Oldsmobile Toronado

From Academic Kids

The Toronado was produced by the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors from 1966 to 1992. The name has no meaning and was made up for a 1963 Chevrolet show car, later being appropriated for the Olds project. The Toronado was Oldsmobile's full-size personal luxury car and competed directly with the Ford Thunderbird and Buick Riviera. As such, it was in a price class below the Cadillac Eldorado and Lincoln Continental Mark III, but above the Pontiac Grand Prix. The Toronado shared its E-body platform with the Riviera and Eldorado for most of its 28-year history.



Missing image
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado

The original Toronado (image (http://www.musclecarclub.com/musclecars/oldsmobile-toronado/images/oldsmobile-toronado-1966a.jpg)) is significant for being the model which reintroduced the concept of front wheel drive to the American market. Although certain European models which used this configuration, such as the Mini, had been sold in the U.S. market in very small quantities, no domestic manufacturer since Cord Automobile went bankrupt in the 1930s had produced it. No company at all had tried it with an engine as large as the Toronado's 425 in³ V8, and there was a certain skepticism as to the durability and roadability of the driveline when the car was introduced. Both proved to be excellent, however, and the design was so powerful and well-balanced that it was considered to be a performance as well as a luxury car. Mounting of the engine behind the front wheels did much to address the problem of forward weight bias which had always plagued front-drive designs.

The Toronado sold reasonably well at introduction, and also gained great publicity for the division by winning several prestigious awards, such as Motor Trend's Car of the Year Award and Car Life's Award for Engineering Excellence. Rather remarkably for a Detroit model, it also was a third-place finisher in the European Car of the Year competition. Olds' General Manager and former Chief Engineer John Beltz is credited with a major influence on the Toronado as well as the Oldsmobile 442 muscle car. The first front-drive Cadillac Eldorado was built off the Toronado chassis in 1967.

The first generation Toronado lasted with the usual annual facelifts through 1970. The major changes were the replacement of the original 425 in³ (7.0 L) V8 with the new 455 in³ (7.5 L) in 1968, and the disappearance of the hidden headlights in 1970.


The second generation of 1971-1978 is mainly noted for the early use of two safety features that are now universal standards. This bodystyle featured the first standard installation of high-mounted auxiliary brake lights, although a somewhat similar feature had appeared briefly as an option on the Thunderbird in the late 1960s. Also, for 1974-1976, the Toronado was part of GM's first experimental production run of driver airbags.

In the later years of the model, new features were mostly confined to styling, and in 1977 and 1978 the XS model with an unconventional hot wire "bent-glass" (image (http://encyclopedia.classicoldsmobile.com/toronado/78.jpg)) rear window was made available. An XSR model with a similar window and innovative power-operated retracting T-tops was announced and advertised, but it is believed that none were actually sold, however the running factory prototype was documented as "restored" by Collectible Automobile Magazine in the late 1990s.[[1] (http://auto.consumerguide.com/pss/collectible/index.cfm?act=toc)]

During these same years, the 455 in³ (7.5 L) V8 was replaced by a 403 in³ (6.6 L), due to government fuel efficiency standards, and the downsizing of the rest of the line left the Toronado as the largest Oldsmobile. This generation was probably helped in the sales race by the radical "boat-tail" (image (http://www.musclecarclub.com/musclecars/buick-riviera/images/buick-riviera-1973a.jpg)) design of the contemporary Buick Riviera, since during this period the Toronado outsold its Buick cousin for the first time.


The third generation (image (http://encyclopedia.classicoldsmobile.com/toronado/79.jpg)) ran from 1979 through 1985. This was a seriously downsized model and carried V8 engines of 350 in³ (5.7 L) and later 307 in³ (5.0 L). More startlingly, a larger version of Buick's V6 was made availableó252 in³ (4.1 L), up from 231 in³ (3.8 L), and also a diesel V8, converted from Olds' well-regarded gasoline-powered 350 in³ (5.7 L) V8. The V6 was not popular, though, and the diesel conversion acquired a terrible mechanical reputation, becoming a genuine black eye for Oldsmobile.

Rear independent suspension was adopted and helped preserve usable rear-seat and trunk space in the smaller body. Trim packages under the XSC and Caliente names were offered, and digital instrumentation appeared. This Toronado, along with its Riviera and Eldorado cousins, were the last body-on-frame, front-wheel drive cars.


Missing image
Race-modified 1986 Oldsmobile Toronado

The fourth and, as it proved, final generation (image (http://encyclopedia.classicoldsmobile.com/toronado/87.jpg)) ran from 1986 to 1992. It was smaller yet, used a unitized body structure, and was the first Toronado since 1969 to feature hidden headlights. V8s were gone, and the 231 in³ (3.8 L) 3800 V6 was the only powerplant. Along with the similarly shrunken Eldorado and Riviera, the car suffered a serious sales decline which would never be reversed. A sportier model under the Trofeo name didn't help much, nor did an elaborate electronic instrument cluster or a final facelifting in 1990.

Although Cadillac and Buick were readying new designs which would revive the Eldorado and Riviera in the 90s, Oldsmobile had too much trouble elsewhere to put resources into a weak model in a declining coupe market, and 1992 was the last year for Toronado, one of General Motors' most innovative and memorable nameplates.

All Toronado's of this generation were built in Hamtramck, Michigan. The final Oldsmobile Toronado rolled off the assembly line on May 28, 1992.


  • 1986-1992 3.8 L (231 in³) V6

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