Test Car? 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado

By then General Motors standards, the proposed Olds Toronado of the 1960s was just as much a design departure as the Chevy Corvair had been in the late 1950s. Instead of a rear-mounted air-cooled engine in a compact car, Oldsmobile was going for a front-wheel drive personal luxury vehicle in the end. Extensive testing was done to get the engineering right, especially with the adaptions that had to be made to the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission. This first year Toronado is said to be one of the prototypes used by GM to ready the car for production. One of them is mentioned in Cars of GM. While this car has not survived well, its history may be its most redeeming quality. Located in Titusville, Florida, this ‘66 Toronado is available here on Barn Finds Classifieds for $1,600.

GM pulled the trigger on the Olds Toronado for the 1966 model year, but not without extensive preparation. It would be the first U.S-built production car since the Cord in 1937. At first, the automobile was conceived size-wise along the lines of the F-85, but that would change as development continued. The final thinking became that buyers of more expensive and luxurious cars were likely to embrace the engineering differences of what would be the Toronado.

Much of the work would go into adapting the 425 cubic inch V8 and the automatic transmission to work with something other than rear-wheel-drive. The final product would end up becoming a hit, even winning Motor Trend’s coveted “Car of the Year” award for 1966.  Comments about the cruiser ranged from “truly outstanding car” to “never in the 14-year history of this award has the choice been so obvious and unanimous. The Toronado is symbolic of a resurgence of imaginative engineering and tasteful styling in the U.S. auto industry.”

So, this brings us to the seller’s car, we’re told it was found in Upstate New York where the previous owner claimed that is was one of four prototypes used for high-speed testing at GM’s prep tracks. The blog story mentions such a car (although only one) and the color of the seller’s car and the one in the blog is purely coincidental. The Olds then languished for 40 years until it turned up in Tampa, Florida at a ranch where time and Mother Nature have been quite unkind.

As the photos show, the car is rusty throughout and the interior has been ravaged by the hands of the clock or farm creatures. If it weren’t for the possible historical nature of this car, the seller admits pulling the drivetrain and junking the rest might make more economic sense. But if this car is the real deal, it could fetch far more than a standard ’66 Toronado once restored. We’re told the whereabouts of the other three testing prototypes have already been determined.

The transaction will be handled by bill of sale although what may be an old New York title will accompany the car along with paperwork and correspondence that the prior owner had with GM in the 1970s regarding this machine.  If you can get past the rust, poor interior, missing trim pieces, bad bumper, and broken glass and think of it in terms of the big picture, could this truly be a very valuable car sitting here in junkyard disguise? The last photo is from the blog about the Toronado.


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  1. Boatman Member

    New York did not issue titles until 1973. Prior were transferrable registrations.

    Like 6
  2. jimmyx

    Having spent a long career inside Oldsmobile Division in Lansing, the owners story doesn’t ring true. Engineering mules are not sold to the public. Could have been an early pilot car pulled for testing, but the VIN sequence appears far too high. The car is a ’66 Toro and that’s all it is.

    Like 26
    • Wayne Dennis

      Having worked at Lansing my self for 7 years,1960-7, I do remember 4 cars being pulled 1964-65 as we were getting the first early 66’s built and shipped to their dealerships. There was a deep concern about the front seals vs the weight. We thought this was settled during testing with the Management prior to the go ahead for full build. But 4 were pulled as I drove 2 of them. They were “raced” on track for 4 days, though I remember at least one of the cars being blue in and out. This could be a repaint if so then I for one can vouch for at least one of them. I know 1 other car to be still in the museum at GM. Maybe it’s true, he doesn’t sound like he is looking to rob with the price. You and I both know engine and transmission alone is worth what they are asking. Maybe the history is too..

      Like 1
    • Courtney

      Your totally right the vin number is at the tail end of production not the beginning. Also vehicals built for testing did not have a full production sequence in the vin. As the first 7 characters would not have been even a thought until the assembly plant was tooled up for production. There are ways to tell for sure. Early cars did not have an attachment point for a shoulder strap. Also the position of switches on the doors changed. Need to get a picture of the inside of the door and I can put a production date to the car.

      Like 8
      • Rob

        The knowledge level of some of the BF readers is truly impressive!

        Like 1
    • Superdessucke

      Yeah. I called bullbleep on this one immediately. The test mule wouldn’t have had a VIN.

  3. Derek

    It gives the impression that wherever it goes, it’ll need to be swept there.

    Like 7
  4. Ralph

    6 pictures and 2 of them are of a tire pressure sticker for a Mercedes, bang up job Mr.Seller, where do I send the check?

    Like 1
  5. Gary

    The seller add is extremely dubious.

    Like 2
    • Wsuperman4445

      Dubious means suspect. So you’re saying that the mention of lots of rust in his ad is suspect? you don’t think there’s any rust? Saying that he feels the engine and trans are the only things worth value is dubious? you think that there are more parts or value to this car? If this all falls on production based on the VIN, another poster stated they pulled four cars from production, are you saying that’s dubious that they (GM)could not have done that Just to reassure themselves the bearings are holding up in production models? Anyone that knows these cars knows that weight sitting over front wheel drive was an inherent problem all the way through the tornadoes life. And at the end it seems to be decently priced for what it is, it’s always easy to be negative in critiquing cars on these types of sites, it’s harder to give well meaning support to someone selling their car. SMH!

      Like 2
  6. jerry z

    Without documentation, just BS.

    Like 11
  7. mainlymuscle

    ” Dubious ” is that French for BS ?

    Like 8
  8. Steve Clinton

    Looks like this ‘test car’ failed the exam.

    Like 6
  9. Kevin

    Rough,yes!,worth some parts,and especially if the extremely durable 425 engine is in place, whether the story is true or not,this can be a donor car,for another 1st generation toronado, stop the hating already!

    Like 2
  10. CraigR

    I thought they crushed test cars after they beat them half to death.

    Like 1
  11. Bellingham Fred

    It was a test of corrosion resistance and it failed. Now it is a test of your B.S. detector.

    Like 1
  12. Kenn

    So what if the story is BS? Price is right for this wonderful automobile, and DIY restoration wouldn’t have to leave you underwater on the value. Or just restore enough to drive and enjoy.

    Like 2
  13. Alan C Hubbard

    What would have been interesting are the test mules used to develop the FWD powertrain. High Speed, High Mileage or Durability testing is not at all interesting, and leaves the test subjects used up, and that’s why they were crushed.

    • Tom Curnow

      In 1968 I worked for Mickey Thompson who had several GM deals, in 68 GM sent us 3 Of them to play with 4 wheel steering , one us cris crossed cables to turn the back spindles, the 2nd one used hydraulics, the third was left original, interesting results, after Many adjustment it actually worked. When you entered a hard curve, the leaned into the turn. Managent changes at Olds canned the deal. I was in charge of Mickey Thompson PR and adverting, so these projects ended on my desk. When the day came to return them, I told the truck drive they handled oddly especially in reverse. The driver informed me he been hauling for GM for years , so I shut up and watched first to be loaded was the stock one. He hopped , put his arm on the back Of the passages seat and backed down the alley behind my office , and wizzed by me, loaded the car and went for the 2nd one. Same MO, but this time when he tried to steer, the thing started a reverse fishtail and center punched a telephone on the side of the alley, he jumped out screaming What The Hell. Told you so

      Like 1

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