2 October 2015

Five Powerful Front Wheel-Drive Classics

Front-drivers aren’t universally loved by enthusiasts for a number of reasons. Their inability to perform a good, old-fashioned smoky burnout, coupled with handling defined by benign understeer rather than hairy-chested, opposite-lock oversteer, make front-wheel-drive cars — in the eyes of some — appropriate only for family sedans and econoboxes. But there are some exciting cars in the FWD realm, and the ones on this list would be members of the torque-steer hall of fame (if one existed).

  1. 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado: Ponder this America’s first volume-produced, post-war front-driver had a 425-cubic-inch Rocket V-8 that put out 385 horsepower. Amazingly, the front-drive system (which utilized a massive chain to connect the torque converter and the gearset) was utterly bulletproof. It was so stout that the engine and transmission package were used to power the massive, iconic GMC motorhome of the 1970s.
  2. 1968 Cadillac Eldorado: The Eldo shared the Toro’s front-wheel-drive platform but carried and even larger (although slightly less powerful) Cadillac V-8.  From 1968, it was available with a 472-cubic-incher that put out 340 horsepower — just 10 hp fewer than the most powerful small-block Corvette available that year.
  3. 1986 Shelby GLHS: The only FWD hot hatch on this list was the hottest one available in North America in the 1980s. During his exile from Ford, Carroll Shelby worked with Chrysler, and this heavily breathed-upon version of the Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon was a blast to drive. With a 175-horsepower 2.2-liter intercooled turbocharged engine, the GLHS (“Goes Like Hell Some-more”) was a Mustang’s worst nightmare.
  4. 1995 Alfa Romeo 164 Quadrifoglio: Until the 8C supercar appeared, the last new car Alfa sold in the U.S. was the pretty Pininfarina-styled 164. Alfa’s last ditch effort in North America was the 24-valve sport version of the 164, known as the Quadrifoglio, an Italian reference to Alfa’s four-leaf clover competition logo. In addition to being perhaps the prettiest engine ever to be installed sideways, the 3.0-liter V-6 made an impressive 230 horsepower. The torque steer that resulted when you mashed the throttle in first gear was nearly sufficient to make the car perform a U-turn, if you took your hands off the wheel.
  5. 1989 Ford Taurus SHO: The first-generation Ford Taurus helped to usher in the smooth, aero “jelly bean” look. While revolutionary, once you got past the styling, it was kind of dull. Nothing that a five-speed and a 24-valve Yamaha-engineered V-6 with a 7,000 rpm redline couldn’t cure. Amazingly, the original SHO could go 0–60 mph in 6.6 seconds, only about a second slower than a Ferrari 328 GTS.

15 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Clint San Jose, CA October 7, 2015 at 13:40
    I bought a '90 SHO from my friend's dad in 1994. It broke down a lot until I decided to sell it, then miraculously it ran fine. Probably remorse. I will say that when it was running it was a great driver. I used to make the run from UCLA to San Jose in just over 4 hours--normally a 5+ hour drive up I-5. Downshift into 4th, and it would it haul a$$ up the Grapevine!
  • 2
    Tom Johnson Mahomet, IL October 7, 2015 at 13:46
    I'd trade any of those and probably a lot of cash for a coffin nose Cord. How this could have forgotten is possibly worthy of a criminal investigation.
  • 3
    Seth Arluck New Hampton, NY October 7, 2015 at 14:21
    Just can't give the X-11 it's due,eh?
  • 4
    Dwight Guess New York October 7, 2015 at 16:41
    Where's the Cord?
  • 5
    Larry Blyly Hartford, MI October 7, 2015 at 18:07
    Yes, you specifically included modern cars only, or would have included the 812 Cord. Yes, pre-war and low production, but what a car!
  • 6
    Bob Falleur Milwaukie,Or October 7, 2015 at 19:25
    I had two 69 Eldorados, both very powerful and great drivers.
  • 7
    Howard Philadelphia, PA October 7, 2015 at 19:38
    You can't in good list the Toronado and the El Dorado in the same list as separate cars. They are the exact same thing under the badges, but I guess that if you needed at least 5 because outside the 4 you did list, pretty much nothing else.
  • 8
    Classichondaman Annapolis, MD October 7, 2015 at 09:21
    I have owned almost 100 cars and driven many thousands. Love RWD, FWD and AWD. I currently enjoy two 89 Honda Prelude 2.0SIs (one loud, one quiet) and find them the most enjoyable cars experienced yet. They have plenty of power.......but no problem with torque steer.
  • 9
    JWhite SC October 7, 2015 at 10:43
    Toronado/Eldo being twins should not have both been included. I owned an 89 SHO and miss it often- what a sleeper. The '89 Probe GT was a handfull- "pulled like a hooked bass"!
  • 10
    Scott Allred Chico, CA October 7, 2015 at 12:46
    My Dad's boss had a '71 Toronado, the first year of the new body style which I like much better than the original. It had the 455 motor. I was 16 when I worked with my Dad at the company, and every now and then I was able to make a delivery in the Olds. I LOVED it! I was 16, and it was a great car to drive. To this day I want one, and I'm 57. The problem is finding one. They seem to be very rare indeed.
  • 11
    Mike E V San Diego October 9, 2015 at 15:07
    In 1976 I bought a 67 Eldo, same colors as the one pictured, for $750. Front park lamps were housed in the grille but other than that not much difference. I drove it for quite some time and honestly, I don't recall what became of the car. Sell, trade??? I forget but I don't forget how well it performed and that crazy flat front floor everyone loved.
  • 12
    Ron San Diego October 10, 2015 at 11:00
    1968 Cadillac 472 is rated at 375 hp. The previous year Eldo had a 429 with 340 hp.
  • 13
    John Ft Wayne January 13, 2016 at 19:54
    I had a '69 Toronado back in the mid '80s, LOVED that car, the flat floor, the disappearing headlights, and the tumbler speedometer was so cool. The A/C would literally frost the vents. However, my favorite is the '67-'68 Eldorados, saw a pair at the Auburn auction a few years back, what gorgeous cars. The styling of the rear end of those cars was pure art, one of the best looking Cadillacs ever IMO. Sure, the Cords should've gotten some recognition here, however those are practically un-obtainable by the average Joe. Not so for the Toro/Eldo twins.
  • 14
    Christopher Portland, Or July 1, 2016 at 19:24
    Thanks Ron for catching that horsepower correction on the 1968 Eldo. I drove a white '68 Eldorado in high school. It was fun to burn the front tires off. It was a beast, but I loved it.
  • 15
    Paul Fl. October 6, 2016 at 09:52
    The Eldorado was a clone of the Toronado in '68, but the list above includes the '66 Toronado and the '68 Eldorado, two different cars (not twins). The '66 Toronado is the "Milestone Car, Cadillac jumped on board two years later.

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