Info by an Oldsmobile engineer who also worked as assembly line supervisor.

Info by an Oldsmobile engineer who also worked as assembly line supervisor.

In a nutshell, they NEVER built a 425 in a 65 F-85 442 on the assembly line...but...that doesn't mean Oldsmobile never built one...............just never on the assembly line.

We had a policy that to even build a pilot car on a "Red Border Engineering Release", there had to be some confidence of building that in mass production...otherwise it would be done in the engineering garage or at any of a dozen outside companies or dealers. (Demmer, Hurst, etc.)

...and as far as just grabbing something? Forget it. We knew far in advance of major shortages, but also had quite a repair facility setup all over the place. This was not a small scale operation. When you consider warranty, liabiliaties, etc., it would make no sense to try to pull something like that. Even the times around the big strike in 1970 at the beginning of the 1971 model year, cars were correct when they left the plant. Maybe not all assembled (many had some parts in the trunk), or for a month we shipped without spare tires as we had wheel and tire shortages up the ying yang...

There were 2 assembly lines there at that time. The main line built A, B and C models, and the older smaller line built E cars. I'm not sure before 1964 if the F85/Cutlass was on the same line as the 88/98 (I rather doubt it as they were unitized body). They built a new assembly plant across the street in the parking area near Bldg 66 for just A cars, but that wasn't running when I left there in 1973 (June). We built Oldsmobiles only...including short sill chassis driveaways (for ambulances/hearses (no body), and also the chassis for the GMC motor homes in the Toronado plant.

They always tried to alternate an A car with a B/C car for line balance, but occasionally you'd see 2 of the same type in a row...that was always communicated far and wide well in advance so the operators would complete their work without delay.

Of interest is when a wrong color fender or hood would come to the final line...or one would be damaged or even missing (fell off somewhere). If it was just a color or trim issue (wrong moldings), they'd put it on anyway to complete the car...then change it off line afterwards...never repaint or modify it a different color. They kept spare fenders and hoods hanging beside the line just for those shortages.

Frames, engines, etc....all frames came in at the same rail dock...they were stacked by part number (2 letter code) beside the feeder conveyor for the ABC line, and moved over to the Toronado area nearby for the E car line. Very large hi-lo's unloaded the rail cars (10-12 frames in a stack), and smaller ones (with long forks) scheduled and put them on the delivery conveyor. The build number (line number, 0-2000) were written on them with a grease pencil. In the winter they had to hit them with large torches and air blasts to get the snow/ice off them and dry them. They were hung on the line in sequence and immediately the VIN was rolled on it in 2 places.

Engines normally came over to the final assembly plant of a conveyor from the engine plant. They weren't sequenced yet and were unloaded and hung in the float area. At the other end of the floats, the line numbers were assigned and the correct engine was mated to the trans, then hung on the conveyor to the engine dress up area (Section 6-1 and 6-2 of the PIM manual)...Everything went off the 2 letter codes in the broadcast/manifest, so an incorrect engine or component would screw up everything down the line.

The main conveyors were all tied together from frame load to driveoff a couple hours later for a particular car. Everything had to go right, to prevent interruptions. In 1970, I got deeply involved in the labor content in final assembly and remember a few details about costs of interruptions in that system. One down minute on the main chain was $2000. (This is when people were making a lot less than today. I had one of the highest job offers the year I started (1968 and it was $760 per month...) The other number I remember is the cost of final assembly labor to build an average car...$156.00. That is what they call a marginal cost or an incremental cost....the cost to build just one more car. We built around 70 cars per hour when I started there, but got up to 96/hour at peak in 1972. That gave an average buyoff rate of 93/hour and the other three were repaired off line .

A couple of other related points. BOP plants (GMAD later) built an equal number of Oldsmobiles at their various plants (combined)...That meant we built in the neighborhood of 3000 cars per day throughout the system at peak. Each had an engine and all engines were built in the Lansing engine plant.

Another item...Special Builds. We had them, but they really played havoc with the assembly process. If we didn't lose jobs completely (line shutoff to fix something that had to be fixed then), then it would build excess repair until the process settled down. Pilot cars, special fleets, and limited production cars all affected the process and were handled by engineering workorders which were called Red Border Engineering Releases, if they weren't 100% certified for sale as production vehicles. Every part on the car had to be certified as well as all the special tooling, torque settings, etc. before you could ship a car to a dealer to sell.

The 66 W30 (54 cars) and the 68 Ramrods (500 cars) had a very special build in the plant. Pretty much everything in our process was the same as some other production part or process, but the engines themselves were very unique and came to the line on a dolly from the engineering dynos. They were assembled in a special area of the engine plant and the dyno runs were retained in files by engine serial number (not related to VIN)...many of the components on these engines came in special boxes from outside suppliers and not through the production process in the plant. Everyone knows about the big damper on the W31's, and the unique carb, flat top pistons, distributor, cam, clutch, rods, etc. on these, but they were built like one would build an engine in an engine shop, not on a conveyor. What people didn't know about was the special treatment of these parts before they came to the assembly area. Blocks were fully machined outside the plant (to be perfect) with castings selected at the casting supplier, not from the bank in the plant. Rotating assemblies were balanced and matched and kept in sets rather than through the normal process.

But the real trick of these engines was the heads. These were fully machined and assembled at an outside shop and sent in individual pairs into the plant and put right on the engines. They had the same part numbers on the castings, but had been specially "selected" at the casting source before they got to the plant. No one would ever admit it, but there were slight differences in these castings that were not identified anywhere. These were typical of the "trick" parts that Dale Smith used to slide out to the race teams...they are different from production, but no markings. There are people that can identify them (some inner port difference), but not me.

All other Cars including all the W cars did not get this treatment unless they were processed through the engineering garage or outside shops (like Brady, others)...Olds marketing led people to believe that all W cars got that treatment, but they didn't...the others had the good parts, but built in production with production tolerances. You didn't need to do anything to those 54 66's and the 500 68 Ramrods to race. It was already done. They couldn't publicize that or NHRA/AHRA/IHRA...(NRA?) would scream bloody murder and blackball the cars. As it was, every one of them was challenged at the Winternationals (Chesrown car) and the Spring Nationals (lots of them from the January build of 50 cars) well as a lot of converted cars with engines from Dale Smith. They built 50% more engines than cars (approx 750 engines, but only 500 cars)...I think that's the data that was found and led people to believe there were 742 (or whatever, gets bigger every year) 68 Ramrods...There were convertibles, there were no Cutlass Supremes, 4 doors, or wagons.

Marketing info is at best directional. It is not really any proof that anything went into production at that time. I have some copies of internal documents (signed by no less than Bob Stempel himself...head of Powertrain development at that time, later Chief Engr, VP of GM, and ultimately CEO of GM) that he sent out to the zone directors in response to the unrest with the new 400's in the 68 442's. He basically defended them using the Ramrod's performance and factory blueprinting ready for drag racing (just add slicks and headers) and implying that all the W cars received that same treatment. They didn't. The only other program like the 68 Ramrod program in production was the 66 W30 program and those 54 jumped on it not realizing that by the time you got the info to the dealers, you couldn't order one. The 500 car total was mostly spoken for before we built them and orders were shut off after  two weeks. I was just lucky to be there and heard about it and got one.

The marketing info got the dealers all fired up and rather than disappoint the customers that you'd have to wait for a 69, they made their own with parts from the W30 (ram air system) and the decals...They were 310 hp Cutlasses that ran like it. Some had A/C, some power brakes, etc...but they were not factory built Ramrods...

Experimental Garage:
Pretty much any and everything could and probably did come out of the experimental garage in Lansing. I know Demmer ran 425's in some of their drag cars (actually Olds Engineering test cars), and our 66 W30 "mules" also had 425's from time to time. They converted these cars back and forth from stick to automatic, all kinds of engine changes and induction systems every week. Lansing cop cars ran 425's with Webers, and tripower systems in some of their cruisers (which were also loaned out from engineering).

The W31 program was an engineering "experiment" with a small block that ended up going into production very quickly when the 68 G block 400's turned out to be such pigs. I drove a 66 el strippo F85 post car one time in July/Aug 1966 time frame that had a W31 350 in it. They weren't called W31 until it was put into production...we referred to all those cars as "Ram Air"...

I'm sure your tripower intake is an engineering piece dated in 1965 as that was when they would be finishing up the development for production in 1966 (Sep, 1965 start)...there were lots of them. There also was an excess of J-2 intakes that were used up on all kinds of 88's with block off plates on the front and rear carbs. Any 371 with a 2 barrel in 1958 could have one. We found lots in junkyards back then.

The dale Smith back door really got going in 1969 or 1970 when Engineering shifted from performance development to emissions development. That all went outside to Batten and others and Dale used to have a budget for the promo stuff he did. He has an excellent book on that named "Racing to the Future".

Thanks to:
Dave Heilala Oldsmobile Engineer

The 65 442 ONLY came with the 400 cu in engine. There were no 330's, 425's or 455's, only 400's. There are myths & urban legends that say some very early 442's may have come with 425s. This has NEVER been documented in any way and the only definitive proof would be the original window sticker or build sheet. It could have been possible that when a 400's was blown, the only dealer replacement available, was a 425. This could account for some early 425's being found, but from the mouths of knowledgeable Oldsmobile employees "this would not happen". They NEVER shipped a 65 442 from the factory with a 425.    Oldsmobile did do testing and install different engines and/or combinations in some cars, but this was a special build and done "outside the shop". These were usually done for racers to evaluate different equipment, but not for public sale.