In 1966 Oldsmobile came out with one of the most innovative cars in a long while. Designed by Bill Mitchell, one of the most famous and forward thinking designers in Detroit, the Toronado was the toast of the industry. It had a feature that hadn’t been seen on a full size American car for 30 years, which was front wheel drive, the first since the 1930 Cord. This along with the styling help win Toronado the Motor Trend Car of the Year Award for 1966.
The Toronado was a huge car with a 119 inch wheelbase and weighing 4,400 pounds. To get all this weight down the road in a respectable manner meant a big need for horsepower. This was supplied by a 425 cubic inch engine which, after some tinkering, put out 385 horsepower. Although not spectacular the statistics weren’t bad for this big a car. The 0-60 mph was reported as low as 7.5 seconds and as high as 9.9 seconds (probably closer to 8.5 to 9 seconds) and top speed was reported to be 135 mph.
The Oldsmobile Toronado began its life as a design painting by David North in 1962. Even though the design was for a compact sports type car, it ended up full sized because Oldsmobile was told it could build a car to compete with the Buick Riviera and Ford Thunderbird. Although Oldsmobile and General Motors Head of Styling Bill Mitchell wanted to car to be on an A-body intermediate platform, they were overruled for production economy and the Toronado would share the E-body of the Buick Riviera.
Starting in 1958 Oldsmobile had been working on a front-wheel drive. It was originally planned for the F-85, a much smaller car. The reason for pushing it towards the larger more expensive Toronado was because of the cost to produce along with the experimental cost. The idea was that additional profit from the more expensive car would help offset the development costs.
Seven years went into the development of the Toronado. Before releasing it to the public they put 1.5 million tough test miles on it to make sure the front wheel drive had the strength and reliability they wanted the Toronado to be noted for. Because Oldsmobile didn’t want any problems with the new design they over-built the Toronado drive train so much that they were able to use it without many changes for the GM motor home in the 1970s.
Naming the Toronado became a major event in the development of it. Even though the name doesn’t mean anything it won out over known names such as the Magnum, Scirocco and Raven which were also considered. During the seven years it took to develop the Toronado a number of General Motors design innovations were developed.
These included things such as the:
1. Turbo-Hydramatic 400 Heavy-duty 3-speed automatic transmission (named THM425 in FWD form)
2. The Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor from Rochester
3. Exhaust manifold flange gasket in a spherical shape to prevent leaks and provide a more efficient exhaust system.
4. Elimination of the front door wind wings to reduce wind noise by using the “Draft-Free” ventilation system.
5. Curved side glass.
6. Sub-frame ending at the front of rear leaf springs and carrying the powertrain, front suspension & floor pan.
7. Torsion bar front suspension
There were others but these were the most notable at the time.
The only weak spot of the Toronado appears to be the drum brakes which had a tendency to heat up and fade under heavy usage (trying to stop up to 5,000 pounds of car). This was corrected the next year when they put vented disk brakes on the front.
Firestone also designed a tire just for the Toronado called the TFD (Toronado Front Drive) which had a stiffer sidewall than normal with a unique tread and thin white wall stripe.
The Toronado had an unusual power train called the UPP (Unitized Power Package) which was designed to combine the engine and transmission into the same sized bay where just the engine would fit in a rear wheel drive car. To accomplish this, the transmission was split with the torque converter in back of the engine and the gear box under the left cylinder bank.
The interior of the Toronado featured a flat floor without a lot of notable embellishments. Being a coupe and with the
fastback the rear seat was somewhat limited in head room. It did have elongated doors making it easier to get in and out of the rear plus it had door handles in the rear so the doors could be opened without reaching.
Although the Toronado grabbed the buyers fancy and over 40,000 of them were sold in 1966, it appears the public was a little fickle and with the added competition of the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird were able to only sell 22,000 in 1967.
Today the 1966 Toronado along with the 1967 are among the most desirable collector cars around. I remember when they hit the showroom and the awe I was in while listening to the salesman recite all the wonderful things about the Toronado. The thing is he didn’t exaggerate, as I found out when I got to drive one. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
Muscle Car Club Website-http://www.musclecarclub.com/musclecars/oldsmobile-toronado/oldsmobile-toronado-history.shtml
Top Speed Website-http://www.topspeed.com/cars/oldsmobile/1966-1970-oldsmobile-toronado-ar761.html