Collectible Classic: 1964-1967 Oldsmobile 442

Matt Tierney

Bob Kanas bought one of those rare L69-code six-barrel 442s, with optional front disc brakes and an electronic ignition, off the showroom floor in 1966. He frequently cruised the streets of Detroit, rarely backing down from a challenge. "When you pushed the gas pedal...yep. Killed them Goats, killed them Fairlanes," Kanas says.

On one occasion, he was racing a Buick Gran Sport on 8 Mile Road when police from two cities arrived on the scene. Kanas somehow managed to worm his way out of a major citation. "They took that guy's car and wrote me up for five over," he recalls, smiling. Even though Kanas didn't lose his '66 442 in that memorable street race, the car was stolen shortly thereafter-when he owed the bank just a couple more payments. The Olds was recovered, but the thieves had stripped it clean and the 442 was totaled.

These days, Kanas, who worked for Chrysler for forty-two years, owns another three-carb '66 442. However, the only vintage car from his collection of seven that he'll subject to sharp-penciled car-show judges is the '67 Cutlass Supreme 442 coupe pictured here. His wife, Lori, remembered Bob's original '66 442 but wanted a '67 because she loved this car's antique pewter paint and liked the styling -- '67 442s feature nonfunctional louvered hoods and a distinctive split-headlight face.

The Kanases bought this car about ten years ago. It wasn't rusty, but it required a thorough freshening. "I tried to do this car as you could've bought it from the dealer in 1967," Bob says. "It'll run the quarter mile in 14.37 seconds."

We don't doubt his claim one bit. The big Olds is very peppy, even in fourth gear, thanks to its 3.90:1 final-drive ratio and antsy secondary carbs. The 400-cubic-inch V-8 wants to nudge the rear end sideways under the mildest of throttle inputs, especially with these Firestone bias-ply tires. It handles better than most of its peers, but the 442 is best suited to impromptu stoplight drags and boulevard cruising. You'll turn the wheel plenty just trying to keep the car in its lane anyway. The steering wheel kicks back fiercely when doing U-turns for the photographer, but the big, thin-rimmed wheel provides the necessary leverage for the unassisted recirculating-ball system. The four drum brakes aren't as bad as one might expect, but we certainly wouldn't want to be forced to test their limits. The stiff clutch is slightly softer than the stock setup; the Hurst shifter offers longish throws but very smooth action and is topped by a black ball that feels and looks perfect in this setting. From the high, chairlike bench seat, you survey the louvered hood, whose acres of metal quiver like Santa Claus's belly when you drive over bumps. The interior smells divinely old, and there's a refreshing feeling of quality to the switchgear, particularly the turn-signal stalk and the window cranks. The exterior styling, typical of GM's designs from this period, remains quite striking today.

"Kanas's car is a basic and pure two-door post coupe, but hardtops"...but hardtops what? WHAT DO HARDTOPS?!?

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