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Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Oldsmobile Toronado Made Front-Wheel Drive Cool: Muscle Car Monday


Photo Credit: Alden Jewell, Rex Gray
Oldsmobile Toronado

In 1963, Buick struck a chord for GM buyers with its newly developed Riviera – a sleek and powerful luxury coupe born from the inspiration of Europe’s automotive elite. It drove well, it sold well, and – with its striking appearance – it embodied a winning image.

Fast-forward three years and Oldsmobile would fire back across the GM range with a luxury coupe of its own, the 1966 Toronado. It, too, would become a success, though the ‘Cord’ it struck was slightly different.


The Toronado came to market as the first American-made front-wheel-drive automobile since the disappearance of the Cord 812 in the late ‘30s. As you know, front-wheel-drive isn’t exactly a popular term in most muscle car circles. Happily, though, the Toronado had the power and the handling to back up its aggressive looks and full size two-door proportions.

Oldsmobile slotted its 425-cubic-inch Rocket V8 into the ’66 Toronado. It produced 385 horsepower and was capable of launching the big Olds from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 135 mph. The engine and driveline were cleverly packaged as a full assembly over the front wheels, allowing for a 54 to 46 front-rear weight distribution and positive driving dynamics.


Oldsmobile engineers sourced the same GM E-body chassis that the popular Riviera used. However, they fitted the Toronado’s FWD drivetrain atop a unitized subframe, which supported the engine, transmission, front suspension and floorpan – a first for GM.

Given this setup in a long-unattempted American bruiser, Oldsmobile wanted to make sure it got it right. As a result, engineers tested the front-drive Toronado chassis for a reported one million miles before it hit showroom floors. They must have done a good job. In its first year of production, the Toronado received Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award.


Though from the outside, it isn’t hard to see why. The ’66 Toronado boasts a low silhouette, flared wheel arches, dual-exhaust garnishing its tucked rear haunches, and its signature aggressive front-end. While it wouldn’t put a Mustang to shame, it did offer Thunderbird and Riviera buyers another attractive option.