VIDEO: Vintage Road Test – 1971 Olds 442 W-30

In forty or so years since the last of the [original] musclecars rolled off of the assembly-line, there have been a magnitude of changes throughout the automotive industry.  Electronic fuel injection has replaced carburetors, ECUs have taken the guesswork out of diagnosing an ill-running engine and coil packs now sit in place of distributors.

Of course, there have been huge improvements in braking and steering systems, suspension technology and overall performance. Production engines now produce levels of horsepower that could have never been imagined in the ’60 or ’70s.  Your typical, run of the mill family sedan now packs an easy 300-plus horsepower – from a naturally-aspirated V6. While a HEMI Challenger could be had with as much as 707 hp, from the dealership.

But let’s go back to an era where things seemed simpler, and American cars still relied on a 4-bbl Holley, high-compression and Sunoco 260 gasoline to motor down the highways and byways of America. Let’s rewind the clocks back to 1971, where a particular Oldsmobile 442 W-30 convertible 4-speed was being rung out on the Car and Track test track.


Hosted by Bud Lindemann, Car and Track reviewed some of the hottest muscle machines, as well as perfectly pedestrian vehicles during their tenure on television. Although they often sought praise in whatever vehicle they were testing for that particular feature, they always slapped you with the hard truth about the car; how it rode, drove, handled, the standard features/placement and so on. If there was anything that they didn’t like, they’d be happy to tell you.

However, the ’71 Olds 442 W-30 received high praise throughout its review, especially from the handling/steering department. Power and performance from it 455ci Olds powerplant was on point too, delivering performance on par, or better, than its contemporaries of the era. They’re pretty rare, too, as only a total of 920 442 W-30s were built for ’71.

To make all of this even more interesting, of that number, only 32 4-speed 442 W-30 convertibles built for 1971, so it’s pretty cool seeing one being put through the ringer – and even drifted – around the corners of a test track when it was brand new. If you have a few minutes, take a journey back through time and watch the video as Bud gives us the skinny on one of the rarest cars ever made.


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