Myth Buster

Oldsmo­bile Toron­ado

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - Giles Chap­man

1 IT IN­TRO­DUCED THE US TO FRONT-DRIVE

The 1966 Oldsmo­bile Toron­ado was the first mass-pro­duced front-wheel drive car from a US man­u­fac­turer. But the 1936 Cord 810/812 se­ries came first with FWD, but only 3000 largely hand­built ex­am­ples were pro­duced, whereas over 40,000 Toron­a­dos were sold in its first year. The front-wheel driveline un­der­went 1.5 mil­lion miles of test­ing over seven years from 1958. The 7.0-litre V8 was mounted lon­gi­tu­di­nally and of­fered with a three-speed GM Turbo-Hy­dra­matic auto.

2 IT WAS IN­TENDED TO BE A PLUSH GT

The shapely four-seater coupé, with its sleek lines, prom­i­nent whee­larches and re­tractable head­lights, wasn’t in­tended as a pro­duc­tion car at all. Oldsmo­bile de­signer David North sim­ply did a paint­ing in 1962 of his own fantasy idea for a Ford Thun­der­bird com­peti­tor. It wasn’t even built as a con­cept car. Oldsmo­bile bosses in Detroit pounced on the art­work and in­sisted it be scaled-up so it could share parts with the much larger (than the Thun­der­bird) Buick Riviera – some­thing North nei­ther wanted nor liked.

3 ALL SHOW, NO GO

The Toron­ado, with its mean­ing­less name, looked very fu­tur­is­tic at its 1966 de­but. Fire­stone de­vel­oped be­spoke low­pro­file 15in tyres for the car, called the TFD and given dis­tinc­tive pin­stripe white-walls. With a 0-60mph time of 7.5sec and 135mph top speed, it was a fast car. There was, how­ever, a ma­jor mis­judge­ment in the orig­i­nal 1966 spec­i­fi­ca­tion – the Toron­ado was fit­ted with all-round drum brakes that could suf­fer se­ri­ous fad­ing un­der hard use. That was fixed for the 1967 model year but, by then, the pu­rity of the orig­i­nal body styling was al­ready un­der as­sault.

The Toron­ado went from 0-60mph in 7.5sec, but brak­ing was a prob­lem.

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