(first posted 8/19/2016) A humble confession: This car has been pestering me continually throughout ten vain attempts at some degree of literary (in)justice over the last fifteen months. While this continual plea for adequate attention could be perceived as frustrating, it really hasn’t been – it has led to a mind-blowing epiphany. Of sorts.
So what exactly is this spine-tingling, bladder control losing epiphany? This grand realization is the Oldsmobile Toronado was one of the most malleable cars of its time, easily reflecting its period in history better than nearly anything else available. Don’t believe me? Let’s put our Turbo-Hydramatic in Drive and go for a spin.
Introduced in 1966, the Toronado was front-wheel drive in an ocean of rear-drivers and visually quite unlike anything else being sold in the United States at the time. It was quite the automotive sensation, despite some key components – primarily the brakes – not being fully sorted.
Other items, such as the Unitized Power Package (UPP) would be highly durable in a number of applications, not only in subsequent Toronados, but also in less obvious applications, such as the GMC motorhome of the 1970s.
The Toronado’s front-wheel drive was proving its adaptability – and malleability.
Oldsmobile really banged the public relations drum to tell everyone about how different the Toronado was from anything else at the time. It was certainly eye-catching and made for a novel entry in the personal luxury coupe market.
In a way, the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado was like Nancy Sinatra. Carrying a familiar name with known DNA, it was a similar type of eye-catching shape but with a distinctly different flavor. Like the UPP, Nancy put her boots into a number of applications.
It’s also amazing how many topless pictures of her pop up in a Google search – she was no longer twenty-six when she was photographed, and what I saw is definitely a reflection of durability. Sort of like our featured Toronado.
But times were quickly changing; walking in your boots was woefully out of step in the new sandal-laden age of aquarius. There had been a distinct change of guard in the White House, social upheavals were as frequent as the tides, and it was all fodder for lampooning on such shows as Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. What had been stylish and in vogue in 1966 was suddenly so four years ago.
By 1970, the Toronado had grown a bigger butt and had a face that resembled a person whose eyes were set too closely together. By this time the Toronado was not exactly the most elegant conveyance ever produced by General Motors, but it worked reasonably well for the times if a person liked a vinyl veneer on their cellulite. Sales were around 26,000, an amount which had been fairly consistent since the sophomore 1967 models.
The Toronado for 1970, with its poor space utilization in a front-wheel drive package, offered no lack of mixed messages and visual turmoil. Much like the times themselves, Oldsmobile was walking a bridge over troubled water.
Perhaps that bridge was crossed on a midnight train to Georgia.
Then came the 1971 models, a car that remained virtually unchanged physically for 1972, and a redefining of what constitutes a Toronado. Like the new GM B- and C-bodies that year, the E-body Toronado appeared to have succumbed to a bad case of what is called, in medical terms, Funkolicious Lardassification.
Yet surprisingly, weight was only up fifty to eighty pounds. The Toronado still tipped the scales at a delightfully porkulent 4,500 pounds – enough to make the Olds 455 cubic inch (7.4 liter) V8 standard equipment since 1968. Of course, Olds was also looking for some degree of prestige, so a big engine helped mold and shape that perception.
In a move that once again kept its finger on the pulse of society, Oldsmobile encapsulated all that is 1972 (and 1971) into a Toronado that comprehensively reflected its times.
This early second generation Toronado almost comes with its own soundtrack. And, no, that Outta Space title is not a reference to someone trying to park one of these. Despite any nay-saying these aren’t liking trying to maneuver a self-propelled football field or Mega-Mart; at 220″, the Toronado is only a foot longer than an A-body of the same year.
Should you doubt what I submit as an unmitigated reflection of the times by the Toronado, let’s consider another iteration of the second generation before I delve any further…
While distinctly different in appearance, and again reinforcing my thesis on the malleability of the Toronado, how many are able to look at the 1977 Toronado and not hear this? Or even this?
T-tops, wide whites, and a red gut do rather resemble the open shirt, gold chains, and polyester that defined the disco era.
In finding this particular Toronado, I could not remember a time in which I’ve ever seen another example from either 1971 or 1972. I’ve seen a few 1973 models, but those were also the zenith of all-time Toronado sales at 55,000. The 1972 model was knocking on that door with 49,000 finding homes.
One trait of this Toronado, likely a simple styling gimmick, was a definite glimpse into the future. See the rectangle beneath the left side of the rear window? It had a twin on the right side, and served as a third (and fourth) brake light. The blinkers were also wired into these lights, trumping the brake light on that particular side if attempting to make a turn.
While used to some degree during the 1940s, such a light – in a singular fashion and without signaling ability – would be federally mandated on automobiles sold in the United States starting with model year 1986. A taste of the future – and aren’t most cars now front-wheel drive?
The early 1970s were confusing times (or so I hear as I don’t remember much before 1976) and even those in the higher echelons of GM seemingly weren’t immune, despite so many of them appearing to inhabit a glass bubble of sorts.
For me, the confusion of the 1970 Toronado evolved into different forms of confusion for 1971 (and 1972) with its epicenter being the demeanor of its air-inlet containing Pontiac-esque schnoz.
See what I’m saying about that front end? The front of this Toronado seems to have almost as much Pontiac DNA as a Bonneville with a vinyl toupee.
One of the many prior versions of this article postulated this front-end was the product of internal espionage carried out by a cherubic faced intern being cajoled with alcohol and hash brownies by naughty Pontiac design executives. However, I determined that to be too heavy handed as the front end wasn’t the only design element the Toronado cribbed from another GM division.
The profile of the 1972 Toronado, primarily the greenhouse, was a duplicate of that used in the prior generation Cadillac Eldorado.
If it worked for Cadillac, it could work well at Oldsmobile. You can’t blame GM for wanting to build upon their premium priced success from Cadillac. It’s just good business.
There would be a repeat performance of this approach in a few years when the roof line from the 1975 Cadillac Seville was grafted onto the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme sedan (and Buick Century and Pontiac Bonneville and Chevrolet Malibu).
It wasn’t like sharing rooflines and trickle down styling was any newly created practice at GM. Most reports indicate GM had experienced an admirable degree of success and market penetration while doing so during the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
It just took decades of repeat performances before anyone called foul. The resulting ruckus did have substantial merit due to the recipients being so closely related. Yet, in a smaller sense, it always seemed like much ado about nothing as this wasn’t exactly a new practice.
Previously performing such skin grafts on the lower production Toronado was acknowledged but not criticized. When these were introduced for 1971, the Toronado was seen as a great alternative to a used Eldorado as it combined the styling with a slighter lower price.
Thinking about my original theory, it has become abundantly clear I need to amend it to reflect broader thinking. I do so as there have been just enough instances of the Toronado not being only malleable but also being more than slightly clairvoyant.
The Toronado saw its best sales years during the 1970s; Oldsmobile would follow a similar trajectory, sometimes even being the third best-selling brand in the United States.
These peak years at Oldsmobile were accompanied by a downsized 1979 Toronado, perhaps the best looking one after the original 1966 model.
A tragic, and second, downsize in 1986 resulted in a two-thirds drop in sales down to a level of roughly half that of the 1967 to 1970 models, wounds from which the Toronado would never recover, with the nameplate being axed after 1992.
Oldsmobile, as we all likely know, continued its downward spiral of relevancy until it ingloriously bit the dust in 2004.
Thus, I submit the Toronado was ultimately a predictor of sorts for Oldsmobile itself, a tea-leaf reading symbol of what was to come. There aren’t a tremendous number of cars that can claim similar.
Based upon this theory, it appears the Toronado, while one of the best and most malleable automotive barometers of its time, also knew when and how to make a graceful exit.
Found June 2015, Wichita, Kansas
Another example of corporate design making a pigs ear out of a silk purse.
If you want to talk about prognostication, the second-generation Toronado could also be ordered with ABS (rear-only) and later in the generation could be had with airbags!
I had forgotten about the ABS! In researching this, I did read your most comprehensive article on the life of the Toronado – it is a terrific piece of work.
The rear ABS, also offered on the Eldorado, is a really interesting thing because it suggests some people at GM did listen and take seriously the complaints about the brakes of the first-generation Toronado (and FWD Eldorado), which had a lot to do with premature rear lockup due to the forward weight bias. Of course, you had to pay extra for a partial solution, which I don’t think a lot of people did.
A lot of good insight, Jason, on a generation of the Toronado that often escapes my attention. I guess I’d have to rank this as my least favorite Toronado generation, although I do have a certain fondness for the 1977-1978 models with their revised fascias and especially in XSR trim with the bent glass and T-tops.
It just seems there were a number of cars in the 1971 to 1973 era that were simply not the most fortunate outcome of the designers imagination. In one of many iterations of this, the hash brownie loving intern soon went to work at Chrysler and helped design the 1972 Plymouth Fury, another car with an unfortunate outcome.
The thing that evades my comprehension is that even the teeny tiny, 2+2 sportster looking 1986 downsize of the Toronado manages to measure in at practially the same size as a Mercedes S-Class of the same years. How did they manage to make cars this small this large?
The 89 restyle was pretty close to the S class but the 86 was over a foot shorter, more the size of a W124.
Funkolicious lardassification! I love it. Good stuff, Jason. I’m also a sucker for cultural references in writing, so you hit all the buttons. 🙂
Back in college, I dated a girl whose dad had a bright red ’72 Toronado parked out in the driveway, and it never moved while I hung around. Apparently, my girlfriend at the time drove it as a daily driver at one point (she was several years older than I was), and that was always a fun image thinking of her driving that thing around. Even though I loved old cars, the Toronado didn’t exactly spark any particular interest for me. It’s too bad it wasn’t a ’66. 🙂
Nicely, nicely written… The Toronado is a car which broke my heart. The original was so beautiful – and, well – original. I really thought it was pointing to the future of American cars. And, as Jason so elegantly observes, it was… However I picked up on all the wrong clues.
(Rhetorical Question here) What the Hell happened at GM in (1968?). GM went from experimenting with new ideas on a single car line (e.g. Corvair) to a pattern of “Great Leaps Forward” almost all of which failed to make their leaps and landed in the mud.
In 1969, I had my life path through the GM hierarchy all planned out – Chevy II, then a Firebird, then an Olds 442, then an Olds Vista Cruiser wagon for the family (kids and a wife were one the checklist), an Eldorado for my commuter, and a nice Buick Electra when I retired.
By 1975, I wasn’t even considering a GM car, and in fact have never owned one….
According to John DeLorean, GM senior management, used to dominating most mainstream classes on volume, was already worried by 1969 about not making enough money per unit, so the trend was to cut costs out of the product rather than improving it to increase conquest sales or increase customer satisfaction. When that was applied to mainstream ideas that were more of a technical departure from the norm, well…
Let me preface this by saying I like all generations of Toronado, even the ugly ducklings. My fantasy garage however has a 1979 model with the 350 V8 that was only available for that model year.
Re: cribbing rooflines and styling cues – “How do you like your Oldsmobuick?”
The 1966 Tornado is simply one of the most beautiful cars ever built. The hood, the wheels, the headlight doors, the rear deck – all perfectly blended and a visual masterpiece. Sure, FWD was totally useless on a car like this, but at the time it was just GM being GM. So mighty and powerful that it could do anything it wanted, offering solutions for non-existent problems.
I always liked the lines on the 1971, although it was too big. The cool high level stop lamps were a first and quite distinctive.
The 1979 was quite nice as well, perfectly sized, attractive and a nice package. If there was any downside, they looked too similar to the Rivera and Eldo.
Regarding the 1986, it makes me sick just to look at it.
Always liked the ’79 thru ’85 Toronado. If I had been several years older, it would have been in my driveway. Instead, the Cutlass Supreme fell into my age bracket and in my driveway. So miss that car!!
Still pissed that GM fumbled the Olds franchise and threw all the resources at Buick.
An excellent idea that I had never thought of, but you are right – this car really did mirror its era like few others.
When my mother was new car shopping in 1972, most of her time was spent at the Olds dealership while the salesman tried to locate a Cutlass Supreme coupe late in the model year. One of these Toros was on the showroom floor, and to my mind, it was a sort of exotic untouchable. Mom certainly wasn’t going to buy one (too expensive) but neither was anyone else in my extended family (too exotic), who would load up on Cutlasses and Delta 88s.
Only years later can I look at the front end of this car and notice what a huge botch-job it is. The rest of the car is attractive, but that front is just bad.
Only years later can I look at the front end of this car and notice what a huge botch-job it is. The rest of the car is attractive, but that front is just bad.
That was pretty much the case with the Toronado for the entire span between 1968 and 1985. I’d say this generation and the generation to follow looked way better everywhere else than the Eldorado and Riviera(the non boattail)
Strangely enough, I rather like the front on this car. Grilles under the headlights and a blank centre section looks kinda neat, like something a customizer might do, and certainly as un-Cadillac as you could get. Product differentiation, maybe that’s why they went with that look.
No way was I in a position to buy one in ’72 though, and the (lack of) gas mileage would scare me off owning one now.
The grilles under the headlights were quite un-Cadillac like, they were more of a LaSalle design feature. Possibly the look Olds was shooting for in their step-down Eldorado.
On the Simon and Garfunkel album, if you set your screen so that the word “water” doesn’t show, it also blocks Paul Simons face making Art Garfunkel look like he has a big handlebar mustache. Yes kids, this is how we entertained ourselves before the Internet.
That’s how I saw it reading the text, fake handlebar mustache was my first thought lol
Everyone sitting around looking at album covers and listening to the music. Or listening to the music and watching Saturday night horror films with the TV’s sound off. The good old days.
I got myself curious, quite the political
The Pontiac cribbing doesn’t end at the nose!
No denying it!
That, combined with this:
I always thought the 71-72 Toronado looked like THE perfect garage “companion” to Clark Griswold’s Family Truckster. For such a very long car, it’s amazing that it was built/pitched to potential customers as a personal luxury COUPE. The 1st “downsized” models, I always felt, suffered in comparison to their Buick and Cadillac “sisters”. IMHO, those smaller Oldsmobiles didn’t look so much like an Olds as they looked like a non-Buick. The 86 Toronado PROBABLY (though what do I know), suffered a big sales drop not because of their looks, but because all these sporty/luxury personal coupes were “losing ground” to SUVs.
The 1971 Toronado was not bigger than the Chevrolet Impala of that year. The 66 Toronado was a bit shorter than the 66 Impala, but not much. The 71 Toronado looked too much like an Eldorado I think.
Kinda sad to see this nice old car sitting with the tire going flat…
I don’t want a Toronado and never did but I think they were cool halo cars and I like the general looks of this one .
All the Toronado owners I’ve even known loved them fiercely .
“All the Toronado owners I’ve even known loved them fiercely.”
I have an American friend who owned a ’72. That comment is certainly true of him.
I loved all the pop culture references in this article! I was born in 1964, the very tail end of the Boomers, so Disco music was hitting its peak when I started high school in the fall of 1978. I remember the new GM E-bodies that fall and thinking how much nicer they were than what came before (though I must admit I’ve always kinda liked the ’77-’78 Riviera, which was really nothing more than a LeSabre coupe gussied up).
Thanks for a great trip down memory lane!
This is perhaps the only car that I remember mostly for its brake lights. For some reason, those high-mounted auxiliary lights always struck me as a neat and unique feature. As for the rest of the 4,500-or-so pound bulk of early-70s Toronados, I’ve always had difficulty remembering one model year from another.
If there was a magazine called Tail Light World, then this should have been their Car Of The Year!
Nice cultural references throughout. Well done!
Having owned a ’72 Pontiac Grandville, I picked up on the Toronado connection some time ago. It’s not a bad thing that Pontiac did not pick up on this front end for the Grand Prix, the GP was generally a better looking car
I did not realize the UPP went into the GMC motorhome. Interesting that GM picked up on the motorhome craze in the ’70s, but obviously gave up on it. I wonder if they were ever profitable, and how they were sold, probably not the GM car dealer network.
I did think the GMC motorhome was about the coolest looking coach you could buy. For as conventional as my tastes can be, I really liked their space age looks, and from the normal distance that I saw them from, they seemed well put together.
The GMC motorhome would make a great CC article.
An object of my youthful lust (Ms. Sinatra was too old for me)…….
Great piece, Jason! Very effective use of the Olds Toronado as a metaphor for both the times, and also for Oldsmobile’s fortunes throughout the Toro’s production run.
I also loved the second set of brake lights / turn signals on these, as well as on the restyled 1974 – ’77 Buick Rivieras. I used to love it when Mom or Dad would drive behind one in traffic, just to watch those things light up.
It’s mimicking the trajectory of Olds hit me toward the end and it felt like a ton of bricks. Definitely not my original path but it sure seemed to fit.
I must say Jason, you certainly are a gifted writer and a near-genius for putting an article together and tying it in with all those photos!
Thank you. Out of nearly 400 articles here, this one has been one of the more challenging to find what to say.
In profile, these Toronados always reminded me of a bison, — undeniably powerful, but disproportionately heavy in front .I read an interview with the car’s stylist, and he said safety concerns stemming from a near accident. But the placement also recalls a styling element from Oldsmobile’s history. Check out the distinctive location of the taillights of Olds’s 1938 models.
Toronados of this vintage have never seemed common–can’t remember the last time I saw one, if ever. They really are a curious mishmash of styling cues, too, growing ever more conventional over the course of the generation (with the exception of the peculiar though cool backlight on the XSR.)
I feel like this is a car that I can acknowledge that the styling doesn’t work, but I still like it somehow. I wonder if people will feel that way about the Aztek in 2046?
I think it is weird looking like a grill less Pontiac. None of them ever looked as good as a riviera. I like the 79-85 best, but not as much as a mark vi or imperial or a riv. Or Eldorado. The 86 is horrible. Cheaper to put emblems on a Calais. I think the most fun would be a black primer 72-78 with a less that perfect body and a loud exhaust. Everyone would get out of the way of that.
The subject Toro reveals the ghoulishness of its Herman Munster (or was it Lurch) face perfectly. One of the few cars whose looks were improved by federal 5 mph bumpers in later life.
I want to like these – especially given the basic ’67 Eldorado shape – but that front end is bordering on the grotesque, and then the 5 MPH rear bumper law made Oldsmobile ugly up the rear too. For a large personal luxury coupe, the ’73-78 Toronado is surprisingly bland and lacking in character. I would have saved thousands and just bought a Pontiac Grand Prix.
As for the other E-Bodies, the Eldorado looks too big and bloated (although the ’75-78 models were an improvement) and the Riviera is much, much nicer. Even the semi-bustleback ’74-76 has so much more character than the Toro.
That ad (or catalog page) for the XSR with the power retracting T-tops was a bit of an embarrassment for GM, because the literature was released, but the car was never produced. GM farmed the T-top work out to ASC, two prototypes were built, but at the last minute GM decided the setup wasn’t reliable enough for production and pulled the plug. Instead they sold the same car with the bent rear glass and a conventional moonroof as the XS.
The Toronado prototypes survived and are in collector hands now. In addition, ASC, having built a number of sets of the T-top assemblies as a preproduction run, installed them in ’78 Eldorados, and most or all of them are still around.
Wow, I really don’t see the hideous car/ugly styling/horrible grille that everyone else on here seems to see – I guess to each his own!
Much of it stems from the fact that it couldn’t look further from what it did in 1966-67, and while looks are subjective the 66 was undeniably original, not a mid market clone of a top tier product as the 71s were – which I do think looked way better than the 71 Eldorado! – It’s one of those cars that made such an initial splash that any followup is going to be met with criticism for tarnishing the model name, regardless of merits or even sales success. Just look at the Mustang – any year(s) deviating from 3-tier taillights, C shaped side sculpting and forward protruding grille like the 65 is met with intense scorn from “enthusiasts” to this day.
Very true Matt!
I had a customer who bought one of these new and held on to it until his death in the late 90s. He was kind of an obsessive compulsive type (retired engineer). He kept the car in pristine condition but he bought additional trim scripts from the dealer. The hood had its original Oldsmobile script on the right side and a matching script on the left side. Same for the trunk lid. Excessive scripting aside, given the opportunity, I would have snapped up that car in a heartbeat.
I would have liked a spoiler alert/warning before I saw the Bee Gees picture 🙂
Because I’m at Whataburger and its pouring outside.
Great article. I’m a die-hard 66 Toronado fan, with less appreciation for each model year thereafter. However, as a guy who is 6’6, the drivers seat in the first and second generations were the most comfortable and roomy cars I’ve sat in – the lack of a transmission hump offers great legroom.
My childhood friends parents had a 71 Toro, great car as long as you don’t try to turn or stop. But man was it fast! The best part was laying a patch and having as the smoke come in the front windows.
I did a Google image search on Nancy Sinatra and not a single photo was topless. What am I doing wrong? (“safe search” is off)…
I found the 66-78 Toronados to be frustrating cars. Here was a car with flat floors front and rear, and loads of width, which should have made them ideal family cars for up to 6 passengers in that era (or 8 if they made a wagon version). If FWD wasn’t enough of an harbinger of the future, it also had high-mounted brake and turn indicator lamps, available dual front airbags, and available ABS (at least for the rear wheels). Instead, they built a close-cropped coupe with tight rear legroom, a long hood, and a short deck – proportions that make no sense on a FWD car and made it not all that well suited as a large family car. The only real advantage of the FWD for buyers was the superior bad-weather traction, when it could have been space efficiency and fuel economy as well. I never cared for the looks of the second-gen model either – too formal, and it got worse over the years as opera windows and the like were added, and the new loose-pillow seats made the center positions even less comfortable since the cushions don’t cover that area.
The smaller ’79 model seemed like a huge step in the right direction, and mostly it was, but they made it considerably narrower, really designing it for four people. Another waste of those flat floors. And the tiny ’86 Toro didn’t even have flat floors anymore, just as well since the front had a center console and the rear didn’t have enough legroom.
“Midnight Train to Georgia” was originally written and sung by Jim Weatherly as “Midnight Plane to Houston”, but Cissy Houston (Whitney’s mom, and Dionne Warwick’s aunt) who recorded it a few years later evidently didn’t think flying to Houston was worth singing about so changed the destination and mode of transportation, and Gladys Knight & the Pips retained those changes. The rest of the song stayed the same, and was based on a phone conversation between Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett early in their relationship.
GIS “nancy sinatra topless” gives plenty of corresponding results where I’m sitting…
It’s been a few years so the algorithm may have changed. But I do remember seeing lots of Nancy. 🙂
Me. Well she went nude in Playboy back in 1995!. I have just finished reading a road test in the British “Car” magazine from1966. They were frustrated that such an advanced car, from the British perspective, could not stop!. After 0-60 mph tests the drums faded down to nothing… Bear in mind that cars were not expected to brake line they do today and front discs were just coming onto the market lime the USA!. With decent brakes the car could have been the American “Bentley Continental.”
“Gobi Beige” is the color of the subject car. The last new car my dad owned was a 70 Cutlass 4-door in this exact paint/vinyl combo.
A friend’s drove a ’67 Toronado, and eventually replaced it with a ’72. Those two cars were like night and day, and not just stylistically. I loved the look of the ’67, and though I was too young to drive it seemed to me that it was a fairly good handling large car for the era, and clearly had good power. The ’72 was much more a two-door luxury barge… very smooth ride and very quiet vs the earlier car.
The styling of the ’66-67 was light-years better than all successors… just my opinion of course.
Why would anyone, wanting an Oldsmobile, want a “Thunderbird” version of one? It’s Oldsmobile, for crying out loud. Cadillac had a market for Eldorado, but Oldsmobile never had a market for Toronado. Cadillac did not have a compact car, or a subcompact car, or an intermediate sized car. It was either full size Cadillac, or Eldorado. Not so with Oldsmobile.
So Toronado competed against every luxury version of Oldsmobile’s full size line. Why get a Toronado, if you could get a Ninety-Eight coupe? Or another full-size coupe? Or a Cutlass? Or an Omega? This is Oldsmobile, not Chevrolet.
Ford struggled with the Thunderbird. When the Toronado was launched, the Thunderbird also underwent a market crisis. It ended up growing into a four-door, then a Mark IV copy, then a luxury Torino, then a luxury Fairmont, until finally finding new life as an Aerobird during the 1990s. Mallable? Thunderbird was going through something very similar. But it is Ford, not Oldsmobile.
What surprises me is how long Oldsmobile was able to get GM to produce a car they didn’t need to produce. I guess that is where sharing technology with Eldorado worked in Olds’ favor.
Also remember the struggles Riviera went through. Very similar to Toronado, but Riviera didn’t have the FWD or budget. It held on as long as it did because it wasn’t as expensive to produce. Yet the question is similar – why buy a Riviera when you can get many other Buick full size coupes?
The entire market for these cars was dodgy. Once Buick and Oldsmobile produced intermediate, compact and subcompact cars with Buick and Oldsmobile “panache”, why did they even need a full size luxury coupe to compete against their other full sized luxury coupes?
Personal-luxury coupes were to the 1970s what higher-end mid-sized crossovers are to the 2020s. They’re so popular, there’s room in the lineup for two or three cars that aren’t all that different. Of those you mentioned, I think the Riviera suffered the most from lack of distinction from other big Buicks on the ’74-76 models and again on the ’77-78. The Toro and Eldo at least had FWD and somewhat different looks to set them apart. The T-Bird coasted on its reputation from the ’50s and ’60s when it really was unique to help sales in the ’70s. Again, it was a personal luxury coupe sold it sold despite the similarities to other FoMoCo products.
Good article, I enjoyed reading it again. You are right the car is adaptable. I was just watching a Rockford Files episode and it had a 1973 Toronado with a Oh-So-Trendy opera window. Clearly not stock, but perhaps dealer-installed. I don’t think it looks good, but people in the 70’s had a different opinion.
(I meant to place this in reply to Jon Stephenson’s post but messed up)
That car fits him better than the Vega he once rented. (That was just sad)
I sort of remember that episode. Was he going to Vegas?
Garner had permanent back pain and the big comfy seats probably felt nice for a change.
No, a lady was paying him to keep her name out of a murder case and she gave him the rental Toronado they drove in, then her husband tried to have him killed in it. Of course, it turned out that her husband was the real murderer, who Rockford chased down in a 72 Ford Country Squire with the Toronado. Sounds confusing, but it was a good episode for cars!
When your in a real Canadian RUSH. Exit Stage Left.
I have a sorta CC effect to report. My partner and I saw a first gen Olds Aurora today, first time I’ve seen one in years. An Olds halo car.
As for the Toronado, as much as I love Oldsmobile, I have never remotely liked the Toronado. I always found it ugly, in every generation, and would definitely choose a different Olds every time.
The Aurora, on the other hand, oh my. I had to stop myself from walking over to the lady to talk about the car.
I remember these and thought WTH happened? It has one fugly front and dismissed the car from my mind.
The original was a stylish car but it was downhill from there untill the end.
The 70s Toronado looks lower in height than the Eldo and Riviera, but I’m too lazy to check. Because the FWD pushed the engine upward, they had to flatten the Eldo’s air cleaner and move it downward around the carb, yet the Olds’ hood looks even lower.
The side shot of the original sure makes it look like the longest hood ever done, got a V12 or a straight 8 under there?
The featured car is one god awful looking thing. Never saw many of these or did my mind shut out the hideous sightings?
I agree with kiwibryce — the original 1966 was a stunner, but the subsequent facelifts and redesigns ruined it, with the exceptions of the downsized 1979-85 models. The front end of the 1971-72 models is to put it mildly, unfortunate, and it can’t be blamed on bumper regulations.
Still, Olds blew a big opportunity — it would have made so much more sense to use the new FWD platform for the Vista Cruiser wagon, which had a 120-inch wheelbase and 3 rows of forward-facing seats.