1983–1988 Hurst Olds/442

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Oldsmobile had a long and distinguished history – and suffered a slow, painful death.

The process of mortification began in the early 1980s, when General Motors gutted the formerly independent engineering departments of each of its seven car divisions. Management eliminated the Buick, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile-built engines that had made each of these divisions’ cars unique, not just “badge-engineered” clones of one basic model fitted with a different grille and set of wheel covers. Henceforth all divisions would share identical “corporate” engines built by a new entity, GM Powertrain.

Pontiac was the first to go; after 1981, it was no longer allowed to build its own V-8s and had to install Chevy-sourced engines in its cars, including the Firebird – which quickly became little more than a tarted-up Camaro. Pontiac ceased to be anything more than a hollowed-out marketing division for generic “GM” vehicles functionally identical to other GM cars.

Oldsmobile’s trip to the glue factory began with the 1983 and 1984 Hurst Olds (and the similar 442 that ran from 1985 to 1988). Reaching back to the company’s salad days in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Olds product planners tried as best they could for one last hurrah before the ax fell – returning two well-respected muscle car designations to the lineup as an option group on the still-rear-drive (but not for long) Cutlass coupe.

The 1983 and 1984 Hurst Olds had an attractive black with silver and red accents paint scheme and was specially-equipped with an aftermarket-style Hurst “Lightning Rod” three-handled shifter: one stick for each forward gear. This was a bit much for a car with just 170 horsepower, though. But it was a good try, in very trying times. The little 307 V-8 wasn’t much compared to the legitimate “455 Rocket” and “W31” high-performance engines of Oldsmobile’s better days gone by, but it was at least an Oldsmobile-built engine, the last of its kind. Tied to 3.73 rear gears, it was still possible to do a decent burnout in a Hurst Olds or 442 – if you power-braked the car or found a puddle to wet the tires a little.

From 1985 through 1987, the basic Hurst Olds package continued but was now called the “442,” in reference to the 1960s-era Oldsmobile muscle car of the same name. Back then, the acronym was short for four-barrel carburetor, four on the floor (a four-speed manual transmission), and dual exhausts. The 1985 to 1987 442 did have a four-barrel carburetor, among the very last of GM’s Rochester Quadrajets to be installed by the factory. But there was no manual transmission, the dual exhausts were as fake as Pamela Anderson’s tits (as a result of the single pellet-style GM catalytic converter), and the car’s performance was as sickly as the Oldsmobile brand itself.

It should have come with its own IV stand.

On the other hand, these cars began to look much better after Oldsmobile switched over the front-wheel drive after 1987 and no longer offered the enthusiast buyer anything more meaty than a transversely-mounted V-6 in a re-badged GM-generic Buick/Chevy/Pontiac/Olds clone-mobile – the “gutless” Cutlass.

Five Fast Facts

3,001 1983 Hurst Olds coupes were built – several hundred more than had been planned. Another 3,500 were made in 1984.

No other production car was ever offered with the Hurst “Lightning Rod” triple-tree shifter as a factory-installed option.

In 1984, the two-tone paint scheme was reversed; silver on top of black instead of black on silver.

The original 1968 Hurst Olds had a 390-horsepower 455 “rocket” V-8.

Four custom-built Hurst-Olds were made in 1988 – even though Olds had switched over to a new, front-drive platform for the Cutlass. These cars all had unique “Aero” rear window glass and “ground effects” body kit and were the last Hurst-Olds models made. They were also the last rear-drive, V-8 coupes Oldsmobile would build.

Excerpted from “Automotive Atrocities” (MBI, 2004) http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Automotive+Atrocities&x=0&y=0

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36 COMMENTS

  1. I have a 1985 442 Hurst olds , has the dual intake air clean with chrome cover, 5557 number on the carb, OZ transmission, w-42 in the truck lid and the 9 in the VIn number, 215/65/15 on the door and it also has the kick-down switch above the gas pedal. It is 100% original and in perfect condition. Looking for two original rims for it. Can any one help in phoenix.

    Thanks

    • Hi Dan,

      Have you tried Year One? I know they sell reproductions of several classic (’70s) GM Rally wheels and they may sell the wheels you need. Another place to look – for original/used wheels – is Hemmings Motor News; look under “Olds” and “parts.”

    • Hi Blayne,

      I’m not sure whether your comment was directed at me. I like the ’80s-era GM intermediate coupes – visually as well as functionally. I miss intermediate-sized RWD performance coupes with real back seats and big trunks. I’d love to have an ’80s-era Hurst Olds/442 or Monte SS!

      The 307 (last of the Olds V-8s) was more the child of CAFE than EPA. Large displacement V-8s (anything over 5.7 liters/350 CI) were disappeared primarily because of the need to meet the government’s fuel economy edicts. EPA killed off high-compression/high-performance V-8s years before cars like the ’80s-era 442/Hurst and Monte SS came on scene.

      The last Olds 403 was sold in ’79. The last Pontiac 400 was made in 1978 (with leftover engines used for the ’79 models). The Pontiac 455 and Chevy 454 disappeared a few years earlier. By the early ’80s, the biggest GM passenger car V-8 was the 350 Chevy – and the only performance car that got it was the Corvette. The Camaro/Firebird – and the rest – got 5 liters (305s) instead of 5.7 liters (350s). The Camaro/Firebird eventually got upgraded to 350s – but really big V-8s never returned, even to this day.

      Low six-liters is as big as it gets.

  2. Thanks to Rick Drake I just discovered this thread.

    I happen to have a ’77 Buick Electra LTD Park Avenue, 4 door with a factory Olds 403 Turbo-Hydra-matic installed. It’s in perfect condition, literally driven by an old lady on Sundays. Silver/Blue velour, Sunroof, Landau, everything works. White sidewalls. My mom wants a Volvo so if there’s interest let me know…

  3. I am trying to find out how many 1987 Hurst Olds were produced with the factory sunroof? also mine has the lightning rod shifters in it?? i have read those shifters were last installed in 1985 unless ordered?? any help with these 2 questions?

    • Hi Ken,

      This ought to be fairly easy to track down. I’d check with Olds clubs (and Hurst Clubs). I’m a member of the Pontiac Oakland Club (POCI) and they have (or know someone who has) every scrap of info imaginable about those cars. I’m sure the Olds people are just as fanatical!

      • Thanks for the info. I actually found it yesterday afternoon late. For anyone else that may ever need it they produced 501 with the power Astro Roof they call it. Thanks for the Reply.

        • You bet, Ken – great car!

          Coincidentally, last week I came across what appeared to be a nearly-perfect “survivor” Hurst Olds. If it was restored, it was restored to the nth degree. It looked almost brand-new, right down to its factory correct white letter Eagle GT tires. Beautiful!

  4. I think it was dual exhaust, but maybe my memory’s fading! (It was assumed, I think, that any muscle car was going to be a coupe – not a sedan.)

    PS: Curious to hear any responses you may have to my comments about religion….

    • Followed the comments over here….don’t want to be that guy who resurrects long-dead threads but just wanted to say that Olds did build a handful of sedans with the 442 package in ’64.

    • Hello, The “2” was in fact for dual exhaust.
      Also the main article has a couple of errors. The last 442’s were 85-87 not 85-88. And also there was no Aero back window on the 88 H\O’s, that was a Monte Carlo SS special edition item.

        • Well, but a kit car isn’t a production car – so it’s not really a 1988 Hurst/Olds… just like the current “Trans-Ams” (aftermarket kits that alter the appearance of Camaros) aren’t really Trans-Ams, either…

          • The (Doc) Watson Areo kit came as a numbered unit that if dealer installed on a new 1988 Cutlass could supposedly then have the vin number listed as an official Hurst Olds. I still have a new never installed kit from 1988.

            • That’s pretty cool, Corey!

              I can remember going with my parents to the Olds dealer circa 1983 and checking out a brand-new Hurst Olds. I sat in it and played with the Lightning Rods….

            • I have a 1988 olds/Hurst how can I verify it’s Real. I heard that doc only made five personal ones how do I know if this is one of them !!!!????

      • I always thought the number “442” was intended to evoke the famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army, which was composed of Japanese American enlisted men and mostly white officers.

        The unit became the most highly–decorated regiment in the history of the United States Armed Forces, including 22 Medal of Honor recipients.

        • 442: 4 speed manual transmission, 4 barrel carb, 2-dual exhaust. That was the original meaning of “442.” Anything after 1973 didn’t have a 4 speed manual transmission. By 1974 or 1975 there were no true dual exhaust systems either because of catalytic converters. They only had dual outlets/tips. So 1973 was the last year that a “442” actually had all the correct components from the factory.

          • Hi Town,

            Yup.

            I think ’75 was the first year for cats (GM) and single exhaust. The ’74s still had true dual exhaust.

          • Dear Brent, Eric,

            I agree. The “official” explanation was just that.

            But what I have wondered all these years, is whether that wasn’t a “reverse engineered” explanation for a number that popped into a GM PR guy’s head.

            WWII was not that long ago. The Hollywood movie “Go for Broke” about the “heroic exploits” of the 442 Regiment, starring Van Johnson, came out in 1951.

            The Olds 442 was introduced in 1964, only 13 years later. No connection whatsoever with the aura associated with the number? Not even subconscious?

            I dunno. After all, boasting about dual exhausts seems pretty lame.

            • It could be!

              Of course, most muscle cars had four barrel carbs, all had dual exhausts – and four speeds were very much desired. Not at all unique to Oldsmobile muscle cars.

              Personal anecdote: I remember going with my parents to the Olds dealer to pick up their new ’98. I wandered around the showroom, where I was drawn to a black with red trim Hurst Olds. Last of the line. It only had a 307 – but at least it was still an Olds V-8 and by god it had a Quadrajet with those huge secondaries that moaned like a banshee when they opened up. Hurst Lightning Rod triple shifter inside, red velour – all the amenities of the early Reagan Era that Olds could toss in.

              I thought it was a handsome car back then, and still do today.

              • I hadn’t thought of those cars in a while. By the time the came out(closet?), I was totally jaded on factory iron.

                The whole exercise seemed like a bad insult to the real deal and those who made/bought them.

                Of course for many of us it looked like they were selling a base car for you to put some muscle in yourself. It just didn’t seem worth it when there were turbo Supra’s that blew American iron away.

                Still, while even Jag made some memorable cars in the 60’s I don’t have any real connection to them.

                Not meaning to change the subject but I rolled by an ex-dealership where a nearby mechanic had his shop and saw a perfect ’70 model SS El Camino out front so I stopped in driving a ’77 SS. We spoke a while as he cleaned up the floor where he’d just finished working on a car. His entire shop had a nice, grey painted floor that looked like it was waxed.

                We talked a bit and went for a ride in his SS. It was an LS6(454, 450HP) model with a 400 transmission. It was all original and perfect. It was a madman too, shifting from each gear at 6800 rpm with 450 HP. If there was an option it didn’t have I was unaware of it. That was the only specimen like it I ever saw.

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