Junkyard Find: 1988 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo
The General spent the 1980s experiencing a burning desire to sell high-profit-margin personal luxury coupes that combined the irresistible sales appeal of the 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme with the technological sophistication of the latest high-end German machinery. This decade gave us such fascinating GM machines as the Cadillac Allanté, the Buick Reatta, the Pontiac 6000 STE, and the Oldsmobile Toronado Troféo. You won’t find many Troféos today, but I’m always on the lookout during my junkyard travels. Here’s a clean ’88 in a Denver-area self-serve yard.
Because I’m somewhat obsessed with these cars, I’ve managed to find a few junked examples over the years, including this ’88, this ’89, this ’89, this ’90, and this ’92. The Troféo hasn’t retained much value at age 30+, so it takes a real devotee to keep one on the road.
This one appears to have been a well-cared-for car, with clean interior and nice paint. A fender-bending incident involving the right rear knocked its value to scrap levels in an instant, though, and we can assume that this bent metal is the reason the car ended up in this sad place.
The owner’s manual, Oldsmobile Road Atlas, and original salesman’s calling cards were still in the glovebox, suggesting that this may have been a one-owner car. Sold in Pennsylvania, crushed in Colorado.
This car once had GM’s futuristic touchscreen-based Graphics Control Center (optional in Rivieras, Reattas, and Troféos), a feature that no European or Japanese car could match in 1988. Someone grabbed the touchscreen (which was adapted from hardware used in late-1980s ATMs and ran on 120 volts AC provided by a power supply bolted to the firewall), but left behind most of the remaining hardware associated with the GCC.
Unfortunately, the effect of dropping such science-fictiony stuff into the dashboard got undercut by the primitive pushrod V6 driving the front wheels, at a time when BMW and Mercedes-Benz had been running overhead-cam engines for decades. The young, tech-savvy target audience for flashy European-style sporty coupes didn’t get very enthusiastic about the ancient running gear in the Troféo, and most of the older Oldsmobile shoppers didn’t want to squander their pensions on confusingly newfangled gizmos. The lack of an available manual transmission weakened the car’s high-performance image as well, though the Full Slushboxization of the American driving public was well underway by 1988.
Still, it’s a good-looking car, with some of the design touches that once made Oldsmobile the Youngmobile.
Deborah Moore, daughter of Roger Moore, did some secret-agent-type stuff with the Troféo for 1989.
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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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