March 9, 2009
CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car parking Lot: The 1970 Oldsmobile Rallye 350
By Jim Brennan
Welcome to the CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to discover some fun cars in the process. 1970 turned out to be a watershed year for raw, visceral horsepower, before government smog regulations started to take effect. It was also the high water mark for the sheer number of high-performance muscle cars offered by the automakers. However, all was not rosy during this peak, as the insurance companies had caught on and were now charging sky-high premiums to owners of these asphalt-melting leviathans of the street. Accordingly, manufacturers offered a new concept to the driving public: Muscle Car Light. One of these just happens to be the subject of this feature: The Oldsmobile Rallye 350.
It was in response to the insurance companies that the Detroit Big 3 started offering “Muscle Car Light” models, offering the aggressive look of the true muscle car while packing a lighter, lower horsepower engine. Some of the other light muscle offered included the Heavy Chevy Chevelle, the Pontiac GT-37, even the Dodge Dart 340. But none of them were as wild as the Olds Rallye 350.
The Rallye 350 was introduced in February of 1970 at the Chicago Auto Show. The car had the W-45 option package, which included the fiberglass hood, the L74 Oldsmobile 350 CI V-8, Custom Sports steering wheel, sport mirrors, FE2 Rallye suspension, dual exhaust (with custom trumpet tips out the back), a rear deck wing spoiler, and blackwall tires on Oldsmobile SS2 styled rims.
Internal literature from Oldsmobile targeted other existing intermediates with performance appearance packages, such as the Plymouth Road Runner, that were the industry price leaders; Olds priced its Rallye 350 at nearly $70 less, and pinpointed buyers who identified with the “performance look.” However, Oldsmobile only built a little under 3,550 units. One explanation for the lack of sales points to the searing paint job; the eye-popping Sebring Yellow, right down to the color-matched bumpers, wasn’t to everyone’s taste. Remember also that we’re talking about conservative Oldsmobile showrooms, where even the 4-4-2 could be optioned with a vinyl roof and a and benign color scheme.
Performance wasn’t really the problem with this “muscle car light” as much as anyone thought. The 1970 4-4-2 came standard with the Oldsmobile 455 CI V-8 that produced 370HP and over 500 lb/ft of torque. Compared to it’s big brother, the L74 produced 310HP, and 390 lb/ft of torque. 0-60 runs were clocked at 7.0 seconds, and this baby Olds could do 1/4 mile in 15.27 seconds at over 94 MPH. Transmission choices include a floor-mounted 3-speed manual, a Muncie close-ratio 4-speed, or the Turbo Hydra-Matic 350 Auto.
One widely circulated rumor about the Rallye 350 was that it was destined to be the 1970 Hurst Olds, since Oldsmobile and the Hurst Corporation had teamed up for the 1968 and 1969 Hurst Oldsmobile 4-4-2 models. However, Hurst decided to create a package for the Chrysler 300 (See my write-up here), so the tooling for the rear spoiler and the other trim pieces were used to create the Rallye 350. Whether this is true or not, it’s fun to speculate.
The Rallye 350 was produced only for the 1970 model year, and there were a lot of leftovers on dealer lots during the 1971 selling season. According to “people in the know”, almost all of the Rallye 350′s were ordered by GM Zone representatives, and a few by the dealers themselves. Very few customers ordered the car, because so very little was known about them before they were introduced. This car offered up an abundance of “in your face” style, for not a lot more than an average Cutlass.
CarDomain Members Rides
Cruising through the rides section, I discovered a few members who own a Rallye 350, so let’s take a look.
Here’s Frank’s Olds Rallye 350, and he hails from Johnston, RI. It is undergoing a pretty through restoration, and there are plenty of pics. So stop by and leave a comment.
Here’s Shane’s Rallye 350, up north in Alberta. It’s appropriate that his id here on CarDomain is rallye350guy. Take a look at his ride, and see what you think.
These “Muscle Car Lite” offerings still produced a lot of performance for the money, but within a few short years, these cars were all but extinct. Should the Oldsmobile Rallye 350 be considered a true Muscle Car, or should it be left as it was intended, a “muscle car light”? Is it obscure enough to be admitted onto the Parking Lot? I always look forward to your remarks, so let me know what you think about this, or anyother car in the series.
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