The Oldsmobile Toronado is a personal luxury car manufactured and marketed by the Oldsmobile division of General Motors from 1966 to 1992 over four generations.

The Toronado was noted for its transaxle version of GM's Turbo-Hydramatic transmission, making it the first U.S.-produced front-wheel drive automobile since the demise of the Cord in 1937.

Sharing the GM E platform introduced by the rear-wheel drive Buick Riviera in 1963 and adopted for the front-wheel drive 1967 Cadillac Eldorado, the three models shared the E platform for most of the Toronado's 26-year history.

The name "Toronado" had no prior meaning and was originally selected for a 1963 Chevrolet show car.

The 1967 Toronado's 425 cubic-inch Super Rocket V8 engine

The Toronado began as a design painting by Oldsmobile stylist David North in 1962. His "Flame Red Car" was a compact sports/personal car never intended for production.

A few weeks after the design was finished, however, Oldsmobile division was informed it would be permitted to build a personal car in the Riviera/Thunderbird class for the 1966 model year, and North's design was selected.

For production economy, the still-unnamed car was to share the so-called E-body shell with the redesigned 1966 Buick Riviera (then entering its second generation), which was substantially larger than North had envisioned. Despite the efforts of Oldsmobile and General Motors styling chief Bill Mitchell to put the car on the smaller A-body intermediate, they were overruled for cost reasons.

Oldsmobile had been working on front-wheel drive since 1958, a project shepherded by engineer John Beltz (who originated the 4-4-2 and would later become head of the division). Although initially envisioned for the smaller F-85 line, its cost and experimental nature pushed the program towards a larger, more expensive car. Engineer F. J. Hooven of the Ford Motor Company, had patented a similar FWD layout, and Ford considered the design for the 1961 Ford Thunderbird. However, the capability to develop and engineer it on such short notice was doubtful. In 1956 Oldsmobile had also introduced a personal 2-door concept car called the Oldsmobile Golden Rocket that didn't progress into production.

The unusual Toronado powertrain called the Unitized Power Package (UPP), developed by Oldsmobile, stuffed a Rocket V8 and transmission into an engine bay no larger than one for a conventional rear-wheel drive car. During its seven-year development, UPP components were driven over 1.5 million test miles to verify their strength and reliability. They proved so well-built the UPP was employed basically unchanged in the 1970s GMC motorhome.

At its debut, the Toronado featured such GM innovations as:

Heavy-duty Turbo-Hydramatic 400 three-speed automatic transmission (named THM425 in FWD form)
Rochester Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor.

Spherical shaped exhaust-manifold flange gaskets, which provided freedom of movement in the exhaust system and prevented leaks.

"Draft-Free" ventilation system, which reduced wind noise considerably by eliminating conventional front-door triangular window vents.

Firestone designed an 8.85" x 15" tire especially for the Toronado called the TFD (Toronado-Front-Drive) tire. It had a stiffer sidewall than normal, and the tread and stylishly thin white pin-stripe were also unique.

Oldsmobile engineers selected a conventional, though performance-boosted, Olds 425 cu in (7 L) Super Rocket V8 rated at 385 hp (287 kW) and 475 lb⋅ft (644 N⋅m) of torque. It was an increase of 10 hp (7.5 kW) over the Starfire 425, and an increase of 20 hp (15 kW) over the standard 425 engine in the Ninety-Eight. The Toronado intake manifold's unique shape was depressed to allow for engine hood clearance.

The Turbo-Hydramatic heavy-duty three-speed automatic transmission became available during development of the Toronado.

Called the TH425 in FWD form, the transmission's torque converter was separated from its planetary gearset, with the torque converter driving the gearset through a 2 in (51 mm) wide silent chain-drive called Hy-Vo, riding on two 7.5 in (19 cm) sprockets.

The Hy-Vo chain drive was developed by GM's Hydra-Matic Division and Morse Chain Division of Borg-Warner. The chains were made from very strong hardened steel and required no tensioners or idler pulleys because they were pre-stretched on a special machine at the factory. Although the rotational direction of the transmission gears had to be reversed, a large number of components were shared with the conventional TH400. Use of the automatic also eliminated the need to devise a workable manual-shift linkage.

No manual transmission was ever contemplated because performance was adequate with the automatic transmission and because virtually all U.S.-built luxury cars during this period came with automatic transmissions as standard equipment. The car's 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) time was clocked at 9.5 seconds.

The Toronado was GM's first subframe automobile, which means it was partly unitized, using a subframe that ended at the forward end of the rear suspension leaf springs, serving as an attachment point for the springs.

It carried the powertrain, front suspension and floorpan, allowing greater isolation of road and engine harshness (the design was conceptually similar to the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird that would debut for 1967).

To fit into the tight space, Oldsmobile adopted torsion bars for the Toronado's front suspension (the first GM passenger car application of torsion bars in the US, but still not up to Packard's automatic ride leveling system), with conventional, unequal-length double wishbones.[2] Rear Toronado suspension was a simple beam axle on single leaf springs, unusual only in having dual shock absorbers, one vertical, one horizontal (allowing it to act as a radius rod to control wheel movement).

Brakes were hydraulically-operated 11 in (279 mm) drums, generally considered the Toronado's weak link. As a rather heavy car, after several panic stops the brake drums would overheat, resulting in considerable fade and long stopping distances. The 1967 addition of vented front disc brakes as an option provided substantial improvement.[6]

The Toronado's UPP enabled the interior to have a completely flat floor, but interior space (primarily rear seat headroom) was somewhat restricted by the fastback styling.

As with many coupes, the Toronado featured elongated doors to allow easier access for passengers entering the rear seats. Duplicate door-latch handles were even added at the rear of each door enabling back seat passengers to open the doors without having to reach over or around the front seat, a feature also available on the other two E-bodies, continuing until 1980 on the Eldorado.

Options included headrests ($52)[4] and a tilt-telescopic steering column.

Drivers faced a highly stylized steering wheel with a double-delta shaped horn ring which framed the view of an unusual "slot-machine" style speedometer, consisting of a stationary horizontal "needle" and a vertically rotating black drum on which the numerals were printed in white. The numerals descended behind the needle as the vehicle gained speed. All other gauges, indicators and controls were grouped within fairly easy reach of the driver.

Despite an average weight of 4,500 lb (2,041 kg), published performance test data shows the 1966 Toronado was capable of accelerating from 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 7.5 seconds, and through the standing 1/4 mile (~400 m) in 16.4 seconds at 93 mph (150 km/h).

It was also capable of a maximum speed of 135 mph (217 km/h).

Testers found the Toronado's handling, despite its noticeable front weight bias and consequent understeer, was not substantially different from other full-size U.S. cars when driven under normal conditions.

In fact, many contemporary testers[who?] felt that the Toronado was more poised and responsive than other cars, and when pushed to the limits, exhibited superior handling characteristics, although it was essentially incapable of terminal oversteer.

The Toronado sold reasonably well at introduction, with 40,963 produced for 1966. Some television commercials featured former NASA Project Mercury public affairs officer John "Shorty" Powers, Oldsmobile's primary commercial spokesperson of the era, along with racing legend Bobby Unser driving the vehicle and commenting favorably on the Toronado's handling. 

The car gained publicity for the division by winning several leading automotive awards, such as Motor Trend's Car of the Year Award and Car Life's Award for Engineering Excellence. It also was a third-place finisher in the European Car of the Year competition

Sales for the 1967 model, which was distinguished by a slight facelift, the addition of optional disc brakes, and a slightly softer ride, dropped by nearly half, to 22,062.

A stereo tape player was optional.

It would be 1971 before the Toronado matched its first-year sales volume.

In 1967, Cadillac adopted its own version of the UPP for the Cadillac Eldorado, using the Cadillac V8 engine.

The Eldorado also shared the E-body shell with the Toronado and Riviera, but its radically different styling meant that the three cars did not look similar at all.

Also, despite sharing the same platform as the Toronado and Eldorado, the Riviera retained its rear-wheel drive setup, and would not convert to front-wheel drive until the platform was downsized in 1979.

1970 Oldsmobile Toronado

The first-generation Toronado persisted with the usual annual facelifts through 1970. Other than the brakes, the major changes were the replacement of the original 425 cu in (7 L) V8 with the new 455 cu in (7.5 L) in 1968, rated at 375 hp (280 kW) in standard form or 400 hp (298 kW) with the W-34 option, revised rear quarter panels (with small fins to disguise the slope of the rear body in side view) in 1969, and the elimination of hidden headlights and the introduction of squared wheel arch bulges in 1970. An ignition lock was added in 1969.

Slight interior cosmetic changes were made for each new model year, and a full-length center console with floor-mounted shifter was available as an extra-cost option with the Strato bucket seats from 1968 to 1970, though few Toronados were so ordered.

The vast majority of customers went for the standard Strato bench seat to take full advantage of the flatter floor resulting from the front-drive layout. The lack of a "hump" in the floor made three-abreast seating more comfortable than in rear-drive cars, as the center passengers both front and rear did not have to straddle one.

The firm suspension and thus the quality of the ride, was gradually softened through the years, hinting at what Toronado eventually would become in 1971. A heavy-duty suspension was an option on later first generation Toronados, which included the original torsion bar springs that were used on the 1966 model.

A special option code called W-34 was available on the 1968–70 Toronado. This option included a cold air induction system for the air cleaner, a special performance camshaft and a "GT" transmission calibrated for quick and firm up-shifts and better torque multiplication at 5 mph (8 km/h).

Dual exhaust outlets similar to the 1966–67 model years with cutouts in the bumper, were included with W-34.

The standard models also had dual exhaust systems, but only a single somewhat hidden outlet running from the muffler exiting rearward on the right side. For 1970 only, the W-34 option also included special "GT" badges on the exterior of the car.

The W-34 Toronado was capable of 0–60 mph in 7.5 seconds and the standing 1/4 mile in 15.7 seconds at 89.8 mph (144.5 km/h).

Manufacturer's specifications

Engine: 1966–67 - 425 cu in (7 L) OHV V8, 1968–70 - 455 cu in (7.5 L) OHV V8
Power: 1966–67 - 385 hp (287 kW) @ 4800 rpm, 1968–70 - 375 hp (280 kW) @ 4400 rpm, 400 (298 kW) @ 5000 rpm with option code W-34
Torque: 1966–67 – 475 lb⋅ft (644 N⋅m) @ 3200 rpm, 1968–70 – 510 lb⋅ft (690 N⋅m) @ 3000 rpm, 500 lb⋅ft (680 N⋅m) @ 3200 rpm with option code W-34
Transmission: 3-speed automatic, Turbo-Hydramatic 425 (THM-425)
Final drive ratio: 1966–67 - 3.21:1, 1968–70 - 3.07:1
Wheelbase: 119 in (3,000 mm)
Overall length: 1966–67 - 211 in (5,400 mm), 1968 - 211.6 in (5,370 mm), 1969–70 - 214.8 in (5,460 mm)
Overall height: 52.8 in (1,340 mm)
Overall width: 78.5 in (1,990 mm)
Track, front/rear: 63.5 in (1,610 mm) / 63 in (1,600 mm)
Weight, shipping/curb: 4,311 lb (1,955 kg)/ 4,496 lb (2,039 kg)
Weight distribution, front/rear (%): 60.3/39.7

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