        2
  7. Tony Primo

    Maybe if you ask him a third time he will give up the name of the yard.

    16
    • Mike

      Let’s start a write-in campaign to get Jesse to reveal the junkyard. Come on Jess, give it up!

      12
    • dmose Member

      It was a duplicate post by accident tough guy!

      9
  8. Bob

    Being a car guy and a 20something in the late 80’s early 90’s my friends and I loved bought, fixed, and resold a lot of 70’s style Oldsmobiles. When a friend decided to buy one of these new (a 91 if I remember correctly) we made fun of him. But at the time it was a cool for what was available. Most of them were White, Black, or Red was also very popular. His was different dark grey metallic w/maroon interior and the 5 speed manual. Some good times. great memories.

    9
  9. Nick G.

    I believe I remember seeing this 442 meaning 4-cylinders, 4 valves (per cylinder) and 2 doors when it was first released.

    7
  10. Anthony in RI

    According to a write up on these on Curbside Classics, in 1990 – 1991 the 442 stood for 4 cylinders, 4 valves per cylinder, and 2 camshafts. Supposedly all these 442’s came with the 5 speed manual….

    13
    • Milt

      I think the name comes from something a little more obscure like the design department getting a call from management asking for a model designation. The guy taking the call didn’t want to be bothered during lunchtime so he looked around, found a tech manual on his desk and gave the boss the page number the book was opened to. True story……..

      2
  11. TavernPub

    The quad 4 was notorious for blowing head gaskets. That may have been this cars demise. An easy check of the oil would tell. I wish someone would save this one. It’s 180hp motor would have definitely been a “hoot” back in the day.

    9
  12. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

    It’s in a pick-a-part yard in Boise, Idaho. They don’t ship parts though so they wouldn’t appreciate me giving out their number.

    11
  13. Blueprint

    More worthy of the name than what GM built in the late ‘70s. These were actually pretty quick for the era and « right sized ». Plus, they handled curves! As a Gen-X’r, performance editions from the ‘80s like this 442 raise my attention every time!

    6
    • Ryan b

      You are right They were the fastest 442 since I believe 67. I had one that ran 14.20 at almost 100 mile an hour. The car made just shy of 160 hp to the tire on the Dyno. And got 35 mpg. I just can’t do front wheel drive cars LOL

      3
    • Angrymike

      You’re not wrong, my 86 Monte Carlo SS was a dog, but was great for traveling. I actually loved that car.

  14. Gary

    442 originally meant four barrel, four on the floor and dual exhaust

    5
  15. Gary Fogg

    I have 3 of these. I used a 91 W41 10 to one compression ,5 speed car as my daily driver for years. Accumulated 2 parts cars along the way, got a lot of use out of it. It went like a bat out of h….well it went fast ! Fun to drive, cheap to own, ( it did go through a lot of alternators though ) ran it until a clutch master cylinder issue stopped it from shifting, bought parts, couldn’t get any help to fix it, kept putting it off, got a company car, and we’ll the rest is history. It got put “out back” with the other 2 to rust quietly outside Bangor Maine. I tried to sell all 3 last summer but only got “part pickers” and dreamers. I guess they are a niche market car, and the folks that have them now have no resources to buy a group lot for cheap. I have classic muscle I restore, but if I had nothing else they are a blast to drive. Power to weight ratio is awesome.

    5
    • Mark

      I had a 99 Cavalier with this same engine. 2.4 litre, and it scooted right along. I watched a bone stock Cavalier run a low 15 sec. quarter mile.
      Mine gave me no trouble, and had hit 304k miles when I sold it, to a high school girl.

      2
  16. Gary Fogg

    I have 3 of these. I used a 91 W41 10 to one compression ,5 speed car as my daily driver for years. Accumulated 2 parts cars along the way, got a lot of use out of it. It went like a bat out if h….well it went fast ! Fun to drive, cheap to own, ( it did go through a lot of alternators though ) ran it until a clutch master cylinder issue stopped it from shifting, bought parts, couldn’t get any help to fix it, kept putting it off, got a company car, and we’ll the rest is history. It got put “out back” with the other 2 to rust quietly outside Bangor Maine. I tried to sell all 3 last summer but only got “part pickers” and dreamers. I guess they are a niche market car, and the folks that have them now have no resources to buy a group lot for cheap. I have classic muscle I restore, but if I had nothing else they are a blast to drive. Power to weight ratio is awesome.

    • dmose Member

      Gary…..Only parts I need to pick is 3 piece rear spoiler are you able to part with it?

      3
      • Gary Fogg

        Nope, I want to rehome the whole lot.

        2
      • dmose Member

        Gary Fog $200 for the 3 piece rear spoiler?

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

        dmose – we might be able to pull the spoiler off the one featured if it’s still available. Let me know. mail@barnfinds.com

    • ScottE

      I’d be interested in entertaining a purchase of the 3. I currently own 4, a W40, a W41, and an I-Series, all 91’s and a SL sedan from 89. Parting out is not my goal, restoration is.

      4
    • Poppy

      My first new car was a red/silver 1988 I-Series. 2 door with 5-speed and leather. It got totaled in 92 with only 30K miles on it. I found an identical replacement and saved all the original car’s good parts as spares. Had to sell the 2nd car when the kids came along, but I still have a ton of good N-body parts and a complete red leather interior except for the headliner. Reply if anyone wants more info.

      1
      • ScottE

        I’d be interested in learning more about what you have.

    • dmose Member

      Gary Fog 200.00? for the spoiler?

  17. Superdessucke

    These were actually very special in their day. The Calais IS came out in 1989 and these were kind of a stripped-down version of that. Kind of like the Formula was to the GTA.

    The IS and these were actually pretty well reviewed in their day. Some complained about the application of the 442 name to this but I don’t know if it was any more of an afront to history than the automatic-only 307 equipped 1985-87 442 models. Or, for that matter, the tape stripe 442s from the mid/late 1970s. If anything, these were faster and handled better.

    They are indeed rare as they were only offered in 1990 and 91. For 1992, the same engine and concept were applied to the new Achieva, but under the more innocuous name SCX.

    6
  18. Brad

    Weren’t many of these on the road when new – at least not in southern Ontario. I was going to say 4-4-2 for this generation referred to 4 cylinders, 4 valves per cylinder, and 2 doors….I was close. Doing 10-second research, the “2” refers to the dual overhead camshafts. 2/3 for an educated guess isn’t bad. Some of the Fiero guys have used this engine as a swap for the Iron Duke. Not the most popular of swaps, but it’s been done nonetheless. Nothing wrong with enjoying cars that aren’t appreciated. Unfortunately, this is how these cars end up in the junk yard. Hope it can be a donor to keep others on the road.

    3
  19. Ian C

    In this case 442 stands for……..

    4 Cylinders,
    4 Tires, and
    2 shriveled up things that used to be testicles

    13
  20. Scott

    I have a 1990 Olds Calais International Series 4dr (they also came in 2) with this same HO 180 HP engine and the 5 speed manual. It is my second one. I still have the first one as a parts car it was still running strong at 190,000 miles but rust got the better of it. It is a very fun car to drive, and I like the rarity of it. This engine can have an issue with head gaskets but it has the ability to go 200,000 plus miles. One of the keys is to never let it overheat. Thanks for the find!

    2
    • Chrisssssssss

      This one actually has a bit different motor than the I series. I have a 90 2dr Calais I series 5sp with the HO quad4 180HP also. This has a 190 HP W41 motor. I don’t know the exact differences, but it’s a bit more powerful.

  21. SC/RAMBLER

    My boss years ago had his own garage for 35 years he hated working on quad 4 even replacing the thermostat and or water pump was a real pain spark plugs too. Head gaskets as previously mentioned were a problem. May have had aluminum head cast iron block. Still would be a fun car to drive.

  22. Klatka

    I had a similar car for my first newer car. It was that Calais S 89, with the 5 speed. The earlier models had the tubular exhaust runner of equal length. I drove it hard for 300k miles.I was pulled over in Utah doing excessive speed, and the officer asked me if my parents knew how I drove their car. . .

    1
  23. L Dockey

    I had 2 gm cars that had the high output quad 4. A Chevy beretta GTZ and the achieva SCX W31. They weren’t V8’s but they would both dust any other NA 4 cylinder cars at that time. 1990 and 1992. I never kept them long enough for them to blow a head gasket. Fun cars.

    3
  24. Len

    I had a bright red 91 Beretta GTZ with a 5 speed and that same exact engine. I was never a fan of a 4 cylinder engine until I took that for a test ride. The salesman was a personal friend so he let me take it for a real “test” ride. He knew I was looking for something new, sporty and fast. It was on the lot, there was no interest since the 92’s were out. I saw a 4 cylinder and said no way. Drove it home the next day! I still wish I had that car.

    3
  25. mikestuff

    This car features one of my all-time pet peeves, which is a fu***in* bumper sticker. Even worse it’s for the insurance company to which the owner guy likely paid an exorbitant amount every month and you know State Farm doesn’t offer him any kind of discount because he slapped that thing on his car. Years ago, when my son, age 44 now, came home from school one day with a BS for his high school, which was ironic since he seldom went to school and barely graduated. I told him I didn’t want it on my fancy Dodge Omni, but did he listen? Just like everything else he and I discussed, no.
    And he was mad when I made him take it off; thankfully it hadn’t been on long enough to cause damage to my 10 year old Dodge.
    I hate bumper stickers for sports team, pro or amateur, political leanings, Disneyland (especially) etc. My apologies, I get carried away.

    3
  26. Rocket Ron

    4 Cylinder 4 valves per, 2 double overhead cams

    442

    1
  27. Bradley Howe Member

    So where is it at?

  28. Douglas Wildey

    There are some cars better left forgotten,good place for it.

  29. MJF

    GM knows nothing about the 4 popper engine in that car . Engine probably lost the belt and bent the valves …Didn’t look too damaged on the body anywhere

    • Country Joe

      Those used a cam chain, not a belt.

  30. dweezilaz

    Funny how that “cheap interior” has held up so well over 170,000 miles and 28 years.

    Like the one in my 86 Calais over 130,000 miles and three decades.

    But it feels so good to say “cheap interior” regardless of what the photograph shows, I guess.

    4
  31. Clay Bryant

    Had one of these and did a 19 mile run with a Porsche one day at top. Didn’t pass him but was on his butt all the way. We both stopped for gas and his first words were, “What the hell is that?” He never knew they existed. This was in 94. One of the most fun, surprising cars I have ever owned and I’ve had more then a few. Absolutely go like stink…………….

    2
  32. cmarv

    I think Dr. Olds rolled in his grave when this abomination was labeled “442” . The Quad 4 was an OK motor when maintained as was the Oldsmobile designed DOHC Northstar V8 (can’t blame that on Cadillac) . GM had to try multi-cam alloy power plants and Oldsmobile was the “test mule division” at the time . Maybe that’s why they got the axe first ?

  33. Danh

    Even if you paid me $442 per hour, I still would work on that engine.

  34. Mitch Ross

    I had one identical to this one, bought it with a blown head gasket in 2002. Did the head, ported the intake and exhaust. It was fast. Could beat a 5.0 if I could stop the wheelspin, an SD talk about torque steer. I had some race tires for autocross but couldn’t beat the Integra GT-Rs that shared my class

  35. Ronnie

    Its not a muscle car , but don’t discard the ugly car … in the early ninetys in the street racing (ilegal) there was one of those car and its beats mustangs , good Honda’s , my nice looking and with great sound but slow cavalier Z-24 …. was funny because you didn’t expect that ugly car to be so fast .

  36. Jack T

    It doesnt look like its that far gone, Why dont you save, or at least speak with the salvage yard owner about saving it they might put it up for sale and someone could save it, These 442 { I think it meant 4 Horsepower, 4 Tires, 2 Doors } but I bet it is pretty rare…

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      Once they enter the yard, they never leave.

  37. Derek

    I expected lots of snobbish negative comments on this car LOL. I gave up 60s cars 10 years ago and got into 80s cars as they get great mileage and have all the goodies like AC. I like this car. I don’t get the obsession with power as I drive a lot here in Los Angeles I prefer gas mileage. I’d love to drive one of these daily. My current driver is a 1985 Cutlass Ciera Conv with the great 3.8 which has good power and gas mileage. I wish all the people who put down 70’s and 80’s cars would just move on and take their comments with them. Each decade has good and bad. I love all old cars and am not a snob and don’t put down any decade just the old farts that want to rain on other’s parades.

    1
    • Steve

      That car is going to be a classic at some point. Good power, comfortable and well appointed interior. I wanted to buy one when they went out of production, but my (ex) wife hooted on me about the sheetmetal & design.

  38. V66Pony

    Yes, like the Mustang II was a stain on that family, as well. To the crusher, post haste! Things like this should never be allowed to linger or breed.

  39. PatrickM

    Is this car actually for sale? No listing info. No price. Sooo…???

  40. Steve

    If this is a W41 it is a special car. It’s time to get over the muscle car craze guys. This is what a GenX’er would own back in the day. I bet this would give a common 1970 442 with a 350 a run for it’s money in a straight line and waste it on a road course.

    https://classicoldsmobile.com/forums/cars-sale/46676-1991-oldsmobile-cutlass-calais-442-w41-1-15-racing-package.html

    2
  41. Mark

    I was intrigued by this engine. If I could have found the right parts at the time, I would have put one in a 1980 Monza. The light weight and good power would make a well balanced rear wheel drive car. I HATE FRONT WHEEL DRIVE.
    Bumper stickers are cool though…

    mikestuff

    • Matt Fieds

      Best writing I’ve ever read about a car…..thanks Jesse.

  42. ScottE

    Not a W41, this car is a W40. It has the HO Quad4 Engine. The W41engine (“190” horsepower) was only used in 204 W41 Quad442’s that were produced so try could be entered into the SCCA Showroom Stock and IMSA Firehawk Series. It won the Championship in both series that year. Pictured is my W41, it was a junkyard find. I sure could use some parts off that W40!
    .

  43. Steven Wright

    Any car guy worth his salt.at all is certainly quite aware of what 4-4-2 designated: Four speed transmission, four barrel carburetor, and dual exhaust-hence the definition of an Olds 4-4-2. This car has none of the above features

    • Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

      Hello @Steven Wright. I don’t know about salt, but here are some articles discussing how the 4-4-2 definition changed over the years. https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2014/12/02/oldsmobile-4-4-2 and https://itstillruns.com/what-does-stand-oldsmobile-car-4970298.html In my opinion, a 1970 4-4-2 with 455 cid and automatic would be a “real” 4-4-2. Some of the RWD V8 4-4-2 cars are slower than the ’80s Quad-4 versions, which seems relevant when discussing performance packages. Each enthusiast can decide what they like, but Olds put the badge on a wide variety of vehicles.

      3
    • ScottE

      Stephen Wright, it is small minded thinking that keeps you stuck in the past. My W41 Quad442 pictured above is the SECOND FASTEST 442 OLDSMOBILE EVER PRODUCED! It is an Oldsmobile, check. It is a performance version of the regular production vehicle, check. It is designated 442 by Oldsmobile, check. Looks like you are wrong there little Stevie.

      2

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