Monday, July 7, 2014

Show Car Sunday returns on Monday with the Motor Trend Car of the Year for 1966!

I'm a day late with this post but not a dollar short as you will soon see!
I was on the final leg of a 22 mile ride across the Hudson to New Paltz when this jaw-dropping beauty presented itself at the Park & Ride:
Alright people stand back! What we have here is a 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado in an incredible turquoise color. The closest original '66 GM color I could find would be Ocean Mist, but this looks to be more of a teal. There are other colors elsewhere in the GM books, and in that day and age you could special order just about anything, but let's move on already!
I throw superlatives around on this blog to excess, but in this case it would be hard to overshoot just how spectacular this car is in every way. In 1966 when this came out it immediately made every other car on the road look 10 years old. This thing was way ahead of it's time, not just in the looks department, but under the skin too. This enormous spaceship was the first high production front-wheel-drive vehicle in the world, and the first American auto producer to build one at all since the 1930s Cord. Being such a large car meant a huge engine too; the 7 liter 425 V8 was standard. To be able to fit the big engine and transmission above the front wheels took some seriously futuristic designing savvy, including a "split" transmission employing 2 heavy duty chains that was nestled under and around the engine.
The fact that the grill is made of horizontal slats identifies this as the debut year for Toronado, as the following year went to an "egg-crate" style. You can see from the angle of the power headlight door that this is indeed a ride with almost 50 years on it. The detail of the thin horizontal reflector above the headlight door trying hard to look like additional hood scoops is worth mentioning.
Look at the side view of this beast; wheels are accentuated by the pronounced flaring of the arches, long hood, ultra gentle fastback profile, and those bumpers that perfectly meld into the lines of the car all contribute to the big picture. GM gave the go-ahead for this car in an attempt to compete with the Ford Thunderbird. When they decided on a design for the new car they chose a never-meant-for-production dream car sketch from one of the artists on staff that he had done in his free time months earlier. This is that design almost exactly!
Oh come on! The back of this car is one of my very favorite from all 100+ years of automotive history. The reverse lights are made into a central rectangle exactly the width of the license plate. The oval shape of the rear holds the taillight bar which is mimicking the front grill slats, along with an expanse of body-colored metal with Toronado written in script. The rear bumpers are some of the most integrated in the business, and the dual exhaust coming out of two cut-out arches are classy and tough. Finally, look at the subtle rake of that trunk/rear window combination!

Looks like the owner drove through some mud with that lower quarter panel. Since it's a front-wheel-drive car this was due to really driving through mud as opposed to peeling out in a little mud puddle.
Seriously, at this point I was just crawling all over the car taking extra shots.
Such a cool old script font for the emblems, with the T extending all the way across "oro".
Not only does this pic highlight the gentle S-curve of the roofline, but it shows a signature feature of this make & model: those vents are the intakes for the new "Draft-Free" ventilation system. The clean lines of this ride remain intact due to the fact that this system eliminated the need for small vent windows in the front doors. Also, look how pronounced those fender flares are from the factory.
This was one of the brightest days of the summer so interior glimpses were hard to secure with a phone and the steep slope of the glass. The steering wheel is so funky that I had to try my best; it looks a lot like the '60s Batmobile steering wheel from the TV show. Almost every option was chosen for this car too, as the radio, clock and a/c controls are all present. One standout and totally odd feature is the speedometer which is located in that square of chrome above the center of the steering wheel. The needle was a stationary horizontal bar, and the numbers were on a roller behind it acting much like the spinning numbers of a slot machine. It was almost like the speedometer itself was the big wheel from The Price is Right!
 There is a cheap plastic console on the floor which is too bad because it obscures another selling point for the Toronado; the front floor was completely flat because it was front-wheel-drive and there was no need for a transmission hump. 3 adults could sit across the front seat without any awkward leg positioning.
Well there you have it; one of the coolest and most innovative cars built in the U.S. in the past century. Since they are more along the lines of luxury coupe (no manual transmission was ever offered for this model), the prices haven't reached the absurd heights of muscle cars. I feel like with some searching you could find this car in this condition for around $10,000. Compared to a GTO from the same year this is a bargain!

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