Cohort Classic; 1970 Oldsmobile Toronado – How To Adulterate A Design Classic In Five Easy Steps

photos posted by nifticus

This 1970 Toronado is a perfect example of how a truly original and groundbreaking design can be destroyed in just a few years. Every key element that made the ’66 unique was changed; Oldsmobile was obviously ashamed of it and did everything possible to disguise it as a Cutlass.

No, the rear-up stance on this one wasn’t part of that, and I have no explanation for it. It’s a look that’s typically seen on RWD muscle cars, so ironically it’s perfect; another way to make it look even more like Cutlass/442.

Admittedly, this one is actually as good as a 1970 Toronado gets, with its exposed vented steel wheels and no vinyl top. Like this one:

This is how Olds showed it in the 1970 Toronado brochure: as much disguised as possible.

Considering that Chevrolet was content to make only very minor changes to its Corvette for a number of years at a time, one does wonder why Olds didn’t do the same with the Toronado.

The ugly stick was first taken to its very distinctive front end in 1968. This was actually worse than the 1970 front end.

Then the Toro’s very unique and almost radical rear end came in for “normalization” in 1969. Combined with the ’58’s front end, maybe this is the worst one of the bunch.

The 1970 front end is a bit odd, but certainly better than the ’68-’69. The wrap-around element of the ’68-’69 utterly destroyed the prominent bladed front fenders; this one restores that to some extent.

And in 1970, the round prominent fender arches gave way to the squared off ones that were now the thing at Oldsmobile. That changed its character to no small degree.

Not only did the 1969 retograde restyle destroy the rear end, it put back what the ’66 Toronado had so daringly eliminated: any break between the C pillar and the lower half of the body; a true fuselage pioneer. The break line that continued to the peaked fender is just the way cars gad been for so long,before the ’66 Toronado broke the mold.  And the squared-off wheel opening was the final stroke. The only thing left was the basic roof line. That would have been too expensive to change.

The result were fender tips, in a way that was often seen on Mitchell-era cars. For that matter, the ’66 was very much not in the typical Mitchell mold; it was a distinctive shape first rendered by Dave North and Mitchell let him run with it, although it had to be enlarged to fit on the longer E Body shared with the Riviera.

I consider the ’66 front end to be a bit overwrought and overly-long, although I appreciate its relatively unique elements. But it’s the rear end and its hind quarters that really made it a true milestone car. And of course that was all gone by 1969.

Why did Olds make all these changes? Because the 41k sales in 1966 weren’t up to their expectations? I’m not sure just what those were, but the Riviera did sell 45k that year, so clearly the Toro wasn’t going to upset any apple carts. And in ’67, sales dropped rather badly to 22k. And stayed below 30k until 1972, when Toronado sales perked up, to 49k, presumably because the boat tail Riviera was a sinking.

It’s not a bad looking car; just not exceptional, like the original. Oh well… the annual model year change was a deeply ingrained concept, and must be obeyed, at all costs.

This is of course where all those changes were leading to: the utterly anodyne 1971 Toronado. Looks like a Monte Carlo crossed with an Eldorado. But by 1972, it was working, and in 1973, it set a peak for the big Toronado at 56k units. Conventionality sells.