Big Horsepower in an Old School Wagon

It’s no secret that we have a thing for muscle cars here at, and especially that classic period of American muscle when cubic inches were king and petrol was practically free (by today’s standards, anyway). From time to time, we attend car shows just to be around these beauties, and every now and again we’ll spot something around town that is a real head-turner.

This super-clean station wagon is a prime example – a 1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, one of the coolest grocery-getters to ever hit the pavement.

Besides being a wonderfully-kept specimen of the era, one other thing makes this wagon special. If you look closely at the grill, you’ll notice a “442” emblem. The Cutlass 442 was one of the baddest machines on the road, and it would appear that this Vista Cruiser was outfitted similarly.
A Car and Driver profile¹ tells us a few things about the Vista Cruiser from 1968. Their test model featured many of the 442 performance upgrades, including a massive 455 cubic inch motor that produced 390 hp. The 1969 model in this configuration ran a quarter mile in an especially impressive 14.7 seconds. You won’t find a stock mini-van that will do that today.

But this 1972 442 model is something of a mystery. Different sources quote different numbers but one source² mentions that six Vista Cruiser 442s were built for the 1972 Indy 500 and that at least three others were built, either as factory or dealer upgrades. In our research, we haven’t been able to find an example of one with the 442 badge on the grill.
So what is this one? The real deal 442 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser? Or just an excellent example of a great wagon wearing the badge of the owner’s dream car? All we know for sure is that this one is a joy to look at.


¹ “Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser 455”. Car and Driver. July 1968. Retrieved 2014-09-16.
² “1971 Oldsmobile 442 W-30 Vista Cruiser Wagon 455”. September 26, 2011. Retrieved 2014-09-16.