5 Most Popular Classic Oldsmobiles, And What They're Worth Today

Ransom Eli Olds began working in his father's machine shop around 1880, where he helped build steam engines for yachts. After Karl Benz built the world's first car, the Motorwagen, Olds was inspired by his use of the internal combustion engine and secured a U.S. patent for a three-wheeled, gas-powered vehicle in 1896. The next year, the family business was renamed the Olds Motor Vehicle Company, and by the turn of the century, the public had begun calling their cars "Oldsmobiles." 

Although Henry Ford is often credited with developing the auto industry's first assembly line to produce the legendary Model T, Ford simply refined and expanded on a concept brainstormed by Olds after a 1901 fire destroyed the company's facilities. Olds was forced to develop a way to produce cars more quickly and cheaply, and the brand grew rapidly.

Oldsmobile came under the General Motors umbrella in 1908, had a series of memorable achievements throughout the 20th century, and produced more than 35 million cars (via History) before flagging sales and a government bailout forced GM to dump the division in 2004. In its heyday,  Oldsmobile made a handful of models that were a hit with the public, and some of them remain coveted by collectors to this day and fetch a sizable ransom (pun intended) on the used market. 

1968-72 442

The Oldsmobile 442 began as a high-performance option on 1964 F-85 and Cutlass models that included a 330 cubic inch V8 along with a beefier suspension and clutch. The name came from the four-barrel carburetor, four-speed transmission, and dual exhausts and was initially styled as "4-4-2." The 442 was split off into its own model in 1968 when the hyphens were officially dropped.  

It was intended to compete with early generations of the Chevy Corvette and GM's newly introduced soon-to-be-legend, the Pontiac GTO. 1968 was the first year for the Hurst/Olds 442, a special edition with a 455 cubic inch V8 that made 390 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque (via Driving Line). The 442 reverted to being an option on the Cutlass in 1972, just as the oil crisis and new emissions standards began to put the brakes on the American public's desire for big, gas-guzzling cars. Production of the 442 was highest in 1968 at about 33,600 units and dipped slightly over the next two years before plunging below the 10,000 mark in 1971 and '72.

The model's popularity during its peak years led Oldsmobile to bring the 442 name back several times over the next 20 years or so, but later editions of the 442 were hobbled by emissions restrictions and never matched the performance or desirability of the 1968-72 models, which average about $70,000 today.

[Featured image by Greg Gjerdingen via Wikimedia Commons|Cropped and scaled|CC-By 2.0]