Jay Leno looks at the rare 1991 Oldsmobile Quad 442 W-41

Regular viewers of Jay Leno’s garage are likely familiar with the Oldsmobile 442, as a well-preserved 1966 442 was previously featured on the show. This time, however, Leno shows a very different interpretation of the 442 nameplate.

The 1991 Oldsmobile Quad 442 W-41 was one of the last attempts to bring back the hallowed nameplate after its heyday in the 1960s. Like the original 442, the Quad 442 was a performance version of a more humble model, in this case the Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais. However, Oldsmobile didn’t stuff a mighty V-8 under the hood like they did in the original 442, as explained by Jeff Szafraniec, owner of the W-41 road and race car featured in the episode.

1991 Oldsmobile Quad 442 W-41 in Jay Leno's garage

1991 Oldsmobile Quad 442 W-41 in Jay Leno’s garage

In the late 1980s, General Motors began working with outside engineering firms to develop a powerful 4-cylinder engine for its many small front-wheel drive models. The result was the Quad 4 dual overhead cam inline-4, a 2.3-liter version that powered the Quad 442.

While that may not sound as exciting as the V-8s that powered the early 442s, the Quad 4 has an impressive resume. GM installed a twin-turbocharged version with around 1,000 horsepower in the first-generation Oldsmobile Aerotech prototype that four-time Indianapolis 500 winner AJ Foyt drove to a world closed-course speed record of 257.123 mph at a test track in Texas in 1987 .

1991 Oldsmobile Quad 442 W-41 in Jay Leno's garage

1991 Oldsmobile Quad 442 W-41 in Jay Leno’s garage

Around the same time, GM also began building quad-four powered Calais race cars for SCCA competition. The SCCA didn’t like it when teams raced with a non-production engine – and won – which actually prompted GM to build a Quad 4 Calais road car, Szafraniec explains in the video.

The result was the quad 442, released for the 1990 model year in W-40 form (referring to the W-30 code used in some earlier versions of the 442), followed by the W-41 for 1991. The W-41 produced 190 hp, versus the W-40’s 180 hp. It also received a different suspension tune and gearbox for its 5-speed manual (no automatic was offered). Racing versions had a forged crankshaft and titanium connecting rods, were rated at 240 hp and lacked amenities like air conditioning.

Available for one year only, the W-41 is one of the rarest 442 models, with only around 200 built. All the cars were built in March 1991, but the racer shown here was not delivered to his team until 1992, according to Szafraniec, suggesting some cars sat on dealer lots for a time. There was admittedly a lot going on at GM in 1991 performance-wise, with everything from the C4 Corvette ZR-1 to the GMC Syclone vying for enthusiast attention.

It might not have made much of an impression when new, but the Calais-based 442 is still a fascinating piece of nameplate history. Watch the full video for more details on this 4 cylinder 442.

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