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a smooth line slopes up a wide front hood
edges up the windshield
curves over the hard top
and slides down the fastback
to the taught rear bumper
muscles ripple beneath cherry red paint
1969 chrome beauty
the thrum of 325 horses
waiting wild for the gas
One of the most overlooked muscle cars of the mid to late sixties is Oldsmobile's incredible 4-4-2, a testament to the pure American muscle car.

Visually similar to the Cutlass models of the same era, the rear-wheel-drive, normally aspirated 4-4-2 (which stands for four-hundred cubic-inch engine, four-barrel, and dual exhaust*), initiated in 1964 after the rousing success of the Pontiac GTO, was basically a 330-block engine jammed inside a Cutlass frame -- in fact, at first, the 442 was a model of Cutlass Supreme (it was liberated to its own model in 1968). The powerful 4-4-2 was originally a "police package", sold almost exclusively to police departments.

As the years went by, the 4-4-2 became more distinctive -- the eminent 4-4-2 badges found across the exterior and interior both; the slightly larger width and wheelbase, increased weight, and slightly lower ground clearance that a sharp eye could recognize immediately as belonging to Cutlass' "big brother". Not to mention the evolution of the engine: whilst the earlier models used comparatively small 400 cid V8s, the 4-4-2 hit its peak in 1970 with the enormous 455 V8 engine, which could easily churn out a good 390hp -- and this was stock. Rival cars, like the GTO and Ford's Torino, barely even kept up with their high-performance packages.

Speaking of which, special performance options were no stranger to the 4-4-2, as it were; the now very rare special edition Hurst Olds 442, sold only in the `68 and `69 model years, included a 455 engine, Hurst dual-gate shifters, and a modified turbo-Hydramatic transmission. With all this power at the command of the driver, the 4-4-2 became notorious for victories at the racetrack and on the street, and, as such, it was named as the official pace car at the Indianapolis 500 in 1970.

Almost all muscle cars, the 4-4-2 included, were struck down in 1971; the government was imposing new standards on emissions and introduced a new horsepower rating system that severely hurt the muscle car, and, if that weren't enough, insurance premiums were becoming much too high for people to bear. As a result, the last two years of the 4-4-2 saw the car weakened and relegated back to a Cutlass package (it also became a hell of a lot uglier). And thus the 4-4-2, and the era of the American muscle car, came to a bitter end.

The 1970 4-4-2 had a small, but very cool role in the movie Demolition Man.

*It is a misconception that "442" actually means that it is powered by a 442 cubic inch engine -- this is totally bunk; there is no 442 cubic inch engine. The 442 has always either had a 400 or 455 cid engine (it had a 350 option in `72, however). Also, I have used the 4-4-2 name liberally in this writeup; 4-4-2 or 442 are both acceptable. Also, I believe every car node deserves some technical specifications: I've put specs for the `64-`72 4-4-2 offsite, at www.bazza.com/~dr/442spec.txt.

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