Front-Wheel Drive: 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado

When the Toronado debuted for 1966, it was the first U.S.-made front-wheel drive automobile since the Cord in 1937. The breakthrough car for GM was notable for using a transaxle version of the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission that would also see duty later in a GMC motor coach. It would share the platform introduced by the rear-wheel drive Buick Riviera in 1963 and adopted for the front-wheel drive Cadillac Eldorado in 1967. This first year Toronado is a nice survivor, but not without flaws under close scrutiny. Brought to our attention by Patrick D, this car is located in sunny Miami, Florida and available here on eBay for the Buy It Now price of $12,000.

Besides being the first domestic FWD car in 30 years, the Toronado was also the first one in the growing personal luxury car segment. It would remain part of the Oldsmobile line-up through 1992 across four generations. It started out using a performance-boosted 425 cubic inch Super Rocket V-8 that was rated at 385 hp, higher output in the ones used in either the Starfire or Ninety-Eight. Even though the big beast weighed in at around 4,500 lbs., it was fast. It could do 0-60 in 7.5 seconds and the quarter mile in 16.4 with a top speed of 135 mph. But it was thirsty and would average about 12 mpg. Based on a variety of factors, including innovation, the car was chosen by Motor Trend for Car of the Year in 1966.

The seller’s car is one beautiful sight, finished in what appears to be Ocean Mist. We’re not told if it’s the original finish, but it shows well despite some touch-up here and there and a few small bubbles starting to crop up. One place that’s a bit troubling is at the bottom of the windshield on the passenger side, under the trim, where rust may be forming and has actually started to deteriorate the dashboard. This suggests a water leak – past or present – that should be attended to before it gets worse. The seller advises there is no rust on the undercarriage, but that would be better judged up on a lift rather than photos taken at ground level. While the front bumper is tidy, the rear one is starting to pit.

Inside the car, one of the first things that you might notice is the lack of a transmission hump, i.e., it has a flat floor. An uncommon sight on an American car of the 1960s. The use of FWD made for much more leg room for passengers to ride in comfort. The interior looks to be in amazing original condition with near perfect upholstery, good panels, and slightly faded carpeting, but the dash pad does have some cracks. The mileage is said to be 91,000, so previous owners made every effort to preserve what’s there.

Open the hood and you’ll find a very clean engine bay. The belt is off the air conditioner, so the seller doesn’t know if it works although the compressor spins freely. Naturally, the windows are power-assisted, and the driver’s side no longer works. So, you’ve got to fix one or the other before Summertime. We’re told the car starts, runs, drives, and stops very well. The flip-up headlights are currently stuck in the down position and will need to be sorted out before driving the car at night.

Oldsmobile built nearly 41,000 Toronado’s in 1966, which should have pleased the GM bean counters. An exceptional Toronado of this vintage could go for $40,000, according to Hagerty, and $17,000 in good condition. So, either the seller has priced this one to move quickly or there is more to the few problems mentioned than meet the eye. But in a sea of souped up modern sports cars that are showing up more and more at Cars & Coffee, this one would be quite the standout.

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Comments

  1. Moparman Member

    And what a stand out it would be! Take care of the needy items and them cruise in this fabulous throwback to GM’s “glory days”! GLWTA!! :-)

    Like 13
  2. Rex Kahrs Member

    On first blush, the car looks good. Then when you study the photos, you see that the car has needs. The dash looks pretty shaggy, and that windshield leak looks pretty scary.

    But still, it’s a ’66 Toro and they aren’t making those any more. This is exactly the kind of car I usually get myself into, but at 6 or 7K.

    Like 15
  3. Maestro1 Member

    I had one, they are sensational cars, the headlight issue probably means they are vacum operated rather then electric which means it’s an early ’66, buy this car. It’s too far away for me. Give it what it needs and enjoy.
    You won’t be disappointed.

    Like 11
  4. Trygve Bey

    A friend had one. I was in the passenger seat and kept trying to put my left foot on the foot rest (transmission hump). I thought about bringing a foot stool for future trips.

    Like 3
  5. LAR

    The window frame rust is a huge worry and will take some fairly serious metal working to repair. Just taking the dash apart to get at the area needing repair is not for the faint of heart. Needless to say, a repaint on a car this size isn’t cheap either. Looks to be more of a $5-6K car.

    Like 8
  6. Fran

    Very cool car, yes it has issues but it could be much worst if it was in a salt belt state.
    Love it or hate it, is started the front wheel drive thing. To which we were let to think that they worked better in the snow. I don’t think the 80’s FWD stuff was really that good in the snow.
    But that rig being so heavy was maybe a nice alternative.
    Not a fan of today’s GM, but in the 60’s GM had some really cool cars.

    Like 5
    • LAR

      You are right. The early Toro’s did handle snow very well. The mid 80’s version (which was lighter)… not so much.

  7. Odo

    These cars suck gasoline at a remarkable rate. If the idea is to have it as a daily driver buy a tanker as well.

    Like 5
    • LAR

      That is very true. I seldom got more than 10mpg on any of the five we owned over the years.

      Like 2
      • JoeNYWF64

        Did these come with 4 barrel carbs with small primaries?
        If not, would say a ’73 quadrajet & a light foot help?

    • Terry

      Most big V8s of the day drank gas. Fuel was much more affordable then, so fuel efficiency was unheard of.

      Like 1
  8. Car Nut Tacoma

    Beautiful looking car. I’ve always loved the 1966 Olds Toronado. IMHO, it’s the best looking car of its generation.

    Like 5
  9. mainlymuscle

    My 66 Toro is the original black on red,arguably the most desirable colors.
    I prefer the green/blue/turquoise colors,most likely due to my Uncle having a new one back in the day.What a stunning masterpiece of a machine in the eyes of this budding car guy !We all keep saying that Toronados can’t stay cheap forever,can they ?

    Like 4
  10. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    I’ve come to respect Rex Kars knowledge of classic cars. What he says goes for me.
    God bless America

    • Rex Kahrs Member

      Thank you John, that’s very kind of you.

  11. LAR

    The headlight issue is one of a couple of things. Either the vacuum line to the headlight pods is unhooked/broken, there is a lead in the vacuum canister on the drivers side inner fender, or the springs or piston seals inside the pods have gone away. FYI electric operation didn’t come in until ’68. It was not uncommon to find the ’68 system installed in one of the early cars. The later system was much more reliable and easier to work on.

    Like 2
  12. Super Glide

    I had a 64 Olds 98 Sport Coupe, just like Jay Leno’s.
    The Luxury side of Olds was leap above Chevy’s and Poncho’s,
    but the Chevy’s and Poncho’s were faster.
    Life is full of trade-offs.

  13. Stan Marks

    What a beauty,,,,
    Probably the cleanest looking Toro, you’ll find here, on bf, excluding Mecum or Barrett~Jackson, of course. B.J. sold a ’66 for $32,450.

    https://www.barrett-jackson.com/Events/Event/Details/1966-OLDSMOBILE-TORONADO-181686

  14. Patrick Curran

    I always liked this color on the Toronado. The lower windshield area and “A”pillar rust is a very labor intensive repair. There are no patch panels for this and lots of fabrication and patience are required to do it right. Windhshield and dash need to come out at a minimum before work can begin.

    Like 2
  15. K. R. V. Member

    I had the pleasure of owning a Toronado, but a 1971, that while not quite as stunning an beautiful as the early model above, was still a fantastic driver an fun party mobile! With a 455/4 brl dual exhaust Rocket engine, that would pass anything but a gas station so to speak as 10-14 mpg. But man was that car great in snow and rain! Almost nothing could stop it with the right tires! In the winter I would crank up the torsion bars to lift the front at least an inch for clearance and add air to the airbags I added to the rear, with Koni adjustable shocks I added all around that car could dance, for such a heavy car. I remember a road trip north, myself and three good friends, my girl at the time and another couple we were close with. Starting in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, we headed north ii to The White Mountains of N.H., to go skiing, just the four of us, with the trunk loaded with cooler, an clothes, with the skis on the roof, we were all very comfortable! I remember having to come back on Monday morning for work at 8 am, but a huge snow storm brewed up on Saturday and lasted longer than predicted. So we stayed because the conditions were so good. But when we left on Sunday afternoon, instead of morning, the 4.5 gr ride turned into an 8 hour ordeal, with cars stuck all over the service roads sn highways! But with the four huge 15” Firestone Town&Country Snow Tires that I added new just a month before all around, nothing could stop us! People all that vet were amazed we were still drove all around them! All warm, dry sn comfy as could! The only issue? Was a he was the extra 25 gallons of gas it took for the extra time the drive took! That was the best front wheel drive car, vehicle I’ve ever owned and the reason why I hate them now!

  16. Rex Kahrs Member

    So KVR, how much did that 25 extra gallons of gas set you back? Fifteen or twenty dollars? Well, OK, I remember when 15 bucks would buy a 4-finger bag, and then go skiing for 10 bucks.

    Like 2
    • K. R. V. Member

      Yes that was the only issue of a fun and completely satisfying weekend getaway, for 4 adults. So, the trip cost us $60, instead of $36. I never said it was a serious issue.

  17. Markswieczwski

    I had a 67 tornado I had the engine taken out and balanced n blue printed at 487 cubic inches n d stroked it could beat the hemi on the hwy in town I couldn’t get it over 100 mph on the hwy it could go way over 140 that’s what the rolling speedo says

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