General Motors took the hint when it delivered the 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2. Shuffling onto the burgeoning performance scene in mid-1964 with a "police package" that could be ordered on a four-door sedan was no recipe for muscle car success. Indeed, fewer than 3,000 buyers bought the original Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2

Refining its strategy for '65, Oldsmobile made the 4-4-2 a $190 option on the F-85 pillared coupe and a $156 extra on the Cutlass coupe, two-door hardtop, and convertible. The 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 had arrived. Styling of these midsize models was updated, with the 4-4-2 distinguished by chrome bodyside tines.

Muscle Car Image Gallery

©2007 Publications International , Ltd.
Overall balance was the 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2's forte. "It's good and fast, and its handling and general road behavior are better than ninety percent of the cars bought by American car consumers," said Car and Driver. See more muscle car pictures.

Marketing was hipper, too. Instead of a couple of cops in a bland '64 sedan, the Cutlass 4-4-2 advertising burst with references to cubic inches and horsepower. Buzzwords like "kicks" and "cool" flew freely. One spot showed nothing but blurred asphalt and the declaration, "Olds 4-4-2 was here!"

Also for 1965, GM raised the displacement ceiling on intermediates to 400 cubic inches. Olds destroked and debored its new 425-cid big-car V-8 to create a hot 400-cid V-8 exclusively for the 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2. With this change, the name now meant 400 cubes, four-barrel carburetor, and dual exhausts.

The 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2's horsepower increased by 35, to 345, and torque expanded by 85 lb-ft, to 440. Peak power now came at 4800 rpm, not 5200, and peak torque was on tap at just 3200 rpm, 400 rpm lower than before.

©2007 Publications International , Ltd.
With the introduction of a new and larger V-8 in 1965, 4-4-2
now stood for 400 cubic inches, four-barrel carb, and dual exhausts.

Olds was able to use a mild cam and relatively modest axle ratios to make the '65 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 a mannered muscle car that still went quite well. Careful suspension tuning and anti-roll bars front and rear again helped it handle better than the other GM intermediates. Transmission choices were three- and four-speed manuals and the two-speed Jetaway automatic.

Where the 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 stayed too conservative was inside. Instrumentation was run-of-the-mill F-85 with a tachometer mounted too low to be of much use. But its effortless performance proved prophetic. "It oozes out 345 horsepower without trying," noticed Car Life in May 1965, "hinting of things to come if this big engine/little car kick lasts." And last it would. The Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 spawned even higher performance in years to come.

©2007 Publications International , Ltd.
The 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 benefited from better marketing.

The 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2
Wheelbase, inches: 115.0
Weight, lbs: 3,890
Number built: NA
Base price: $3,370

Standard Engine
Type: ohv V-8
Displacement, cid: 400
Fuel system: 1 x 4 bbl.
Compression ratio: 10.25:1
Horsepower @ rpm: 345 @ 4800
Torque @ rpm: 440 @ 3200

Representative Performance
0-60 mph, sec: 5.5
1/4 mile, sec @ mph: 15.0 @ 98

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  • Muscle cars created their own culture. To learn about it, read How Muscle Cars Work.

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For related car information, go to these articles:
  • The engine is what gives a muscle car its flamboyant personality. To learn everything you need to know about car engines, see How Car Engines Work.
  • Muscle cars wouldn't have much muscle without horsepower -- but what exactly is horsepower? How Horsepower Works answers that question.
  • NASCAR race cars embody the muscle car philosophy of power. Read How NASCAR Race Cars Work to find out what makes these charged-up racers go.
  • Are you thinking of buying a 2007 muscle car, or any other car? See Consumer Guide Automotive's New-Car Reviews, Prices, and Information.

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