When the Oldsmobile Toronado debuted on this day in 1965 it had been nearly 30 years since an American front wheel drive car was mass produced. FWD had been buried with Cord and its coffin nose in 1937, until now. The original design was conceived in 1962 by Oldsmobile stylist David North. Shortly after he completed the design GM have Olds the go ahead to build a personal luxury car for the 1966 model year to compete with the likes of the Ford Thunderbird. North’s design, which was never intended for production, was green lit.
Development of the front-wheel drive system, which became known as the Unitized Power Package (UPP), lasted more than seven years. Through that time components were driven upwards of 1.5 million miles to ensure reliability.
By the time the Toronado was rolling out of the factory it would weigh 4,500 pounds. Quite a beast, even for the time period. Thanks to its 425 cubic inch Super Rocket V8 that made 385 hp the 1966 models could still slide through the quarter mile in 7.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 135 miles per hour.
Just under 41,000 Toronados sold for 1966, but despite adding an optional tape player for 1967, sales fell to about 22,000. However, Cadillac adopted UPP for the 1967 Eldorado and GM motorhomes used the system throughout the 1970s with virtually no changes. The Toronado would survive numerous generations until being sidelined in 1992.
Cover: 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado by Karrmann – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.