1976 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham: It’s all about the seats
Sometimes the best cars at a show are in the parking lot. Strange but true. You go to a show, see some interesting stuff, see some common fare, walk back to the car, then whoa! Look what’s sitting there amongst the late-model rolling stock!
Such was the case recently when my Texas friend Jayson Coombes was leaving a local show and stumbled upon this relic of gratuitous Detroit luxury, a 1976 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham. Be still my heart!
One benefit Jayson has living in the Lone Star State is that the car show season starts much earlier there than it does here in the Midwest. The first show of the year near him was in March at Ford’s Garage Restaurant in Plano. Now, don’t get me wrong, there were some pretty interesting cars at the show, including an early ’60s German Ford Taunus, ’49 Cadillac Series 62 sedan and others.
But Detroit Broughamage always gets my immediate attention, and when he texted me the pictures you see here, I went nuts. I love the Oldsmobile Toronado—all of them really, from the Cord 810/812-inspired ’66 original all the way to the downsized final model in ’92. But there’s just something about the mid 1970s versions. Like those seats! The upholstery itself (which reminds me of bowtie pasta) and the floating-pillow seats themselves were exclusive to the Toronado Brougham.
In 1976, Brougham was king, as evidenced by the Toronado sales figures. While the Toronado Custom was almost $300 cheaper at $6891 ($36,832 today), it saw only 2555 units produced. Meanwhile, the $7137 ($38,147) Brougham saw the lion’s share of production with 21,749 sold. And there was, as you’d expect, ample power under the hood: Oldsmobile’s vaunted 455-cubic-inch V-8. While there were myriad emissions devices on them by 1976, they still had plenty of torque, despite the deceptively low rating of 215 horsepower.
My pet theory is that ’76 was “Peak Brougham,” with the downsizing and rapidly approaching CAFE regulations dimming the Brougham momentum starting in 1977. Though the large-and-in-charge Toronado continued in its embiggened size all the way through the 1978 model year.
At the time, Jayson was not positive of the model year, narrowing it down to 1975 or ’76. But I was pretty sure it was a ’76 from the combination of the finned wheel covers and that oh-so-distinctive upholstery. While it was clearly weathered, I loved it all the same, especially its combination of Light Blue Metallic with matching interior, white padded Landau top, and white pinstriping. It still looks good now, but it must have looked even better when new, ideally parked outside a supper club or golf course!
Back in the 1980s and early ’90s, my folks had a 38-foot Chris-Craft Commander, complete with flybridge, moored at the local marina. One of the other folks on our dock, Tom Ohlweiler, had one of these Toronados, and it is probably that car that made me fall in love with these. It was white with a matching white Landau top and deep-red velour interior. I really thought the “extra” brake lights in the rear decklid were cool. Still do.
While I can’t swear to the year, I’m pretty sure his was a 1977 or ’78, as it didn’t have these wild seats. I think it was a more sedate-looking striped velour. But he was fastidious about that Toronado, and it always looked brand new and totally detailed every time I saw it.
This same upholstery was used on 1976 Cutlass Supreme Broughams too—again, only in 1976. There is a ’76 Supreme Brougham that I see fairly regularly at local shows, bright red with dark red interior and white Landau top. I’ll have to write it up one of these days.
The ’76 Oldsmobile brochure had this to say about it: “… its distinctive combination of roadability and luxury have earned it a singular reputation among personal luxury cars … Toronado. Proud classic among luxury cars. A rare experience on the road. Can we build one for you?”
I wish they still could.