1991 Oldsmobile Toronado: Penultimate personal luxury
It’s no secret I love personal luxury coupes. And the Oldsmobile Toronado was one of the best.
A pioneer of its segment, the Toronado introduced front-wheel-drive to the GM lineup in 1966. It didn’t hurt that the car was gorgeous, too. It was so different from anything else on the road, both in engineering and appearance.
Then in 1967 it got a sibling, the Cadillac Eldorado, which kind of stole the Toronado’s thunder. Of course, a Cadillac was a Cadillac, and its razor-creased lines found favor with movers, shakers, and VIPs across the nation, not the least of which was The Rat Pack.
But we’re talking Toronados, aren’t we? I need to write up a first-generation Toronado, and soon—I even have one picked out. A beautiful dark cherry ’66 with matching interior.
I spied it at the Coralville cruise night several years ago, and chatted a while with its very nice owners. But today, we’re going to be looking at the far end of the Toronado’s production run. Why, you ask?
Well, it was simple.
It was a Sunday afternoon and I was hoping that the sun would come out, so I could sit out on my postage stamp-sized deck with a gin and tonic and a novel to read. Sadly, the clouds were relentless, despite a promising beam of sun that lasted about three minutes. It didn’t return.
So I decided to go through my boxes and stacks of vintage auto literature. I frequently do this on crummy days, just to read through the brochures and enjoy them. And sometimes inspiration strikes.
I found my deluxe 1975 Pontiac brochure and my auto-show copy of the 1990 Buicks. Those will result in columns on a 1990 Estate Wagon and 1975 Grand Ville Brougham coupe at some point in the future. But I also rediscovered my 92-page 1991 Oldsmobile catalog.
The catalog reminded me that my friend Jayson Coombes had recently attended the Olds Club of America meet in Murfreesboro and had photographed a really nice ’91 Toro, resplendent in Medium Garnet Red with matching cloth upholstery.
The Toronado’s run was just about over in 1991. The ’91 Toro was largely based on the 1986 E-body version, along with its siblings the Buick Riviera and the Cadillac Eldorado. But both the Riv and the Toro got, ahem, posterior lifts in 1989. Or rather, posterior stretches.
The 1986 E-body personal-lux coupes took downsizing a smidge too far. While they were well-appointed and great to drive, they still looked a little, well, stubby. That problem was fixed on the Buick and the Olds in ’89. The Eldo had gotten a slight stretch in 1988, and stayed largely the same through 1991, likely because an all-new Eldorado was due to appear for the 1992 model year.
So the rear deck was extended, which improved the looks immeasurably. (Pun intended.) The ’91 Toronados were powered by GM’s legendary 3800 V-6, producing 170 horsepower. Standard features included automatic temperature control, automatic load-leveling, hidden headlamps, cornering lamps, power windows, power mirrors (and power driver’s seat), cruise control, and a power antenna. Bucket seats and a center console were standard, but the base Toro could optionally have a 55/45 divided front-bench seat.
The standard Toronado was overshadowed by its sportier sibling, the Troféo. When these cars were new, it seemed like 90 percent of the Toronados I saw were Troféos, with their swept-spoke alloy wheels (shared with the Ninety-Eight Touring Sedan) and dual exhaust ports.
But I kind of liked the base ones, with their more classic personal-luxury-car vibe. I really like the one Jayson saw and would go so far as to add whitewalls, if it were to come into my possession. Not that I’d kick a Troféo out of the driveway if one came along, of course.
In 1991, you could even get an optional Ultrasuede interior in your Troféo. I’ve never seen one. Though I did see a gorgeous pearl white ’92 at Jewel-Osco several years ago.
It contrasted wonderfully with a burgundy leather interior. By the way, why can’t we get wonderful burgundy or navy-blue leather interiors anymore? Not everyone is infatuated with charcoal gray, you know …
I think they were really pretty cars. But sadly their run was just about over. Only 2705 Toronados and 5348 Troféos were built for 1991. MSRPs were $23,795 and $26,495, respectively.
1992 was the end of the line, with only 1239 base coupes and 5197 Troféos built. It was a sad production tally for a great car. And I was surprised when I found the production figures in my copy of Setting the Pace: Oldsmobile’s First 100 Years (a book I highly recommend, by the way). I knew these cars were rare, but the figures were quite a bit lower than I would have guessed!
But I’ll always love the Toronados, whether the forward-looking, futuristic ’66–70 cars or the final run of svelte, 3800 V-6-powered luxocruisers. Special thanks to Jayson for providing the photos: You’re a gentleman and a scholar!
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