If you’re a GM fan, 1971 sucked. No, it’s not because that’s when Stairway to Heaven debuted. Rather, it’s because GM lowered the compression of all its engines in anticipation of low-lead gas and new emissions restrictions mandated by the EPA. But that didn’t mean GM’s lineup from 1971 was weak. In fact, over the past 10 years, collectors have begun to appreciate the nice combination performance and model year updates that GM’s 1971 roster has to offer. This ’71 Olds 4-4-2 is a great example.
Whereas the standard 455 was down 25 to 340 horsepower, the W-30 package was down 20 to 350 horsepower. Both cars were plenty fast but, considering cars were becoming more and more powerful through 1970, it was anti-climactic.
Magazines tried to look at the bright side, with Cars Illustrated pointing out that “some of the manufacturers – mainly Buick-Pontiac-Oldsmobile – have resorted to internal modifications to help bring back some of the lost performance.”
In fact, in their Supercars ’71 issue, the CI guys make the gutsy claim that “compression ratio is down, but – strange as it may seem – performance isn’t,” and back it up with a 13.90 @ 101 for their 3.91-geared W-30.
Personally, we don’t buy that it was as fast as the ’70, but there was plenty of good news for ’71. The facelift, which included round parking lights, a larger grille, and new taillight lenses, has been a favorite for Olds enthusiasts for years.
The new W-37 twin-plate clutch for the M22 4-speed was a special option shared only with Corvettes. And a new stripe option for the standard flat hood (available in black, white, gold, blue, or green) gave the 4-4-2 a racier appearance. New paint colors – including the ever-popular Viking Blue – mixed things up a bit too.
Despite the above improvements, the ’71 4-4-2 spent a long time looking for respect. As some prefer the details on the ’71 more than the ’70, and as more have learned the value that the ’71 has to offer, their value has increased. In fact, a W-30 4-speed convertible (one of 32) hit over $170,000 at auction last year. We’re also starting to see “regular” 4-4-2s receive the concours resto treatment, as can be seen by this black beauty on eBay.
Originally sold to Grover Cleveland Pruitt from Conner Oldsmobile in Lima, Ohio, it’s equipped with the 340-horse 455, W-25 fiberglass hood, 4-speed, air conditioning, Super Stock I wheels, tilt steering wheel, AM/FM Stereo with rear speaker, power windows…you get the idea. Want some icing for your cake? How about Grand Champion at the 2007 Oldsmobile Nationals?
Sure, $85,000 is super-expensive, even by 1970 standards, but it’s restored to concours specs. If you desire the best 1971 4-4-2 in the world, you’d have a hard time finding a better one.