I was new and experiencing my first design program of note. It was all like magic as sketches, words and imagination all converged on the project and influenced what was going on the full-size model in the studio.

I clearly remember my participation and that of others in the room which is described below.

Guest Post: 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado Design History, part 1

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado Mitchell sketch 1965 (Goldstein Collection)I was really impressed with the management as they discussed the abstract future of the design, even though it was incomplete.

They apparently had the trust that it could be developed into a solution for a project that we designers had no knowledge of.

[Sketch, above right, by Bill Mitchell, dated May 26, 1965.]

The name
1964 Chevrolet Toronado concept front leftToronado came from Chevrolet, having been used on a show car.

[1964 Chevrolet Toronado concept, shown right.]

The name was originated by a designer in Chevrolet Studio #1, Ira Gilford. He had a conversation with his father and uncle, and developed the name which was then used on the 1964 Chevrolet show car. The roots of the made-up name are: Toro (Bull) and nado (Tornado).

The E-car program
1966 Buick Riviera front rightThe 1966 Toronado was one of a series of three cars to be designed that also included the 1966 Buick Riviera [right] and the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado [below left]. The chassis was engineered to be capable of both front drive for the Toronado and Eldorado, and rear drive for the Riviera.

There was a balance of both interchangeable parts and specific parts for the individual cars.

  • The windshield, A-pillar and door side glass were shared by all three cars.
  • The roof panel and backlight were shared by Toronado and Riviera.
  • Door inners were shared by all three, as well as various underbody panels.

1967 Cadillac Eldorado front leftEach car’s individual sheet metal pieces allowed the unique appearance achieved by all three. The only piece that you could really see as common, was the windshield pillar.

The Ferrari
1964 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2To clearly define and communicate its vision of the future unnamed E-Car, John Beltz, Chief Engineer of Oldsmobile, bought a dark red Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 [similar car, right].

This tight four-passenger, close-coupled coupe was seen also by the Oldsmobile Studio as a personal car size that was appropriate for the future product that would be called Toronado.

This size would have dictated a smaller platform for the car, but the spread of size between the needs of the three ultimately dictated a larger size.

Continue to the photo gallery on page 2, below. There are many pictures in the gallery, not shown above, with more in part 2 to the story.

Story continued below the gallery and here: Guest Post: 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado Design History, Part 2


[This is only the first half of the story. The second half is linked above and at the end of the gallery.

I’d like to thank Mr. Ruzzin for providing me with this material to share with my readers (and for suggesting that I break it into parts), and the General Motors Heritage Center (specifically John) for the pictures and frequently exceeding my expectations.

Mr. Ruzzin’s professional experience includes over 140 car design projects as creative designer, studio head and Director of Design. Apart form GMC he’s worked for every GM brand, including Opel, Vauxhall, Holden, GM du Brazil, Toyota, Isuzu, Suzuki, SAAB, Lotus and BITTER. Since retirement, he has continued as a design educational consultant in China and Taiwan, as well as for GM Design.

If you enjoyed this, Mr. Ruzzin has written other posts on Autos of Interest:

Don’t forget to check back for part two of the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado design development story.]

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