The Oldsmobile Toronado was sold from 1966 through 1992. It was built as a low-priced luxury car with excellent performance and a revolutionary design. The name Toronado has no meaning; it was made up for a 1963 Chevrolet show car.
The American automobile manufacutrer Cord had created a vehicle in the mid-1930's that used front-wheel drive. Since that time most American automobiles used rear-wheel drive. The Toronado, a full-sized American car using front wheel drive, is credited with revolutionizing and stimulating the industry to use the front-wheel design. A few European manufacturers, such as Morris/Austin with the Mini, had been utilizing the benefits of front-wheel drive. For the American Automotive Community, it was a risky concept. The front-wheel design was viewed as a reason why Cord had gone bankrupt. Many were skeptical of having the front of the vehicle handle most of the weight, be responsible for steering and braking, and drive the car.
GM's design chief William L. Mitchell was tasked with creating the Toronado. The styling was bold and the V8 engine was powerful. The engine was placed behind the front wheels to address the problems of front-drive designs such as weight bias. With 385 horsepower and 54%/46% front/rear weight distribution, the vehicle was fast and the handling was excellent.
During the year of introduction, it was awarded the coveted 'Car of the Year' by Motor Trend. The 'Car Life's Award for Engineering Excellence' was also bestowed up the Toronado.
When it was introduced, it was available as a two-door hardtop coupe. The only engine available was a 385 horsepower, 425 cubic-inch V8 engine. 34,630 examples were produced.
In 1967, the Toronado received minor aesthetic changes. The 425 cubic-inch V8 was the only engine available. Over 20,000 examples were created.
The big news for 1968 was the introduction of the 455 cubic-inch V8 rated at 375 horsepower. Minor aesthetic changes were made to the front of the vehicle including the fenders and grille. Over 26,000 examples were created.
For 1969, a vinyl top became optional equipment. The 425 and 455 engines were still available. The rear of the vehicle was updated to offset the changes that had been made to the front of the vehicle.
1970 was the final year for the first-generation Toronado. A GT version was introduced. The GT featured dual exhausts, a nugget-gold metallic, a GT hood badge, notched rear bumper, and 400 horsepower from the 455 cubic-inch V8. With a zero-to-sixty time of only 7.5 seconds, the Toronado GT was sneaking into muscle-car territory. Only 5,341 GT's were created, making it a highly collectable and sought-after vehicle. There were over 20,000 examples of the 2-door coupes for 1970.
In 1971, the second generation Toronado was introduced and lasted until 1978. The vehicle was more luxurious and less sporty then its predecessor. It is also recognized as being one of the first vehicles to use high-mounted auxiliary brake lights. From 1974 through 1976, General Motors equipped the vehicle with airbags, another safety innovation that was foreign at the time.
In 1977 and 1978 the XS model was introduced. It featured a hot wire 'bent-glass' rear window.
Due to increasing safety and government regulations, and fuel shortages the entire industry was down-sizing the output of their engines. The 455 V8 engine was replaced by a 403 cubic-inch power-plant.
The third generation ran from 1979 through 1985. A variety of engines were offered during this time including diesel, gasoline, V6, and V8 flavors. All were seriously de-tuned and offered fuel-economy over performance.
Independent suspension was placed on the rear of the vehicle. This not only improved the performance of the vehicle, but also the quality of the ride.
The fourth generation of the Toronado was introduced in 1986 and lasted until 1992. The vehicle continued to decrease in size and sales. The only engine available was the 231 cubic-inch V6.
On May 28, 1992, the final Oldsmobile Toronado rolled of the Hamtramck, Michigan assemble line. After a long and successful production life span, the vehicle was no longer produced.By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2007