Big, bad, and bronze, this first-year coupe is a stunner from the Bill Mitchell era of GM design.
• This 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado is currently up for auction on Bring a Trailer.
• The 1966 model year was the first for the massive front-wheel-drive coupe.
• The no-reserve auction ends August 30.
In the mid-1960s, General Motors was a market-dominating colossus, and its industry-leading design department was arguably the engine of its sales success. Of all the many designs turned out by GM’s five passenger-car divisions during that period, one of the cars that best demonstrates the company’s styling prowess under design boss Bill Mitchell is the Oldsmobile Toronado, particularly in its debut year of 1966. A look at this Autumn Bronze example currently up for sale on Bring a Trailer—which like Car and Driver is part of Hearst Autos—shows why.
First, there’s the sheer scale of the thing. Riding on a 119-inch wheelbase, the Toro stretched 211 inches from stem to stern, making the close-coupled coupe about as long as today’s Cadillac Escalade. A good portion of that length is the miles-long hood, at the leading edge of which are the hidden headlights. Despite the ultra-long nose, the proportions are remarkably balanced, with the backlight sweeping almost uninterrupted into the decklid. More impressively, the Toro is noted for its complete absence of a shoulder at the window line. In a feat of body engineering, the wide C-pillars merge seamlessly into the quarter panels. The body’s shoulder line is pushed down almost to the mid-point of the wheels, giving the car a particularly low-slung appearance.
The Toronado wasn’t just a styling tour-de-force, the car is also famed for being the first U.S.-built front-wheel-drive car since the Cord of the 1930s. At the time, the exotic technology was seen in just a handful of cars sold here, such as the BMC Mini. Oldsmobile was the spearhead, with the Cadillac Eldorado following suit on the same platform for 1967 (the Buick Riviera, meanwhile, was also built on the E-body platform but was rear-wheel drive).
A 425-cubic-inch V-8 provided more than ample thrust. One auction commenter recalls riding with his father (an Oldsmobile rep) in a first-year Toronado when his dad was pulled over for doing 95 mph on a desert highway. The brakes, however—power drums at all four corners—are widely regarded as a fade-prone weak point, and several commenters recommend swapping in front discs, which Oldsmobile soon made available. Note that a C/D test of the facelifted ’68 model equipped with the optional discs still noted some pretty hairy stopping behavior, so careful following distances may be advised.
The interior eschews bucket seats and console in favor of a front bench seat, the better to show off the novelty of the car’s flat floor. The speedometer is a rotating drum, and the gargantuan doors are so long that they feature a second inside door handle at the rearmost point of the armrest, to allow rear-seat passengers to exit.
This car is said to have been restored under previous ownership, but it’s not quite perfect. The selling dealer notes an inoperative horn, wipers, and radio pushbuttons. None of that seems to have dampened bidder enthusiasm, however, as the price currently sits at $23,500 with four days to go.