1971 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 W-30

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Oldsmobile warmed the chilly performance climate with the W-30 option. See more muscle car pictures.

The bloom was off the performance rose by 1971, especially at General Motors, and it took a determined assault on the order sheet to come up with a muscle car worthy of the name. Luckily, Oldsmobile still identified its strongest 4-4-2 by a single option code, W-30. So the muscle car era lived on for another year with the help of the 1971 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 W-30.

Except for new grille and taillamp inserts, the 4-4-2 was essentially unaltered from 1970, though the pillared coupe body was dropped. Bigger changes were underhood, where GM's ruling that all its cars reduce emissions and run on regular-grade fuel caused a compression-ratio cut in the 4-4-2's 455-cid V-8.


What was 10.5:1 became 8.5:1, a drop Motor Trend said "was rather like hitting Dr. Oldsmobile with a malpractice suit. But there's still some soul left in Lansing, and despite all the furor, a 4-4-2 will still churn up all the smoke and fury the average muscle car driver could need and probably handle."

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. The 455-cubic-inch four-barrel V-8 was rated at 350 gross horsepower, down 20 from the previous model.

That certainly was true of a W-30. Regular 4-4-2 mills lost not only compression, but got a milder camshaft and some other detuning that dropped them to 340 bhp, from 365 (both gross ratings). W-30s again were factory blueprinted and those used with manual transmission re-tained the hotter 1970 cam. Aluminum intake manifold, low restriction air cleaner and exhaust system, and air-induction hood continued as components of the $369 W-30 option. Gross output fell slightly less than on the base engine, to 350 bhp from 370.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. The 1971 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 W-30 came with a four-spoke steering wheel.

Olds also began listing net output with all accessories in place. The regular 4-4-2 came in at 270 bhp, the W-30 at 300. That seemed tame compared to the giddy figures of just a year earlier, but in reality, net ratings more accurately reflected power available at the driving wheels. It also was true that torque, the most vital factor in acceleration, remained abundant.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Fewer than 1,000 4-4-2s were ordered with the W-30 package, and only 110 of those were convertibles.

But the decline in performance was unstoppable. The W-30 setup associated with blueprinted engines and banzai hole shots would last only through '72, though the name appeared on enthusiast-oriented Oldsmobiles for years to come. The 4-4-2 itself reverted to a Cutlass option after '71. "There's always been something special about 4-4-2s," Motor Trend said as the car was fading. "They seemed to be the subtle man's GTO...."

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