Buck­ley Martin


Classic Sports Car - - Comment -

An­other costly itch has been scratched: I have bought my­self an Oldsmo­bile Toron­ado. Why? Good ques­tion. I’m still ask­ing my­self, but nonethe­less it’s done and said car arrives in just a few days. I’m not yet sure if it will ‘make the cut’ for Our clas­sics as a keeper, but it does mark a watershed in be­ing my first ‘full-size’ Amer­i­can car.

This has not been a fleet­ing whim or a half­drunken fancy per­pe­trated dur­ing a late-night ebay ses­sion: I have been fan­ta­sis­ing about a 1966 Toron­ado for some time now – decades, in fact. First, there was the Corgi model with the flip-up lights, ‘Golden Jacks’ and re­mov­able wheels. Then there was a Brook­lands Mus­cle Port­fo­lio, one of the few I bought with my own money pre-c&sc (as a jour­nal­ist, I make it my busi­ness never to pay for a book on cars), so you can see this goes back a long, long way.

A turn­ing point came last year when, af­ter hours on Youtube watch­ing orig­i­nal ad­verts and mod­ern cri­tiques (and won­der­ing why some­one would spend a mil­lion dol­lars con­vert­ing one to rear-drive), I fi­nally splashed out and bought… the brochure. By then I was smit­ten; I ra­tio­nalised that a ’66 Toron­ado rep­re­sented the best value in the clas­sic world in terms of glam­our for your money, but when it comes to old cars I can con­vince my­self of any­thing if I have to.

The fo­cus has al­ways been specif­i­cally on the first-year cars; ’67s are nice, but lose a few pleasing de­tails (such as the steer­ing wheel) and af­ter that it be­comes just an­other per­sonal luxury barge rather than the sleek, so­phis­ti­cated ‘Amer­i­can Grand Tour­ing Car’ its cre­ator in­tended.

The urge to own this ve­hi­cle comes in cy­cles, and this time it was kicked off by the no­tion of com­par­ing a Toron­ado with a Citroën SM for C&SC. I couldn’t find a car in the UK, so started trawl­ing on­line on the ba­sis that, if one came up at the right money, I might have a go at it. There are plenty in the States, of course, but no­body seems to an­swer e-mails in that part of the world and the thought of traips­ing all that way seemed more like a pain in the arse than a ro­man­tic adventure. I couldn’t give a damn about do­ing Route 66, stop­ping at din­ers and all that clichéd stuff. My in­ter­est in the Olds was as a styling and en­gi­neer­ing en­tity with ex­cep­tion­ally high re­fine­ment for its time and a front-drive set-up that gives it half a chance in cor­ners. If you’ve seen The Square Tri­an­gle, the episode of UFO with a ma­roon Toron­ado swish­ing through the English coun­try­side, you will get why I like it.

I fi­nally dug out a bronze 1966 in Fin­land via the Toron­ado Own­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion; it had been there a while and the owner, Marko, had for­got­ten he’d ad­ver­tised it. Once I’d rat­tled his cage, how­ever, he warmed to the idea of sell­ing the car – de­spite hav­ing lav­ished much love and money on it over 12 years of own­er­ship – prin­ci­pally be­cause he wasn’t us­ing it much, now that his sec­ond ca­reer as a sort of vin­tage pro­fes­sional ten­nis player was tak­ing up all his spare time.

With my good in­ten­tions and cre­den­tials estab­lished, Marko flooded me with in­for­ma­tion; it struck me that if more peo­ple were as busi­nesslike and help­ful as this chap, a lot more old cars would get sold. It was a 90,000-mile Deluxe (air-con, elec­tric win­dows and pow­ered ‘Strato Bench’ – all very im­por­tant) that had been bare-metal painted, re­trimmed, rechromed and re­bushed. Best of all, its re­built V8 had done only 10,000 miles. It came with all its pa­per­work, a new ex­haust, and even the GM ‘Pro­tec­to­plate’ nam­ing the first owner, a lady from Vir­ginia. The only thing it needed was a new head­lin­ing, and Marko had bought the cor­rect ma­te­rial on his previous trip to the US. On the ba­sis that I knew I’d spend a long time look­ing for a bet­ter one (or, worse still, stitch my­self up rather rapidly with a cheap car that would hoover up thou­sands in re­furb costs), I de­cided to do my­self a favour for once and strike a deal.

At first, there was lots of de­lib­er­a­tion on how to get it back. My gung-ho side said “drive it you wuss!” un­til I estab­lished that Fin­land is 1500 miles from Cirences­ter, and there seems to be no straight­for­ward route back that does not in­volve go­ing via the Hook of Hol­land. I’d be look­ing at an £800 fuel bill be­fore fac­tor­ing in the cost of a ferry and ac­com­mo­da­tion, and in a strange car that had been off the road for three years. Nah, scrub that. Luck­ily (thanks to Paul Hill and his pal An­ders Bilidt), I was tipped off about Ja­son Hol­land, a Brit liv­ing in Fin­land who reg­u­larly ships clas­sics to the UK. Mean­while, I flew out to meet Marko and the Olds, which was ev­ery­thing he said it would be. This was a rare oc­ca­sion where I could have saved my­self the ag­gro be­cause I’d al­ready bought the car sev­eral times over in my head. As I write, my Toron­ado is on the high seas, ar­riv­ing Fri­day or pos­si­bly Satur­day. And I’m sure that you will be hear­ing more about it soon.

‘I couldn’t give a damn about do­ing Route 66, stop­ping at din­ers and all that clichéd stuff’

A big tick in the box for Buck­ley, with the pur­chase of his first ‘full-size’ Yank

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