The Oldsmobile Toronado debuted on October 14, 1965 in two versions, standard and deluxe, with prices starting at $4585. Besides the items already mentioned, base equipment included front and rear seatbelts, full carpeting, electric clock, two-speed windshield wipers with washers, backup lamps, a courtesy light package, and six-passenger seating via a full-width front bench. To this, the deluxe model added a bucket-style "Strato" front seat with pull-down center armrest, chrome interior moldings for windshield and windows, and wheel trim rings.
Considering its new mechanical concept, the Toronado met with a very warm reception. Model year production totalled close to 41,000 units, with buyers favoring the deluxe model by about 6 to 1. This figure was way behind that year's Thunderbird tally of slightly more than 69,000 cars, but it wasn't bad compared to the Riviera, which was completely re-styled for 1966 on the Toronado body-shell and scored 45,348 sales.
The new Oldsmobile was also well received by the motoring press. It won Car Life magazine "engineering excellence" accolades, was voted best luxury and personal car by Car and Driver, and walked away with the 50-pound chunk of marble attached to Motor Trend magazine's "Car of the Year" trophy. MT took its Toronado on a grueling 2,700-mile coast-to-coast road test run, using but three quarts of oil and averaging 13 miles per gallon of premium gas.
The performance numbers speak for themselves: 9.5 seconds in the 0-60 mph dash and 17 seconds in the standing-start quarter-mile at a trap speed of 82 mph. In one of their more accurate new-model assessments, MT's editors declared: "The Toronado's a truly outstanding car, and this first model is highly perfected. We think it's destined to become a classic in its own time."
It's difficult to improve on perfection, which may explain why the Toronado saw relatively little change through the end of the first generation in 1970. Even so, worthwhile improvements were made along the way. The 1967 edition was offered with two significant new options: front disc brakes and radial tires. The latter were especially welcome, as the 1966 had developed a reputation for eating its front tires. Mechanical changes were limited to new-style driveshaft joints and, to soften the ride, revised rear shock absorber rates and spring bushings.
The long, heavy doors had been criticized by some owners as cumbersome, so door-opening assist springs were added. New comfort and convenience options comprised AM/FM stereo radio with 8-track tape player, "Strato" front bucket seats and center console (which negated the value of the humpless front floor), and three-point seatbelts.
For faster engine warm-up and improved economy, a "climatic combustion control" system was adopted, along with Delco High-Energy ignition said to triple spark plug life, improve starting ease, and extend tune-up intervals. Appearance was spruced up with an eggcrate grille, headlamp doors moved out flush with the surrounding sheet metal, and revised taillamps.
Prices rose by only $100 or so, the base tag now reading $4,674. But though the Toronado remained as bold, brawny, and beautiful as before, 1967 sales fell alarmingly to about half the 1966 total, plummeting to about 21,800 (including just 1,770 of the standard models). Riviera also declined that season, though not nearly as much (to about 43,000), and the T-Bird gained appreciably, going up by about 9,000 units on the strength of its all-new 1967 design.
On the next page, learn about the Oldsmobile Toronado from 1968 to 1970.