Narrow Escape

John Russell’s 1970 Olds 442

Words and Photos: Cam Benty

John Russell’s Oldsmobile 442 makes a statement wherever it goes, with bright orange paint and plenty of original 455c.i. V-8 power. But, it once faced certain death, thanks to a previous owner’s choice of a rattle can black paint scheme that left little chance for a return to any semblance of its original hue. Enter John Russell.

Through a series of contacts, Russell found the 442 in pretty rough shape back in 1993. The engine was out of the car, and despite the fact there were plenty of original parts around, it was far from running condition. After some quick negotiation, Russell purchased the vehicle and set about quickly assembling the engine on site.

Along with a friend, they got the engine running just well enough to get the car moving under its own power. From there, the car was driven into the trailer and hauled back to Russell’s garage in southern California. Safe and sound, through Russell’s efforts, another great muscle car was back in the hands of someone who appreciated just what he had.

The 442 rear wing signifies this is the ultimate Olds performance model for 1970.

The Olds 442 you see here is a fine example of a luxury muscle car. Equipped with the highly valuable 455c.i. engine and W-30 cold air induction fiberglass hood (good for an additional 5 hp rating) outfitted with chrome hood locks, this 442 is even more valuable due to the four-speed manual transmission. Today, the 442, along with Russell’s fine collection of both GM and Ford muscle cars, is held in high honor, the bright orange paint scheme is truly hard to miss.

The 1970 Olds 442, like so many other models released that glorious year, are the most desirable due to their high horsepower rating, excellent handling, and cool styling. While the rest of the GM divisions were limited to 400c.i. by a corporate edict, the 442 slipped through the cracks, courtesy of the Hurst/Olds Special Edition that pioneered the use of the 455c.i. engine.

The cold air induction W-30 hood was highly sought after for the functional styling and added power rating. In addition to the cool hood, the W-30 option added plastic inner fenderwells, aluminum differential carrier and cover, and less sound-deadening insulation throughout, to significantly lighten the car.

As noted by the record books, only 1,688 two-door sports coupes (the 442 Olds) and 14,708 Holiday Hardtop coupes were made in 1970. Rarest of the breed are the convertibles, at slightly less than 3,000 units.

But in terms of the stat that really counts, the advertised 0 to 60 mph performance for the 1970 442 with W-30 package was 5.7 seconds. Quarter-mile times for the big Olds: 14.2 seconds at 100 mph. Not bad for such a luxurious machine complete with air conditioning and power steering.

In prime condition today, this 442 has little chance of repeating its brush with danger. It’s just too quick to be caught like that again!

About Cam Benty - PPN Editor

Cam Benty’s name is instantly recognizable to those that have been around the automotive aftermarket over the last 25 years. He has built a stellar reputation as a well-rounded automotive journalist while holding positions with Popular Hot Rodding, Car Craft, National Dragster and Motor Trend.