The model was essentially unchanged from 1973 to 1974, however, the latter did see the introduction of a “T-crest” standup hood ornament and two optional roof treatments. Toronado had vinyl roof options before but now there was a choice between full coverage and a half-padded roof with formal opera windows.

1974 Oldsmobile Toronado

1974 Oldsmobile Toronado

On the topic of options, Toronado offered an interesting one for 1974 called the Air Cushion Restraint System, air bags in contemporary terms. While Ford and Chevy had field tested units in the years leading up, for 1974, Toronado became the first to offer it as an official option. What’s really amazing is it included a passenger-side air bag wide enough to protect a middle occupant. Moreover, it had a dual-stage deployment design that would respond according to the severity of the collision.

Here’s one more nugget. Did you know Toronado’s Tempermatic air-conditioning option included an activated charcoal filtration system? Yeah, in 1974.

1976 Oldsmobile Toronado

1976 Oldsmobile Toronado

For 1975, changes were made to the front and rear, with headlights switching from round to rectangular and taillights from vertical to horizontal—much like Eldorado’s. The only vestige of Toronado’s former rear lenses were body-colored fender caps that shamelessly channeled—you guessed it—Eldorado. Having purged the last remnants of styling innovation, the once avant-garde model had lost its eagerness and chose instead to play dress-up in Cadillac clothing.

1977 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham

1977 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham

In terms of styling, from 1975 to 1976 the model was essentially unchanged. Ditto for 1977, apart from the addition of a traditionally-placed grille.

1977 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham

1977 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham

Keep in mind that, by 1977, Oldsmobile’s other large models had been dramatically downsized, leaving the Toronado as their largest vehicle. That year, an eight-passenger Custom Cruiser station wagon weighed roughly 4,400 pounds, yet was still lighter than the Toronado which tipped the scales at about 4,750 pounds.

1977 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham

1977 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham

Those same wagons measured 219.9 inches in length which was actually shorter than the newly downsized Ninety-Eight (coupe and sedan) that measured 220.4 inches. But even the Ninety-Eight came up short next to the Toronado which, believe it or not, was 227.5 inches long. That’s 3.1 inches longer than a 2016 Chevy Suburban and only half an inch shy of 19 feet.

1977 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham

1977 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham

We’ve now come full circle to our subject and the question: what is it about this specific year of an obscure Oldsmobile model that was worth writing about and troubling GM with requests for pictures and information?

Were you aware that the Toronado was the first production automobile to make use of an onboard microprocessor? Well, it was. For 1977, it incorporated a computer called MISAR which is an acronym for Microprocessed Sensing and Automatic Regulation. (I know, it should be “MSAR” but I imagine marketing was involved.)

1977 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham

1977 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham

The first microprocessors emerged commercially during the early 1970s and, by 1977, Oldsmobile and GM’s Delco-Remy had adapted it for an electronic spark timing system. It was made up of two large-scale integrated circuits containing more than 20,000 transistors. (As a point of reference, more than 5.5 billion transistors were fit onto a single Intel chip, by 2015.) The MISAR system included sensors to measure engine vacuum, coolant temperature, engine speed, and cranckshaft position. The result was not only improved throttle response and idle smoothness but the S.S. Toronado actually saw an increase in fuel economy of one mile per gallon. (See why “MISAR” markets better phonetically than “MSAR”?)

While all amazing and true, MISAR was not the motivation behind spotlighting the 1977 Toronado… instead, there was actually a glimmer of styling initiative.


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