Understated Oldsmobile 442 Muscle Car Took 18 Years To Restore

BARKHAMSTED, CT – It came off the assembly line a decade before Robert Brainard III of Barkhamsted was born – a 1964 Oldsmobile with a seemingly confusing concoction of badges that proclaimed it to be an “F-85,” a “Cutlass” and a “442” model.

Brainard’s owned the red coupe since 1987, having purchased it at age 12 from a scrapyard. Yes, he hadn’t reached his teens yet when it arrived. It cost him $200 and was going to be a restoration project.

“It was supposed to be my car for high school,” he recalled, “and I finished the car in 2005. I’ve put almost 13,000 miles on it since.”

Robert Brainard III with his 1964 Oldsmobile 442

The 442 was rusty with rotted quarter panels, floor sections and rear window. The paint was faded and scratched. “I was in like seventh grade. Got my first car. No one really could believe it. It was supposed to be a high school car,” Brainard repeated, referring to his then-plan to take four years to get it roadworthy with his father’s help.

But that didn’t come to pass. Brainard said “time, money” were the reasons, although teenage distractions really seem like the culprit for the job not being completed by the time he got his driver’s license. 

“I worked on it a lot when I was a young kid, and went through high school and college, and finally when I was settled I was actually able to complete it,” he said. “I was one of four kids and when you’re 14 years old, you’re not really wanting to be in the garage under a car scrapping rust.”  

It wasn’t until 18 years ago – and 18 years after acquiring it – that the 442 was finished. Brainard said he did 100 percent of the work with his father as overseer. 

“He taught me what he knew, and I welded the floors in and he  basically had me do the work with his supervision or he would do it if it was something a little more complex. But it was one of those things where he wasn’t going to do it for me, we were going to do it together,” he said.

The 442 was still running when it got sent to the scrap heap because of its otherwise poor condition. Brainard recalled that “it was definitely the right price at the time. It was drivable. It was driven there. It just wasn’t registerable.”

For many years, it was stored at his father’s house. “It took up a lot of space for a lot of years in his garage. It went inside, it went outside, and then it finally went to my house. I actually finished the brakes and got it all ready and actually drove it to my house with no front end, no doors, just one seat. It was registered at the time. I was finally able to get the motivation to complete it,” he said.

Brainard believes that the delay in restoring the 442 has resulted in a far better end product. Asked to estimate the number of hours that it took, he replied, “Hundreds is the only thing I can come up with, and I did things multiple times.”

Oldsmobile introduced its compact F-85 as an entry-level model in 1960 for the 1961 model year. The Cutlass version had the top-level trim. It wasn’t until the 1964 model year that a 442 performance variant was introduced. 

1964 Oldsmobile F-85 Cutlass 442

Brainard’s two-door classic car has an “F-85” badge centered in the grill. “Cutlass” badges appear low on the front fenders, while a “442” badge is attached to the trunk lid, completing its name.

Under the hood is a 330-cubic-inch V8 engine with four-barrel Rochester carburetor. It has a four-speed Muncie transmission. “It’s a really fun car to drive. It’s got the bias ply tires so you get that original ride and feel that you did back in ’64,” said Brainard.

The Oldsmobile’s 330-cubic-inch V8 engine with four-speed transmission

“It’s comfortable. It’s plush seats. You have your ash trays in three spots in the car in case you want to smoke in it. And it’s not like a  modern day car. It’s just that cool, classic, old style that just brings you back to ’64.”

 The 442 was produced to compete with Pontiac’s GTO muscle car, although it was far less flashy. “Originally, 442 stood for four-barrel, four-speed, dual exhaust,” he explained.

Taking so long to complete the project perhaps ensured that the car has survived. “I can’t say if I finished it for high school that it would still be around. A 16-, 17-year-old kid driving a high horsepower four-speed probably wasn’t the best idea,” Brainard said.

See the 1964 Oldsmobile 442 in action in this YouTube video…

About Bud Wilkinson

Bud Wilkinson writes the "RIDE-CT" motorcycle column and the "My Ride" classic car feature in the "Republican-American" newspaper in Waterbury, CT. A graduate of Vermont Academy prep school, he holds a B.A. degree journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University. He is the recipient of a Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award in 1992 and a 1991-92 regional Emmy Award for commentary. He currently rides a 1987 BMW R 80 RT and a 2014 Triumph Bonneville and drives a 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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