As America’s first postwar front-wheel drive car, the Oldsmobile Toronado turned heads in 1966 with spectacular styling and clever engineering. From 1968-70, the facelifted Toronado seemed to have lost its style leadership, but Oldsmobile was hard at work on a 1971 redesign that would return the Toronado’s luster. Was Oldsmobile successful? Judge for yourself with our Pick of the Day, a 1971 Toronado that’s for sale on ClassicCars.com by a dealership in Sioux City, Iowa.
When the redesigned Toronado hit the streets in the fall of 1970, it was perhaps the most avant garde car out of Detroit. With edgy beltline creases, an unconventional grille configuration up front, and safety-inspired accessory brake lights out back, the new Toronado oozed experimental on and beneath the surface. To modern eyes, it may not come off as pretty though, to eyes of the time, impressions may have been different.
Though now utilizing a full frame chassis, the new Toronado’s engineering was familiar, featuring the same Rocket 455 four-barrel and split Turbo-Hydramatic 400 transmission. However, big news was General Motors’ early embrace of low-lead and unleaded gas, a change that would not be federally mandated until 1972. As such, compression for GM engines was lowered across the board. Horsepower for the 455 fell from 375 to 350 gross, but using the upcoming net measurement system would make the drop appear more severe at 275 horses.
Inside, the Toronado clearly was a more luxurious affair. “Elegant fabrics and fine tailoring” of a luxury car was standard, including a center armrest. A special Brougham interior in cloth and vinyl with 60/40 split and dual seat controls was available. Truthfully, the luxury within was hinted at by the Toronado’s formal roofline, a big change from the semi-fastback styling of the previous generation.
This 1971 Oldsmobile Toronado is painted in the Toro-exclusive Code 73 Briar (though some literature calls it Autumn Glow metallic) with matching interior. The seller states that the 21,000 miles are believed to be actual, especially “based on the condition of the interior, [as] it is close to perfect, showing no real signs of wear — seat covers, door panels or carpet.” Apparently, this Toronado sat for a long time (something not unusual for old luxury car past its prime), so it’s been refreshed with new tires, new rear-wheel cylinders, brakes calipers and pads, new hoses, master cylinder, spark plugs and wires, air conditioning compressor and more. It’s quite loaded too: “All kinds of equipment: cold air conditioning, power windows, power seat, power locks, power trunk lid release, power steering, power brakes, drivers remote mirror, tilt wheel and more.”
Withhold your opinion on the styling for a moment and think about this: For $24,900, you can drive a car that reeks of class, 1971-style, that few cars can exhibit at this level. And while the Toronado’s styling was softened starting in 1973 and is arguably more attractive, it’s the initial version of this generation that people will remember.