You may not remember the Oldsmobile since they retired the brand in 2000. However, back in the 1960’s, this company enjoyed a reputation for inventive technology, style, and luxury. Oldsmobile represented the cutting edge of GM at one point in time, presenting models that were far ahead of their time, displaying power and style on the global market. One such car is the Oldsmobile Toronado.
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.
This was a large, powerful personal luxury coupe with a twist since it was front wheel drive (FWD). In those days, only a few imports were front wheel drive, while all domestic cars, regardless of the class or engine, were rear wheel drive. However, Oldsmobile wanted to introduce something else and constructed an ingenious FWD system.
Realizing the significance of being 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.
The advantages of locating the engine and driving wheels on the same end of the car are fairly obvious. More weight on the driving wheels for traction and the absence of driveline tunnels intruding on passenger compartment space are desirable features in any automobile.
Designers created an attractive shape with a low roof and hidden headlights for the Toronado. Its A-pillars begin well aft of the front wheels and the doors are much closer to the rear wheels than the front. By placing the main visual mass of the car as close to the rear wheels as possible, the car achieves a typical GT’s strong cab-rearward emphasis with a very long hood and short deck. Vacuum-operated pop-up headlamps and a horizontal bar grille paid homage to the the Cord.
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. 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.
The car’s power came from a big block 455 V8 with 385 HP. The Toronado was a success and it introduced superb driving characteristics, which left most competitors in the dust. The first two generations were the best, and later the Toronado was a Cadillac Eldorado with a different grille.
The Toronado placed third in the 1966 European Car of the Year contest, a distinction no other U.S. car has achieved before or since, and won the 1966 Motor Trend Car of the Year award in the U.S.
The Toronado was a success because it introduced superb driving characteristics, which left competitors in the dust. The first two generations were the best, and later, the Toronado was just a Cadillac Eldorado with a different grille.
Today, the prices for this gem are not high. For less than $20,000, you can find a perfect 1966 to 1968 Toronado that could change your perspective on the driving and the handling of those big, classic American cruisers.