Monday, February 20, 2017

The Sad Decline of the Oldsmobile Toronado

Oldsmobile's new 1966 Toronado was a sensation to car buffs when it was introduced.  For one thing, it had front-wheel drive, something unseen from the American automobile industry since 1937 when Cord production ended.  For the general automotive public the big excitement was Toronado's styling.

It was built on the new General Motors E platform, shared with the 1966 Buick Riviera and the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado.  Each of these cars was distinctly different in character, masking their common platform origin.  The Toronado's character was sporty, performance oriented.  Due to its front-wheel drive and the horizonal grille bars, it didn't take long for those buffs to make connections to classic 1936-37 Cords.  The strongly sculpted wheel well rims furthered the characteristics noted here.

Then in 1967 facelifting started to take its toll on the Toronado concept.  Vertical grille bars were added, destroying much of the Cord connection.  Toronado character was watered down, eventually drastically, when new generations arrived for 1971-78, 1979-85, and 1986-92.

Let us now view that sad spectacle.


1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
The original, classic Toronado.

1971 Oldsmobile Toronado
Here is the first Toronado redesign.  Not ugly, but not distinctive.

1979 Oldsmobile Toronado
GM cars were being downsized by this point.  Starting the 1948 model year, Oldsmobiles tended to have cleaner, less-ornamented designs than other GM brands (there were some major exceptions: think 1958, for instance).  This holds for the redesigned 1979 Toronados, but the overall effect is not that of the 1966 version.

1986 Oldsmobile Toronado - sales photo
The final Toronado iteration fell into the "compact car" zone as it was understood in the USA.  True, we see horizonal grille bars again, but that does not bring back memories of Cord 810s and 812s.  The Toronado is now forgettable, styling-wise.

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