Oldsmobile Toronado : all in front!

Little known in Europe, the Oldsmobile Toronado was the first General Motors car to adopt front-wheel drive, a move which certainly caught the attention of a very traditionalist clientele.

Within the galaxy of General Motors brands, Oldsmobile had always represented innovation. That's why in the mid-1960s the company's top brass decided to make a big splash with a new model designed to make money. To develop a car with an original design? Too simple. To imagine a revolutionary technical solution? Why not!

In the United States, the last manufacturer to venture into the field of front-wheel drive was Cord in the 1930s. In order to stand out from the rest of the automotive landscape, Oldsmobile started to design a car based on this principle. The vehicle was a 5.36 m long and 2 m wide coupé. To motorise this boat, GM didn't hold back and installed a 7-litre V8 engine developing 380 bhp. Combined with a 3-speed automatic gearbox, this was the largest engine ever fitted to a front-wheel drive vehicle!

Major work of art

To accentuate the car's distinctive character, GM designers went to great lengths to create a particularly clean line with many styling tricks to give a sense of balance between the front and rear overhangs. Dynamic and sleek, the Toronado embodied the genius of GM's design team, which excelled during the 1960s.

Like any American car, the Oldsmobile was very comfortable (power windows, adjustable mirrors from inside, air conditioning, etc.) and easily accommodated 5 adults with plenty of space. The design of the dashboard was also innovative with, among other things, a horizontal speedometer.

Honourable career

As you would expect, this car weighed two tonnes and its front end was particularly heavy. The Toronado was designed for comfortable driving and its character was not at all sporty. Understeer was prodigious at just about any speed, and the brakes really weren't up to the task of reigning in this massive beast either.

When it was launched in 1966, it surprised everyone and even received the "Car of the Year" award from Motor Trend magazine. The 1966 model year saw a new grille and a year later the 7-litre engine was replaced by a 7.5-litre, 406bhp unit capable of reaching speeds of over 200km/h.

In 1970, the second generation was launched. Throughout its career, which ended in 1992, the Toronado remained faithful to the front-wheel drive system, which had meanwhile been taken over by Cadillac, paired with large V8 and then V6 engines.

A rarity

Today, the Oldsmobile Toronado has its place among American car collectors, even if its original technical choices make it a curiosity that only interests a handful of them. It is the very first vintage, aesthetically the purest, that is favoured by enthusiasts. Very rare in Europe, the Toronado can be found in good condition for a budget of 30.000 to 40.000 €. Parts are available in Uncle Sam's country.

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