Almost Free: 1968 Oldsmobile Toronado

Stunning.  That’s the only word you can use to describe the styling of this 1968 Oldsmobile Toronado.  The first generation of the Toronado was built on the same basic E body shell as the ’66 and later Buick Riviera and the Cadillac Eldorado from ’67 on. Despite this same starting point, each of these General Motors Divisions created radically different variations.  The Oldsmobile version was perhaps the most radical of all.  It was designed to be a sporty, fast personal luxury coupe that couldn’t be mistaken for anything else on the road.  At first glance,  it seems that its best years are behind this maroon gem found on eBay and located in Livonia Michigan.  However, this forlorn front wheel drive behemoth represents a great opportunity for a first time collector, with a starting bid of just $100!


The seller seems to be a man of few word, and there is little written information provided on his end and just three pictures.  All he says is that the car ran when it was parked in 1976 and that it’s good as a parts car only.  I really wish he would have elaborated on why he feels that way.  Obviously there’s some rust, as you would expect from any Michigan car.  Obvious too is that he cared enough to keep it covered with blue tarps.  On the bright side, it does seem to be complete and mobile enough to get it on a transporter’s truck if you wanted to take a chance on giving it a new life.

Considering the asking price of other Toronados of this vintage, what do you have to lose on this one?  While some may be scared off by the parts car description, I see this as an opportunity.  The old way of thinking is that if you aren’t going to restore a car to AACA standards, then it isn’t worth the bother.  Well, times have changed.  Frame up restorations have become cost prohibitive for the average guy in a lot of cases.   Many cars, due to the cost of replacement parts, re-chroming, and full mechanical rebuilds, will leave you horribly upside down at the end.  That leaves us with a large number of people who want to get into the hobby, but are scared off by the costs.  With a car like this, an entry level collector can purchase it cheaply, fix up a little bit here and there as time and cost permits, customize and modify it to suit their tastes, and, in the end, have a fun car they can play around with.  It would also be a great way for  collector to build up their restoration skill set.

Our hobby is slowly dying. We need project cars like this to bring in new enthusiasts.  In the end, collector cars don’t have to be perfect.  They just need to be fun.

Fast Finds


  1. Jesse Mortensen Staff

    The other day I purchased a car that was listed as a “mechanic special”. I initially passed over it because I figured there were serious problems. Closer inspection revealed that a frayed wire was causing some problems. It ran perfectly otherwise and with the wire disconnected had no further issues. This isn’t usually the case, but sometimes “parts cars” and “mechanic specials” can be great buys. Just make sure they have clear titles!

  2. Mark

    I’ve certainly much rather have this than the 78 Riviera that’s also on barn finds. It certainly a much more classic design and the price is much more reasonable.

    It really seems like it would be worth gambling a little bit of money on. If you got it at a reasonable cost you could even make money on it I just selling parts.

  3. Jeffro

    I once bought a clean volvo wagon for $100. Guy just wanted it gone cause it had an electric gremlin and he was tired of it. He said battery will not stay charged. He replaced ALOT of electrical components. Pulled it in my shop,parked it, and turned off shop lights for the night. I noticed a dim glow from inside car. The switch to turn off the glove compartment was bad. The bulb stayed on all the time. Thus, killing the battery. I just pulled bulb. Never had any issues with the car.

  4. Steve R

    Part of keeping beginners in the hobby is by picking restorable car as their first project. Beginners can easily get in over their head, thus permanently killing their interest in the hobby. That’s why it’s important to buy the best possible car you can afford rather than the cheapest one available. I have no idea which category this cars falls under, it’s impossible to tell from the pictures and description.

    Steve R

    • Jeffro

      I learned a long time ago that sometimes “free” is the most expensive!

  5. chad

    I agree w/jeffo. Get a runner, go frm there;
    Wish this wuz 1 – B fun!

  6. ccrvtt

    The old car hobby, like any other affliction, needs a constant influx of new blood. Those of us in the boomer generation came of age when cars were fun and they elicited a basic, visceral reaction. With transportation evolving from the ego gratification of the muscle car/sports car era into the new age of appliances we are definitely becoming throwbacks to a bygone age.

    The first wave of video gamers are now in their 40’s and still engaged in that pastime. They are simply not interested to the extent that we are (and were) in busted knuckles or gasoline shampoos. I have to admit I cannot fathom the satisfaction derived from shoot em up combat games. I doubt that the real thing is anything to enjoy.

    But that’s only part of the divide between generations. I remember when this Toronado was new. My dad’s boss had one, loaded to the headliner. That car made a Statement. Now you can’t tell a 7-series BMW from a Kia. But I digress – the point is that the cars that 30 &40-somethings grew up with were largely unexciting. Lately we’ve finally received some nice Mustangs & Challengers & the evergreen Corvette. But will there be enough to fuel the passion 20 years from now?

    As we careen headlong into the age of the electric vehicle those of us pistonheads will eventually leave this vale of toil & sin. The new paradigm will be volts and range. But someone somewhere will be tinkering in his garage with an extra set of batteries trying to get one tenth more…

    Like 1
    • jw454


      One aspect you didn’t touch on is the fact that the fun and exciting versions of cars built over the last thirty years were the most expensive of the offering. Back in the sixties an SS Chevelle or Mach 1 Mustang and even the Cuda’ was cheaper than the flagship Model of the brand. Today, the cars offering the most desirable trim package is priced out of reach of the people we’re hoping to attract to the hobby. There’s no such thing as an 2017 SS Camaro without all the bells and whistles GM can hang on it. Back in 1969 you could get a 69′ SS Camaro loaded to the hilt but, you could also get one with just a 396 – 4 speed, and power disc brakes. That made it affordable and a lot of young buyers started a life long love affair with cars because of it. You don’t have that option today.

      Like 1
    • Mountainwoodie

      ccrvtt: Brilliant!

      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        I wonder if that’s the end of brand loyalty?

  7. Tony S

    This car (and the later 69) have the best engine oldsmobile ever made. 400 gross hp. E heads, N crank. Windage tray. Big “F” high-nickel block.

    Like 1
  8. Rex Kahrs Member

    Wow, CCRVT has so eloquently condensed the state of the collector car hobby as it lies at the feet of the cellphone generation. Or maybe he’s eloquently condensed the state of the cellphone generation, who don’t actually need feet, just thumbs.

    Like 1
  9. Wayne Thomas

    For this price, it is reasonable to look into making this car RWD.

    • 86 Vette Convertible

      I’m trying to remember which it was. Hurst made a few twin engine, 4 wheel drive exhibition cars in their day. From what I remember, couple of Cutlass’ and a Toronado were in the mix.

    • Miguel

      Why would anybody do that?

      Like 1
  10. Mark Hoffman

    I had a chance to buy a nice 1970 Toronado for $1,700 in 1978.

    No, silly me bought a 71 Chevelle coupe for $1,500.

    Wish I had either one of those cars today.

  11. Howard A Member

    Fascinating. Very few Toronado comments, all spot on, btw. Our hobby is not necessarily dying, just changing. Things us older folks hold dear, don’t appeal to younger folks. This is nothing new. We weren’t any different. The bummer part, is cars that made our jaws drop when they came out, don’t do much now, and this car is a perfect example. If it was nice, different story, as the styling is out there enough to appeal to a younger person, but to rebuild this thing,,,on their own? Sorry folks, THAT’S the part of the hobby that’s dying.

  12. Big Mike

    I once bought a car 1966 Chevy II/ Nova, the owner was a friend of my Dad and they had brought it into the shop for some electrical issues as told by the owner. It seemed that sometimes when the guy would use the headlights it would blow the fuse to them. So for a year or so the owner would only drive it during the day time hours, (kid you not), well anyway Dad told the owner it would be a few days until we could get to it, and the owner said fine, he would be back in a couple of weeks to check on it. Well anyway Dad assigned me the car to figure out what was wrong with it. I worked on that car for hours and could never get it to blow the fuse, so the owner came back I took him to it and he drove it and the lights worked. Well a year or so later the owner had the car dropped off, he had a wreck in it and he wanted us to repair it if it would be worth fixing, we are talking like the late 80’s well the insurance company totaled the car and I bought it back from the insurance. I had always liked the body style of the these cars and had always wanted one, so I went to work on it and rebuilt it, and painted it metallic blue, this was one of the first cars in my collection, and I still have it to this very day.
    Oh yeah I did discover what was the electrical issue, it stared doing it on me after I had owned the car for a while, it was a bad wire on the high/low beam switch mounted on the floor, apparently it would blow the fuse if it was wet outside and the water from my feet using it would run down onto it and get it wet enough to short out and blow the fuse.

    Like 1
  13. whippeteer

    I love the tire valve extensions in the first picture… Parts car may mean lost registration/title and not wanting to go through the hassle to replace it. At $100 it would be worth checking out to see what it needs. Even then, think about all of the “improvements” that you can do and still keep it well under $500 for LeMons!

  14. whippeteer

    All those posers and tuners with their hot hatches. Put this mill under the hood…

  15. John

    My mother had one of these brand new and kept it 10 years. I always wanted that car. I would imagine if this car’s last drive was in 1976, it was still running on leaded gas.Powerful cars with really cool interiors. Loved the scrolling speedo…

  16. Ray

    I think the Seller has properly categorized this car. The photo of the trunk, left side, that’s a rear spring and shackle protruding through the trunk floor. Along with that, daylight is visible in the surrounding area. On the other hand, the engine alone could be worth the entry fee for somebody in the geographic area. Could not afford to ship this very far for the value of what may be salvageable.

  17. John

    As a member of the video game generation I agree with much of what ccrvtt says. This car predates me by a couple years. After I joined BF I have found many cars I hadn’t really known about or even thought about. toronados like this are now on my bucket list. This one is too far and not enough pics for me to take a chance however. Newer cars just don’t have the style of the older stuff.

  18. Paul B

    These were radically beautiful and well engineered cars, a real step outside the norm for GM at the time. I don’t like the ’68 nose at all compared to the ’66 and ’67, whose design was totally integrated in my opinion. But still, this elegant front wheel drive coupe created its own class of car when it appeared. It is hard to believe what happened to Oldsmobile in years following the early Toronados and the super-popular Cutlass. How the brand was allowed to dissipate — and Pontiac too — is still a mystery to me.

    • jesus bortoni

      That is a beautiful ’67 Toronado. The price? If someone
      said $50K, not knowing the market I wouldn’t disagree. It is (or was) being sold for $18,500! What else can you buy for that kind of money? A KIA?
      Those mid-sixties Rivieras, Toronados and Cadillacs built on those set-ups are STILL the apogee of US design.
      Now don’t misunderstand, you’d have to stay on top of the maintenance. Bushings and other noisemakers need attention often as well as all the other parts and pieces. But WHAT A CAR.
      It is a car worthy of it’s stature. Equally beautiful yet
      totally different was the sculpted small Seville of 1975. Those two cars would satisfy all of my auto-
      motive requirements.

  19. Rustytech Member

    My father bought a “mechanics special” 1967 Chevelle back in 1970 for next to nothing because the seller thought it needed an engine, a couple hours work, and a rocker arm and pop had it running like new. He drove it for years, then my older brother for a few more years. As Jessie stated, not all the mechanics specials, or parts only cars will be like that, but there are bargains to be found. I’m not sure this is one of them. My first question would be, doe’s the seller have a good title? Without it this is a boat anchor.

  20. Car Guy

    My father purchased a 68 Toronado new. To me the 68 was the best looking of them all. It was the first year for the 455 and the motor was very strong.The headlights hid behind the honeycomb grills and were much less problamatic that the 66-67 versiions. The new front bumper treatment was nicely integrated into the body and the interior was updated as well.

    I remember on the gas cap it said “Use 100 Octane Fuel”. His car would smoke the front tires hard, and it was cool seen tire smoke coming up between the hood and fenders.

  21. KEN TILLY Member

    Great write-up Jeff. Us old farts are rapidly going out of business and new blood is desperately needed.


    I could use the disc brake setup from this, for my 66. If it was West coast I would grab it. We had one new in 68, Dad traded in the 66 for it. I liked them both, but prefer the 66. Have had my 66 since 1980.

    • John

      And do you still have it because you think it’s a great car or because of nostalgia?

      • BRAKTRCR

        Good question John. Probably both.

  23. whippeteer

    For a dual engine drag car, there was “John Smyser’s Terrifying Toronado”

    Like 1
  24. whippeteer

    It was a wee bit squirrely though…

    Like 1

      Amazing car, but never/seldom went straight, hence the name

  25. Joey

    Did anyone else notice this Toronado does not have air conditioning!

    I have never seen one without, it might be rare.

  26. Pete Kaczmarski

    My love of Toronado’s goes back to 1966…I finally got one decades later…

    Like 1
  27. Cool Bus

    i actually bought this one, and when he said good for parts only he was correct! but that’s what i bought it for, using it as a donor car for the 1968 AQC Jetway i’m working on. but this thing was rusted heavily suspension through the trunk, drivers seat falling through the floor and wheels were seized, literally had to break the drums off of a couple wheels to get it to be able to roll, trans fluid was black. But on the upside the 455 runs and swapped that already, front and rear bumpers i needed as well, headlight setup, dash n steering wheel, gonna end up having some good glass, door panels and other trim for somebody out there!! and the Jetway that i’m working on is that white one that was in Manitoba that was on here a couple years ago, and no didn’t pay 20,000 for it either! great finds and reading here always!!

    Like 1

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