Forward thinking while referencing the past, that’s what the Oldsmobile Toronado wished to do as a new concept in motoring for 1966.
Whether it was fully successful is a question left up to interpretation. As it stands it was a technological tour-de-force, and tempting dead end. Stylish, Suave and Sexy, it was a surprise image leader for Oldsmobile’s Where The Action Is years of the mid 1960’s.
GM had flirted with the concept of Front Wheel Drive for the better part of a decade. If certain engineers had their way, the new for 1961 F-85 Compact would have had a small displacement V6 and Front Wheel Drive. Part of the genesis of the Toronado came from those initial experiments with front wheel drive.
The basic design for the Toronado came from the “Flame” showcar, in itself a GM A-Body envisioned concept that would have made the Toronado a more “reasonable” package to put into production from a size and novelty perspective. Who wouldn’t want a sophisticated Mustang alternative from the folks in Lansing?
That unfortunately wouldn’t come to fruition as the bean counters began to descend on each of General Motors individual delusions of grandeur. Some cost saving and body sharing had to be done to justify the expense of all 3 of GM’s premium brands going for the Personal Luxury Market. The Toronado would share the basic body shell and dimensions of the full sized and slightly upsized redesigned 1966 Riviera and play host body for some technological grafting for the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado.
In a number of ways it was a revolution that wasn’t really televised. The Ford Thunderbird still continued to reign the supreme being of Personal Luxury Sales, despite the critical acclaim the Car Of The Year winning Toronado proved to be.
Between the two related cars, and competing traditional C-Body rear drive coupes, the public didn’t notice en masse what spetacular machines General Motors was offering them as the 1960’s marched on.
Fewer experiments with American vehicle tastes would come from the nation’s leading manufacturer as time wore on. The Toronado itself became less unique nearly year after year until the 1971 version debuted pretty much a recycled copy of what the 1967 Eldorado had been. It never carved out a particularly unique identity from points forward, wasting a prime opportunity to be one of the finer touring cars America had on offer.