1991 Oldsmobile Toronado: Penultimate personal luxury

Klockau Classics Oldsmobile Toronado badge lead
Jayson Coombes

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.

25 June 2022. 1967 Eldorado at the CLC Grand National Meet, Lombard, Illinois. Thomas Klockau

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.

Jayson Coombes

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.

Sneak peek … Thomas Klockau

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.

Jayson Coombes

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.

Jayson Coombes

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.

Jayson Coombes

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.

Jayson Coombes

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.

Jayson Coombes

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.

Jayson Coombes

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.

GM

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.

Thomas Klockau

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.

Thomas Klockau

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 …

Jayson Coombes

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.

Thomas Klockau

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!

Jayson Coombes

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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Comments

    One cup holder in the console. Definitely a personal car. “You may ride in my car, but don’t even think about eating or drinking anything in it.” That’s perfectly understandable to me.

    I often wonder what GM could have done here with competent management.

    By this point Olds was a Dead Division.

    I am a GM guy but like Pontiac Olds by this point was just a styling division on another corp platform.

    God love you for finding these cars attractive. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that makes the world interesting. When I look at these cars, I imagine board rooms in Germany, Italy, or Japan, laughing out loud

    In 1985, I purchased a 1982 Toronado Diesel in Oklahoma City, from the original owner and drove it back to Central WI., It was Black with Black vinyl half top, moon roof, Buck Skin leather interior, wide white walls. Sport package with painted mirrors, full gauges, sport steering wheel. The only option it didn’t have was power mirrors. On the way to WI., from OK., I got 36 mpg.
    I sold it a few years back due to storage issues (more toys than space). It had just over 36,000 miles on it.
    That car drove and rode as well as any modern vehicle.
    The original diesel was replaced with the upgraded version (Target Motor) early on and was quite dependable, however, the mileage dropped off a bit.
    The engine was typically noisy, for the time, but was not noticeably while driving.
    It was a great car that I would own again in a heart beat.

    You are correct ! I had a 1981 Ninety Eight with the 350 DX block diesel. Big, comfortable, great MPG, and bought it for a song because nobody wanted them !

    J was an Olds/Pontiac Parts Mgr for a bit around 76 or so. One the hardest to get were the boots for the front axles on the Toronados, I think it was the 66 and 67’s were different and almost impossible to get even in the 70’s.

    I kind of like the white one the best. It’s pretty clean and just needs a supercharged 3800. I would have to admit that my like for Oldsmobiles was pretty much dead beyond the Quad 4 motor at the time.

    The 91 Toranado may be a better car (or at least a more livable one) than the 66, but in my book, the 66 wins hands-down on styling.

    Poor Ransom E. must be greatly insulted, if not doing the subterranean spin-cycle.

    General Motors both capitalized on, and fell victim to; the homogenization of its brands.
    True; interchangeability of so many parts provided a hedge against near-term obsolescence, even while diluting its entire line.

    Oldsmobile was always a fantastic marque, with innovations, coupled with dollar-value performance, (GO, Rocket 88!)
    In the mid-20th-Century, these innovations sometimes came with certain risks — GM chose Oldsmobile to “test” many of their pioneering technologies in the Olds models; avoiding any possible failures in the too-valuable Buick and Cadillac lines, while also not propelling Pontiac too far ahead.

    The ‘66 Toronado was a genuine mold-breaker.
    Not only for its front-wheel-drive, (resulting in an absolutely FLAT passenger floor,) but also its radical styling.
    Its success guaranteed the 1967 Eldorado’s debut.

    OK, so I’ve not mentioned anything about the ’91…
    I just don’t have an attraction to it, but that Burgundy leather interior is fabulous!

    Trivia Time: What popular rock group took its name from Oldsmobile?
    Remember the founder’s full name…

    In 1971 I bought a low mileage 1967 Toronado. It was maroon with a black vinyl top and black interior. The car was loaded with I think just about every option Olds had at the time. It had the high compression 385hp engine and was very fast. The speedometer wasn’t the usual needle type analog gauge; the numbers were on a scroll type of cylinder and rolled past the fixed needle. I know the speedo went up to at least 130 at which point the old bias ply tires didn’t provide much stability. Having no hump it was also great for back seat activity. Even though it went through tires (and gas) like an Indy car, I still think it’s the greatest car I’ve ever had.

    I love the Toronado Trofeo. I worked at GM Research Project Trilby, a group that did technologies that were 20 years ahead. We did drive by wire, steer by wire and brake by wire plus lots of other things that came out later. We had a couple of Trofeo’s with turbo charged Quad 4’s that were 250-300 hp. They also had the 5 speed Getrag transmissions. They were blast to drive. I have always liked the Trofeo and the Olds 98 Touring Sedan.

    My love for this style of Toro was so deep in the 2000s that I owned three in succession: a burgundy ‘91, a white ‘92 with burgundy interior, and a white ‘92 with grey interior. The last one got totaled in my drive way by a reckless driver. The ‘92s had lots of gadgetry and early computer-chippery which weren’t all 100 percent reliable. But the VIC (visual information center) was a forerunner of todays touch screen control panels. This final era of Toronado was a great way to go out. They still turn my head.

    I found the 1966 not “gorgeous”, but rather homely; I once heard it likened to “a malevolent toad squatting on the road”. The closely related Eldorado of 1967 was SO much better-looking.

    The 1989 changes did make the Toro (and Riv) better-looking, but the Toro’s new boxy bustle never really looked right. To me, the Riviera looked significantly better, and the Eldorado better still.

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