Two-Door Tuesday: 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais Quad 442 W-41 is rare, but is it collectible?

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There’s no denying the 80’s were, for the most part, lean times for muscle car and performance car enthusiasts. By the early 90’s, however, the American performance car market was showing a few signs of life, in no small part due to the invasion of import compacts that were becoming popular. One of those signs was the Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais Quad 442 W41.

According the interwebs, the Quad 442 had a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder and two camshafts, hence the 442 name designation. It made around 180 hp (134 kW), and was mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. Whereas the 1990-mid1991 Quad 442 used the W-40 option code, the last few months of 1991 saw the use of the W-41 code, in reference to a modified transmission and different side moulding. It was otherwise similar to the W-40 models.

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Production of this car was very limited. Just 3789 W-40’s were made between 1990 and 1991, and only 204 (or 211, depending on whom you ask) W-41’s rolled off the production line in late 1991.

From the listing:

Ultra Motorsports is very pleased to offer this ultra rare 1991 Quad 442 W41. Oldsmobile only produced 211 of these 442s. These cars were produced by Olds to compete in IMSA road racing. In order to be approved for competition, Olds had to produce a minimum of 200 of these cars. The W41 was equipped with a 190 horsepower quad 4 engine. It also was equipped with a 5 speed manual transmission, and a transaxle that had a 3.94 final drive ratio. Road tests in 1991 claimed that the W41 could run the quarter mile in 14.93 seconds! Pretty impressive for a 4 cylinder engine! This particular W41 has had one owner since 1991. It was purchased at Tom Gill Oldsmobile in Columbus Ohio. The car retains all its original paint and interior. It has 43,000 original miles. The cars overall condition is very good. It has been garage kept its entire life, and it shows. The paint is very nice with only a few minor chips and dings, that would be consistent with the mileage. The interior is in excellent condition. Mechanically the car runs and drives great. It has been well taken care of its entire life and serviced regularly. The only known issue with the car is that the abs light is on. It is believed that a sensor in the abs unit is needing replaced. Overall this car is an excellent example of an incredibly rare performance Oldsmobile. On very rare occasion Ultra Motorsports will accept consignment pieces. This vehicle was accepted as a consignment piece due to its quality, originality, rarity, and pedigree as a one owner car with original miles. This vehicle comes to us from the private collection of a true 442 enthusiast.
That’s a lot of information to take in, so let me break it down for you, like a fraction. It’s a red, FWD, 4-cylinder, 5-speed coupe with low miles that runs decent 1/4 miles. What’s not to like? Sure, it’s an early 90’s GM, and yes, it’s probably rattling and squeaking already, but look at it!

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Do you get the feeling this car was just slapped together with whatever plastic bits they had left in the parts bin? That’s because it probably was.

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I’m not sold on the wheels, but they’re growing on me. I’ve been sitting on this post for a few days, and I like them more today than when I started writing last week. At this rate, I’ll have a set on my Focus by Friday.

For a interesting description of an identical W-41, check out this link.

Also, I found something interesting here.

Also also, this article is pretty good reading. Seems I’m not the only one who finds these cars intriguing.

We grew up with the usual collection of GM’s in the driveway – Dad is a GM fan. We even had a Cutlass sedan; I’m guessing it didn’t have a 5-speed, though, or a 14-second quarter mile. With 17 days left on this auction, the seller has a Buy it Now price of $12,500. Would you snap up this rare coupe for five figures?

[Source: Ebay]

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42 responses to “Two-Door Tuesday: 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais Quad 442 W-41 is rare, but is it collectible?”

  1. DonFehlio Avatar

    I only recently learned about these, as well as the Achieva SCX. Definitely very neat cars, with impressive stats, but I wouldn't go as far as saying five-figure yet. The nicest Olds Achieva is still an Olds Achieva.

  2. dukeisduke Avatar

    Collectible? Maybe in another 50 years.

  3. P161911 Avatar

    Weren't these basically homologation specials for SCCA and IMSA? I think they also included things like full seam welding for added chassis stiffness vs. just spot welding, gas tank baffles, and the like. Maybe that was the later Acheiva SCX.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      That was the SCX. They even came with smaller wheels than the standard Achieva for classification purposes.

    2. MVEilenstein Avatar

      The W-41, according to several sites I encountered, was built for IMSA homologation, with its 200-minimum specification. Not sure about the W-40's.

  4. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    If nothing else, you can run it in LeMons with zero penalty laps… IIRC, Judge Phil promised not to give anything with factory Quad 4 power any penalty laps.
    Aside from that? It's a Grand Am with a less ugly (albeit more Soviet) nose.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      A team has tried to run a Quad 4 Calais twice already, with less than stellar reliability.

    2. Kogashiwa Avatar

      Well, more Soviet definitely counts for a few points, anyway.

  5. Eric Rood Avatar
    Eric Rood

    Before I even opened those links, I knew Murilee Martin had written them. If you bring one of these uber-rare Olds to LeMons, he'll toss it into Class C with the MGBs and Saab 96s of the world.
    Parts-bin homologation doesn't really merit a "collectible" tag to me unless the actual racecar was bonkers, like the Group B Metro 6R4 or Renault R5 Turbo. If it was the actual IMSA racecar, it would probably only be worth $20K since I can't seem to find anywhere that the Cutlass was a successful IMSA racer.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      The later Achieva SCX did manage to win a few SCCA championships.

      1. Eric Rood Avatar
        Eric Rood

        Here's someone selling an ITS-prepped Cutlass Calais with spares for an asking price of $3500 a few years ago.
        <img src="; width="600">

        1. MVEilenstein Avatar

          That's gorgeous.

          1. roger decker Avatar
            roger decker

            I have one of these its no 9 has 51,00 miles on it and the rare 5 speed of which only 18 were built runs great I love to drive it

  6. Neen85 Avatar

    I don't know why but all I can think is…
    <img src="; width="600">
    "Does it come in black?"

  7. MattC Avatar

    This was the beginning of GM finally trying to right their disasterous ship in the early 1990's. The Quad 4 was quite powerful for the time and a step up from previous engines ( if I remember correctly, this engine would have also been put in the Fiero had GM not killed that off). These did race in SCCA. I think they had hub problems (like consistent failures) during racing, but the chassis was pretty commendable for the time. In typical 1990's GM fashion, cost cutting was evident especially in the interior and in the NVH categories. It still amazes me to sit in Accord coupe of the time and then the Olds. The difference in evident quality control is stark.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      A local guy I knew here in Kansas City had a nice side business for several years building V8-powered Fieros. I asked him about a Quad-4 swap; he said he'd done several, and it was a piece of cake to swap in, but it was about as expensive as a V6 or V8 swap, with not enough of a performance increase, even though the lighter engine had better weight distribution.
      I frankly would love to find a last-year Fiero with the revised front suspension and put a Quad-4 in the back.

  8. JayP2112 Avatar

    I want it.
    I spotted one in hog lot back home for pretty cheap. I had determined with my new job, I'd buy an Olds with the quad4 or a Mkiii Gti vr6.
    Audi brought us the A4 turbo quattro cheap enough I bought it new.
    Woulda done better with the Olds.
    I want!!

    1. NotJustDucky Avatar

      I had a poster of that when I was a lad.

    2. Tomsk Avatar

      In motion (apologies for the soundtrack)!
      [youtube 6mQvE5lykic youtube]
      Watch for a young Ed Welburn, who designed the Aerotech (among other things) before eventually being given his position as the head of GM Design.

  9. stigshift Avatar

    Nobody used to give a shit about early XKEs, GTOs, etc. And there are a hell of a lot more of them than these weird little things. 211 built? How many are left? How many 6000 STEs? CRXs? Remember the Daytona/Superbird? They sat unwanted on dealers' lots. Buy now. Buy the best. Enjoy.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      I have to point out that the 6000 STE, as far as I know, doesn't have an enormous following. XKEs, GTOs, and silly winged B-bodies do… and they're all pretty. Even the once-humble CRX had a certain fluidity and uniqueness of design, aided greatly by its Kamm tail.
      This, and the STE, look like pedestrian sedans with things stuck on 'em. Not that that's a bad thing, but it doesn't bode well for collectibility.

  10. Metric Wrench Avatar
    Metric Wrench

    A roomie had one of those back in the day. He was a traveling salesman for a manufacturing bit in the midwest, and back then it was absolutely verboten for a heavy industry rep to drive one of those furrin cars. It was the best the poor bloke could do.
    We always joked that we would fabricate some way to put the Quad 4 in a MG Midget once the body rusted out. The constant head gasket changes wore him out, though, and it was traded in at great loss on a marvelous Mazda powered Ford Probe.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      I have seen a Quad 4 in a MGB. It looked great. They also painted the rubber bumpers body color.

  11. Maymar Avatar

    Quick? Surprisingly so. Handsome? Sure. Rare and interesting? Absolutely. I strongly doubt this'll be collectible though. Oldsmobile isn't exactly the target of overwhelming Gen X or Millenial lust, I don't see this racking up the same sort of bids at 2031 Barrett-Jackson the way a clean Integra Type-R will.

    1. stigshift Avatar

      Give it time. When it's one of one remaining, it's day will have come. Find one now. Genuine rarity cannot be faked..

  12. HTWHLS Avatar

    I was almost there, till the picture of the shitbox interior. They'll be collectible in another 20 years but only for static displays.

  13. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    I've wanted a Calais W41 ever since I read a [Car and Driver?] review of it back in '91.
    I frankly think it's a great looking car. The sporty (for the time) blackout trim contrasts with the formal "luxury" roofline to make one totally bitchin' combo.

  14. PushrodRWD Avatar

    It will be collectable. There were not a lot of them made and they were surprisingly quick in their day. The same driveline was in a the Beretta GTZ, which was a better looking car, IMO.
    Nice post

  15. nanoop Avatar

    5-gear transaxle, large 4-banger with 180+ hp, lots of parts from a big player's parts bin, silly spoiler on the rear lid, from around 1990? That could be a 944S(2), or this. They made 120k of the 944, and even a few thousand of the 968.
    Definitely obscure and rare (never heard of it, will probably never see one in person), but too introvert for my part (not that I'm very outro, though..)

  16. mac350 Avatar

    Is the featured Olds related in anyway to the Olds Trofeo? I pretty much ignored GM cars in the 90's so I'm not sure what's related to what. I saw this 92 Trofeo on Craigslist and wondered what the heck it really was.
    <img src="; width="600"> <a href="” target=”_blank”>

    1. hubba Avatar

      The Trofeo is a 1986 Toronado with a longer hood and trunk. It's on the same platform as a contemporary Eldorado and Riviera.
      When the 1986 Toronado was new, it was a sales dud because it was the most expensive Olds and it looked almost exactly like the Calais, the cheapest.

  17. boxdin Avatar

    Knock GM of the 80s-90s all you want, I have a 88 Fiero with 238000 miles and the orig AC just went out.

  18. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
    C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    This is yet another example of 'rare' ≠ valuable
    It may be, some day, but honestly, it's kinda 'meh'.
    GM interiors of the time were horrible.

  19. 4doornomore Avatar

    My buddy had one of these in '99. It would pull on my Corrado SLC (with cams, chip and exhaust) and hold it's own with another friend's SHO. He bought it for about $1K out of a classified ad in Philly. Same color, same interior. He took it to Olds shows from time to time (He also had an '83 Hurst Olds) and even had to explain to other Olds fans why it was special.
    At the time it was one of only three cars that SCCA specifically banned from the Solo stock class; including the Calloway Corvette and…something else, I forget.
    The Quad4 was a great little engine in it's day.

  20. gtomimi Avatar

    I had one these little shit boxes, they don't look the part but the will run like a bitch. The true horsepower is 190 and weighs only 2800lbs..and only 204 were built..ever. I have owned quite a few so called musclecars and these little things would hold their own against them..really. Oh, I paid $500.00 for mine..Just a whole lot of fun..

  21. kingmatch Avatar

    I bought a W41 Quad 442 new off the dealer lot in April 1991. The car was an absolute thrill to drive.
    Weighing in at only 2800 lbs, generating 190 HP at 6.800 RPM mated to a Getrag 5 speed and 3.94 final drive with limited slip, the car would melt those front tires, as well as easily handle the curves with the standard FE3 performance suspension and ABS brakes (exclusive to the W41 performance package only).

    1. Scott Avatar

      The only thing exclusive to the Quad 442 W41 was the engine. They made the Cutlass Calais International Series which was also produced in limited quantities (597 in '91, I own one). It has the ABS system as well as the FE3 suspension package. The difference between them is the I-Series had a MUCH nicer interior (a picture of mine can be seen here: ) , the same rear spoiler, 16" wheels, a ground effects package, fog lights, and a slew of weight adding options like keyless entry, a Driver Information System that will tell you everything from oil life remaining to economy to a set of gauges that monitors just about every engine function and a trip computer. Way advanced for the time.

      1. Joe Danon Avatar
        Joe Danon

        Hey Scott, there were a few other differences. Of course, you're aware that you're comparing apples to oranges…
        The Int'l Series Calais is a very nice car as far as it being the "Luxo" model with all of the bells and whistles and the "High Tech" D.I.S. Computer that youmentioned vs. "the stripped" Quad 442 W41.
        Since the Quad 442 W41 was purposely built for racing it was equipped with only the essentials (ABS brakes, Pwr. steering, AM/FM cassette and A/C) causing it to weigh in at 2,800 lbs dripping wet.
        It included the special (1 year only) HO Quad 4 with 190 naturally aspirated HP, 5 Speed Getrag Manual Trans + 3.94 final drive enabled this very special limited production 442 to run 14.6's in the 1/4 mile (tested by MT mag in their March '91 issue in showroom stock trim).
        In '91, the only car that GM offered that was quicker was the 'vette.

  22. Bob Hessler Avatar
    Bob Hessler

    My first new car was purchased on 8/8/88. A black Olds Quad4 with everything blacked out (special edition) FE3 suspension was very responsive. Never had so many compliments on a car as that one. Anyone that drove it was amazed at the handling and the power. Still my favorite car that I have owned. Wish the engines didn't have the problem with blowing a head gasket every 75,000 miles like clockwork. Otherwise I would still have that car. Might be interested in getting another one in the next few years. Would love to see how it feels in today's world and how it compares to current rides.

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