The Oldsmobile Toronado Made Front-Wheel Drive Cool: Muscle Car Monday
In 1963, Buick struck a chord for GM buyers with its newly developed Riviera – a sleek and powerful luxury coupe born from the inspiration of Europe’s automotive elite. It drove well, it sold well, and - with its striking appearance – it embodied a winning image. Fast-forward three years and Oldsmobile would fire back across the GM range with a luxury coupe of its own, the 1966 Toronado. It, too, would become a success, though the ‘Cord’ it struck was slightly different. RELATED: General Motors' 1963 Buick Riviera changed the luxury game
The Toronado came to market as the first American-made front-wheel-drive automobile since the disappearance of the Cord 812 in the late ‘30s. As you know, front-wheel-drive isn’t exactly a popular term in most muscle car circles. Happily, though, the Toronado had the power and the handling to back up its aggressive looks and full size two-door proportions.
Oldsmobile slotted its 425-cubic-inch Rocket V8 into the ’66 Toronado. It produced 385 horsepower and was capable of launching the big Olds from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 135 mph. The engine and driveline were cleverly packaged as a full assembly over the front wheels, allowing for a 54 to 46 front-rear weight distribution and positive driving dynamics.
PHOTOS: Take a closer look at the iconic '66 Oldsmobile Toronado
Oldsmobile engineers sourced the same GM E-body chassis that the popular Riviera used. However, they fitted the Toronado’s FWD drivetrain atop a unitized subframe, which supported the engine, transmission, front suspension and floorpan – a first for GM.
Given this setup in a long-unattempted American bruiser, Oldsmobile wanted to make sure it got it right. As a result, engineers tested the front-drive Toronado chassis for a reported one million miles before it hit showroom floors. They must have done a good job. In its first year of production, the Toronado received Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award.
RELATED: The pony car era started with the 1964 Ford Mustang
Though from the outside, it isn’t hard to see why. The ’66 Toronado boasts a low silhouette, flared wheel arches, dual-exhaust garnishing its tucked rear haunches, and its signature aggressive front-end. While it wouldn’t put a Mustang to shame, it did offer Thunderbird and Riviera buyers another attractive option.
PHOTOS: Would you rather have a Toronado or the iconic '60s Ford Thunderbird?
Photo Credit: Alden Jewell, Rex Gray
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