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1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
Ho-hum driving's out...Toronado's in!

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado


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Motor Trend Magazine's

The 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado was Oldsmobile Division's first true personal luxury car, which was designed from the ground up to compete with the Buick Riviera [links in this article will open in a new window], and the Ford Thunderbird. Prior to the Toronado, the Oldsmobile Starfire was promoted as a specialty performance two door whose target market was the personal luxury buyer, but since it shared many components with other Oldsmobile models, it didn't have the unique look required to set it apart. There wasn't room in the Olds lineup for two specialty models, so 1966 would be Starfire's final year in production until it returned in the mid-seventies as a small sports coupe. In its debut year, 40,963 Toronados were built in Oldsmobile's Lansing, Michigan facility, and it was the recipient of Motor Trend Magazine's Car of the Year award and Car Life Magazine's Award for Engineering Excellence. Not bad for year one!

The Toronado name first appeared on a 1963 Chevrolet show car, and was created specifically for that one off car. As such, there is no real meaning to the word "Toronado." Work on a new front wheel drive car at Oldsmobile Division began in 1958, which was also when Cadillac Division began work on the next version of the Eldorado Brougham, which was ultimately built for just 4 years, from 1957-1960. In 1959 Cadillac was testing a prototype, but the technology was unproven at that point in time, and was considered too unconventional and costly for a production automobile. By the third quarter of 1963, the Cadillac and Oldsmobile divisions merged their designs with project code XP-784, which would allow both Cadillac and Oldsmobile to share development costs and knowledge.

The 1966 Toronado's styling was based on a drawing completed in 1962 by David North titled "Flame Red Car." North was an Oldsmobile stylist who didn't have anything specific in mind when he drew it, and the work languished in the design studio files for a time, but when approval from GM came to build a personal luxury car for 1966, Oldsmobile executives began asking for design suggestions, and Flame Red Car got the nod for further design work, and eventually became the 1966 Toronado.

The new Toronado would share its body with the newly restyled 1966 Riviera as well as a new Cadillac project under development at the time, the 1967 Fleetwood Eldorado, which would be introduced one year after the Toronado. This step was taken to distribute development costs among the 3 divisions, as the cars on their own weren't intended to sell in a volume high enough to justify separate bodies. The original intent was to put the Toronado on a smaller chassis, as General Motors' styling chief Bill Mitchell felt the styling would look better on a smaller car, but because this would eliminate the economies of shared costs, this idea wasn't approved.

The 1966 Toronado is notable in that it was the first General Motors Corporation vehicle to use a subframe, which ended just in front of the rear suspension. This subframe provided the mounting points for the engine and transmission, the front suspension and steering, and the interior floor pan. This design isolated these components from the body which reduced the transference of noise, vibration, and harshness.

Oldsmobile engineers teamed up with Firestone to design the "TFD" (Toronado Front Drive) tire, a new 8.85" x 15" design that featured a stiffer sidewall to provide more longevity and improve handling with front wheel drive. The pencil thin whitewall stripe was unique to the Toronado in 1966.

1966 Oldsmobile ToronadoThe 1966 Toronado had head-turning styling with pop-up headlights that swung up in front of simulated hood scoops. Vacuum operated, a locking system was utilized to ensure the lights locked in the "up" position when the headlights were turned on. Flared wheel wells and steel wheels with ten brake cooling slots enhanced the powerful appearance, and a fastback roof line emphasized the fact that this wasn't your typical Oldsmobile.

Full-view side windows lacked ventipanes, which were made obsolete by a new draft-free ventilation system that swept up outside air in volume, circulated it throughout the passenger compartment, and exhausted it outside through vents below the rear window. All with the windows up, and in total silence.

With a 119 inch wheelbase, a 211 inch overall length, a 78.5 inch width, and a 52.8 inch height, the Toro was impressive, regardless of the angle upon which it was viewed. Underway, the Toronado's 425 cubic inch Super Rocket V-8 engine, mated to a heavy duty Turbo Hydra-Matic drive which was newly designed to transfer power 180 degrees forward by way of a specially-designed Hy-Vo chain. This guaranteed lively performance and put "excitement ahead, road behind" according to sales literature of the time. Developing 385 horsepower, this was Oldsmobile's most powerful drive train for 1966. When coupled with front wheel drive, the Toronado provided much better handling under harsh conditions than its contemporaries.

Due to its front wheel drive configuration, the Toronado had a very spacious interior, with a seating capacity of six passengers. Flat floors front and rear gave occupants plenty of room to stretch their legs, and the absence of a hump running down the center of the car gave new owners something to discuss with friends. Two interior trim levels were offered: the standard Toronado interior featured ribbed vinyl upholstery with bench seats, and can be identified by the short armrests on the front doors and the single inside door handle to open the door. The optional Deluxe interiors included Strato Seats in front which featured a center fold down armrest, full-length door armrests with dual door handles that allowed rear passengers to open the doors, a choice of all-vinyl or cloth and vinyl upholstery, and the provision of recessed controls for the optional power windows, seat, and door locks mounted in the front armrests.

The Toronado offered a long list of standard features which included the 425 Super Rocket V-8 engine, Turbo Hydra-Matic drive, power steering, power brakes, deep pile carpeting, heater and defroster, ashtrays with individual lighters, padded sun visors, padded instrument panel, back-up lights, interior courtesy lights, Guard-Beam frame, drum-type speedometer, and dual-outlet exhaust system.

As one would expect, 1966 was Toronado's year in the spotlight, and while sales would drift in succeeding years, the Toronado stood out from other cars with its revolutionary styling, superior handling characteristics, incomparable interior spaciousness, and a flow of power that pulled you through corners instead of pushing you around them. In fact, about the only thing Toronado shared with others cars was the road!

Image: Oldsmobile Presents Sounds of the Toronado (record album cover)

Oldsmobile released a promotional record album to correspond with the introduction of the 1966 Toronado. Entitled Oldsmobile Presents Sounds of the Toronado, it featured two tracks.

On Side 1: Hear the Sounds of the Toronado a fascinating tale of the story of the creation, building, and testing of the all new Toronado, a one of a kind car.

On Side 2: John "Shorty" Powers takes you on a musical ride in the spacious '66 Rocket Action Oldsmobile.

Distributed by General Motors Corporation, this record was in keeping with the times with a black, white, and red jacket cover reminiscent of the swirling introduction sequence of James Bond movies.

Buy the 1966 Toronado record

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