1964 OLDSMOBILE 442
THE ORIGINAL MUSCLE CAR
Ask any American car enthusiast for a definition of a true ‘muscle car’ and we just about guarantee that every single one will give you a different answer. Those answers may not necessarily be incorrect, but they will be different. We’re not too sure why, but it seems to be the general consensus that if it’s American, produced before about 1985, and V8 powered, then it’s more than likely a muscle car.
There are, of course, diehard American muscle car fans such as John Murray, life member and past president of the American Muscle Car Club, and current owner of a 1970 LS6 Chevelle, a 1972 Oldsmobile 442 W-30, a 1972 Pontiac Lemans GT 400, and this magnificent 1964 Oldsmobile 442, who’ll tell you exactly what muscle cars are all about.
John will no doubt tell you that a ‘muscle car’ is a high-performance vehicle, generally midsized, with a large powerful engine — usually a V8 — intended for maximum acceleration on the street or drag strip, predominantly of US origin, and produced between 1964 and 1972.
Muscle cars are quite different from sports cars, which are generally smaller and intended for highspeed touring and possibly road racing. Highperformance, full-size, or compact cars are, arguably, excluded from this category, as is the breed of compact sports coupés inspired by the Ford Mustang, typically known as ‘pony cars’ — although few would dispute a Boss 429’s credentials as a muscle car.
There’s also the issue of the original design intentions for a car. Factory-produced muscle cars that have a larger engine than was planned for in the design and production of the original car can be found throughout the US, Japan, and Europe. These examples, such as the B13 (1991–1994) Nissan Sentra SE-R, are generally not labelled as ‘muscle cars’, and exclude cars typically labelled as ‘muscle cars’, such as the Dodge Viper.
Many enthusiasts believe that Oldsmobile created the first muscle car when it shoehorned its new-at-thetime full-size Rocket V8 into its midsize model to create the Olds 88 and Super 88 series back in 1949.
In actual fact, though, it was the success of the Pontiac GTO that spurred Oldsmobile to return to the concept in 1964, thanks to Oldsmobile engineer and performance enthusiast John Beltz. Oldsmobile was the first General Motors (GM) division to follow Pontiac’s lead by offering full-size muscle in its midsize Cutlass and F85 models. It became a model in its own right from ’68 to ’ 71 and then reverted to being an option through the mid 1970s.
Oldsmobile’s muscle car package included its most potent 330ci (5.4-litre) V8 engine, complete with what was known as the ‘police package’, which included a four-barrel carburettor, a heavy-duty valve
The 422 enthusiasts who wanted the ultimate performance package opted for one option above all else: the W-30