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Showroom Fresh: 1971 Oldsmobile 442

As the calendar changed over from 1970 to 1971, clouds started to appear on the muscle car horizon. Within another two years, the clouds would turn to sunset but there was still action to be had in ’71 and ’72. Case in point, Oldsmobile, known for big cars like their 88, 98 and Toronado, still had a hand in the muscle car war with their 442. And for further review, here’s a 1971 example of Lansing’s finest, a 1971 442 located in Winter Garden, Florida, and available here on eBay for a current bid of $10,400, reserve not yet met.

Still maintaining its separate model status in ’71, the 442 shouldered on as it had in 1970 with two primary exceptions, one being the discontinuation of the “sports coupe” (the pillared two-door coupe) and the renaming of the Holiday Coupe, like this example, to a “Hardtop Coupe”. The other big change was a  lower horsepower rating as the result of an emission control sponsored engine compression ratio reduction. Beyond these items and the now horizontally oriented taillights, there wasn’t any real difference.

This 442 has a reported 110K miles but shows quite nicely with its white over white presentation. The seller states that the finish is a repaint but it has been applied well and complements the nice, straight body. It’s a bit stripe happy and the side strip doesn’t look quite correct for this year 442, perhaps it’s a made-up variation? The rear spoiler does nothing for the lines of this great looking car but it’s simply a matter of taste. Of note, the seller says they he is going to swap the white stripe tires and chrome wheels for the correct 14″ Oldsmobile equipment. Seems to me that it would be more helpful to have done that first and then listed the car so that the offering is authentic as to what’s being sold. The only other notable thing from this profile shot is the low hanging tailpipe, it’s not terribly wrong but it’s not right either; probably a hanger issue. Any way you cut it, this is an exceptionally clean 442 and it is encouraging that the seller isn’t trying claim only 10K miles of use on this Oldsmobile’s five-digit odometer.

Under the hood is the standard 340 gross HP, 455 CI V8 that powered most ’71 442s. The W30 option, not featured here, got the buyer another 10 HP. The seller claims, “Car runs, drives and shifts excellent! ” Upgrades include an Edelbrock carburetor, headers, new lower control arms, new ball joints, new master cylinder, new brake booster and battery. The seller doesn’t mention the intake manifold but it looks like an aftermarket upgrade too. As is frequently the case with this vintage 442, a three-speed, TurboHydramatic 400 automatic transmission is in place instead of a four-speed manual unit. The 442 nomenclature was somewhat was lost by ’71. Depending on how you define it, this car could be a 432 or a 4.542 or any one of several other combinations of the 442’s defining digits. Nevertheless, 442 still meant solid Oldsmobile performance and that’s defining enough.

The interior of this Olds is fantastic Not only is if fighting age, but it’s also fighting white! Some will say they don’t like white because it looks dirty. It’s no dirtier than black, blue, green, etc., they all get the same amount of dreck on them but yes, you can see it more easily with white. Beyond that, white sometimes “yellows” with age but that’s not the case here.  While being a less popular bench seat/column shift version, the upholstery fabric, carpet, dash/instrument panel and door cards show as practically new. The seller makes no reference to the interior but it wouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that it is not original. Of note, while this is an A/C equipped car, it would appear that there is no A/C compressor so I guess that means it’s a half A/C equipped car and it’s missing the part that makes it work. – worth an additional inquiry methinks. Check out that trunk! It’s as nice as the interior.

The VIN checks out, this Oldsmobile is what it is purported to be. It is being sold by a Winter Garden, Florida (southwest of Orlando)  dealer and he’s pretty active. I come across his listings frequently and his eBay rating is 100% favorable. This 442 is trending in a reasonable territory for now but there’s no telling what the reserve is though the list price via, the seller’s website, is $29,900 – that gives you a bit of an idea. There is a YouTube video here of a walk- around while the car idles, it’s worth viewing. This dealer’s stock-in-trade is Chevelle SS models but they trade at a considerably higher value than the asking price for this Olds, a car that is very similar to a Chevelle and as many will tell you, a notch or two above a Chevy. It could be a pretty good deal for someone interested in GM “A” body performance when they were at the top of their game don’t you think?


  1. Moparman Moparman Member

    Pros: Very nice interior, good glass, chrome, overall presentation.
    Cons: Incorrect/excessive striping, el cheapo hood pin kit, incorrect tips on mis-aligned exhaust pipes, missing A/C condenser, and cruise control components, ‘Oldsmobile’ script incorrectly placed on hood edge. Still, looks to have the potential to be a good buy for someone wanting a 442, depending on final pricing. GLWTA! :-)

    Like 8
  2. Jack M.

    Also install the proper Oldsmobile rallye wheels and put those chrome wheels back on the trailer they came off of.

    Like 14
  3. Troy s

    It would make a fun driver as it sits with those mild mods and imperfections.
    It might not represent what it was like brand new, more like a few years later when the bottom fell out of the muscle car market. At the least, got to loose those tires fast…

    Like 2
    • ccrvtt

      Burn ’em off with that 455 torque monster…

      Like 3
  4. Joe Padavano

    Hardly “showroom fresh”…

    Others have mentioned the wheels, exhaust, stripes, but the aftermarket intake, E-brock carb, air cleaner, headers, replacement brake booster, and corporate blue paint on the engine say that a lot has happened to this car since it was showroom fresh. On the other hand, it’s rare these days to see a 70-72 car that DOESN’T have a repro fiberglass hood. And FYI, the Oldsmobile script on the hood IS correct for this car. Not a bad car, but if the reserve is really in the $29K neighborhood, that’s somewhat aggressive.

    Like 6
    • Moparman Moparman Member

      @ Joe: Thanks, I stand corrected! :-)

      Like 1
      • Joe Padavano

        Lesser Cutlii had the Oldsmobile script in the grill for 1971-72, but since the 442 had the numerals there, the Oldsmobile script was moved to the hood, at least on the metal hoods.

        Like 1
    • Buffalo Bob

      Shouldn’t that motor be Olds Gold?

      Like 1
      • Joe Padavano

        No. 455s were metallic blue for 1971.

        Like 2
  5. TimM

    Nice clean 442 can’t remember the last time I saw one with a bench seat!!!

    Like 0
    • Joe Padavano

      Buckets were standard equipment on the 442. The bench was a $68.46 credit option under RPO A52.

      Like 5
      • TimM

        Didn’t know that Joe thanks for the info!!

        Like 2
  6. Woody

    The little things can be corrected,the rims are too cheap for this nice 442 and looking at this Olds reminds me of my parents white Vista-Cruiser !

    Like 3
  7. T-Man

    It seems that all the little cosmetic items could have been addressed by the seller prior to listing the car. It is a very nice example, i would love to have it, but it is over priced.

    Like 1

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