1969 Oldsmobile Toronado: Swank ’60s style
I’ve always loved the Oldsmobile Toronado. When I was a kid, I got a three-car toy set of late-’70s models, either for a Christmas or for a birthday. There was a white Cadillac Sedan de Ville, a blue Lincoln Continental sedan, and a red Oldsmobile Toronado. All about 1979 vintage. 1/32 scale, no interiors, with light bars and friction motors. I think the Continental survived to the present day, but I haven’t seen it since I moved into my condo. Still, the Toronado coupe, a fire chief’s car, was a favorite. Later on in my childhood, when I’d go down to the marina with my dad, one of the “boat neighbors,” Tom Ohweiler, had a white circa 1977–78 Toronado Brougham in white with red interior which I would always gawk at in the parking lot.
Years later, in my first job, I’d have to go down to the post office each morning and pick up the mail from the company’s PO box. I’d often see a local downtown lawyer there, who drove a final-generation 1990–92 Toronado in white with a blue interior. A couple years after that, when I went on an eBay model-car spending spree, the ’60s Corgi Toys 1966 Toronado was a frequent impulse buy. I have about four of them—the original blue issue plus the later copper-colored version with the removable wheels and tires.
In short, I’ve always loved Lansing’s personal luxury coupe. My favorite is likely the 1966 original, with its Cord 810/812 cues, but I love ’em all. So you may understand my immediate interest when my friend Jayson Coombes spotted this remarkably gorgeous 1969 model at a show in Coppell, Texas. I especially loved the color combination, navy blue metallic with a white interior. Such a classy combo, perfect for a trip to the Moonlight Bay Supper Club for a steak and multiple gin and tonics.
The 1969 Toronado was part and parcel of a trio of fine GM personal luxury coupes, which included the Cadillac Eldorado luxocruiser (also front-wheel-drive) and the similar but rear-wheel-drive Buick Riviera.
Two models were offered for 1969, the standard Toro and the Custom. I was unable to find pricing for the Custom, but the regular Toronado had a base price of $4836 and a curb weight of 4478 pounds. A mere 3421 base models were built, but 25,073 Customs found, ahem, customers.
The fine and mighty 455-cubic-inch V-8 was standard equipment. With a 4.125 x 4.250 bore and stroke, it produced a healthy 375 hp at 4600 rpm and breathed through a Rochester 4GC four-barrel carburetor. Though not as giant as the Ninety-Eight series, these premium coupes still had plenty of space with a 119-inch wheelbase and 214.8-inch overall length.
1969 Toronados got revised rear sheetmetal, with a slightly squared-off look. While 1966–67 Toros were about the same, except for grilles and taillight treatment, starting in ’68 the model was modified with a large new front bumper/grille: The hidden headlights were relocated from behind body-colored doors to a concealed area in the grille. The fastback-style rear quarters remained, but that silhouette changed in the ’69 model year, with this new look. The 1969 model’s bumper-mounted taillamps were similar to those of the ’68 car, but the now-higher quarter panels displayed little fins. I always thought the side marker lamps, disguised as Oldsmobile “Rocket” emblems, were a nice touch.
The front fascia was pretty similar to that of the previous model year, but the ’69 Toronado sported a new grille, as was customary. As only appropriate in the late ’60s, options were available. So many options.
The list included air conditioning ($375), a power antenna ($31), tilt wheel ($46), stereo 8-track tape player ($133) and cornering lamps ($38). A 400-hp W34 engine was also available.
Standard equipment included the aforementioned 455 V-8, TurboHydramatic automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, electric clock, and Flo-Thru ventilation. All that generated plenty of “road hugging weight,” too—the base Toro weighed in at 4478 pounds and the flossier Custom at 4505.
The final year of the original-style Toronado was 1970. The front end was completely new, with finlets to match the back and exposed headlights in a new grille. A new GT model also joined the roster.
For 1971 an all-new, much more formal Toronado would debut, carrying Oldsmobile’s personal-lux coupe almost to the end of the decade. But that’s a story for another time. Today, let’s just enjoy the swank appearance and personal luxury of the Toronado of 1969.