A lot was new in the 1974 Oldsmobile Toronado. A small grille opening was cut into the lower part of the central hood bulge, highlighted by three bright strips reminiscent of the original Toro's Cord-like grillework. The Toronado name was spelled out in individual letters above the grille and a stand-up ornament now topped the hood.
Toronado also added a handsome optional "opera roof" treatment, a thickly padded vinyl half-top with a winged ornament and small vertical fixed-position windows on the sail panel. An electric sunroof was optionally available. With hydraulic bumper systems now in place both front and rear, overall length was up to 228 inches.
Inside, Toronado was treated to a two-spoke steering wheel and an instrument panel design that were both new. A large rectangular area in front of the driver held a strip speedometer, odometer, and fuel gauge. Lighting and climate controls were on the left, radio to the right. Even farther to the right was the clock, now digital.
The 1974 Oldsmobile Toronado was the first GM
car to come off the line with an air-bag system.
New this year was a "message center," two panels flanking the shift quadrant that contained warning lights for oil, alternator, parking brake, engine temperature, and low fuel, plus reminders to fasten seat belts or that lights were left on. Extra-cost Brougham interior trim now featured velour upholstery in a choice of five colors; if they preferred, buyers could also specify white vinyl.
Technical advancements included chassis calibrations to compensate for the cars' growing heft. A polypropylene-cased battery reduced weight by nine pounds. Front disc brakes got beefier pads. Like other big Oldses, the Toronado could be ordered with a high-energy ignition system with built-in coil that provided a hotter spark while eliminating the points and condenser. Steel-belted radial tires, built to GM specifications, were newly offered.
Olds furthered its reputation as an "engineer's car" by delivering the first production car -- a Toronado Brougham -- with an "air cushion restraint system," or an air bag. After its press showing, the car went to GM president Ed Cole, who'd ordered it.
Also new was Tempmatic air conditioning, which provided precise automatic temperature control and included a charcoal air filter to prevent offensive odors from entering the car. A new pulse wiper system was also available.
All the innovations in the world couldn't change the fact that 1974 was an awful year for the U.S. auto industry. Central to that was the oil embargo by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after war broke out in the Middle East. In effect from October 1973 to March 1974, the boycott tightened gasoline supplies and hiked prices -- and drove many Americans to small, high-mileage imported cars.
Automakers suffered a drop in sales of more than 2 million units. Big cars were the hardest hit. With power down (to 230 bhp) and weight up (to more than 4,800 pounds), the Toronado was hardly a gas miser, and orders declined by almost 51 percent.
The sales slump deepened in 1975 despite changes designed to lure customers back to the Toronado camp. First and foremost, engineers improved fuel economy.
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