Winking Beauty: 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado

Are you lookin’ at me? Are you lookin’ at me?! I miss the pop-up headlight era, sort of. They didn’t always work perfectly but people just lived with those things back then. And, “back then” was only fifteen years ago now so it’s not like they’re ancient. This 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado with pop-up headlights, as they all had, can be found here on craigslist in Newfoundland, New Jersey. The seller is asking what seems like a very reasonable price of $5,000. Frankly, I can’t believe that the CL ad is still up at that price. Let’s check out this winking beauty.

I know that we’ve dealt with the term patina many times here. Some folks think that it’s a great look and others think that it’s a lazy and/or cheap person’s way of getting out of repainting a vehicle to make it look presentable again. I’m on the fence with this Toronado, one of the most elegant designs of all time. It really should be as nice as it can be which would include a fairly expensive repaint. On the other hand, it’s a mean-looking car, as in a Stephen King evil character sort of way, not in a 2019/2020 lame, frowning, angry-headlight car way. This Toronado probably deserves a full bodywork regimen and repaint. Thoughts? Those headlights, though!

The chrome invoices for restoring this car will probably run into the thousands, there appears to be quite a bit of surface rust. Both bumpers are really the major re-chroming job but the wheels need some help – and the grille, too. The body looks pretty good but there is a bit of rust to deal with, and not just trendy surface rust. I mean, patina. The seller says that there’s a little rust poking through on the rear wheel arches.

They say that this car was owned by a famous aircraft designer which is usually code for having been maintained very well. This car doesn’t really show too well in the photos, though, and you can see that they didn’t even vacuum the carpet before taking the photos. The dash appears to need some work as does the headliner, but the seats look like new both front and rear, although it looks like the top of the rear seatbacks may need help. That’s a bit unusual given how the rest of the interior looks. Out of 16 photos, there isn’t one engine photo, but it should be Oldsmobile’s 425 cubic-inch V8 with 385 hp. They say that it drives fine and the asking price seems more than fine to me. Hagerty is at $17,300 for a #4 good condition car so the next owner will have over $12,000 worth of spending money before they have to start thinking about the budget. Are there any fans of early Toronados out there? Even more importantly, was the 2004 C5 Corvette the last car to use pop-up headlights? Are there any still being made today?


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  1. Brad

    My parents had a Toronado. I got to drive it once when I was 16. Lots of power. I believe it was front wheel drive. Note that there is no transmission hump.

    Like 3
  2. Darrell

    Toronado fan right here. I used to have a 67 and am very familiar with these cars. The headlights on this one need to be repaired, but it’s doable if you’re determined and know how to swear. If it’s like mine was I’d want to pull those carpets immediately and check out the rest of the floor for issues. Probably needs a new timing chain and CV joints. Still, that’s a good price for a first generation Toronado. I’d take it if I had a place to put it and do the work. Hit up the Facebook Toronado forums for help; they’re excellent fellows ready with answers.

    Like 11
  3. Brent

    Looks like my ex wife did after too many beers! These are great cars.Uncle had one that he drove for over 10 years with 0 problems. Rode and drove great. Lots of power and mpg you could live with. Always liked the looks. Luck to the new owner.

    Like 14
  4. Miguel

    If all cars came with covered headlights in some way, we wouldn’t have to deal with the yellowing or fogging over of the plastic.

    Like 18
    • John Wilburn

      But then we would have to deal with them not opening. All we need is to go back to glass headlights. There was no problem with them.

      Like 10
      • Mike

        EXACTLY!! I’ve said the same thing many times. Unfortunately, it’ll probably never happen.

  5. Bob S

    I had a 67, it is one of the best cars I have owned. The doors were heavy to help you stay strong.

    Like 13
  6. matt steele

    Style looks power..hidden headlights..checks a lot of boxes.

    Like 9
  7. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Used to know a couple that would go to the car auctions and buy cars he’d rebuild over the winter. She had a thing about Toronado’s and I think she bought every one that came through the auctions. She had several that she was stockpiling with the intentions of rebuilding some day. I don’t know if they ever did but she had quite a few at that time.
    I got a chance to look them over and I was impressed by the fit and finish on them.
    This one is going to take some work but it should be restored to all it’s highway glory and enjoyed.

    Like 9
  8. Howard A Member

    Car of the Year, 1966, and for good reason. Americas 1st mass produced FWD car, I think. Anyway, it was revolutionary in every way, and sadly fell on deaf ears. People like my old man couldn’t grasp the idea of the FRONT wheels driving the car, even though, many found out the pluses of FWD. Who would have ever thought, this would be the platform for the future? Lot of work restoring a beast like this, unlike say, a King Midget, and only to get 7-8 mpg when finished, but it was a novel idea, just before it’s time.

    Like 12
    • Zorro

      I worked at an Olds dealership back about 1980ish. We had a “beater” 1972 Toro that we tied old tires onto the front of and used it as a push car. It would roll right through the snow, it had so much traction with that heavy engine/trans right over the front drive wheels! This is one of those cars that people seem to have a love or hate relationship with. I personally love those first two years.

      Like 1
  9. Coventrycat

    Love those Toronados. “Owned by…” means nothing. Maybe it was maintained well when it was new – we’ll never know and it wouldn’t matter today given how the car presents now.

    Like 6
  10. luke arnott Member

    I bought one of these from SoCal earlier this year.Just had it painted.The tops of the back seat needed doing – with material from SMS & trimming costs it came to $2000.

    Like 3
  11. Allegro37 Member

    I am a fan of these cars, but I have no room. If I remember correctly the headlights were vacume operated in 1966, a silly mistake, and because of so many owner complaints when the car was new, the headlights would turn down at 60mph, a zero vacume point and very exciting on the road at night.
    There is a mechanical conversion for the headlights but I can’t remember who makes it (made?) and I’m not good with computers. Ask the Owner’s Club. They are very supportive and helpful.

    Like 3
  12. Pete Kaczmarski

    I have always wanted one since seeing them come out in 1966. It took almost fifty years but I have one now. It is a Deluxe with color of “Doubonet” inside and out. Dreams sometimes take awhile to happen.

    Like 4
    • luke arnott Member

      Byr one!Not a lot of money – I drove one in 1974 and just bought mine!

  13. Robert White

    When I was a kid in 66 I thought the Toronado was pretty much the ugliest piece of automobile excess that the drunken designers could muster in their automotive largesse at the time. Until the AMC Pacer came out in the 70s I always thought that the Toronado took first prize in the ugliest design category of GM history.

    Today, I still think the Toronado is one cheesy design that I would never own.


  14. Bill Hall

    When these Toros were new they used to EAT front tires with all the weight and front wheel drive.

    Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      That’s true, so much so, Firestone made a special “TFD” ( Toronado Front Drive) tire. And it’s true, they were front heavy, but most of the tire wear was because these cars did wicked burnouts!

      Like 3
  15. Kenn

    My father had one of the first of these. Only problem was the CV joint covers would come apart every few thousand miles and, if not caught, would result in the CV joint being destroyed. Apparently the engineers figured out how to get joint covers manufactured to take the constant flexing, without which I don’t think FWD would have survived. These are marvelous cruising machines.

  16. Del

    Looks like paint is to far gone.

    Although I can here comments that this just surface rust.

    I am thinking not a good buy

    Like 2
  17. Duane E Haaland

    I always thought the body style of the first Toros was superb, only to be matched by the Cadillac Eldorado which was also the FWD. I owned both the 1970 and a 1972. Once drove from Minneapolis to Denver in about 11 hours. Yup interstate in Nebraska and Colorado had no speed restrictions So I averaged about 90 miles per hour. Probably my most favorite car. If I had the skill I’d be all in on restoring one today. Good luck to whoever gets it.

    Like 1
  18. Bruce

    My neighbor was a Missouri State Highway Patrol officer and for many years this model of car had the record of having the fastest speeding ticket given in the state. Far above 130 MPH. The owner just bought it and was driving from St. Louis to Kansas City. He was totally sober and just did not realize how fast he was going. The ticket was massive and they followed him the rest of the way home I was told but they did not jail him. He was only beaten by the Ferrari Dino that was stopped during the Cannon Ball run with I believe Dan Gurney as one of the drivers. LOL

    I have ridden in a few and they were marvelous. Of note this is about the only car I can think of that has TWO door handles on each interior side of the door. It is so long and incase the people in the back need to get out they have their own door handle. LOL. I find them truly elegant especially in the darker colors. There was a black one with a dark red interior that was in my town that was a real heart breaker

    Like 1

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