Home » Here’s The Ridiculous Way The Oldsmobile 442 Got Its Name, Plus A Bunch Of Cars I Renamed Using Even More Ridiculous Methods

Here’s The Ridiculous Way The Oldsmobile 442 Got Its Name, Plus A Bunch Of Cars I Renamed Using Even More Ridiculous Methods

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Do you know how the Oldsmobile 442 got its name? If you’re not familiar, I suspect you may assume that it has a huge 442 cubic inch/7.2-liter V8, but it’s not that.– these cars actually had an even bigger 455 cubic inch engine. No, the numbers are there for weirder reasons. The name refers to a four-barrel carburetor, a four-speed manual transmission, and two exhaust pipes. The 442 name is legendary now, but, objectively, this is a weird-ass way to name a car. Carb barrels, gears, and exhaust outlets? Seems like a sort of haphazard selection of traits, though they are significant ones. They weren’t the only ones to try this approach, so let’s see how we can take this general idea and apply it to other cars. Sounds fun to me!


The other car that I can think of that used a similar triple-numeric-based-on-technical-details naming convention is the high-performance variant of the Datsun Fairlady Z/240Z called the Z432. In this case, “432” refers to a different arbitrary selection of traits: four valves, three carburetors, and two camshafts.

[Editor’s Note: Before Torch gets all Torch on us, let’s try these same two methods on a few other vehicles. Following the Oldsmobile method, a base 1966 Mustang would be a Ford 231 — two valves per cylinder, a three-speed manual, and a single exhaust pipe. My 1985 Jeep J10 would be a Jeep 241, and Torch’s Beetle would be a VW 242, which I think kind of works, though usually VWs like to have “Type” before the number. If we tried the Datsun method, all those vehicles would be 211s, as they all have two valves per cylinder, a single carb, and a single cam. -DT]

There’s something pleasingly dorky about naming cars with this method, so let’s have some fun with it. Here are some cars that could be renamed to 442, with lists of what random-ass traits were chosen, and maybe alternate random-feature-numeric names, too. Make sense? Too bad. Let’s try anyway:




Rednsudivider Vellfire

Rednsudivider Vwbeetle


That’s mildly fun, right? Want to take a crack at it yourself? I’d love to see what cars you could twist into being named 442, or other absurd numerics-for-details names you can come up with. Besides, it’s Friday afternoon! Do this instead of work!


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75 Responses

  1. My FC RX-7 or S2 RX-8 could be:
    4 spark plugs
    4 fuel injectors
    2 rotors

    This would also apply for the FD RX-7, but not for the S1 RX-8 or the FBs, since they had 6 injectors or 2 (or a carb) respectively

        1. Not to say the auto is *bad* but you can definitely feel the auto holding the i5 back… I would also like the MPV improvements of having an extra gear and no fluid coupling lol

        2. Thats… just soooo damn schmexy!

          I havent seen a VIGOR.. in quite a while. They looked good in red / maroon with the tan interior. I even love the shutlines on the rear pass doors.

  2. >>In this case, “432” refers to a different arbitrary selection of traits: four valves, three carburetors, and two camshafts.<<

    four valves, three carburetors, and two fender mirrors.

  3. On the basis of the Olds 442, my Honda Fit is an ‘051’.
    And the Suzuki Aerio I had before it was also an ‘051’
    And the two Focii, two Escorts, the Saab 9-3, Ford Festiva and the PT Cruiser… all 051s!!!!

    I’ve only had one car that wasn’t an ‘051’… and that was my 1987 Honda Civic Wagovan… that was a ‘351’…

  4. BMW’s current numbering system is three digits that make even less sense:

    1st Digit: How rich you want people to think you are from 2-8
    3rd Digit: 0-8 incremented annually to make you feel like you need a new car next year
    2nd Digit: How powerful your engine is plus the 1 carried from the third digit if they haven’t done a generational refresh in a while

    I’ll take Carb barrels / injector count, Manual transmission gears, tailpipes over that any day.

    1. Maybe what they should do is adopt an all letter system that vaguely refers to the generation and/or positioning of the model… or in other words, what ‘mark’ a model is…


  5. Ferrari does some weird things with numeric naming as well.

    We could just go with the current German approach where models are numbered but the numbers mean nothing.

  6. Just a note for whoever’s handling the spam, this bot scraped Autonecromancer’s reply on the “Torch Drives” article and, if I had to guess the mechanism at work, perhaps took advantage of the fact that its text was already approved by the comment system and tacked a shady link on at the end here to ride along through the filter.

    Stealing is a moral failure and you should be ashamed of yourself, bot.

  7. Porsche Taycan 992.2:
    9- the number of times you can spill coffee in it before your dealer puts you on the “not GT material” blacklist.
    9- the number of options you ordered but forgot you did
    2- the number of options you should have ordered
    .2- the amount of seconds it takes you to escape when a brodozer cuts you off to roll coal.

  8. I recently bought a medium sized bulldozer and I completely understand what you mean about the sensation of “guiding” an unstoppable mass! It’s a great feeling, but controlling something that will crush you, your dog and your truck without missing a beat is a little unsettling. That said, before long the mind adapts to this new reality, and all of a sudden, trees are not obstacles, trees are traction!
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    1. Nah, after 64 that you can make that argument and into the 70s a (I own a 77 442 that would fit that description) and possibly if you didn’t count the overdrive in the 80’s 442’s but the early versions meant that. How they “sometimes” got around addressing the transmission not being 4 speed they would use the engine cubes like with this 442 to compensate.


  9. I think My VW Polo is a 311, that’s three windscreen wipers, one spare tire, and one brakepad with a monitoring system (which I broke).
    Or perhaps it’s a Polo 516, which is five hundred for the kilos of stone I tried to haul in it (that’s half a ton), three for the number of springs which survived the trip (one rear coil spring snapped), and six for the number of beers my brother bought me for hauling his stone in my massively unsuitible car.

  10. My Mercury Cougar would be 4 wheels, 4 headlamp bulbs, 2 headlight doors. But it should be eight cylinders and twelve Sylvania 1157 turn-signal bulbs (including side markers, since it’s a 1970), so a Mercury 812.

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