Cohort Outtake: 1969 Oldsmobile Toronado – Crystal Blue Persuasion

Olds Toronado 1969

(first posted 12/15/2014. Updated 12/13/2020)    (Former) Cohort poster Joseph Dennis keeps putting up superb finds from the streets of Chicago that I find irresistible. This is a great candid shot of a 1969 Toronado. It’s a car that many, including myself, have criticized for losing the stylistic purity of the original ’66 Toronado, what with its heavy-handed loop bumper and extended trunk that destroyed the continuity of the sweeping roof line from its top to the rear bumper. But how can one not be in awe of this beast from a very different era?

Old Toronado 1969 fr

Now that we’ve gotten our love fest out of the way, let’s start…with the front end. For anyone who was around when the ’66 Toro came out, these big chrome lips were hard to take.

Oldsmobile 1966 Toronado_03

As hard as that model was trying to distract one’s eyes from the original front end, it just wasn’t going to happen. That was one of the boldest front ends ever, with those giant bladed fenders, hidden headlights, and Cord 810-inspired horizontal ribs. And then there was that clean, unbroken line flank that had no break at the beltline. So why all the uglification?

Update: I don’t remember if the title to this Toronado was by Joseph or me, but this time around we have to also celebrate the origins of that. Although I was mainly into more serious music in 1970 (Santana, “Bitches Brew” by Miles Davis, Procol Harum, Pink Floyd, etc.), I was not immune to the charms of pop rock that came across the AM radio at the Sunoco gas station where I worked every Saturday morning. Tommy James was getting a lot of airplay at the time, and Crystal Blue Persuasion was one of the better ones of his repertoire. Hearing it really takes me back, to a very optimistic mindset. “A new day is coming…” Well, some of it came, but I’m still mostly waiting.

Back to the original piece: Because the Toronado was a sales dud. Well, that might be a bit strong, but it was a disappointment, especially with all the huge effort at developing its front wheel drive powertrain, never mind the bold design. Whoever said that a high performance luxury coupe should have front wheel drive anyway? And not come with standard disc brakes? The Toro’s front drums were totally overwhelmed by all that weight on the front end. Meanwhile, GM kept building small cars that were deadly conventional. Yes, typical GM arrogance of the times. Which explains why I called the ’66 Toronado a Deadly Sin. Note: I never said it wasn’t dramatic, bold and very exciting for a 13 year-old’s brain. But it made no sense whatsoever; from an engineering or sales point of view. And history soon bore that out. Large, powerful luxury coupes all have RWD.

Olds toronado 1969 captivate

Which explains why Olds soon watered down the Toronado’s best design features, to make it look more conventional. And pretty much stopped mentioning its front wheel drive in the ads. A flat floor in a luxury coupe that typically came with bucket seats and a console just didn’t make for a very compelling sales pitch. Oh well…it seemed like a good idea at the time.