It's free to look
But already owning a 1970 Olds 442 convertible, I felt the urge to at least go and take a look at the car. Yeah, I’m that guy, the one who answers your car ad with a lot of questions and no real desire to actually buy another car, especially another project car.
I called the number and the gentleman on the other end of the line was friendly and willing to answer my many questions. He told me he was selling it for his wife and that she had gotten it after her father passed away. Her father owned the car for a couple of decades, during which he had meticulously restored it, and then for some unforeseen reason, he parked it in the woods out behind his home. The story was intriguing and I had some concerns, but the seller assured me the car had a current registration and it was in his wife’s name. So with this reassurance, I plugged his address into my GPS and was out the door.
|Years of sitting in the mud had taken its toll on the lower body panels as well as the frame. This, combined with the fact the car wasn’t an original 442, made the car a poor choice for a restoration.|
Complete "clone" 1970 Olds 4-4-2
The car was located beside a trailer in rural Alabama, not far from Birmingham. A motorcycle was chained to the front bumper, both to protect the engine compartment from sticky fingers and to prevent the motorcycle from being stolen.
The previous owner had just recently passed away and his daughter was handling the estate, which included about fifteen vehicles. Most were older classics or muscle cars, and by this time most of them had been sold off.
I could tell by looking at the 442, it had been at one time, a prized possession, garnering the owner’s attention and care. The car was complete from bumper to bumper and everything looked to be original. I was only able to tell the car wasn’t an original 442 by decoding the VIN and the data plate. It was obvious to me that the previous owner was an accomplished mechanic with an eye for detail. The only thing that didn’t make sense to me was why the car had been relegated to the elements, where it sat for about ten years, rusting away.
Loaded with options
The car was complete but it was originally a Cutlass Supreme that was properly converted to a 442 “clone.” It was sporting an original, W-25 OAI hood, a 455ci Oldsmobile engine out of an earlier model Olds, bucket seats, center console, sport steering wheel, original SSII rally wheels, and a 3.42 posi-trac rear-end. I also found 442 emblems properly located on the fenders, trunk, and dash. The only 442 parts it was lacking were the boxed-in rear trailing arms and the 442 emblems on the hood.
When I arrived, I had no intention of buying the car. I was just, as they say, kicking tires. Which in this case, were all flat. But the car was full of great, hard to find parts. I found it too difficult not to make an offer. I didn’t really low ball the owner; rather I gave a fare offer based on the sum of the parts on the car. I also gave the seller a standing offer that would be good for one week. That would allow the seller time to find another buyer at a higher price, while still having me as a backup should the car not sell. The offer had one caveat: the seller had to sell me the original OAI air cleaner right then and there.
|Believe it or not, my whole reason for wanting this car was the OAI air breather, seen here still on the car. The vacuum operated flapper lid is resting on the roof of the car. It was missing the manifold heat riser.|
More to offer
My offer was twofold. First, the seller was moving out of state fairly soon so I figured that I could get the car at a reasonable price if no one else picked it up, and second, I live in a newer neighborhood that is governed by a Home Owner’s Association or HOA. And if you don’t already know, HOAs have rules about having cars sitting on blocks in the driveway. I really didn’t want the headache of listening to the HOA. But I did have a need for the original OAI air cleaner still sitting on top of the engine in this car.
Much to my surprise, the seller made a reasonable counter offer to which I replied, “If the car ran it might be worth that price”. Low and behold, an hour later we had the car running. A battery from the owner’s shop and a glass jar full of fresh gas was all it took. After years of neglect, it was in definite need of a tune-up, but it ran. So we shook hands and I gave the seller a deposit.
As excited as I was, I also had two small issues to contend with. First, I didn’t have a truck and trailer, so I needed to hire a tow truck, and tow trucks can be quite expensive. Second, my garage already had two classic cars parked inside, and there was no room for a third. So this car would have to sit in the driveway. Normally this would not be an issue. I can usually wash a car and put a license plate on it. But this car had four flat tires and a good bit of rust and grim. This wasn’t going to be an easy pig to dress up.
|At first glance, this 1970 Cutlass Supreme appeared to be an original 442. The grille along with the emblem on the hood tooth indicate the car is just a Cutlass Supreme. Decoding the VIN tag confirmed the car’s true identity.|
How much to tow it?
After calling around to a few different towing outfits, I learned the difference between hook-up charges and the cost per mile to move the car. Both of which apply, a double whammy. Hook-up charges are the cost of just putting the car on the truck. They average $75.00 in Birmingham, Alabama. And the cost of moving the car is $2.50 per mile on average. This car was located roughly 45 miles from my house, so I was in for a rather large towing bill. My enthusiasm was fading fast.
After calling around to a few different towing outfits and getting this very rude awakening, I called a friend of mine who owns a local auto repair shop. He recommended a small owner-operated towing outfit that he uses.
The first quote from this smaller outfit was almost half the cost of what everyone else was charging. The actual quote given was $2.50 per mile, but without the hook-up charge. Of course, I immediately accepted it. I have to admit, as I stood at the seller’s home, waiting for the driver to arrive, I kind of expected a bum in a 20-year-old truck to show up. To my surprise and delight, an older, professional-looking driver with a new truck and years of experience arrived, and right at the agreed time. I appreciated the care he took loading and unloading my newly acquired 442 “clone.” He treated this parts car as though it were a new car. I was fortunate to get his number. And I have used his services a couple of times since.
When you drive a classic car as a daily driver, you always have a towing company’s number programmed in your cell phone. It’s not a matter of if you’re going to break down, but when you’re going to break down.
|The craigslist Cutlass in my driveway. Unfortunately, for the classic car hobby, most communities frown upon having cars like this left out in plain view. |
Home is where you have neighbors
After getting the car home and unloaded, I spent some time talking with the neighbors. Apologizing for the car and letting everyone know that I would get the Cutlass moved as soon as I could. I am extremely lucky to have reasonable neighbors. They all know I am a classic car enthusiast and are very accepting, even though I am the only one in the neighborhood who drives a classic car. No one complained and I received no letters from the HOA. Fortunately, for everyone, the car was sold less than a week later.
Take what you need, sell the rest
I removed the OAI air cleaner and a couple of other small parts from the car before selling it to another Olds enthusiast from Tennessee. His plans for the Cutlass were pretty much the same as mine, take the parts he needed for his project and then sell the car to someone else.
In the end, a day of kicking tires paid off big. I was able to find a rare part I was sure I would never find and make a little money while doing so. Just of note, this particular car wasn’t an original 442 and had little real value other than as a parts car. The rear quarter panels were toast. The trunk and floors weren’t much better. The seats were questionable. If anything, the seat frames might have been salvageable. I was able to sell the car quickly because of the hood and posi-trac rear-end.
As much of a shame as it may seem, this car was too far gone to justify the expense of putting it back on the road. So it was used to restore other, more desirable cars.
— Junkyard Life contributor
|This 1970 Olds 4-4-2 "clone" has many options – bucket seats, center console, sport steering wheel and a/c.|
About the writer: Being the son of an old hot rodder, I guess you can say it’s in my blood. As a kid growing up in the eighties, I used to help my old man wash and wax the family car, a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. On my 16th birthday I bought my first car, a 69 Ford Torino GT. I spent all my free time cleaning that old car and tinkering under the hood. Now, more than thirty years later, I find myself doing pretty much the same, except now it’s a 1969 Cutlass Supreme that takes up all my free time. And like most of our readers, I also enjoy roaming the back roads, looking for those infamous barn finds that everyone dreams about.
— Scott Johnson
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