1977 Oldsmobile Toronado

Baffled by my choice of subject? That’s reasonable since the second-generation Toronado, although palatial, was effectively spiritless. But were you aware of the new features introduced for 1977 to help set it apart?


[UPDATE: read of the fate of both XSRs and see exclusive pictures!]

It might be argued the entire brand descended into 1970s obscurity, that is, if you overlook Oldsmobile’s wild popularity during that decade. In fact, by 1972 it surpassed Buick, Plymouth and Pontiac, to be outsold by only Chevrolet and Ford. Over the next five years its annual sales nearly doubled, to more than 1.1 million units. In 1975, its right-sized Cutlass even earned the title of America’s best selling car, and then did it again in 1976. Likewise, the Toronado enjoyed respectable sales but, considering its pedigree, was a model lost in anonymity.

1977 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham

1977 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham

To be fair, Toronado’s second generation had big shoes to fill. When the model line was introduced for 1966 it looked positively unmistakable. That first generation was courageous, a sort of maverick in terms of style and mechanical innovation.

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado

Since some of us weren’t around when the Toronado debuted, putting the car into context might help to better appreciate its styling quotient. Consider how far styling had come in such a short period of time, say, from the late 1950s.

1958 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday Coupe

1958 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday Coupe

While Oldsmobile’s Toronado stood out from the crowd because of its looks, it also stood apart from that crowd with the distinction of being front-wheel-drive. As a matter of fact, it was the first mass-produced domestic vehicle so equipped. (The first American FWD car was the Cord L-29, in 1929, and the last, until Toronado, was the 1937 Cord 812; their total combined sales were roughly 7,500 units. Other minor makes, such as Ruxton, also dabbled with FWD layouts during that period.)

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado showing front-wheel-drive layout

The Toronado rode atop GM’s E-body platform which, for 1966, was shared with the second-generation Buick Riviera. One of the most fascinating elements of that alliance is that the Riviera was rear-wheel-drive. Despite having both FWD and RWD versions of the E-body, judging from the exteriors, the cars look unrelated. One reason is the positioning of the engines. Unlike most modern FWD setups and to fit Buick’s RWD needs, the E-body engines were installed longitudinally, with their cylinders aligned front-to-back instead of side-to-side.

1966 Buick Riviera

1966 Buick Riviera

After riding on the C-body for four generations, for 1967, Cadillac switched its Eldorado to the E-body, as well. Reportedly for distinction, Cadillac elected to use Oldsmobile’s FWD setup, also referred to as the “Unified Powerplant Package.” Naturally, Eldorado was enveloped in a beautiful and distinctly Cadillac wrapper.

1967 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado

1967 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado

Over the next several years, the Toronado was consistently updated but still delivered on originality. For its second year, changes to the car’s design were minimal; the slots above the pop-up headlights were eliminated, and the horizontal trimming used for the front grille and taillights was replaced with a grated pattern.

1967 Oldsmobile Toronado

1967 Oldsmobile Toronado

The first major changes came in 1968.


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