Never Seen One: ’91 Olds Cutlass Calais 442

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For a few years, GM made some hay with its high-output Quad 4 engine doing duty in a variety of entry level products. What I didn’t realize is that it also gave birth to the 442 moniker on a model made as late as 1991, as seen with this Cutlass Calais here on craigslist. Though it’s not the super rare W41-equipped edition, this is still a model you don’t see everyday – and it’s only $2,000!

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The Quad 4 was a serious performance bargain back in the day, offering up impressive acceleration times in a compact package, especially considering the dark days of horsepower that preceded it. Unfortunately, like many of the industry’s most memorable or unique engines, it was a bit of a maintenance nightmare as it purportedly had unusually short intervals between timing belt changes and other upkeep requirements.

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This particular example wears the trim-related effects of the 442 package, which includes one of the more inoffensive factory body kits I’ve seen. Inside is an oddly button-free interior from an era when GM was sticking driver controls into every area of open space it could find. Anyone remember the steering wheel from a Pontiac 6000 of the same era? The seller claims he drives this car 110 miles daily without issue.

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The biggest sin mentioned is that the 442 will need a paint job. The original wheels are included, but for aftermarket rollers, the ones on the car look pretty good. As mentioned, while maintenance is important on any car, the Quad 4 is somewhat needy and finding out what work has been performed is a must. When’s the last time you saw a 442-equipped Cutlass Calais?

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Comments

  1. Brian

    Quad 4 engines did not have timing belts! I worked for Oldsmobile in the 90s. We had quite a few of these sold then. Only issues they realily had were blown head gaskets. Other than that these engines were bullet proof!

    Like 2
  2. Michigan Doug

    If it were closer it would be mine.

  3. Jeffro

    I drove a International Series Calais with quad 4 and 5 speed. Zippy little cars. Suspension handled well. Alot of plastic inside.

  4. Mr. Bond

    The cut of the rear side window on these models always threw me off. However, I do like the rest of it! You sure can’t compare it to it’s ancestors though.

    Wonder what the mileage is!

  5. Mark M.

    I had a Beretta GTZ w/the H.O. Quad 4 and a 5spd. It was a little ripper.
    This would be a fun little project car to buy, and give to your teenager to drive…

  6. Nick Maher

    Simply an interesting curiosity, these utterly pathetic cars (and siblings) and this truly abysmal engine drove Olds and GM into the grave and then desecrated the headstone.
    http://www.curbsideclassic.com/vintage-review/vintage-review-1985-oldsmobile-calais-supreme-gm-deadly-sin-26-car-and-driver-predicts-death/#more-217001

    • Nova Scotian

      My dad had the Cutlass Calais quad 4 in red. Was maintained and well looked after… I had the pleasure as a teenager to drive it on a regular basis. It was a pretty nice car and accelerated quite well. Interior was kept spotless. I liked it. Dad was super pissed when the local Canadian tire lowered it off the hoist with the door open and crunched the door badly on some immovable object. The worst was that they denied they did it. Blamed it on him. Until head office got involved and investigated. Dude lost his job over it. Canadian tire came clean and bought a new door for the Calais. It was on the hoist for a muffler I believe.

      • DW

        AND that will be Chapter 87 in my new book, “Horror Stories From Canadian Tire”

  7. Howard A Member

    I guess being the last 442 ever made, it’s rarity does have some merit, however, this is about as far away from the original as one could get. Instead of “4 barrel carb, 4 speed, 2 exhausts”, it had become ” 4 cylinder, 4 valves per cylinder, 2 camshafts”. The latter just doesn’t have the zing of the former. Seems like a nice car, but I’d want nothing to do with a ’90’s GM, or any 90’s car, for that matter.

  8. Van

    Four cylinder, Fourlorn, Two late. 442

  9. Keith

    I’m a Minnesotan (only a few hours from Ames, IA), and own an ultra-low-mile ’87 Calais Brougham coupe with a Duke and a slushbox. What do you DO with such a car? Good question! Perhaps turn it into a ridiculous sleeper? If only I could find a donor…

    This “442” first popped up on craigslist a few months ago. Since then I’ve been holding out for when the seller might get desperate, or somehow do some damage while DDing it, and therefore maybe be receptive to a low-ball offer.

    Seriously.

    So if you want it, better grab it. And if you do – give me a call when you blow it up/run it into something/etc. Maybe we can make a deal.

  10. packrat

    I’m glad that there is a generation feeling enthusiasm and love for these cars, like I felt for the previous generation when I was in high school. Some teenaged kid out there is looking at this like I looked at the chalky vintage examples of the first 442s when I got out of school… http://barnfinds.com/1967-oldsmobile-442/ This is very presentable, versus some of the sick and mean fifteen year old Mad Mouse rides of muscle cars I test drove in the day. I hope they can get a break on the insurance, as the premium schedule kept me out of performance vehicles. I was still driving marginal clunkers when this one was new. Had the underhood vacuum-line spagetti monster been tamed via computer by the time the ’91s were out?

  11. DW

    At first glance that first pic looks like it has rear fins instead of a wraparound wing.

    I think I’d like with fins. Not sure my kids would get in it though. So fins it is.

  12. S Ryan

    4 Sale
    4 Cheap
    2 Loose exhaust pipes.

  13. Joe Howell

    Interesting car, don’t ever remember seeing one and I would remember as the 442 moniker would have made double up with laughter. Those are ROH wheels, made in Australia , good looking but on the heavy side. Got a set.

  14. Gary Fogg

    I have 3 of these in Bangor Maine, two red , one black, need works will sell right, lots of NOS parts included,

  15. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    Like the Quad4, those have been successful upgrade to the old Iron Duke that was the mainstay of the first year Fiero’s. The engine is sweet. Fire-ring the block and the gasket issue goes away forever.

    Using the 442 brand on this is why truth in advertising laws were made.

    Nick, scanned the link, great by the way, but the Quad4 issues were not detailed very well. Clearly, you have to rev a DOHC more, not a new development. Noise, well thank Roger Smith or whoever took over as a fair bit of engineering changes were made chasing money saving measures.

    Biggest issue was mounting accessories was problematic as the engine was wider making access through the top hard. Pontiac ran into the same issue but the car was made to access from bottom easier.

    Head gasket issue the biggest one.

  16. Oddimotive Cason Oddimotive Cason Member

    Very cool find and a rare bright spot in GM’s extended malaise. I remember a friend of a friend had a very similar one when new. I didn’t appreciate it then as much as I do now.

  17. Rustytech Member

    I Bought one of these when it was 3 years old, and had only 18k miles on it. Compared to most of the cars at the time it was fast, but it was noisy, had nasty torque steer, the engine rocked hard when put in gear, and the ride was the worst I had ever experienced. It was the only car I have ever kept less than a year. This one probably deserves to be saved if only as a historical example of how to destroy a great and historical automobile company.

  18. Joe

    I have driven a few similar gm cars over the years and I seem to remember the shifters felt wrong. Sloppy and no feel.

  19. rmward194 Member

    I drove a 1989 Pontiac Grand Am with a Quad 4 for over 120,000 miles…in four years. Head gaskets were an issue.

    Before that I had 1986 Pontiac 6000 STE with lots of buttons on the dash and steering wheel.

    After the Grand AM I bought a 1989 Bonneville SSE…more buttons and controls on the steering wheel.

  20. Bryan Cohn

    That car with the W41 package was the hot ticket in SCCA solo competition and in SSB. One of them won the SSB Runoffs Championship in 1989 at Rd Atlanta. A buddy in StL still owns his retired autocrosser. Highly underrated as a late 80’s performance car in its class. They were raced in World Challenge and IMSA with great success as well.

    The Quad4 made for a good race engine too as it was the replacement for the Ford 2 liter in the Pro 2000 Series (it became the Olds Pro Series). Stout engine in race trim, no head gasket issue, basically bulletproof.

    Cool car, good to see the interest in stuff like it.

  21. angliagt

    “Check out my 442″

    ‘Where?”

  22. Just plain Bill

    Many years ago, my friend bought a white 442 just like that brand new….it lasted about 3 months until he launched it though the middle of a round about on the Jamaica way from a heavy night of hitting the clubs…..
    (rotary for you Massachusetts folks) and tore out the whole under carriage….so long story short…..it was totaled…..and no DUI charges…..lucky dude…

  23. Mitchell Ross Member

    This acar was banned from the stock classes at SCCA autocrosses because it dominated the class it was in (G stock, I think) Lots of cars dominated their classes, but never and American one, so it was banned.

  24. Kurt

    I helped the new owner tow this car home with my Jeep after the former owner put into curb and bent the RF lower control arm on an icy day. Needless to say it was a bit rougher than pictured here, but the photos also didn’t tell the true state of the car overall.

    The new owner and myself have put a ton of work into getting this car back to its true former glory. Rest easy that it is in good hands!

    Like 1
  25. David

    I have a question if anyone is still paying attention to this thread. I’m a little familiar with the Calais and I’ve never seen a front bumper cover (spoiler) that looks like the one on this model. It’s more flat faced than Quad’s I can find on the google machine…

    Like 1
    • Kurt

      Hey David, I’m the guy who replied above you from towing this thing home (not my car but I’ve put a lot of hours into the “resto”).

      The car has what we believe to be Erebuni ground effects installed, they were pretty big in the mid to late 90s. It’s a fiberglass front add-on spoiler, the car also has side skirts, panels on the lower portion of the doors and a rear ground effects. They really set the car off when paired with the period correct ROH wheels.

      Like 2
  26. GTiDave

    Hi Kurt, thanks for responding, now it makes sense and looks great with the package, and wheels. I would love to find a nice Calais, we had one new in 1989. Ours had the 2 year only 3300 Buick motor and auto trans, wow was that a nice car. My wife could run and hide from my stage 1 turbo Dodge Shadow 5 speed (with the A/C on to add insult). Interesting story, my father in law was a GM exec. The car had an issue (don’t remember what now) with the engine. My father in law had the car sent to Buick in Lansing. The engineers fixed the problem, and did a little tuning while they had it. That really woke it up. Also, at the time you could not get a gray interior with the wine red exterior, my father in law had it special built, and when it went down the line I understand everyone loved it. I think it was the next year you could order with gray. Fun fact. Cheers!

    Like 1
  27. John r

    where can I find one like this. I owned a 1987 Calais Supreme back in the early 90’s and miss it so. Looking to get another, prefer the quad 4 engine. Are they around still? thanks.

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