The Oldsmobile Cutlass 442, although it may not have been the fastest or the most famous of the classic muscle cars, it certainly gave the competition a run for its money. With a strong, sturdy engine and a stocky yet elegant exterior, it is no surprise that the 2nd generation 442s are a common sight at classic car shows.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for the 4th generation which was released in 1979. Despite their track record of success, Oldsmobile changed the design and mechanics of the vehicle so much that it couldn’t even be described as a muscle car anymore. Fortunately for Oldsmobile, the 1979 442 has long been forgotten. Perhaps because it looks a lot like any other Oldsmobile, Cadillac or Buick coupe from that era; heavy, angular and dull.

The Golden Era Of The 442

The 1972 Oldsmobile 442 via

The 442 of the late 60’s and early 70’s was the peak of classic muscle car style and performance. On average, 442s in this golden era packed a 350hp V8 engine.

This engine along with performance upgrades like forced air intakes and a lighter body allowed these cars to go from 0 to 60 in as little as 5.5 seconds.

Why The 1979 442 Failed To Live Up To Its Reputation

A rear view of the depressing 1979 Oldsmobile 442.

Unfortunately for Oldsmobile, multiple oil crises in the 1970s meant fewer and fewer people were interested in the powerful, gas guzzlers of that were so common in the late 60’s. As early as 1972, Oldsmobile began to offer variants with engines as low as 160hp to help meet changing consumer demand and tougher emission standards. By 1979, the 442 was merely a handling and appearance package. Although different variants of the 442 were made up until 1991, none would ever match the power and strength of the 2nd generation 442.

In addition to significant losses in strength and performance, the Oldsmobile 442 lost the distinctive look that had helped make it so popular. The 2nd generation of the car (1968-1972) had all the features of a classic muscle car, a blocky front, and athletic, sweeping lines through the rest of the body. But details like the double-scooped hood and a long front end helped this car stand out even in the muscle car golden age. As time went on, the 442 became more and more conservative in its design, losing the distinctive features that made it so popular. Fast forward to 1979, and the 442 is nothing more than an unassuming coupe that you might have seen parked in front of your parents or grandparent's house.

Overall, the 1979 Oldsmobile 442 lacks what anyone would look for in a Muscle car, classic late 60’s design and an engine built for speed and power. Although its tough to see a beautiful classic car like the 442 evolve into a grandma-mobile, we have to keep in mind that this evolution was part of a large change in consumer tastes over time. Who’s to say, in 50 years people might say the same things about our favorite cars.

Next: 10 Plymouth Muscle Cars That Are Pretty Sick (5 We Wouldn’t Touch With A Ten-Foot Pole)


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