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						Olds W 30

Potential W-30 — 1970 Oldsmobile 442

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, Craigslist

The joys in owning classic cars go far beyond paperwork and OEM specifications, but having your factory documentation can mean the difference of thousands when it comes time to pass a car to its next custodian. This 1970 Oldsmobile two-door Holiday Coupe in desirable 442 trim is a prime example of that. It’s the cat’s pajamas for any student of the muscle car era, but a few factory-offered extras and a certain four-digit designation on the front fender indicate that this could be a top-tier gentleman’s hot rod.

The phrase “You can sell a young man’s car an old man, but you can’t sell an old man’s car to a young man,” has been credited to Semon Knudsen of Pontiac and also Lynn Townsend of Chrysler, and that statement was never truer than in the 1960s. Young buyers were making up a larger and larger segment of the market, and automakers were doing their best to refresh stale model lines from the 1950s into something would appeal to speed-hungry young buyers.

The enduring Olds 442 is a prime example of that, having evolved as a performance-centered street machine off the F-85 and Cutlass models. The designation 4-4-2 specified a four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual transmission and dual exhausts (although some argue the later digit signified a posi, or Anti-Spin in Olds terms, rear axle). Either way, Oldsmobile was smart enough to pair these performance enhancements with a few appearance upgrades, including scooped hoods, stripes and deluxe wheel treatments, completing its revamp from old man's F-85 or Cutlass to wicked street machine. By 1968, the 442 would diverge from the Cutlass line entirely as its own model.

The 442 was selling well by 1965, but Oldsmobile was in need of an even hotter package to keep up with other marques at the drag strip. To quietly sneak a handful of uprated 442s past the GM brass, the 442 W30 package was debuted in small numbers. Upgrades initially consisted of an outsider-air induction system, upgraded camshaft and a relocated battery, but by 1970, dealer-installed W30 extras could include steep 4.33 rear end gears, fiberglass hoods, aluminum intake manifolds, low restriction air cleaners and other performance upgrades. W30s would also become easier to spot with the addition of telltale red inner fender liners up front in 1967. Four-speed W30s were capable of clicking out quarter-mile times of 14.2 seconds at 102 mph by 1970.

The W30 package was always offered in small numbers, which is a recipe for big money these days. Your average 442 W30 with a four-speed can grab $75,000 and up, and concours-condition cars can crest $120,000. So what’s the deal on this ’70 442 W30 asking just $48,900 on Craigslist?

Well as alluded to above, it’s a classic case of insufficient documentation. By all evidence, it appears to be a legit W30 car, given the badging, red fender liners, 455 ci V8, M-21 Muncie transmission, fiberglass hood, aluminum intake manifold and 3.42 Anti-Spin gears.

It’s interesting to note though, that Oldsmobile guru Stephen Minore examined the car and submitted his Rocket Report and the owner still lacks sufficient evidence to call this car a legit W30. Like other authenticators, Minore looks at Julian date codes, build sheets, casting numbers, VINs and period photos to get down to brass tax on 442s, but something still must be missing here.

What we do know is that the car is a bona fide 442 two-door Holiday Coupe, and a well spec’d one at that. And according to Hagerty’s price guide, its owner has priced it accordingly (be it a little generous) for a nicely restored 442 at $48,900. The missing evidence could literally double the value on this car if it exists, but what else can you do?

I guess just drive the wheels off it. Check out the Olds 442 here on Albany Craigslist.

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