Market Spotlight

3 Oldsmobiles from the brand's youthful, exuberant heyday

by Eddy Eckart
21 September 2023 6 min read

You probably remember the “Not your father’s Oldsmobile” ads that debuted in 1988 in an attempt to promote the company’s updated front-wheel drive lineup and turn around a precipitous drop in sales. Even as a school-age kid, those 30-second spots fell flat for me. I understood that the sleek new W-body Cutlass was more advanced than my grandma’s late ’70s rusty brown car of the same name, but not my father’s Oldsmobile? Yes, these new cars were the antithesis of muscle, but the ground-pounding 4-4-2s and the occasional Hurst/Olds my dad would go out of his way to steer me toward at car shows were glorious. Why would a company want to distance themselves from that? If anything, those cars were peak Oldsmobile.

Decades later, we know how well those ads worked. Olds is gone, and for many younger buyers, the name might as well be Studebaker or even Mercer—they just don’t see many classic Oldsmobiles, so it would be easy to consider the brand a bygone old person’s car manufacturer without fun or interesting models in their history.

But Oldsmobile’s effort in the muscle car era yielded several eye-catching and entertaining alternatives to the Chevy/Ford/Dodge contingent, and they stand out even today.

1969 Hurst/Olds


’60s muscle car lore has no shortage of end-around stories—processes that enabled some truly fast and fun cars to come to life despite corporate edicts and other efforts to stymie the horsepower wars. Chevy’s COPO cars are perhaps the most notorious, but the Hurst/Olds deserves a special mention.

George Hurst had an idea. An inveterate hot rodder and creator of the shifter that bore his name, Hurst had established a strong relationship with GM in the early ’60s. In 1967, he approached Pontiac with a plan to get around the corporate ban on engine sizes of greater than 400 cubic inches in mid-size and smaller platforms: Hurst would install the Poncho 428-cubic inch V-8 into completed Firebirds and Pontiac would sell them at their dealerships. While conversations did make it up the ladder with some enthusiasm, the Pontiac deal fell short. Instead, Hurst was pointed to another GM brand that might have interest: Oldsmobile.

This time, the effort gained traction. Oldsmobile dearly wanted to update its image and drive sales of their 4-4-2, which was capable on the street but paled in comparison to Pontiac’s GTO on the sales charts. A Hurst/Olds halo car, with its engine bay filled with the new Oldsmobile 455-cubic inch V-8 while all the other mid-sized cars had to make do with GM’s 400-cube limit, appealed to Oldsmobile chief engineer John Beltz. Ultimately, even with the edict in place, the bigger engines were installed by Oldsmobile itself before the cars were delivered to Hurst for further modification.

Broad Arrow

The Hurst/Olds debuted in 1968, but the 1969 model is more broadly remembered thanks to its more overt Firefrost Gold over Cameo white paint scheme and mailbox hood scoops wearing “H/O 455” in large gold lettering.

At 380 horsepower and an even 500 lb-ft of torque, the 455 in the ’69 Hurst/Olds didn’t disappoint, though it had 10hp less than the non-AC models from 1968. 0-60 took a brisk 6 seconds and the quarter mile went by in 14—not the top of the muscle car heap, but still plenty quick. The only option for shifting was the TH-400 three-speed automatic topped with, you guessed it, a Hurst shifter that had the standard pattern along with another gate that enabled shifting through the forward gears without the possibility of engaging park or reverse.


In addition to the engine, hood scoop, shifter, and hallmark color scheme, a large rear wing, special door mirrors, grey 15×7-inch wheels, Hurst/Olds emblems, and a registration dash plaque (provided when the original buyers sent in their information) completed the package. According to the Hurst/Olds Club of America, 906 1969 Hurst/Olds were made, all of which were coupes except for three convertibles used by Hurst for promotional activity (other sources put that number at two).

Unlike many muscle cars, the Hurst/Olds did not see a value bump during the pandemic. It did, however, begin to see its values drop as the market began to cool in 2022. A #2 excellent condition car is valued at $63,500, while a #3 car comes in at $46,600, which sounds affordable compared with other rare muscle with similarly interesting history. Hagerty Price Guide editor Greg Ingold elaborates: “The main downside is that they’re all equipped with automatics, which might be a detractor to non-Oldsmobile enthusiasts. Couple that with the fact that when Hurst/Olds come up for sale, they’re not often in show condition—a lot are driver-quality cars. That may drag the average down somewhat.”

1970 4-4-2 W-30


What a difference a year makes. The brass at GM finally decided to lift its engine displacement limitations for the 1970 model year, and suddenly Olds didn’t need the Hurst side door operation to fit the 455 into its A-body muscle car—it was now standard in the 4-4-2. As a result, the Hurst/Olds was shelved and the 4-4-2 with the W-30 package became the top dog with a healthy 370 horses and 500 lb-ft of torque, just shy of the the Hurst/Olds’ 380. Hurst wasn’t completely missing from the picture—buyers who opted for the TH 400 automatic got the dual-gate shifter (a heavy duty four-speed manual was also available).

The W-30 package consisted of quite a few engine tweaks given the five-horse advantage it held over the base 455—different heads, an aluminum intake manifold, and a unique camshaft were the primary changes. Though these engines didn’t wind out the tach, torque is the Olds 455’s calling card, and it had plenty of it.


Other elements of the package include a dual-scoop fiberglass hood that leads air to a vacuum-actuated opening to the air cleaner, front disc brakes, and its handsome appearance elements. Though a cheaper car than the Hurst/Olds when new, the W-30 only fared nominally better than the Hurst/Olds in the sales department. 3100 1970 W-30s were sold across three body styles, with only 264 convertibles produced.


Today, despite the greater number of cars, lower horsepower rating, and less tantalizing backstory, the ’70 W-30 holds a commanding value advantage over the Hurst/Olds—#2 W-30s are almost 40 grand more expensive at $103,000, and good-condition driver values are just under $75,000. The W-30 enjoyed a dramatic bump during the pandemic, with #2 values cresting $130,000 in July of 2022 before settling just above pre-pandemic values in the last Price Guide.

1970 Cutlass Rallye 350

An outgrowth of the Hurst program, though it was built in-house, the Cutlass Rallye 350 offered all the show (and then some) along with a portion of the go of its more muscular siblings. Debuting in 1970 and lasting only that model year, it’s not an overstatement to say that the Rallye 350 is one of most visually distinctive Oldsmobiles ever produced.

Even for the rainbow-hued colorful peak of the muscle car era, the Cutlass Rallye 350 wore a lot of yellow. The bumpers, typically chrome-plated, were instead urethane-coated and slathered in the same Sebring Yellow as the body, and the wheels eschewed the usual chrome trim rings for full effect. Shiny bits trimmed the glass and grille, and strokes of black decals along its flanks and hood scoops added definition to the car’s lines—those are the only concessions to the car’s otherwise completely sunny disposition.

As attention-getting as its exterior was, the Rallye 350 wasn’t going to win many races, but it wasn’t a boat anchor, either. At 310 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, the 350-cubic inch L74 engine was powerful enough to ensure that buyers wouldn’t be embarrassed on the street while also avoiding big-block-level insurance premiums. Transmission options included three- and four-speed manuals as well as the Turbo Hydra-Matic 350 three-speed automatic, and the differential had optional “Anti-Spin,” Olds’ term for limited slip, and 3.23-, 3.42-, or 3.91:1 gear sets. Optimally set up, the Rallye 350 would find 60 in seven seconds and run the quarter in the low 15-second range.

Whether buyers weren’t sure what to do with such a flashy car from a typically staid company, or there was a lack of understanding of how to promote this mid-range muscle car, the Rallye 350 didn’t fare well on the sales floor—only 3547 units were produced. Modern buyers can expect to pay about 50 grand for an excellent example, while a good driver can be had for under $35,000. The Rallye 350 saw a significant bump in value in 2021 and has remained stable since then.

It turns out that I may not have been the only one who had a family member who shared with them how cool these cars could be. Millennials are showing interest in their father's (or is it their grandfather's?) Oldsmobiles, with a significant 22 percent share among Cutlass buyer (the Rallye 350 is categorized with the Cutlass). That their portion of 4-4-2 ownership is slightly less makes sense given that car's higher values. Gen X represents about a third of Cutlass and 4-4-2 buyers, while boomers continue to hold strong in both. Though values are flat for the Rallye 350 and trending down for the Hurst/Olds and '70 W-30, interest among younger buyers appears to be significant enough to suggest that Olds muscle will continue to remain a popular, if slightly niche, alternative option in the segment.

Oldsmobile struggled with its image on and off for decades. From performance V-8 trailblazer in the '50s, to a reputation as an old person's car in the '60s before these A-body muscle cars arrived, to a sales leader, to an old person's car yet again before its death as a brand in 2004, the company nonetheless did have some great and characterful efforts. The Hurst/Olds, W-30, and Rallye 350 represented a shining moment for the brand. Which of these three would you pick?


  • paul s murray says:

    Of all these type GM A-bodies the 442 is my least favorite. The Hurst / Olds is just too over the top and the mailbox hood scoops look like something a techie might have made in high school metal shop. If I was looking to go for rarity and just pure impact an AMC Rebel Machine would for example get the nod over both it and the Rallye 350. The 70 442 is better but still not my brand of single malt. Since we’re not going for top dog bragging rights ,lining them up having Delores ( the sometimes flirty neighbors wife especially after having a few highballs ) drop her mink stole, I’d rather have a Buick Stage 1 as my country club muscle car. But I’m a Ford man so, 72 Cougar XR-7 Convertible 429 CJ

    • R L says:

      Poo poo all over Olds, backhand compliment on A bodies, followed by “but I’m a Ford guy.” Could have guessed the last part. For all smaller folks, ’69 and ’70 Fords are just fine. For larger humans, wedging your left knee between the wheel and driver door is just not doable. A bodies are muscle cars for the masses.

  • paul s murray says:

    retract – 71 Cougar

  • Paul N Jones says:

    What about the 1962 Star Fire?

  • Bill says:

    I am now coming up to my 72nd birthday. In 69 I purchased a new 69 442 convertible. Silver with black interior. 400 cu. inch with the turbo 400 automatic. Beautiful car but I got in too much trouble with the law so I sold it after 18 months. Fast forward to 1973 and I purchased a 69 442 convertible from my girlfriend’s uncle. White with black interior with a 3 speed standard with Hurst shifter. It was fast and 2nd gear went on forever. I miss those cars today except for the drum brakes. Olds made beautiful cars from 67 to early 70’s

  • Rob Klausmeier says:

    I had a ’68 W31 Cutlass. Had the police suspension package which included a rear anti-sway bar. Car & Driver said it was one of the best all around cars. Would run circles around the standard 442, but not the Hurst version.

    • Gary Blythe says:

      I read the post about the previously owned 68 W31, a car I don’t think I have ever seen “in the flesh” and I immediately thought of a former co-worker that had owned one in the day. I looked up at the author, and it was my former co-worker and old friend Rob Klausmeier! I am an aging boomer with a C2 and C3 Corvette I have owned for decades, but I would love to acquire a performance oriented Olds or Pontiac, both a big part of my past that no longer exist as automobile makers.

  • John R Marchiando says:

    All Oldsmobile were Wonderful and Beautifull!

  • Ron Bell says:

    I own a 1971 442 hard top . I purchased the car when I got out of school 50 years ago . I remember my dad and father in-law both saying that they had a car they wish they never sold . I total enjoy the car and have fun with it .

  • BobJ says:

    My first car was a 1965 442 that I bought from my cousin in 1968. Great car. Tons of torque. Won a lot of beer racing on the Berlin Turnpike. Bulletproof .

    • tim spradling says:

      My first new car was a 1966 442 geared for racing. I loved to go out and race the chevy supersports and GTOs

    • Rebecca L Connell says:

      BobJ, you can only mean the Berlin Turnpike in CT, probably Newington? How well I remember the cars roaring by me on the Turnpike when I was out with my friends, cruising in my ’73 Olds Cutlass S. MickiD’s was the destination where we’d cruise the parking lot, looking for who knows what, then start all over again. We might have passed each other!

    • Frank T. says:

      ‘ 65 442s are my favorite ! Give me a hard top with a 4 speed !

  • Rhodent says:

    During the 80’s, I had three Olds cars: 4dr Delta 88, 2dr Cutlass Supreme, and 2dr Cutlass Salon. While I really enjoyed these cars with decent fuel economy, excellent cruising comfort… My favorite Oldsmobile was a ’95 Aurora. Wonderful cruiser, great comfort, terrific visability, and a great cockpit. The 4.4 V8 was fuel injected, dual OHCs and very capable. Almost forgot my wife’s car: ’92 Cutlass 4dr, with the DOHC V6, which was also all the above good things, but, when my wife drove it, it was a screamer. As an aside, My Delta 88 was a diesel, which I had no problems with. It’s beauty, on long trips across the US, cruising @ 80mph, was mid 30’s mpg. Losing Oldsmobile was a sad loss.

  • Ken Sousa says:

    My only experience with an Olds 442 was with a buddy of mine on the street. He had a ’56 Chevy business coupe with a Corvette fuelie block 327 and three Stromberg’s that we built ourselves. Our little Chevy was light, had a 3 speed manual and 4.11 gears. We sucked the doors off the 442. I personally blew away a ’63 409 Impala SS on another night of street racing. He was so shocked that he wouldn’t pull up next to me at the next stoplight. 🙂

  • John Soutter says:

    I have a 1980 Olds Regency That is still original and a great car. I need an antennae . If anyone can tell me where to obtain the retracting antennae, it would be appreciated.

  • Andy Baird. says:

    JOHN Beltz.

  • Mags56 says:

    I just sold my 66 Toronado.
    385 hp, front wheel drive.
    Absolute work of art!

    • Bill says:

      I tried to reply to Mags66 about the 66 Tornado but couldn’t for some reason. When I was 16 in 1967 my dad purchased. New 67 Tornado. Light blue with black interior. It was so fast my brother and I would race everything around and were never beaten. Front wheel drive and do a brake stand it would come out of the whole so many lengths ahead of the cars they would never catch you in a 1/4 mile

  • Wayne F Meyer says:

    My first muscle car was a 1965 442 HT with 4 speed and air, which I bought in 1974 when it was cheap and gas was expensive. I now have a 1966 442 convertible, triple black, tri-power, 4-speed with air. Most people don’t know what it is, and even Olds enthusiasts don’t know that the J-2s weren’t the only multi-carb engines offered. The styling is simple, but I like it a lot better than the next generation.

  • Wayne says:

    My first muscle car was a 1965 442 HT with 4 speed and air, which I bought in 1974 when it was cheap and gas was expensive. I now have a 1966 442 convertible, triple black, tri-power, 4-speed with air. Most people don’t know what it is, and even Olds enthusiasts don’t know that the J-2s weren’t the only multi-carb engines offered. The styling is simple, but I like it a lot better than the next generation.

  • Matthew Rothert says:

    When I got out of the Army in 1966, my brother told me about these new ‘fast’ cars. I bought a 1966 Olds 442 convertible, met my wife in it and still drive it today! Love the styling – longer than my wagon and the original spinner hubcaps set it off – white with blue top & interior!!

  • Pete Reynolds says:

    My list of beauties over the years. As for Cutlas S and Supreme models, 1971, 1972, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981. Cutlass Calais, 1984. Cutlass S LE 1974, factory 455, dual exhaust, TH-400 (plain factory Oldsmobile floor shift), 323:1 anti-spin 10 bolt rear, leather interior swivel bucket seats, gage cluster, tilt with rally steering wheel, and factory rear air shocks. H/O 1974 poor man’s model, 350, TH-350 (plain Oldsmobile floor shift) single exhaust that split into 2 tail pipes, the paint scheme and leather with the H/O emblems, might also add that even though it was titled as 1974, it was the 1973 model according to the marker lights. And lastly the 1975 442 that was basically the same set as the H/O minus the paint scheme, leather roof covering, and 442 emblems instead of H/O. So other than the fun of stuffing 425’s, 455’s, and 403’s into the regular Cutlass, my 74 LE was my factory beast.

  • motorsledge says:

    From the ’67 425 Ultra High Compression to the ’77 350R low compression I was an Olds guy; I still think they made some of the best V8 engines GM ever produced…

  • Woodrow says:

    A friend of my father’s had one of the Rallye 350s. When he came over and parked next to dad’s Carrousel Red Judge, the sight of those two together made me think that’s what the first few nano-seconds of a nuclear blast must look like….Hahahahahaha

  • paul s murray says:

    R L -You’d fit just fine in a 70 Cyclone. Though I never got the circle in the center of the grille, other than that. Sorry but I prefer the Buick’s styling and the 65 Rivera was ,as a Ford man. one of the nicest cleanest designs to come out of Detroit ( and the surrounding area ) . The Olds not so much.. except… the early Toronado (Mags56 ) which was slightly ahead of its time and surprising that GM produced it. It could have easily ended up being a concept car that never made it to market or was too watered down when it did . I can’t not give them a tip of the hat for that one.

  • DBW31 says:

    Mr. Murray, a lot of bias, why comment when you clearly dislike other marques. I’ll take the ride and power of a ’66 Toro over a T-bird any day, more power, and they are a comfortable drive. The T-birds of that era rode like a buckboard. I’ve owned a few A bodies, and they also drive and ride better than the Cougars and Mustangs of that era.

  • Bruce says:

    Got one of those Rallye 350’s sitting in my garage. Hard to find a good one and I looked for years. ‘Ya either love it or hate it. Needless to say where I stand….

  • paul s murray says:

    DBW31 – I think you need to go go back and read my last remarks

  • Mike E V says:

    I’ve owned several Oldsmobile’s over the years including Cutlass derivatives from the late 60’s however my favorite was a 62′ Starfire coupe. There was just something about it that felt good.

  • Bruce Stocker says:

    I took a job selling Oldsmobiles in 1987 at a sleepy dealership that sold Delta 88’s and Cutlass sedans with V6’s to 50-60-70 year old cash buyers ( I am now 66 years old!). When I had someone interested in a 4-4-2 we had on the floor, I pulled it right out for a test drive and some fun! I was later reprimanded for doing such a thing!! I quit after 6 months.

  • Gary Bechtold says:

    The W-30 is my favorite of the list.

  • paul s murray says:

    and by the way. Why is it that if you’re brand loyal and prefer a domestic manufacture you’re ” heavily biased” while if you’re say a Porshephile, for instance, you’re a ‘ avid collector and connoisseur’. Of course I know its all ‘ dog pile on the rabbit ‘ and typically people who say that wouldn’t give another brand the slightest bit of credit for anything they’ve done or find fault in anything their particular favored has . Okay, so sue me , “I’ll stay with my team”.

  • Robert Preston says:

    My mom ordered a 1972 442 with a 455 four speed from the factory. It was a metallic brown with a white leather interior. The only problem was it had a 3.08 rear end and couldn’t launch itself off of a wet paper bag.

  • Bill says:

    My dad also had a special order 63 Olds 98 with the Starfire package. Bucket seats, automatic on the floor with built in tach in the console and every possible power option you can imagine. 394 cu. in. It was incredible fast and comfortable. One of the fastest around till dad bought the 67 Tornado. But that’s another story. My dad loved fast luxury cars.

  • Steve says:

    In 1985 I bought my first car, a 1965 Oldsmobile Jetstar Convertible, red with a white top and white interior. 330 – 2 barrel. I paid $100 for it. Put a new top on it, replaced the floor pans and a couple of fenders. Loved that car. I have had 4 convertibles since then. Anybody see any of these cars around lately?

  • LT1 says:

    I think you misunderstood the “not your father’s Oldsmobile” idea. It was coined in the 80s when the typical Olds was an unexciting 4 door sedan – which was seen as driven by a father just for transportation – not referring, at all, to the muscle car Oldsmobiles. They were trying to say that current Oldsmobile offerings could be exciting too. Incidentally, back in the 80s, our secretary was the wife of the GM engineer that coined the slogan. He was being interviewed about the new offerings and came up with that on the spur of the moment as I recall her telling us.

    • Eddy Eckart says:

      LT1: Very cool re that phrase coming up in the spur of the moment. I understood the phrase— there were a couple of less than inspiring but competent Oldsmobiles in my family at the time, and the GM switch to fwd for its bread and butter was a hot topic in this GM family back then. The phrase conjured something a little different, and perhaps more specific, for me given my dad’s appreciation for 4-4-2s.

  • Joel says:

    I had a Oldsmobile JetFire with a four speed in the late 60’s. Always enjoyed seeing service station mechanics come over to look under the hood when I was refilling the Turbo fluid. It was a fun car and there wasn’t many of them on the road even back then. Wish I had that car now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More on this topic

Hagerty Insider Newsletter

Your weekly dose of auction reports, market analysis, and more.

Thank You!
Your request will be handled as soon as possible
Hagerty Insider Newsletter
Your weekly dose of auction reports, market analysis, and more.