1966 Oldsmobile Toronado Deluxe: Before GM ran out of Style

Front wheel drive isn’t for everyone, and I’ll be the first to admit that I generally prefer the back wheels propelling me down whichever back road I choose. That said, FWD has its place, as proven by the billions and billions served by McToyonda. However, before the Camry was a gleam in some uninteresting fellow’s eye, the guys at GM decided that FWD was worth a go, and they built the Toronado (and the Riviera and Eldorado). The specs read brilliantly: 425 cubic inches, 385hp, pop-up headlights, power seats, windows, air conditioning – everything anyone could want in a sporting GT, at least in a big, chrome-laden American muscle GT. But what’s this? FWD. Find this nice silver on black GM exec-ordered example here on eBay, where the auction will end soon and we’re guessing will not meet reserve.

Consider when the Toronado was released: it was 1966, American cars were generally square, and really, really long. The Beatles tried LSD, and apparently some of the engineers at GM may have as well. Not that the result was bad – quite the contrary. Instead it was different. It was one of the last designs to come out of the General that was truly unique until, well…. The Toro’s designers borrowed styling cues from some of the best, most notably the 1936-37 Cord 810/812, from which it borrowed in concept it’s slatted grille, pop-up lights, and wheel well accents. Clearly the designers at Olds were working with a design brief to build a modern day version of the progressive Cords of 30 years earlier.

As you read the specs for the Toro, or at least as I do, the thought that comes immediately to mind is “torque steer – and lots of it.” Apparently the engineers wrestled with this problem, but came to a workable solution. Despite oodles of power and torque, the Toro is essentially void of any torque steer, thanks to the longitudinally-mounted engine, a specially modified GM TH425 three-speed automatic, and the Hy-Vo chain which connected the torque converter to the transmission. Front/rear balance and braking with the four-wheel drum brakes were another story altogether. For casual cruising, the setup was more than adequate to get you and your three closest friends where they wanted to go quickly and with a bit of style and comfort.

Style was the name of the game inside the Toro as well – with bags of chrome, gauges, and accessories all over. The one thing I would change on this car, although not a dealbreaker in this case, would be bucket seats and console in place of the column shift. I’m always one to rest my hand on a shifter when I cruise, and would miss it here, although the fold-down center armrest would help make up for it. Another unique feature of the Toronado was the flat passenger compartment floor – unheard of in its day. The gauges are extensive, but the “Showcase Showdown” style wheel of speed would take some getting used to. Cruise control, electric trunk release, and signal-seeking am/fm radio were more of the modern top-of-the-line features that Toro buyers could opt for.

The appeal of this particular Toro is the attractive color combination, relative condition, and the detailed history it comes with. While not a show queen, any 60s American car fan could be very happy with this, and I’ll bet it would get some attention at the local Cars and Coffee. For the buyer with deep pockets and a little vision, take a look at this ’66 Toronado from Jay Leno’s Garage. Different car altogether (starting with the rear-wheel drive), but cosmetically kept very original. These are great cars for those who hearken to the days when American cars were the world standard – the days before the EPA and DOT got overly involved, and badge engineering became a way of life.

~ Reed

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One response to “1966 Oldsmobile Toronado Deluxe: Before GM ran out of Style

  • Doug

    entertaining write-up. The Cord tie-in and comparing the differences in style at the time were good.

    My Father customized one of his Toros that included buckets. He retained the column shift. While that would make you miss the fold down armrest (and the floor shift), it emphasizes the flat floor, remarkably. Talk about a sensation of room, especially from the rear seat.

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