By on December 9, 2009

the last true toronado?

Rest assured, I have found a genuine 1966 Toro for an upcoming full CC. And I’ve seen a fairly rare ’77 XS with the wrap-around rear window in someone’s yard that I will hunt down. In the meantime, let’s content ourselves with this somewhat mundane ’85.

And I say ’85 with a fair degree of certainty, because it took me awhile to pin it down. But I could be wrong. Nerd alert! The difference between some of the years are about as subtle as it gets for yank tanks. I suppose I shouldn’t be using that derogatory word, since this was the substantially down-sized third generation, and the last year of that series, at that. Too bad it wasn’t a diesel, then it would have been a real find. Not one Olds-powered diesel left in the whole town, so far.

CC 29 071 800

With some trepidation, I will say that this Toronado is powered by a genuine Oldsmobile 307 V8 (he ducks for cover). The ’81 through ’84s came standard with the Buick 4.1 L V6, but that was discontinued for ’85. Not surprisingly, since with 125 hp and weighing just shy of 4,000 lbs, the V6 was a poky pig. Still beat the pig in a poke diesel option by a light-year.

CC 29 073 800

The 140 hp V8 didn’t exactly set the front wheels on fire either. But Toronado buyers by this time were looking for something other than excitement. What exactly was it they were looking for? Style, comfort, a long hood? Some 42k buyers found it with the ’85, but for the last time, as Toronado sales crashed with the new micro-Toro that appeared for ’86. So could we say that in a way, this is really the last true Toronado? Or is that stretching things?

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63 Comments on “Curbside Classic Capsule: 1985 Toronado...”


  • avatar

    C’mon have some pride.  Don’t put any old hunk of junk on the site.  This car is utterly forgettable and not worthy of your time in taking the pics or posting about.
     

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    The Mid-90′s Toro Trofeo (which was discontinued when the Aurora’s hit the showrooms) was a far superior vehicle in everyway….one of the best GM’s (okay, damning with faint praise…) of the 90′s.

    • 0 avatar
      Brendon from Canada

      Have to agree; the old man had a 92 (?) Toro Trofeo with the FE3 suspension package.  It was actually a very enjoyable vehicle to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Would love to see a CC photographic retrospective of vehicles with FE3 badges.  My personal faves were the Oldsmobile 98s and 88s that were available with the FE3 suspension.  I’d actually like to lay my hands on one just for the oddness factor and to restrore back to factory to see how tight the handling actually was. 

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    Fake landau roof? CHECK
    Fake wire wheels? CHECK
    Fake wood insides? CHECK
    The only good thing is the crotch vent under the column….bring back the crotch vent GM!

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Actually the Toro, Riv and Eldo of this bodystyle were IMO all nice cars. When I saw the advance pics of the 86 Eldo I ordered one of the last 85′s built. The HT 4100 in the Eldo was a dog too especially compared to my 81 with the 378 cid (I think). After the 86 Eldo was available I saw one (side view) parked in front of my house from a block away and thought it was a Grand Am until I was right on top of it. From 79-85 all three of these cars were amongst the most popular luxury cars on the road. GM of course doomed all three with the 86 downsizing. What I could never figure out is why GM thought buyers of the 79-85 versions would want so much smaller of a car as the 86 redesigns were. Same with the last ill fated Mercury Cougar.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I love the aftermarket “cup holder/organizer” sitting on the floor full of crap.  Does Wal-Mart still sell that crap?  Vintage item I recall from my youth in just about every GM/Ford/Chrysler land yacht from the 70′s to mid 80′s.  Told myself that once I started driving I’d never clutter up my vehicle like that, nor have I.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    The remarkable thing that I notice is that in the mid 2000′s GM was still using the same, miserable Pep-Boys quality seat cover upholstery material that they were using in 1985.

  • avatar
    thebanana

    I like the piece of cardboard stuck between the side window and the door (to keep it from rattling too much, I suppose.)

  • avatar
    georgie

    I had a 1981 edition of the Olds Toronado with the 307 cu.in engine.
    It was a performance DOG.
    These cars were equipped with the first several years edition of the G.M computer controlled carb. That coupled with the California mandated smog equipment and the cars weight was just too much “meat” with no “potatoes”  (absolutely “Not your fathers Oldsmobile”) I would have been better off looking for a a good used 1980 with the 350 cu.in engine
    Prior to this Toronado I had owned a 1996 Toronado. Now that was a performance machine albeit with a 475 cu. in. engine. It was sad to see how far Olds had sunk when you compared the performance of the original Toronado with the 1981 edition.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Does this car even keep up with an automatic Mercedes 240D?  By “keep up” I mean acceleration, because in terms of drive, durability, or desirability there really is no contest.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I had an ’81 Eldo, a very similar car.     Even back then the divisions didn’t have enough identity: people used to call my car a Toronado.     It was comfortable.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    This is a piece of a merde.  Just like it’s stablemate Riviera.  I can’t believe my old man bought one of these over a Saab 900 when Saab was still Saab and not some bastardized Chevy truck.

  • avatar
    john.fritz

    I like the piece of cardboard stuck between the side window and the door (to keep it from rattling too much, I suppose.)

    Yes, all sorts of craptasticness inside that car. I especially like the power door lock switch hanging out of the arm rest (mid-troubleshoot, no doubt) and the fact that GM was too cheap to make both front seats with their own arm rest.

  • avatar
    krazykarguy

    Is that a CHMSL in the rear window?
    I can’t tell, there’s too much glare in the picture.
    If so, this is a 1986. DOT and FMVSS mandated CHMSL’s for passenger cars beginning for MY1986, and light trucks/pickups in MY1994.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      Aftermarket CHMSLs were also available.  The shrunken ’86 Toronado looks like this one:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Trofeo-fe6.JPG

    • 0 avatar
      big_gms

      Can’t tell if there’s a CHMSL in the rear window, but if there is, rest assured it’s an ’85. Oldsmobile was an early adopter of the CHMSL beginning with some 1985 models. And the ’86 Toronado is a totally different-and much smaller-car.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    God those things were horrid. Everything wrong with American cars in one package.

    Cheezy vinyl roof, wire wheel covers, lousy seats, lousy build quality, dripping with plasti-chrome, horrid panel gaps, slow, same crap instrumentation/controls as a 1970, doesn’t handle, the headliner will be on your head 5 years from new…

    The GenI Toro/Eldo were kinda neat. But, if anything should have been a bright and shining beacon that GM had lost the plot, drivel like this shoulda been it.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    I’ve liked some horrid cars too. As long as one knows they are horrid and can admit it, hey, nothing wrong with that.

    FWIW, I used to have a ’70 Eldo. Horrid forest green with white leather. Fun for FWD smoky burnouts though.

  • avatar
    relton

    I always thought these cars were kind of elegant at the time. Compared to anything else on the market (in teh US) they weree pretty stylish.

    I know, they had weak engines and lousy quality by today’s standards, but at the time they were more than acceptable.

    The car shown can’t be any newer than 85, ’cause the 86 is quite a different car.

    Bob

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Agreed; while the High-Mount tail lamp was mandated for ’86, some mfgs. had them installed before that.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      The CHMSL was optional on ’85 Oldsmobiles. My dad bought a 98 new and ordered it with the third brake light. It was a neat car at the time. 

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I have to agree, for their time these weren’t bad cars.  At least they were distinctive–badge engineering aside, they looked different from other manufacturers’ offerings–with good lines and proportions.  Yeah, the build quality and performance were craptastic…welcome to 1985 Detroit.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      I don’t remember my father having a single issue with his 98. In fact, the only reason he got rid of it was that once I got my license the insurance became too expensive, so he traded it in for an ’89 Century wagon, light blue with the woodgrain. I don’t know what became of the 98, but we sold the Century a few years later and the subsequent owner is still driving it today.

  • avatar

    I have always liked these cars. In my opinion, the Toronado’s styling is more tasteful than the Eldorado or Riviera. The only problem with these cars is that they look too much like any other GM car of the era.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    I liked the Buick version even better, I had nicer curves (to me any way). The foreman at a plant I worked at had one, and he loved it. The later Trofeo was nice too, but rusted like mad.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    You think this is slow?  I had a 1984 98 Regency with the same 307 V8.  Although these aren’t my cup of tea, I never thought they were bad cars for what they were.  I would take one of these over a Continental Mark VI, which was no more solid and was just plain ugly.  The 307 was one of GM’s best engines.  I owned 3 cars with this engine (all 12-15 yrs old and over 100K miles) and never had a moment’s worth of engine trouble.  It was the electricals on my Oldsmobile.   If these drove anything like their bigger brothers, I’m sure it was reasonably smooth, fairly tight structure, and felt heavier than it was (a good thing among Olds and Buick buyers).  These were quite resistant to body rust in my area, much moreso than contemporary FoMoCo cars.
    A neighbor has a really nice Riviera of this vintage that he picked up from the original owner.  Although he is not much of a GM guy, he does enjoy the Buick, and says that it is a nice ride.

    • 0 avatar
      big_gms

      I beg to differ that the 307 was one of GM’s best engines. That honor belongs to the original 3800 V6. I’ve owned GM cars with both engines (’86 Parisienne with the 307, ’90 and ’91 LeSabres with the 3800), and in my experience, the 3800 was vastly superior in every way imaginable. More powerful, more durable, better fuel economy, smoother running, easier to start in the winter, no goddamned oil leaks like the 307, the list goes on and on. The 307 is just a step above crap and nothing more.

  • avatar
    The_Mase

    Ugh…”my” first car was a maroon Toronado Trofeo, I believe a ’91 or so, that I had to share with my sister. She somehow got to drive it the majority of the time, and incessantly whined about how bad it was. I remember it having several electrical type issues. Neither of us were sad when it was gone, that’s for sure.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I love it, I want one, I will have one.  Born in 1977, I’ve loved this body style of Toronado since day one.  My girlfriend thinks the Riveras of the same vintage are too “pimp-mobile” looking.  I would love to collect one of these suckers.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    Great article.  Looking at the radio, I think it’s an ’85. Looking at the steering wheel, I think it’s an ’81. Any other CC fans want to weigh in?

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      I’m sure its an ’85, from the grille which was unique in certain minor details that year.

    • 0 avatar
      big_gms

      Just pulled the 1980 through 1985 Oldsmobile sales brochures from my collection to look. It is indeed an ’85.

    • 0 avatar

      Steering wheel says it cannot be newer than ’83.  Of course, there may have been a swap in this car’s past – GM tilt steering columns were designed so the bushings would fail if you actually used them, leaving you with a floppy wheel and, eventually, binding hard enough to render you unable to complete a turn on a busy road during afternoon rush, leaving you stuck in the median looking like a dumbass.  Ask me how I know…

  • avatar
    GS650G

    If you want to see a diesel version of this car I’ll ask my friend Ron to take a picture of his. He loves his T and will most likely never part with it.

  • avatar
    megaphone

    I bet the drivers side door weighs as much as a Smart42

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I’m not sure the entire E-bodies of this era weighed any more than about 3700lbs, which is to say Lexus ES350 weight.
      These were good cars. The FWD package was mechanically reliable, they rode well, they were airy and cheerful inside, and they had plenty of trunk and passenger room.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      My Encyclopedia of American Cars says 3853 lbs for the ’85 Toro. That would be dry and without any options. About 4000 on the road.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    This is a Bill Mitchell design.  I think it was designed as an Eldo and the other models were derived off that.  The changes done to make it a Toro make it look kinda clunky instead of lithe like the Eldo. 

    Arguably, the best of the whole series was the ’79 Eldo, which was powered by a fuelie Olds 350 which returned better performance than just about anything else that Olds or Caddy put in these cars.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Saw a 79 on eBay a few weeks ago.  Needed a transmission, but had the 350 and the paint, landau top, and interior where almost perfect (a perfect metallic pea green.)  It was hundreds of miles away from me and went for $900.  I hope I can still find deals like that when I’m ready to buy one in a year or two.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    Well, it’s time for me to chime in…
    The car could most likely be an ’85, but I just took a look at my 1984 Olds brochure and the styling looks just like the ’85. FWIW I do know that the ’85 Eldo, Riviera and Seville were essentially carryovers so the same could probably be said for the Toro. I have to admit that I thought Olds had dropped that steering wheel by then. The other thing that confirms that it is a later model is the Delco UM6 stereo.
     
    As for this generation of Toro and E-body in general, I recall as a kid being aware that the cars were a throwback to the 70′s, yet at the same time the car felt as if it was modern and advanced.
    When I was 17, my dad and I looked at an ’85 Riviera, and I remember thinking as we were on the test drive and I was sitting in the back, basking in the luxury, running my hands over the burgandy cloth and taking in the sounds from the stereo, that that was one of the most luxurious cars I had ever experienced. My dad would have traded my ’85 Skylark for it, but the dealer wouldn’t budge on $500, so it didn’t happen. I sooo wanted that car…
    Personally, I loved the styling cliches of the 1980′s. These were the kinds of cars that I was around as a kid, and they always represented style and class. It saddens me that they are viewed as either pimpmobiles or cars for trailer trash, they really were nice.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      My dad test drove an 84 or 85 back in about 1995.  Guy he knew as getting rid of it.  Mechanically and interior wise it was sound but needed plenty of rust repair after the many many Ohio winters it had seen.  It was chocolate brown with a tan velour interior.  I was just graduating high school so I got a chance to drive it.  We lived in the country and the car rode so soft I stopped on an empty road just to open the door, stick my hand out, and check to see if the road was still there.  Good memories but he decided not to take a chance on it when he realized the guy had disconnected all the smog equipment.  My dad was not the kind of guy to ride around in such obvious violation of the law.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Different strokes and all that. 

    At least not as land-yachty as the mid 70′s Toro/Eldo. 

  • avatar
    Power6

    This is the last true Toronado if you consider that it is the last of the classic north-south FWD arrangement. Interestingly by this time Buick and Cadillac had switched over to this same FWD setup.

    I think these cars looked too much like the G-body Cutlass, Regal, etc. so only the person with some extra money for something a little nicer would care. But hey I was 9 years old when this came out, what do I know.

    Well I do know the most interesting of all of these E-bodies was the turbo T-Type Riviera the potential ’85 Toronado customer could have had, with the full Grand National 200hp and a boatload more torque than the wheezy old 307.

  • avatar
    detlump

    My dad ordered a new 79 Toro, graphite with black interior, a sharp car.  It had the grille with rectangular openings, stacked in rows.   He got tired of putting snow tires on the RWD cars he had before for Michigan winters.  It was good in the snow.  Had a 350 so it was peppy but not good for gas mileage.  I liked the hood ornament and the headlight, turn signal indicators on the hood and rear deck (taillight).  In those days I used to ride on the front armrest so I could see over the dash.  Good times.  If you are interested, there is one for sale in Rockford, MI, almost this copper metallic color.

  • avatar
    detlump

    BTW, I like these types of CCs.  Not everyone has to be destined for Barrett Jackson.  But all will stir some memories in viewers.   Maybe a Rampage or Spirit RT next?  Or a Grand Prix 2+2?  Can’t miss with an X-11.  Or maybe a Mitsu Challenger.  An SVO would be nice too.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    I remember these cars fondly. I helped my Dad pick out his burgundy 83.  I still remember how that car smelled.  My friend’s dad bought a Riviera the same year.  We used to go back and forth (not argue) over which one was better.   We liked them both.
    A few years ago, I picked up an 84, the same color as the one in the photo.  I bought it for $700 off eBay and ended up selling it for around $1500.  The car brought back a ton of memories.  And despite being over 20 years old, it looked great and never failed to start.
    These cars represent a healthy Americn auto industry.  It’s when GM and the others started chasing the Japanese and German designs that they lost touch with their Brand identity.  Witness the Trofeo that followed, and the downsized 1986 98 Regency, Delta 88, etc.  Those cars were abominations, whereas the predecessors were Real American Cars.
    I say:  Let BMW be BMW.  Let Toyota be Toyota.  And the Americans should be American, with real American style and quality.  The Chrysler 300 gave me hope.  If I was Ford, I’d throw out a Mark, or a Continental with big fenders, a big chrome grill, and hidden headlamps.
    You guys can take your shots at the 25 year old car, and what you see as design/quality flaws all you like.  But keep in mind, that was 25 years ago, and this car was something to aspire to.  The quality was on par with the rest of the contemporary offerings.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    A 5 liter engine with less than 30 hp/l.
    Wow.

    • 0 avatar

      Pretty typical for that time. AMC’s 304 only had 120-130 net horsepower by the late seventies, and the Chevy 350 hovered around 140-145 for quite a while.  American automakers never cared much about specific output, at least for regular production cars — why try to squeeze more power out of a smaller engine when you can shove in a big one?. Trying to meet emissions standards without fuel injection did the rest.

  • avatar

    Paul — you need to learn to read VIN numbers, or at least write them down. On 80s and 80s cars, the 10th digit of the VIN is a letter that indicates the model year; if it’s D, it’s an ’84, if it’s E, it’s ’85.
     
    A local dealer was selling one of these things a few months ago, in much nicer shape (cosmetically, anyway), for a perfectly ludicrous price. http://www.flickr.com/photos/argentla/4173776476/
     
    As undistinguished as the 1979-1985 Toronado is, it was the only generation that sold consistently well. The early cars sold well their first year, then fell to around 20-25K a year, where the Toro languished throughout most of the seventies. Part of the problem was that Olds didn’t ever really promote its front-wheel drive, which was about its only notable feature. I’m not sure why the ’79-’85 downsized models struck a chord — perhaps because it looked like an Eldorado, but was usefully cheaper.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a nice one.
      Here is the last one I saw.
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/8490341@N04/3250979913/

      A few days later I did see a pretty decent looking Riviera
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/8490341@N04/3258133695/

      Where I live I see more Eldorados than Toronados and Rivieras combined.

  • avatar
    Billy215

    The pics bring back late-70s/early 80s memories of my all-GM family, the successive woodgrain-vinyl downsized Custom Cruisers, the gold padded roof of the four-door ’81 Cutlass Supreme; the endless sheetmetal and frameless windows of the giant green ’76 LeSabre, the rabbi with the ’79 Ninety-Eight, the uncle with the ’77 Seville, the cousins with their his-and-hers ’79 Eldorado and ’80 Riviera in the driveway. Good times!

  • avatar
    AccAzda

    Last True.. Toronado?!

    Only Toro I remember / know of… is this
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:66Toronado.jpg

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    The 79-85 generation of the E-body cars were a drastic improvement over the 403 powered Toranado, 425 Elderado or 350/403 equipped rear drive B-body derived Riviera land yacht of 77-78 vintage. As with all 1981 on up Olds and Buick full size models the 350 gas engines were dropped, 4.1 liter 252 V6 was std, 307 Olds was top gas motor and the 5.7 diesel was the most expensive optional engine. All of this came from the second oil crisis of 1979-80 and ever tightening emission standards. I have driven every combination of Eldo 8-6-4/4100 V8, V6 Rivieras, 307 and 350 powered Toros and even a 3.8 liter turbo V6 Riv from 1985 with 200 horses. The 307 and 4.1 V6 were teamed to the new 4 speed automatic overdrive tranny in 1982 with numerically higher gearing which pepped these cars up considerably compared to there 1981 predecessors and for 1985 that same 307 was improved yet again with new heads, intake and exhaust ports, new computer and improved mileage but still using the old Quadrajet carb. The 307 was a good engine for the time that provided reliable smooth starts and well over 100K miles of reliability if the owner was so inclined to service it. I have seen a good number of these engines with over 300K with the only touched items being gaskets, timing chain and alternator with the internals all original. The 84-85 Turbo Rivs were quite good performers and handlers too!

  • avatar
    Joss

    Why do those wide rear pillars and landau roof shout to me ‘old pharts pram?’
    Sorry no offense LOL.

  • avatar
    OldsFan1981

    For Paul Niedermeyer:

    VIN codes

    “D” is 1983.
    “E” is 1984.
    “F” is 1985. Therefore this car should have the letter “F” as the model year code if this is an ’85.

    ~Ben


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