Home Car Stories Alley Finds 1966 OLDSMOBILE 4-4-2 Tri-Carb- Langley, BC
1966 OLDSMOBILE 4-4-2 Tri-Carb- Langley, BC PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Thursday, 23 April 2015 14:31

1966 OLDSMOBILE 4-4-2 Tri-Carb- Langley, BC


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

66 oldsmobile 442 langley bc logo

The 1964 Pontiac GTO option combined a big 389 engine with the intermediate Tempest body and created an instant sensation. Suddenly the musclecar era was born and no one else was prepared.

General Motors other divisions scrambled to create their own version of the GTO. The Oldsmobile division managed to cobble together a quick response by taking the already existing police package and naming it '4-4-2'. The intermediate sized Oldsmobile F-85 fell short of the GTO in the engine department because it relied on a beefed up version of the small 330 cubic inch engine used in the regular F-85 and Cutlass V8 cars. Where the 4-4-2 excelled was in ride and handling. It was more of an all around performance machine. 4-4-2 stood for 4 barrel carburetor, 4 speed manual floor shifter and 2 was dual exhaust.

66 oldsmobile 442 langley bc front

In 1965 the name was revised so that the 4 meant 400 cubic inch engine, 4 barrel carburetor and dual exhaust. This change came about because the 4-4-2 was now available with an automatic transmission. The big news for 1965 was the jump to a big block engine. Now the 4-4-2 was a true musclecar according to the 1960s concept of big engine intermediate body.

66 oldsmobile 442 langley bc pass front

1966 was a big year for the GTO with almost 100,000 built. No other GM division could duplicate this popularity. Chevrolet was inching towards GTO territory now that the Chevelle SS came standard with a 396 engine and a lower price tag. Oldsmobile had a great reputation with the magazine testers but the 4-4-2 lacked the image of the GTO despite both cars being rated at 350 horsepower in base form. For 1966 Olds chased down the GTO by offering the same triple carburetors as the GTO with the same 360 horsepower rating. Pontiac named triple carbs "Tri-Power" enhancing this great power booster into an integral part of the GTO image. Oldsmobile named the set-up "Tri-Carb".

66 oldsmobile 442 langley bc driver side

Later the same year Olds created the factory drag strip special W-30 package for the 4-4-2. People started to notice the Olds now although it was still well behind Pontiac in sales. All of the GM intermediates lost their squared away bodystyles which were remolded in the popular 'coke bottle' styling that added a kickup in the rear quarter panel and fastback rear roof line.

66 oldsmobile 442 langley bc driver rear

The 1966 and 1967 Olds 4-4-2s are very similar with minor appearance variations. I personally prefer the 1967 with the separated headlights, 3 spoke steering wheel and the upscale trim levels present once Oldsmobile forced buyers to combine the 4-4-2 option with the Cutlass Supreme body platform. Prior to this a 4-4-2 could be ordered on an F-85 or base Cutlass platform. Hidden from view the 1967 had a collapsible steering column, dual master brake cylinder as well as other safety features.

66 oldsmobile 442 langley bc 400 engine dr side

A good friend of mine differs with my opinion and like many Oldsmobile fans prefers the side by side front headlights of the 1966 and the cleaner rear tail light design. The other advantage of a 1966 is that an owner added Tri-carb system falls into the grey territory of being 'correct' since they were available for 1966 and not coded into the VIN or cowl plate. This is what happened with this black 1966 4-4-2. A correct Tri-Carb system was added to this real 4-4-2 to make a ferocious musclecar.

66 oldsmobile 442 langley bc 400 engine left

The early history of this 4-4-2 is unknown. Sending in the VIN to GM Vintage Vehicles in Oshawa, Ontario yielded no records. This means the car was originally sent to a USA dealership.

One clue to the early history of the car is found in the door jambs where Ziebart plugs are installed. Rust proofing by Ziebart was usually done immediately after the car was new. Kurt Ziebart opened his first rustproofing franchise location in 1959 in Detroit, Michigan where road salt destroys cars. Soon he had franchises in most areas where snow or salt occurs. His locations were also popular in areas where salt air from the ocean rots out cars. For this 1966 4-4-2 to start life in the USA Ziebarted and then end up in British Columbia it seems likely this car was originally shipped to a State south of BC such as Colorado where there is snow.

66 oldsmobile 442 langley bc tri power

The VIN tells us the basic story. The sequential number is not shown here in order to protect owner privacy. The prefix doesn't contradict the car's likelihood of being a genuine 4-4-2.

3= Oldsmobile division

38= F-85 Cutlass

17= 2 Door Holiday Coupe

6= 1966 Model year

Z= Fremont, California final assembly plant.

66 oldsmobile 442 langley bc tri pwr intake manifold

This 4-4-2 showed up in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada in 1993 in need of bodywork and paint. In original factory condition this car was ordered as a warrior: no power steering or power brakes, no A/C and a 4 speed. The car did have a radio and a tinted windshield but that seems to be about it for options.

Metal was cut out of the rear passenger quarter panel below the chrome strip and replaced. There is also a patch on the passenger floor pan. The Maple Ridge owner redid the weather seals and paint.

While doing bodywork he changed the 4 wheel drum brake system from the 1966 single master cylinder format to the 1967 style dual master cylinder and adding a booster for power brakes. He also replaced the slow manual steering box and added power steering which has a faster ratio.

The mileage is hard to determine exactly, but it seems reasonable to assume that the 40,000 on the odometer only reflects one 'spin' of the dial for a total now of only 140,000 miles. It would be typical for a 25 year old car to be registering 240,000 miles by 1993 but some signs point otherwise. Although the dash was refinished which creates an impression of low miles, the original steering wheel, glass and door panels also show minimal wear.

The white headliner has some ripples around the rear window which is a normal side effect from the typical rear window leaks that plague all the GM A body cars of this era. Seats have been recovered and carpet is new so there is no way to use them as a guide to mileage.

66 oldsmobile 442 langley bc speedometer

The current owner who we shall name 'Mr. Langley' to retain his privacy was looking for some 4-4-2 parts for a 1967 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 he owned. Without really being on the hunt for a car he ended up buying this car from the Maple Ridge owner. Mr. Langley bought the car in 1998. The Maple Ridge owner had kept this 4-4-2 for 5 years.

66 oldsmobile 442 langley bc interior

Once he got his new 4-4-2 home Mr. Langley immediately rebuilt the engine and transmission. The 2 1/4" dual exhaust has the correct crimps and format as used in factory configuration. The rear axle is a 3.90:1 Posi unit. He has the drivetrain sorted out beautifully. The car fires up immediately with no issues and has a nice tough idle. The Hurst shifter is really nice and tight and the clutch is properly adjusted. The transmission has been switched to a Borg Warner Super T-10.

Since this is someone else's car I didn't push it too hard but did do some quick driving. The Tri-Carb works to spectacular effect with a loud wail accompanied by a ferocious kick in the back of the seat just like it should when the linkage passes the magic mark and all 6 throats gobble air. The only issue with the Tri-carb is not one of function but correctness which is that Mr. Langley was unable to locate a factory correct fuel filter for it.

In 1966 the 4-4-2 relied on a small tachometer mounted between the outside of the dash pad and window pillar. I found it virtually impossible to watch the tach and shift quickly and watch the road. I relied on engine sound. At an easy 4th gear 50 mph cruise the tach indicated 2,500 RPM. In the photo below you can see the vacuum gauge mounted on the console in front of the shifter. This is where the Buick GS placed the tachometer for the 1966 model year and it's an even worse place for a tach than Olds used! None of the rival GM musclecars could hold a candle to the GTO dash layout. Only the 1966 GTO had an in dash full size tach mounted in front of the driver.

In 1967 Oldsmobile finally got it together and released the 'Tic Tock Tach' which placed a tachometer into the right hand pod on the dash beside the speedometer where it was easier to see. But they still got it wrong by making it too small and mixed in with a variety of other gauges including a mini clock which made the pod too 'busy'. This 1966 4-4-2 takes care of engine monitoring with an owner added set of Stewart Warner period correct aftermarket gauges mounted below the dash.

66 oldsmobile 442 langley bc Hurst shfiter

When Mr. Langley purchased this 4-4-2 it had an incorrect T handle Hurst shifter. The factory correct item is a black cue ball. Mr. Langely had a white cue ball which brings this a bit closer to factory correct. A white cue ball is correct for a 1967 manual shift 4-4-2.

In 2008 this 4-4-2 suffered a front end accident which revealed some more history from the car's past. The car had been hit previously and had a bent passenger front frame rail. This time around the front end was correctly straightened. New hood, fenders, bumper and grille were fitted to the car. Then the entire car was repainted and bumpers rechromed.

This 4-4-2 has new front ball joints, bushings and front coils. Mr. Langley made an aesthetic decision with this car which killed unfortunately the sale for my friend who was interested in the car. Factory cars from the 1960s can look like they are on rollerskates when shod with factory correct narrow rear wheels and tires. Many guys remedy this situation in different ways.

The rear tires on Mr. Langley's 4-4-2 fill out the wheelwells nicely and look great mounted on deep dish reproduction 15 inch mags with chrome lug nuts and wheel locks. The reproduction manufacturers are able to increase the diameter and width of the wheel yet retain a factory look. The original 1966 4-4-2 only came with 14 inch rims and they were much narrower than these.

The problem is that in order to allow the extra wide extra diameter wheels to clear the wheelwell, airbags have been installed along with supporter springs on the shocks. The airbags in the rear of the car jack it up enough to handle the tires. This angle hasn't affected the tuning of the carburetors but it has messed up the handling. Like many Day Two cars from the 1960s era the car plows the front nose and lacks a settled back balanced feeling.

66 oldsmobile 442 langley bc rear wheel

This complaint was leveled against factory stock muscle cars by road testers who felt the cars were out of whack from having too much big block engine up front. Having driven factory correct Oldsmobile Cutlass and 4-4-2s from this era I can testify that the stock 4-4-2s were mercifully free of this syndrome. Many magazine testers praised the 4-4-2's handling. It was a well balanced car with a rear stabilizer bar.

The way this 1966 4-4-2 handles with the raked stance brought back memories of several 'Day Two' musclecars I bought over the years. The drivetrains were a wonderful thing to experience but the low heavy front end plowing required a delicate touch. I usually ended up going through the effort to undo the suspension mods and fitting smaller rear mags in order to improve handling. My friend looking at this car wasn't willing to invest the time and money to revise the suspension pieces, so he let the car get away. On a long straight Interstate this would be one very fun car but in order to get the true 4-4-2 experience you need to regain that legendary factory Olds handling.

66 oldsmobile 442 langley bc rear

Last Updated ( Thursday, 13 May 2021 14:56 )