Vintage Road and Track Review: 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado – Advanced and Regressive At The Same Time

The question posted under the title is of course easy to answer: Yes. The question remains though: Why did Oldsmobile chose a gigantic personal luxury coupe to re-introduce FWD for American cars? Most of the inherent advantages of FWD, such as better space utilization, were utterly wasted here. Yes, there’s no central tunnel, but who cares in a personal luxury coupe that typically had four bucket seats and a big console?

Meanwhile, Oldsmobile, GM “advanced technology division”, used utterly obsolete and downright dangerous drum brakes on the Toronado. FWD, with its inherent front weight bias, utterly overpowered drum brakes already very marginal on American RWD cars. That alone was a Deadly Sin, although I think the whole exercise was, except perhaps for the Toro’s flamboyant if impractical styling. But its body could just as easily have sat on the Riviera’s RWD chassis. If Oldsmobile had wanted to be truly advanced, they would have used the new FWD Unitary Power Package (“UPP”) in an equally advanced body concept, like a mini van or such.

Let’s not forget that the Toronado was a pretty significant sales dud, under-performing its projections. It wasn’t until GM’s X-cars in 1980 that a truly relevant GM FWD package was created.

There’s the key words: “To those who hoped that the Toronado would be a departure in American car design, the car must be a disappointment.”  True that. Flat floors in an expensive luxury coupe; what a great benefit. And the longest production post-war hood up that time, most of it wasted space. Must have been a fun car to park, especially with the terrible rear visibility. Ah, but it looks so awesome!

The brakes were thoroughly and rightfully panned. Feeble de-acceleration, poor control, rapid fade. An unmitigated flaw. And it’s not like disc brakes hadn’t been invented yet.

Yes, it worked well enough, for what it was, and had some inherent FWD advantages. But for the application, those really didn’t amount to much. The real advantages of FWD were largely wasted on the Toronado.

Related reading:

CC 1966 Olds Toronado: Let’s Try A Different Position – GM’s DS #16  PN

CC 1966 Olds Toronado: Personal Luxury, Oldsmobile Style  JPCavanaugh

Vintage Road Test Review of the 1966 Toronado  GN

Vintage Car and Driver Review of the 1966 Toronado  GN

The Great 28, Car #4: 1966 Toronado  Aaron65