1976 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham: It’s all about the seats

Jayson Coombes

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!

Jayson Coombes

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!

Jayson Coombes

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.

Jayson Coombes

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.

Jayson Coombes

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.

Jayson Coombes

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.

Jayson Coombes

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!

Jayson Coombes

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.

Jayson Coombes

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.

Jayson Coombes

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.

Jayson Coombes

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.

Jayson Coombes



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    Couldn’t help but notice the Model S next to it. Got me thinking: is there a more perfect swap for a Brougham Boat than an EV drivetrain? Huge torque, smooth power, quiet, tons of real estate for batteries and controllers….

    I believe that’s a Model 3 next to it. Let’s leave vintage Detroit iron in its original state, as the general intended.

    I knew a guy in the late 90s who had pretty much that exact car in showroom condition and he would not come off of it… good thing because I was not exactly kind to cars in those days

    As nostalgic as I am as the next guy for these “battleships of the boulevard” if there’s one Toronado that does it for me {(beyond the vaunted 1966) it would have to be the 1977 Toronado XS!

    Talk about eye catching and rare! While the 77’s didn’t offer as flamboyant a seat fabric design they were still loose pillow attractive. And if you can get past the demise of the 455 CID from the line, the 403 wasn’t much worse.

    But one look at the profile or rear 3/4 view with the XS exclusive rear side window delete and “wire bent glass” rear window, you immediately knew this one was extra special and beautiful!

    Thomas, your folks’ Chris Craft would be the nautical version of ‘Brougham’, so I think you should do a Klockau Classic on that boat! Please!

    As always, a great article on a fantastic car. Keep them coming (…nautical or otherwise…)

    My father and my mother always drove Oldsmobiles. They would trade their cars every alternate year, keeping each car two years. He had a Toronado Brougham in Silver gray with a red padded roof and red velour cushion interior, same as this car. At the time it was a beautiful luxurious car, with lots of power for the time and all the options.

    I own a 1974 Oldsmobile Toronado, bright red, white vinyl top, white vinyl seats with black dash and carpet. It is in good condition. The taillight is different from 1975-1978, look more like the first Eldorado taillights. It is funny, it took me a few months and I have never read anyone else comments that the front hood with the grill have some similarities to the 1937 cords hood and grill? Mine sat for a long time it was my first luxury classic car that I had, I put new parts on it every other week for the first six months to get all the mechanical bugs out of it. I can notice the torque in the motor taking off at the lights. I took it in a few road trips or driving around town. I always get a kick out of when I’m sitting at a light, looking in the rear mirror to see people in the car behind me talking and pointing at the high mount stop/turn signals lights! Also I love the extra room behind the steering wheel, I don’t feel cramp up in it! I keep hoping that the 2nd generation Toronado will have it moment in popularity as the first generation have in the near future?

    One of my pals acquired one in the late 70s. I never asked how. It was Tan on Tan. We used to circumnavigate Milwaukee at night and dream of being wealthy. I lost track of him shortly thereafter heard he went to California.Those were some amazing days. I drove a 62 white p1800 made in England at the time.

    One detail of this year of Toronado, and if memory serves the two years (at least) preceding it, that always garnered respect from me was the first use of supplemental safety lights, which preceded a government mandate by at least ten years. However, unlike the very unsightly tack-on job of lighted bunions obscuring rear-window vision that was adopted, these lights were actually integrated into the design, looking as natural a part of the car as its regular taillight setup. And they employed TWO lights, not merely one, wired into both the braking and turning circuits! Why GM never pushed that when the mandate was slated to take effect, I’ll never understand. If they (or the other big dogs) had, I would not be making snide remarks about the lighted bunions in use now.

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