Long Island-native, Bob Murphy (58), or “Murph” as his friends know him, has been a Pontiac man for as long as he can remember. After learning to drive in his dad’s 4-door ’66 Tempest and attaining his first car – a ’69 350ci, 4-speed LeMans – GTOs have filled his head and garage with delusions of grandeur.
Starting in his rebellious teens, Murph recalls becoming intrigued by another GM A-body muscle car. It was an Oldsmobile 4-4-2 that caught his eye and would not relinquish its draw until Murph acquired one of his own. Decades later, this is his story.
The iconic three-digit moniker “4-4-2” debuted as a performance option on the ‘64 Oldsmobile Cutlass/F-85. 4-4-2 refers to the 4-barrel carburetor, 4-speed manual transmission, and dual exhaust system. Originally from the (B09) Police Apprehender/Pursuit equipment group, the package included the 5.4L, 330ci V8, with a hotter cam, stronger rods/main-bearings, dual-snorkel air intake, heavy-duty shocks/springs and a rear stabilizer bar. Output was 310hp/355 lb-ft of torque.
The 4-4-2 received a new definition to match its new standard Oldsmobile motor in ’65. Now boasting a 6.6L 400ci V8 making 345hp/440 lb-ft, the first “4” referred to the big mill. From ’68-’71, the 4-4-2 became its own model, equipped with more powerful 400-cube motors, automatic transmissions, and even tri-power carburetor set-ups, but the 4-4-2 name stuck.
More high-performance goodies and options became available to Oldsmobile’s 4-4-2, like the (W-machine) W30 air-induction/engine package and W25 fiberglass twin-scooped hood. The 455ci big block became the standard engine in 1970. As the model years progressed and GM inter-division rivalry burned like napalm – the 4-4-2s became synonymous with big power, great handling and a level of luxury/comfort envied by GMs other muscle machines.
Hanging with like-minded car guys as a senior in high school, Murph got his first exposure to Olds muscle. One buddy had a ’69 Cutlass convertible, another had a ’70 4-4-2, and another friend drove a ’70 4-4-2 ragtop. While wrenching-on, cruising-in, and street-racing their $500 cars, Murph acquired a lasting appreciation for the 4-4-2.
“They had a level of engineering the Pontiacs and Chevys didn’t,” Murph states. “They were well thought-out and very balanced cars. The W30 cars had factory blueprinted engines. It seemed Oldsmobile’s efforts went into build-quality and less to marketing/advertising.” Murph realized, the real motor-heads were into the Olds muscle and for good reason.
As Murph went through the next few decades, he built a career as an HVAC technician and a pretty nice car collection – mostly Ponchos. Those 4-4-2s never left his mind though, and as fate would have it, the new century would revive Olds memories.
Around 2004, Murph satisfied his Oldsmobile yearning by purchasing a ’70 Cutlass W-31. It was a 350ci/4-speed car in stunning Aegean Aqua. While not the big block 4-4-2 he envisioned and yearned for, Murph describes the hardtop Cutlass W-31, as “a beautiful trailer queen, I got at a good price.”
Striking While The Iron Is Hot:
About a year later in ’05, Murph was perusing the American iron at a car gathering in Deer Park, New York, when he came upon it. A ’71 Cutlass 4-4-2 in Palm Green with a white vinyl top. Murph interrogated the owner right on the spot. The owner said he had it for the last 10 years, but didn’t use it much. Mainly ice cream runs and weekend pleasure cruising. Murph didn’t dilly-dally and asked what it would take to buy it. The owner was firm on $20,000 and Murph was satisfied with what he saw. The car that first caught his attention in high school was finally his.
The Real Deal:
As it sits, Murph’s Olds acquisition, is a numbers-matching, ’71 Cutlass hardtop 4-4-2, without the famous W-30/W-25 options. True to its iconic numerals – it is equipped with the standard for ’71, 340hp/370lb-ft 455ci engine, with a 4-barrel carburetor, breathing through dual exhausts and wielded by the M20 wide-ratio 4-speed transmission. Transferring that torque to the rear wheels are 3.23 gears in a 10-bolt Positraction rear-end. Factory power front-disc and rear-drum brakes, haul the big Olds to a stop.
Murph soon learned a little back story on his 4-4-2 and it’s first owner. It seems, the car was originally ordered in Nebraska by a serviceman who was about to be stationed in New Mexico. Being a smart soldier who wanted to keep cool in the desert, he ordered the car with A/C and a rare option, factory-painted white top. Other options include, front bucket seats, a center console, tilt sport steering wheel, AM/FM stereo and gauge package with the famous tic-toc-tachometer.
More history was learned during Murph’s first go-around with the 4-4-2. The probable second owner, did a nice freshening-up of the car in 1993. This included a full repaint, the addition of wide W30 side striping, and covering the original white-painted roof with a white vinyl top. Going further to achieve OEM specs, Murph immediately swapped the modern rubber that was present, for a correct set of Firestone Wide Oval bias ply tires.
Murph really loved his 4-4-2, stating, “it was a solid driver.” He cruised to shows and gatherings in one of the more-rare machines from the golden era of muscle cars. He did it in high-style, and restrained power.
Murph had the 4-4-2 for about two years, before circumstances changed. By this time, his collection had grown to five cars with his newest acquisition, an ’06 Brazen Orange, six-speed GTO. Literally out of room to store all of his machines under garage cover – one had to go. With Pontiac blood coursing through his veins, Murph’s two prized GTO Judges and new age Goat were staying put, so the Oldsmobile’s were on the chopping block.
Murph felt the W31 Olds, was too perfect of a car to sell and he’d grown very fond of it. Although he loved the 4-4-2 as well, it became a case of last in, first out. If he was going to part with anything, it would be the 4-4-2.
It didn’t take very long to move the 4-4-2, as Murph had a friend in West Babylon, New York, who had his eye on the iconic Olds. So, without much ado, Murph’s 4-4-2 was sold and went to another good home.
The better part of a decade passed before Murph’s 4-4-2 memories would rekindle. During that time cars came and went, replaced by similar models in different colors and model years. It wasn’t until the sale of an ’09 Shelby GT500, where opportunity would arise again.
Murph now had space and a nice wad of cash for another car. He was itching to get his 4-4-2 back from his friend Ralph, who snatched it up 7-years prior. The time had finally come and Murph was ready to scratch that itch.
It took about a year of friendly back and forth before Ralph would break. In early 2015, Murph reacquired his 4-4-2, and at a good price.
Call it karma, call it destiny, call it whatever you want, but Murph felt redeemed upon getting his 4-4-2 back. He now flaunts his rare Olds a bit more – going to gatherings and wowing his Pontiac GTO club buddies with GM’s other A-body muscle car.
Intent on the 4-4-2 being as correct as possible, Murph had the shabby carpet replaced and the seat coverings redone, after noticing they just weren’t the right shade of Jade green. But, that was just the beginning. This time around, Murph settled for nothing less than factory original, or as close as possible. He replaced the entire exhaust from manifolds back, with a new OE system – save for a pair of Flowmaster mufflers. He tended to the front suspension as well, replacing everything with OEM/NOS parts. He redid the brakes front/rear and dropped-in a new clutch for good measure.
On top of all that, regular maintenance and keeping the Olds clean and shiny is a regiment Murph employs on all his cars. This is more than evident in the images provided, as the Palm Green paint, surely glistens better than it did in ’71.
Showing 118,000-miles on the clock, Murph’s Olds 4-4-2, is, in a word, sorted. It’s everything he grew up knowing and loving about Oldsmobile’s understated muscle car. Its comfortable, powerful, and solid as a rock. From your author’s photographic observation, the interior fit and finish, and exterior shut lines appear more precise than other muscle cars of its day.
Believe it or not, Murph’s friend Ralph, has expressed interest in getting the 4-4-2 back for his second shot. But Murph says he’s not really serious. Although, Murph would still consider selling the 4-4-2 to downsize a bit. He admits, having a real connection with the car and parting with it would not come easy. It’s safe to say that twice around has been a real charm.