Numerous times in the past, I have stated in the pages of my various columns that I’m a big fan of what I like to call “alternative muscle cars.”
By that, I mean the offerings that came from brands other than the big five – Ford, Chevy, Pontiac, Plymouth, and Dodge – which were responsible for churning out the preponderance of hot cars from the Golden Era of the sixties and early seventies. I’m talking about cars like the AMC AMX, the Buick GSX Stage 1, and the Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT.
Sadly though, Hollywood rarely seems to feature any muscle cars other than your typical Mustang, Challenger, or Chevelle in their films, and as a consequence, I am left with having to review those cars over and over in the pages of this monthly editorial, as well as Rob’s Car Movie Review.
I’m happy to say though, that a modest revenge film was recently released which features one of the best alternative muscle cars of the era. The movie is Sweet Girl, and the car is a seriously cool 1970 Oldsmobile 4-4-2.
It goes without saying that I’m excited to have it be the subject of this month’s Rob’s Movie Muscle!
Sweet Girl is a feature film that was produced by ASAP Entertainment in conjunction with On the Roam and Pride of Gypsies and was released on Netflix’s streaming service in August of this year.
Directed by Brian Andrew Mendoza, the movie was penned by Gregg Hurwitz and Phillip Eisner. It stars the ubiquitous Jason Momoa, Isabela Merced, Amy Brenneman, Lex Scott Davis, and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo.
The film follows the exploits of Ray Cooper (Momoa). A hard-working, blue-collar guy, he is buoyed by his happy, close-knit family consisting of his devoted wife and teenage daughter, Rachael (Merced.)
Tragedy strikes the family when his wife is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, the treatment of which puts the family’s finances in ruins. Hope is further dashed when a cheaper, generic version of the drug therapy is pulled off the market as a result of a bribe paid by a big pharma CEO to the manufacturer.
When Cooper’s wife soon dies, leaving him and his daughter devastated, he swears to seek retribution from those responsible for preventing the drug’s availability. He sets out on a mission to discover what occurred and who was involved, but along the way, the stakes are raised to a very high level, and it becomes clear that not all is how it seemed.
What ensues is a fairly generic and milquetoast revenge story, involving corporate machinations and political corruption. Thankfully though, what the filmmakers left on the table in terms of story and originality, they more than made up for in choosing a ’70 4-4-2 as Cooper’s ride.
Initially introduced in 1964 as an option package for Cutlass and F85 models, the 4-4-2 was Oldsmobile’s response to division-mate Pontiac’s success with the LeMans GTO package.
Named for its four-barrel carb, four-speed manual, and dual exhausts, the 4-4-2 would ultimately become a stand-alone model in the Olds lineup, and an extremely popular one at that.
By 1970, the 4-4-2 was in the third year of its second-generation body style. The car was available in three configurations: a two-door post coupe, which Oldsmobile referred to as the Sports Coupe; the two-door hardtop Holiday Coupe; and a convertible.
With GM having lifted its infamous 400 cubic-inch cap on cars smaller than full-size models, Olds engineers went whole-hog in ‘70 to allow it to compete in the horsepower wars that were being fought by Ford and Mopar.
They replaced the 400 cubic-inch V8 as the standard 4-4-2 engine with their largest lump, the Olds 455 that churned out 365 horsepower and a stump-pulling 500 lb/ft of twist in base form.
Buyers could opt for a W30 option that added a host of goodies. Included in the W30 were “Select Fit” engine parts which basically constituted factory blueprinting, a performance calibrated four-barrel carb, an aluminum intake, a hot cam, and low-restriction exhaust.
A Hurst-managed four-speed with a 3.42:1 rear or a Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 with a Hurst Dual-Gate shifter and 3.23:1 cogs were offered for transmitting power. Front discs, anti-roll bars front and rear, G70 x 14 white-letter tires, and a weight-reducing, twin-scoop, fiberglass hood completed the W30 package.
All of these go-fast parts yielded a car that could trip the quarter in 13.8 seconds at 103 mph – crazy numbers for 1970.
Aesthetic changes from the previous model year included revised sculpting down the sides, vertical silver bars in the grille, rectangular parking lights in the front bumper, exhaust cutouts in the rear bumper, and vertical taillights out back, all of which helped to make the 4-4-2 look as good as it ran.
Inside, the 4-4-2 was plush by the day’s muscle car standards. Vinyl “Strato-Bucket” seats, and a woodgrain insert surrounding three gauge pods were standard. Amongst the many interior options were a “Rocket Rally Pac instrumentation package” and a Custom-Sport steering wheel.
For the production of Sweet Girl, director Brian Andrew Mendoza felt that star Jason Momoa had such insight into his character that he should be the one to pick the hero’s car. Momoa quickly chose the 4-4-2, as he felt it perfectly reflected the nature of Ray Cooper: big, tough, fast, and unrelenting.
The filmmakers searched for a suitable car locally in Pittsburgh where the production was based, but after seeing several cars, both Momoa and Mendoza were not happy. A nationwide search ensued, which netted them a pristine, fully restored ’70 4-4-2 that they liked. The car’s owner was amenable to loaning the car to the production, but one issue stood in the way.
The car’s condition was far too good to be a vehicle that a blue-collar worker like Cooper would likely ever afford, so the production negotiated with the car’s owner to allow them to dress the 4-4-2 down. He agreed, and the art department set about repainting the car to look as if it had seen better days, with patches of faux body rust and primer abounding, as well as a thorough airbrushing of the car’s interior, to make it look old and sun-damaged.
As it appears in the film, the 4-4-2’s exterior is painted in the popular Burnished Gold and has a black vinyl roof and a Medium Gold Metallic interior. A couple of quick interior shots reveal that the car is an automatic and features the Hurst dual-gate shifter on the floor console.
We only catch a quick glimpse under the hood, but it does appear as if the car used in the film was equipped with the W30 package as evidenced by the type of air cleaner sitting atop the engine.
Unlike most action films of this ilk, there aren’t a lot of high-speed automotive scenes in Sweet Girl. The 4-4-2 is thankfully featured repeatedly though, and we get good, long glimpses of it on the back roads of Pennsylvania, and get to hear that tremendous exhaust rumble quite a bit. I should also note that the car is not destroyed in the film, which is a welcome respite from Hollywood’s penchant for slaughtering gorgeous cars.
While not a great film, Sweet Girl does have its moments, and the appearance of such an awesome example of alternative muscle in it certainly made it more watchable for me. If you dig 4-4-2s, it would behoove you to check the movie out. It’s solely available for streaming on Netflix now.
See y’all next time!