Junkyard Find: 1990 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The pre-1990 Troféo had a shorter trunk than today’s Junkyard Find, but the same Buick V6 engine and not-so-great 1980s GM build quality. The General hoped to steal away some buyers of German luxury cars with the Troféo, but (as with so many of GM’s plans of the era) sales were on the disappointing side.

I found this ’90 Troféo in a Northern California self-service junkyard. My cousin from Minnesota was with me, and he said these things were once status symbols in his state (Minnesotans also loved the Buick Reatta)… but they’ve all rusted away by now.

The 3800 was quite reliable and fairly powerful, but not quite up to the smoothness level that earlier generations expected from their Rocket V8s.

This one doesn’t have the very cool touchscreen instrument display, which is disappointing— I might have pulled it for my collection of weird instrument clusters.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Darkhorse Darkhorse on Apr 20, 2012

    I worked with a guy who bought one of these new in 1989. I did not think it was a bad car. It had a lot of front seat leg room (not so much in the back) and was quite comfortable for two 6 foot plus 200 pounders. But I often thought what has happened to GM? I remember the first gen Toronado. How could it have morphed into the Trefeo?

  • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Apr 21, 2012

    A few years back I considered one of these to replace my 87 T-Bird. I have always been a personal luxury coupe fan having once owned a 80 Toronado so I figured I'd consider the newer model. Liked the styling and comfort, they handled great but the build quality, mainly electronic issues and cheap Roger Smith era plastics made me leary. So I just bought another T-Bird a 95 LX 4.6 and have been content with it. It's too bad GM never offered these with the 3800 SC which was 200-240 HP vs the 165 HP 3800 to differnate these from the pack since they were Olds halo car and the Toronado was always perceived as cutting edge.

  • VoGhost Fantastic work by Honda design. When I first saw the pictures, I thought "Is that a second gen Acura NSX?"
  • V16 2025 VW GLI...or 2025 Honda Civic SI? Same target audience, similar price points. Both are rays of sun in the gray world of SUV'S.
  • FreedMike Said this before and I'll say it again: I'm not that exercised about this whole "pay for a subscription" thing, as long as the deal's reasonable. And here's how you make it reasonable: offer it a monthly charge. Let's say that adaptive headlights are a $500 option on this vehicle, and the subscription is $15 a month, or $540 over a three year lease. So you try the feature for a month, and if you like it, you keep it; if you don't, then you discontinue it, like a Netflix subscription. In any case, you didn't get charged $500 up front the feature. That's not a bad deal.In my case, let's say VW offers an over the air chip reflash that gives me another 25 hp. The total price of the upgrade is $1,000 (which is what a reflash would cost you in the aftermarket). If they offered me a one time monthly subscription for $50 to try it out, I'd take it. In other words, maybe the news isn't all bad.
  • 2ACL A good car, but - at least in this configuration -not one that should command a premium. Its qualities just aren't as enduring as those of Honda's contemporary sports cars. For better or worse, this is a formula they remain able to replicate.
  • Jalop1991 I just read that Tesla's profits are WAY down "as the electric vehicle company has faced both more EV competition from established automakers and a slowing of overall EV sales growth." This Cadillac wouldn't help Tesla at all, but the slowing market of EV sales overall means this should be a halo/boutique car. Regardless, yes, they should make it.