the view through the windshield
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado - A New Kind Of Drive

The Oldsmobile Toronado, introduced as a 1966 model, was a landmark automobile. It reintroduced front-wheel drive to America (the last production FWD American auto was the 1937 Cord) and is a shining example the bold, sculpted styling which became a hallmark for GM at its best in the 1960s.

To understand the Toronado, you must begin with the Ford Thunderbird.

In 1958, an all-new four-seater Ford Thunderbird was introduced. While automotive purists bemoaned the demise of the cute little two-seater T-Bird, the larger four-seat model quadrupled sales. Thus, the personal luxury coupe was born. It gave Ford increased market share in the medium-priced field.

Luxo-coupes like the Thunderbird had bodies which were different and distinctive from those of the sedans and hardtops of the same brand. Personal luxury coupes were usually offered with the top-of-the-line engines and higher-quality and more opulent trim. These luxo-coupes added a bit of class to the car line and were priced at the top of the brand's product offerings. The original 1958 Thunderbird was an expensive and upscale car - it was priced 85% above the entry-level Ford. The Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado were the most expensive models in their respective lines.

What caused the rise of luxo-coupes? Money and style. In the '50s and '60s, just about all four-door sedans were stodgy-looking. That doesn't mean they were ugly; for example, the 1961 Lincoln Continental is a very handsome machine but its formal lines make it look more like a limousine than a sports sedan. Many prospective buyers who had the money to spend on a luxury car were turned off by the formal style.

Someone who was 45 to 50 years-old in 1961 could easily remember the custom-bodied sleek cars of the Thirties - the Packard boat-tails, the supercharged Auburn roadsters, the iconic Cord 810/812. They now wanted something 'swoopier' than the standard luxury car offerings - and they were willing to pay extra for it. "Willing to pay extra" is a phrase which will always get a car manufacturer's attention.

When General Motors witnessed the success of the four-seater 'Bird, it wanted in and introduced the Buick Riviera in 1963. Oldsmobile was next but - with a reputation as an engineering innovator - Olds created the technical tour de force which became the Oldsmobile Toronado.

Olds' two-door luxo-coupe had distinctive, styling with large wheel arch bulges that gave it a muscular look. And muscular it was. Despite its 4,500 pound bulk, the 1966 Toro could rumble from 0–60 mph in 7.5 seconds, and run the quarter-mile 16.4 seconds at 93 mph. The FWD Olds had a reported top speed of 135 mph. All thanks to its 385 horsepower, 425 cu. in. OHV Super Rocket V8.

The big Olds engine was coupled to a heavy-duty Turbo-Hydramatic 400 3-speed automatic transmission using a chain drive between engine and tranny. The Hy-Vo chain was strong and reliable and was built without an idler by pre-stretching the chain prior to installation.

This new Oldsmobile was low and long. It was just under 53 inches high, was 211 inches long and rode on a big 119 inch wheelbase. The Toronado was one of the first modern production cars to use GM's 'Draft-Free' ventilation system, which reduced wind noise considerably by eliminating the conventional vent windows in the front-doors.

How good was the Olds Toronado? Well, almost 41,000 people bought one in 1966. And Motor Trend magazine named it Car of the Year.

Numerous toy and model makers offered models of the Toronado in a variety of scales:

(posted 7/31/12)

Remember When: 1966
auto blogIn 1966, buoyed by the news that the U.S. and passed its 59th month of continuous expansion, President Lyndon Johnson believed that America was strong enough to fight two wars simultaneously: the one in Vietnam and the War on Poverty. He submitted the first $100 million budget in history. President Johnson visited an American base in Cam Rahn Bay in South Vietnam in October.

Ominously, inflation grew more than expected in 1966. A cranky Charles de Gaule kicked NATO out of France; Indira Gandhi became prime minister of India. The Supreme Court ruled on the Miranda case, leading to the Miranda warning.

In '66, the United States placed warning notices on cigarette packs: 'Caution: Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health'. U.S. Catholics were permitted eat meat on Fridays except for Lent. Former actor Ronald Reagan entered politics when he was elected governor of California in November. In China, Chairman Mao began a 'Cultural Revolution'.

In March, a BOAC British Boeing 707 crashed on Mount Fuji, Japan killing all 124 on board. In one of the worst murder cases to date, eight student nurses were brutally murdered by Richard Speck at their group residence in Chicago. Charles Whitman, with a stockpile of guns and ammunition atop a 300 foot tower at the University of Texas, shot 46 people, killing 14 people and wounding 31. He had killed both his wife and mother the night before.

In car news, Ralph Nader received an apology from General Motors after it was revealed that the auto giant hired detectives to dig up dirt on the auto critic. California initiated pollution standards for cars. 1966 witnessed the passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the Highway Safety Act and the creation of the Department of Transportation. Chrysler introduced the industry's largest V8, a 440 cubic-inch workhorse. Pontiac introduced the OHC 6-cylinder performance-oriented Sprint engine, which used a Uniroyal timing belt to drive the overhead cam. Ford introduced the four-wheel drive Bronco to compete with Jeep CJ and International Scout models. Ford GT-40s finished 1-2-3 at LeMans.

In wedding news, Luci Baines Johnson married Patrick John Nugent in August. They divorced in the late 1970s. In July, Frank Sinatra married Mia Farrow. They divorced in 1968. In June, I married Carol. We're still married. In August 1966, I moved to a new and better job as a plastics engineer at Rohm & Haas Co. and stayed with the firm nearly 12 years.

In April, the annual New York International Auto Show was held. Naturally, the '66 Olds Toranado was prominently displayed. As were a bunch of other interesting 1966 cars and concepts. Carol and I attended and took lots of photos.

Several new products debuted in 1966: Taster's Choice freeze-dried instant coffee, Bac O's bacon flavored bits. Biodegradable detergents were introduced. New product spokespeople included the Pillsbury Doughboy and Marge the manicurist for Palmolive dishwashing liquid: "You're soaking in it."

New words/phrases included acid (LSD), beach bunny, disco, fertility pill, flashcube, folk-rock, flower children, hippy, glitch, interface and playbook. Fads included paper dresses, day-glo painted stuff, Nazi-style iron crosses and communes.

1966's bestselling books: Truman Capote's 'In Cold Blood', Jacqueline Susann's 'Valley of the Dolls' and Bernard Malamud's 'The Fixer'.

Some of the hot movies for ’66 were: 'Alfie', 'Georgy Girl', 'Our Man Flint' and 'Seconds'. 'The Sound of Music' won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The 1965-66 Broadway season grossed nearly $54 million. Top ticket price was $12 for the musical, 'Superman'. In related news, a rare copy of Action Comics No. 1 - the Superman issue - was auctioned for $2,000.

New television shows included 'Batman', 'The Avengers', 'Family Affair', 'Get Smart', 'Mission Impossible', 'That Girl', 'The Monkees', and 'Star Trek'.

There were numerous memorable songs during the year: 'Ballad of the Green Berets', 'Winchester Cathedral', The Association's 'Cherish', 'Monday, Monday', 'Summer in the City', Simon & Garfunkel's 'The Sounds of Silence', '96 Tears' and The Beatles 'Yellow Submarine'.

Frank Sinatra's 'Strangers in the Night' won Record of the Year at the Grammys. The Beatles gave their last concert at San Francisco's Candlestick Park in August. Singer Jan Berry, of Jan & Dean, suffered extensive brain damage when he crashed his Corvette into a parked truck.

Deaths included Chief Mouseketeer Walt Disney, controversial comedian/commentator Lenny Bruce, WWII Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Chester William Nimitz, long-time GM president Alfred P. Sloan, author Evelyn Waugh, cosmetics magnate Elizabeth Arden, vaudevillian Sophie Tucker, actress Gertrude Berg, actors Montgomery Clift, William Frawley and Buster Keaton, comedian Ed Wynn and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.

In The World Series, the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers four games to zero. NFL's top dogs were the Green Bay Packers. And Kauai King won the Kentucky Derby.

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The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

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If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.

If I have slandered any people or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.