The Oldsmobile 4-4-2 in 1971, as well as other high-powered muscle cars, took a major setback with new EPA regulations, which would become more stringent each year. This first year came with the regulation requiring all newly manufactured cars to run on lower octane, unleaded fuel so all compression ratios dropped and with that came a lower horsepower rating to prepare for the catalytic converters mandated for the 1975 model years.
The 4-4-2 for ’71 got through this year with minor modifications and was available in a hard-top coupe along with a convertible version. There’s an optional variable ratio steering feature offered, if you liked. Oldsmobile dropped the Rallye 350, which had only the one year cameo appearance. Neither the Vista station wagon nor the sport coupe were on the roster. This was the first time since 1964 the sport coupe wasn’t offered, but it was for just this one year. The ’71 model year was identifiable by the black grille with silver border, silver headlight bezels, front parking lights in the bumper, and the horizontally mounted taillights. There were 7,589 Olds 4-4-2 models built in ’71 with 6,285 of those coupes; the remainder were convertible models.
All the GM fleet for 1971 was now rated with a more accurate net horsepower (NHP) rating rather than the gross horsepower (GHP) system used prior to this year, which explains why some figures appear to conflict. The previous year’s optional aluminum differential housing cover was now standard equipment. The compression ratios dropped from 10.5:1 to 8.5:1 on the base 455 engine; it was now rated at 340 nhp (254 kW). It could do the quarter-mile 1 second slower than the 1970, now in 15.2 seconds reaching 99 mph (159 km/h) and 0-60 (97 km/h) in 8.9 seconds equipped with the TH400 Turbo Hydra-matic automatic transmission.
The ultimate high-performance W-Machine, or W-30, had a fiberglass hood. The W27 option also included the functional air scoops, forced air induction, high intake air filter, upgraded distributor, and a four-barrel carburetor mounted on the aluminum intake. The W-30 option also retained the hot camshaft the other engines lost and rated at 350 nhp (261 kW), so if you convert the GHP rating NHP rating the engine dropped only 20hp from the last year. The W-30 came with a three-speed as a basic offering. That could upgrade to a Hurst duel gate shift stick and the four-speed manual transmission that could mount in a console as an additional option. Either standard transmission comes with the 3.91:1 rear gears.
The sales in all the muscle cars from every manufacturer continued to decline, but the Oldsmobile 4-4-2 held its own. The Oldsmobile 4-4-2 is a subtle man’s GTO, the car that inspired it.
The 4-4-2 maintains a following due to its great handling characteristics combined with high performance. The Olds 4-4-2 has always been one of the super cars that stood out in a crowd. It had staying power and was the only muscle car that lasted into the 1980s.
© Swtrekker | Dreamstime.com 1972 Oldsmobile (Olds) Cutlass 4-4-2 Interpretation