1991 Oldsmobile 442 W41 Package

Seemingly any GM model that had the powerful Quad 4 engine under its hood has already entered the realms of rare and coveted, heightened by the fact that those models are near impossible to find today. This 1991 Oldsmobile W41 442 Cutlass Calais is such a car, packing a 190 b.h.p. DOHC four-cylinder paired to a sporting five-speed manual. While a far cry from the original 442, this is one of the few times in recent memory a model reincarnation actually followed through on its promises. Find this rare Olds listed here on eBay with a Buy-It-Now of $10,890.

Featuring a rear spoiler, unique alloy wheels, and special badges, the W41 N-body is a rare car; the 1991 model is exceedingly so, with purportedly under 500 made that year. The Oldsmobile got its own version of the W41 package, with some engine tweaks that gave it a ten horsepower bump over its siblings at other GM divisions, good for a 0-60 run of seven seconds flat. Throw in the high-revving nature of the DOHC powerplant and you have a car that was more baby M3 in spirit than a 442.

The interior was still the cheap-as-chips GM cabin with bargain basement plastics and rental car-spec bucket seats. But it did get a manual transmission that made the most of the hellion under the hood, and the FE3 suspension that firmed up the chassis significantly. Perhaps a bit too much, in fact, as road test editors of the day didn’t find themselves as enthralled with the punchy Oldsmobile, citing an overall harshness that put it behind its rivals like the Ford Probe and turbocharged Mitsubishi Eclipse.

It’s a shame, really, that GM didn’t perfect the formula, because it certainly had all the right ingredients. The performance credentials were there, and cars like this still hold a lot of eyeball appeal today – many of the important boxes were checked, but early 90s sport compact performance was heating up to such a degree that it wasn’t enough to be fast. This example is likely one of the best ones left, and with so few made, you’d be wise to belly up to the plate if you’ve been hunting for a Quad 4-equipped N-body.


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  1. alphasud Member

    I like it and I don’t remember seeing the 442 on the Calais. My boss was into racing and I remember they had a series using the Olds with the quad 4. Then followed by a Neon racing series. The cars held up well under the punishment. Another unusual feature was when you did an oil change the filter element was in the oil pan so oil changes were a snap.

    Like 2
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Hi alphasud, I am confused on the oil change. You had to remove the oil pan to get to the filter? Sounds like a pita to me. Am I missing something? Take care, Mike.

      • alphasud Member

        My bad guys. It was the iron duke engine in the late 80’s they put the filter in the pan. It was a oil filter element like most modern cars. Simply remove the flange nut and you changed both the filter and the oil at the same time.

        Like 1
    • Poppy

      My ’88 Quad-4 had a conventional spin on filter. Still have it actually (the filter, not the car) as it was my first new car.

      Like 4
    • Poppy

      Northstar engines have that sort of oil filter. Sure you’re not confusing the two?

      Like 1
  2. Dave

    True…buyers expected four valves per cylinder and double overhead cams to do for cars what it did for motorcycles. The engine in my 2016 Jeep Patriot is a 2.4 quad four with dual variable valve timing and a 6500 rpm redline. The beer muscles come in above 4000 and you just watch the tach needle bounce off the redline while the computer shifts the six speed transmission.

    Like 1
  3. Skorzeny

    I’m familiar with this engine in the Grand Am. The only trouble I ever had was a misfire due to a cracked coil cover which was an easy fix. Oh, and it leaked oil big time. But it was a blast to drive. Someone will be happy with this Olds.

    Like 4
  4. Todd Zuercher

    I don’t think I’ve seen a Quad 4 this clean since the introductory photos 30 years ago! I’ll admit I have a soft spot in my heart for cars like this, although I never have driven a Quad 4 car.

    • Poppy

      My first car was an ’88 I-Series Calais. Red with silver lower cladding, 5-speed and red leather interior. Beautiful car for a kid fresh out of school. Plenty of power, great fuel economy, and great handling (albeit a stiff ride). Torque-steered like crazy but you could spin the tires into 2nd gear if you tried hard enough. Was totaled in ’92 when a car turned left in front of me against the light, but I was fortunate to find an identical replacement for it locally.

      Like 1
    • Lynn Member

      I had 2 Quad 4’s. 90 Berretta GTZ and a 92 Achieva SCX. Both ran very well. The factory missed the the air filter tube from the air cleaner box to the throttle body so when I noticed it I traded it before the warranty ran out!

      • Poppy

        Are you just saying that you essentially ran the car for a long time with no air filtration and were worried about all the dirt you might have sucked in?

  5. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    I don’t have any experience with this model or anything with a Quad 4, but as I look back on this Olds as a thirty year old car, I think the styling and look have aged pretty well. Interior-wise, not so much. Someone will have fun with this Calais.

    • Poppy

      The leather interiors in the I-Series cars were sharp (but not available on the W41). Perforated inserts and contrasting black piping, very nice looking.

  6. CCFisher

    I had a 1991 Grand Am SE with this drivetrain, minus 10hp. I remember it fondly. Yes, it was noisy at high RPM. No, that was not enough to keep me from revving it up. What kind of gearhead objects to mechanical melodies?

    Like 5
  7. Steve R

    I think drivers of traditional high torque V8 engines did exactly the opposite of that you suggest. When I bought my first double overhead cam equipped car, a V6 with a 7,000 rpm redline equipped with a 5 speed manual, I never revved it close to it’s redline. Revving an engine that high wasn’t something I never became accustomed to. To this day, I rarely spin smaller displacement engines anywhere close to redline.

    Steve R

    Like 2
    • JoshuaPK

      Steve R, I think it’s a mindset. All of the cars with “hot” motors I’ve ever had- regardless of whether it was a 4,6, or 8- saw redline multiple times per trip, multiple trips per day. I just have a lead foot lol.

  8. Poppy

    Head gasket leaks were their main issue with high thermal cycles (many short trips versus fewer longer drives).

    Like 1
  9. Maestro1 Member

    Oldsmobile in its Bizarre Period. The color is wrong, and the price is too high.

  10. Gary

    Biggest piece. Of motor GM ever put out. I had a new ‘93 Grand Am. Put 4 head gaskets in it. 👎👎👎👎

  11. Rick

    I had this exact car! Loved it, put a killer stereo in it. Great memories!

  12. Centuryturbocoupe

    What! No mention of the water pump leaking issue and the “diaper” fix that GM came out with to address it?!?! A teacher in high school had an ’87 Grand Am and a student in shop class brought one of these 442 in one day. I thought they were really cool cars then until I entered automotive repair and had to work on “N” cars….

  13. Mitchell Ross Member

    The W41 also had a limited slip diff. This is one of only a few cars that were banned from the stock classes in SCCA autocrosses in what I think was an anti domestic ruling after it cleaned up in 1990

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