Junkyard Find: 1983 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham Coupe

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The Oldsmobile Toronado started out as a big sporty car, morphed into an Eldorado-styled full-on luxury boat, then spent its twilight years getting progressively smaller and less opulent. Every Toronado ever made had front-wheel-drive and two doors, and every one had at least some Eldorado DNA in its bloodstream.

Here’s a downsized-but-still-substantial third-generation Toronado I found at a self-service yard in Phoenix, while I was in Arizona to work at the Arizona D-Bags 24 Hours of LeMons.

As you might expect with a desert car like this, there’s not a speck of rust anywhere. There is, however, much evidence of drivers banging into things with the car.

The Oldsmobile rocket emblem, which didn’t feel so futuristic by 1983, may be found in many places on this car. Opera lights on a vinyl landau roof!

This winged-T emblem is also pretty snazzy.

The final owner hoped to sell the car for a bit more than the junkyard offers, which meant it was likely a runner when it took that final tow-truck ride. It’s hard to compete with 14-year-old Buick LeSabres and Chrysler Sebrings in the market for sub-$1,000 battered-but-functional semi-luxury cars when you’re trying to move a 33-year-old Olds.

Horsepower for the 1983 307-cubic-inch Olds V8 in this car was rated at 140, or the same as the Nissan Sentra SE-R offered just eight years later.

The Unified Power Package — the front-wheel-drive hardware that let GM fit a big longitudinally-mounted V8, a transmission, a differential, and axles in such a confined space — was an engineering masterpiece that doesn’t get the acknowledgement it deserves. The UPP, which featured silent chain drive, rarely malfunctioned, even when installed in 128 mph front-drive motorhomes.

This car had an MSRP of $15,327 in 1983, which was less than half the price of a new Mercedes-Benz 300CD coupe … but a new ’83 Nissan Maxima — arguably more luxurious and definitely more fuel-efficient — cost just $11,049.

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

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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  • Sarin5150 Sarin5150 on Mar 27, 2016

    I used to not like these, now as I get older I find them kinda handsome!!!! I remember someone putting up a photo of cars like these being used as airport tugs in the northwest somewhere.

  • THEjeffSmif THEjeffSmif on Mar 30, 2016

    A guy I went to High School with (1996) had an grey 85 Toronado. Paint was faded but the interior was still immaculate. He gave me a ride home from school once & I remember how good the factory stereo sounded as he blasted Tool on the 8-speaker sound system. Senior year he sold it for a 1982 Delta 88 Coupe. He said it had less miles but in my eyes it was too "grampa-ish" for an 18 year-old.

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