General Motors spent a lot of time and money in the development of TravTek GPS. As we learned in our last installment, the comprehensive (if clunky) navigation system used a touchscreen, had live traffic information, and could even make phone calls. Installed in 100 Toronados used in the greater Orlando area for an entire year, GM, AAA, and various government parties were eager to see just how useful the system was and if it was worthwhile. Narrator: It wasn’t. Let’s find out why.
We return to our spicy Oldsmobile content this week, with the introduction of GM’s first publicly tested in-car navigation system, TravTek. Arriving in the early Nineties, TravTek was launched more than two decades after GM’s magnet-based DAIR prototype failed to make production. This time The General was determined to make good on their big investment. Onward, to Orlando!
In last week’s installment of Abandoned History, we learned about General Motors’ 1966 magnet-based primitive navigation system, DAIR. The inclusive system featured emergency messages, traffic bulletins played inside the car, and route guidance. DAIR never progressed beyond the concept stage and two total test vehicles, largely because it would have meant buried magnets and accompanying signal relay stations at every major intersection in the country. Some 25 years later The General tried it again, but technology progressed considerably by that point.
Today’s Rare Ride is one of those last-of moments for a historical nameplate. For nearly 40 years, Toronado was the luxurious coupe flagship of the Oldsmobile brand. But changing consumer tastes and a thinning of the herd at General Motors meant that, by 1990, the Toronado name was not long for the world.
Let’s talk about some personal luxury as we pour one out for the Troféo.
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.
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.
After creating today’s Oldsmobile Toronado Troféo Junkyard Find, it becomes my duty to share one of the most brain-scrambling examples of the “What Could GM Have Been Thinking?” genre of car commercials. Yes, it’s a version of Harry Belafonte‘s “Banana Boat Song,” with “Tro-FE-oh” replacing the famous “DAY-oh,” and sung by Belafonte’s offspring.
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.
Now that we’ve admired the junked ’90 Olds Cutlass Calais International Series, let’s move a couple rows down in the very same California self-service yard and check out another Adventure In Doomed GM Marketing.
As Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, I receive many gifts from racers wishing to establish a foundation of mutual respect and understanding during the period in which I inspect the cars for possible cheating. The traditional judicial bribe tends to be a jug of top-shelf booze, but my drinking hasn’t kept pace with the intake of bottles of Stranahan’s bourbon and Zaya rum, and so I’ve been encouraging teams to bring weird diecast toy cars to lubricate the gears of justice. After the last round of LeMons Supreme Court diecast toy car bribes, I thought it would be hard to top the Leyland P76 and Moskvich 402, but the racers at the ’11 Southern Discomfort and the ’11 Gator-O-Rama have done so with the current crop of diecasts.
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- Carsofchaos Bike lanes are in use what maybe 10 to 12 hours a day? The other periods of the day they aren't in use whatsoever. A bike can carry one person and a vehicle can carry multiple people. It's very simple math to figure out that a bike lane in no way shape or form will handle more people than cars will.The bigger issue is double parked delivery vehicles. They are often double parked and taking up lanes because there are cars parked on the curb. You combine that with a bike lane and pedestrians Crossing wherever they feel like it and it's a recipe for disaster. I think if we could just go back to two lanes of traffic things would flow much better. I started coming to the city in 2003 before a lot of these bike lanes were implemented and the traffic is definitely much worse now than it was back then. Sadly at this point I don't really think there is a solution but I can guarantee that congestion pricing will not fix this problem.
- Charles When I lived in Los Angeles I saw a 9-5 a few times and instanly admired the sweeping low slug aerodynamic jet tech influenced lines and all that beautiful glass. The car was very different from what I expected from a Saab even though the 900 Turbo was nice. A casual lady friend had a Saab Sonnet, never drove or rode in it but nonetheless chilled my enthusiasm and I eventually forgot about Saabs. In the following years I have had seven Mercedes's, three or four Jaguars even two Daimlers both the 250 V-8 and the massive and powerful Majestic Major. Daily drivers of a brand new 300ZX 2+2 and Lincolns, plus a few diesel trucks. Having moved to my big farm in central New York, trucks and SUV's are the standard, even though I have a Mercedes S500 in one of my barns. Due to circumstances with my Ford Explorer and needing a second driver I found the 2006 9-5 locally. Very little surface rust, none undercarriage, original owner, garage kept, wife driver and all the original literature and a ton of paid receipts and history. The car just turned 200,000 miles and I love it. Feels new like I'm back in my Nissan 300ZX with a lot more European class and ready power with the awesome turbo. So fun to drive, the smooth power and torque is incredible! Great price paid to justify going through the car and giving her everything she needs, i.e., new tires, battery, all shocks, struts, control arms, timing chain and rust removable to come, plus more. The problem now is I want to restore it and likely put it in my concrete barn and only drive in good weather. As to the writer, Alex Dykes, I take great exception calling the 9-5 Saab "ugly," finding myself looking back at her beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, I get new looks from others not quite recognizing, like the days out west with my more expensive European cars. There are Saabs eclipsing 300K rourinely and one at a million miles and I believe one car with 500K on the original engine. So clearly, this is a keeper, in love already with my SportCombi. I want to be in that elite club.
- Marky S. I own the same C.C. XSE Hybrid AWD as in this article, but in Barcelona Red with the black roof. I love my car for its size, packaging, and the fact that it offers both AWD and Hybrid technology together. Visibility is impressive, as is its small turning circle. I consider the C.C. more of a "station wagon" by proportion, rather than an “SUV.” It is fun to drive, with zippy response and perky pick-up. It is a pleasant car to drive and ride in. It is not trying to be a “Butch Off-Roader”, or a cosseting “Luxury Cruiser.” Those are not its goals or purpose. The Corolla Cross XSE Hybrid AWD is a wonderful All-Purpose Car (O.K. – “SUV” if you must hear me say it!) with a combination of all the features it has at a reasonable price.
- Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
- Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.