Oldsmobile Toronado (1966-1970)
Visually striking and well-engineered, Oldsmobile's entry into the personal/luxury car market stretched out over 18 feet and weighed nearly 4,500 pounds. The Toronado was a crowning achievement for the Olds engineering team, and to classic car enthusiasts and collectors, remains one of the most desirable Oldsmobile models.
In 1958, Ford stretched the sporty two-seat T-bird into a four-seater, giving the public a stylish car with comfort and performance. Thus began the Personal-Luxury car market.
As Thunderbird sales increased, rival cars began appearing. The first GM model to make a major impact was the 1963 Buick Riviera. The Riv was initially envisioned for the Cadillac division, but as they were selling as many cars as they could build, another model was not needed.
It was during this time that Oldsmobile and Cadillac were working jointly on a new front-wheel-drive platform, code-named XP-784. Intentions from both divisions were to launch personal-luxury coupes in several years. Once GM approved Oldsmobile's entry for the 1966 model year, the chosen body theme was taken from a painting by stylist David North.
Oldsmobile's engineering department had originally envisioned the new car on the smaller A-body platform, but for several reasons, most notably cost, the project was pushed to a larger, more expensive car.
The Toronado would have it's own sheet metal and powertrain, but share a body shell with the E-body platform of the Buick Riviera.
Using a partially unitized body, the sub-frame carried the powertrain, front suspension and floor pan. It also served as an attachment point for the rear springs, as well as providing greater isolation of road and engine noises.
Flared wheel openings, smooth integration of the B-pillar into the body side, and fastback body gave the Toro a look all it's own - an important factor in the personal-luxury car market.
Realizing the significance of offering a front-wheel-drive car, Oldsmobile wanted no problems with the Toronado. To verify strength and reliability of the FWD components, over a million test-miles were documented prior to public introduction.
The Toronado was offered in two models, a standard two-door Hardtop and optional two-door Deluxe. Vacuum-operated pop-up headlamps and a horizontal bar grille paid homage to the 1936 Cord (an early front wheel drive car).
FWD vehicles usually have transverse-mounted motors, but the 425 cubic-inch motor placed in the Toronado was mounted traditionally in the frame, that is, the front of the motor faced to the front of the car. Because the motor didn't quite clear the hood-line, a depressed intake manifold was designed.
The Toronado was one of the first modern front-wheel-drive cars to have an automatic transmission, which was mounted off the driver's side of the motor. This unique arrangement allowed the engine to sit over the front wheels, giving a favorable 54/46 percent front/rear weight distribution.
The torque converter was mounted on the flywheel in its normal location at the rear of the engine, with a chain drive coupling the engine to the transmission. The output shaft of the transmission faced forward, which sent power to the differential. From there, left and right half-shafts took power to the front wheels.
While other Olds models used coil springs up front, the Toronado was fitted with longitudinal torsion bars. A heavy-duty front sway-bar was standard equipment.
At the rear, a conventional solid axle hung on single leaf springs. To keep the back tires firmly planted on the road, four rear shock absorbers were utilized, two mounted vertically, and two horizontally.
Large 11" drum brakes with power-assist were used all around, but worked only marginally on a car weighing nearly 4,500 pounds.
Sharing it's E-body platform with the Buick Riviera, the Toronado already had plenty of passenger compartment room, and the completely flat floor added even more space.
Bucket-seats up front were optional at no cost on the Deluxe model, with a reclining passenger bucket an extra-cost item. Rear-mounted interior handles were also optional, allowing rear-seat passengers to open the doors without reaching across the front seat-back.
On the driver's side of the dashboard, a podium-mounted instrument panel housed a vertically revolving barrel-shaped speedometer. This style gauge was first seen in the 1930's.
Another unique feature was the lack of vent windows - a flow-through ventilation system pulled air in at the front cowl and exited at the rear cowl under the rear window.
Despite weighing over 4,000 pounds, the Toro had exceptional traction and handled reasonably well. The 425-cid "Rocket" motor produced 385-horsepower at 4,800 rpm, and had an SAE gross figure of 475-pound-feet of torque which peaked at 3,200 rpm. A dual-snorkel air cleaner and dual exhaust were standard on all models.
Published performance tests of the day show the 1966 Toronado accelerating from 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds, with a top speed of 135 mph. Quarter-mile times were clocked at 16.4 seconds at 93-mph. Both 1966 and 1967 models used a final drive ratio of 3.21. After a 2,700 mile test, Motor Trend magazine reported 13 miles-per-gallon on premium fuel.
The re-introduction of an American front-wheel-drive automobile earned the 1966 Toronado Motor Trend's "Car of the Year" award, helping Oldsmobile sell 40,963 units the first year.
The Toronado also had the distinction of being GM's 100 millionth car built in the U.S. (March 16, 1966).
A slight face lift for 1967 saw a redesigned front grille, with a similar style in the tail-lamps. The pop-up head lamps, formerly recessed, were now flush with the body panels.
Due to customer complaints, suspension was softened for 1967. Concerns over drum brake fade led Oldsmobile to offer optional front discs.
Although sales dipped to 22,062 units for 1967, the front-drive Toronado would become a staple in Oldsmobile's lineup for the next 28 years.
A minor restyle included new grille, front bumper, front fenders, and hood. Also new were wrap-around front turn signals and side markers.
The head lamps were still concealed, but were now hidden behind grille panels that rotated. Tail lamps became smaller and integrated into the rear bumper.
As with many other GM vehicles for 1968, windshield wipers were now tucked beneath the rear edge of the hood, concealing them from view except when in use.
The original 425ci V8 was replaced with a larger 455ci V8. In standard trim, the 455 produced 375 horsepower, or 400 horsepower with the new W-34 option.
A special option code, called W-34, was available on the 1968-1970 Toronados. This option included a cold air induction system for the air cleaner, a special performance camshaft, and a transmission calibrated for quick and firm up-shifts.
To help keep the big engine cool, air intake openings were fitted under the front bumper. To provide additional cooling air to the radiator, a vacuum temperature switch opened the headlight doors automatically, should the engine require it.
Total 1968 sales: 26,454 cars.
For 1969, the rear quarter panels were squared off and given small fins, and reverse lights were moved into the center section of the taillights. A vinyl roof was offered for the first time.
As part of GM's new anti-theft program, the ignition switch was relocated from the instrument panel to the steering column. With the transmission in park, the driver would turn off the ignition and remove the key. This action locked the ignition, steering wheel, and transmission. And if the driver forgot to take the key, an ignition key warning buzzer reminded them.
Total 1969 sales: 28,494 cars.
The last of the First Generation models, 1970 saw the elimination of hidden headlights, and new front fenders and rear quarter panels with squared wheel arch bulges. Power front disc brakes became standard equipment.
For 1970, the W-34 option was part of the 'Toronado GT' package, which included special GT badges on the exterior of the car. Engine output was 400 horsepower.
Total 1970 sales: 25,433 cars.
Toronado Owners Association
The Toronado Owners Association is dedicated to the preservation and education of this historic vehicle. Ownership is not required to join, but certainly encouraged!