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.
2 thoughts on “(Found In) The Bayview (San Francisco) – 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado”
Hello again Laurence. I’m really enjoying this site. Maybe you could put together a nice coffee table book? Your photography certainly deserves it. But back to the Toro. These sure looked futuristic back in 1966, still do today. As usual, the first couple of model years has the cleanest styling. By 1969 the “sheer look” of the roof pillar was lost to a more conventional green house. I believe that Oldsmobile division contributed the engineering of the FWD platform. This was a time when the individual divisions still had a lot of autonomy and were actually in competition with each other. There were some slight echoes of the coffin nosed Cord in the design, which will always remain a knock out. These things were real runners also. Unfortunately disc brakes were not made standard until ’69 or’70. Man, talk about brake fade! Remember back in driver’s training class when it was empathized that proper following distance was one car length for every ten miles per hour of speed? I just sold my ’70 Mustang with manual all wheel drums, that was how I drove it! Too bad Oldsmobile didn’t really understand what they had, they were better at marketing the evergreen Cutlass.