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Who knew that station wagons would once again become a hot commodity? Those long-bodied, family haulin’, daily-driven boulevard cruisers have come full circle from the days when they were seen as the old, huge, parents’ car that nobody wanted. Muscle car aficionados and hot rodders alike have realized that these machines can be the ultimate choice for car guys looking for a ride that has some grunt under the hood and that classic musclecar look, but can still get the family to the local car shows in style…with spare cargo space to boot.
Considered a “human hauler” and a daily workhorse vehicle for years, station wagons were all the rage up through the late 1970s. There was probably not a family in the country that didn’t run one at least of these long-roof vehicles to the point of collapse. But as time marches on, so do tastes. The station wagon gave way to the minivan in the 1980s, the sport-utility vehicle took over as the family vehicle choice in the late 1990s, and the crossover is currently the design most often selected for daily-driver people-hauling duties. Most station wagons have met the business end of the crusher, but those that survived are now looked at as survivors…and excellent project car potential.
With the perfect blend of performance and interior comfort, muscle car wagons have become a new niche in the collector car market. This 1972 Cutlass wagon is a perfect example, complete with its 442 drivetrain and aesthetic makeover.
Jim Stohlman is a name that might be familiar to many muscle car guys, especially if you’re a fan of classic Oldsmobiles from the heyday of muscle. Jim had one of the largest Olds dealerships on the East Coast and ran his Virginia showroom right up to the day GM pulled the plug on the storied brand. He’s had more than his share of classic, top-notch muscle rides, and counts over a hundred prime examples which he’s held the title on since his youth. Those cars include four of the original fifty-four ’66 W30 442’s built by Oldsmobile during the opening salvos of the muscle car era.
Back in 1980, Jim had the opportunity to snatch up a clean 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass flat top wagon from California. The deal was a no-brainer in his mind, so the long-hauler was quickly sent packing for its new home in Virginia. The wagon was at his shop when a very rusty 1970 442 parts car was brought in for its last rites. “I belonged to an Oldsmobile club called the Capital City Rockets, a club that still exists today out of Washington D.C. I would have garage days at the dealership where guys would bring their rides to the shop and work on them. I decided to give that dilapidated 442 to the club for parts. I took the engine and trans, and the rest of the club took the parts they needed for their own rides,” states Jim.
That engine and trans combo was soon put to good use. “I took the station wagon into the shop and dropped the 455/four-speed combo from the 442 into its engine bay. Since the wagon was in good shape, it became an instant driver. I used it sparingly as a local cruiser,” states Jim.
Originally born with an Oldsmobile 350 and an automatic, the current engine and transmission in this Cutlass wagon came via a derelict 1970 442, which was parted out by Oldsmobile guru Jim Stohlman in 1980. Over the years, the engine received an upgrade of an aluminum W-30 intake, along with a W-30 ram-air air cleaner.
Shoehorning muscle car powerplants into wagons is nothing new. It’s been going on since the introduction of the design. Oldsmobile was one of the brands that experimented with the formula of putting performance drivetrains into these lowly workhorses, building two “prototype” 442 wagons in the 1970s, both created using their vaunted Vista Cruiser platform. These hot-rodded wagons were more than just a hybrid using 442 body parts. It turns out that the wagons were actually infused with Oldsmobile’s top-of-the-line engine for that year, the venerable W-30 455, pumping out a stellar 370 horsepower and a ground-pounding 500 lb/ft of torque to the rear wheels.
Though never put into production, these specialty-built vehicles found their way into the hearts of the public. These rides paved the road for the wagons of the future and for the modern performance sport-utility vehicle, which has since taken a page from these experimental station wagon builds. Many modern SUVs now sport some of the most potent powertrains on the market today.
This is the original Cutlass interior, which is still in reasonably good shape. A Rally Pack gauge cluster was sourced over the years, which included the vaunted “tic-toc-tach”. A sport steering wheel finishes off the classic look.
Jim kept the wagon around for a while, never modifying it further, which helped keep wagon incognito. “I never upgraded the car with badges or hood treatments or stripes. When Oldsmobile was shut down in the early 2000s, I sold the wagon, along with a lot of my vintage vehicles and surplus cars,” Jim told us.
The wagon left the dealership and moved around the country, until New Jersey hot-rodder Pino Tortorici got wind of it. “My dad Paul and I are big Oldsmobile and Pontiac guys. My dad knew of the wagon’s existence, but never owned it. Once I saw that the wagon was up for grabs I had to try and make a deal on it,” states Pino.
However, by this time, the wagon had gone through a sort of metamorphosis at the hands of past owners. Now sporting few 442 add-ons, this wagon had been steeped with a dose of muscle car aesthetics. “It looked cool, was in decent shape and the price was right, so I bought it”.
When current owner Pino Tortorici bought the wagon it was still wearing a standard Cutlass hood. He then enlisted Thorton Reproductions to build him a correct W-25 ram air hood for the wagon. From there they color matched the paint and added the correct striping to finish off the look Pino was after.
From there, Pino put the final piece of this “442 puzzle” on the wagon. “I had Thorton Reproductions out of Quakertown, Pennsylvania make a W-25 ram air hood for the wagon. They were an option on the 442 and standard on the W-30. Thorton’s version are known to be better made than the originals and the cost reflects that. They are not cheap! Then they laid out the matching paint and stripes to finish it off,” states Pino.
Now this wild 442 infused wagon hangs out with several other killer muscle rides in Pino’s collection, including a ’70 442 W-30, a ’65 442, ’65 GTO and a killer ’55 Chevy. When we asked about his future plans for the phantom 442 wagon, Pino just said, “Just enjoy the hell out of it. I wanted a ride I could bring my wife Alana, son Paolo and daughter Antonia to the car shows in. Without a doubt I found the hot rod I was after”.