Standard drivetrain on the new 1971 Oldsmobile Toronado included a mighty 455-cid V-8 hooked up to a special "split" Turbo Hydra-matic 400 transmission that let the big engine remain in the "north-south" alignment typical of rear-drive cars. Beginning with 1971, the engine was calibrated to run on low-lead, no-lead, or regular-grade gasoline rather than premium as a result of a reduction in compression ratio to 8.5:1. Horsepower dipped, too, down 25 from 1970 to 350 bhp at 4,200 rpm.
The Toro's Rocket 455 engine incorporated dual exhausts and a forced-air induction system for improved response, and positive valve rotators ensured extended valve life, but none of this exactly made the car a sprinter. Motor Trend required 10.7 seconds to go 0-60 mph in one and 16.9 seconds to cover a standing-start quarter mile.
Instead, the Toronado hung its hat on ride and creature comforts. The short stub frame and rear leaf springs of previous Toros were replaced by a full frame and all-coil suspension (with four-link geometry at the rear) that enabled the big 4,577-pound vehicle to handle twisty, bumpy roads with aplomb.
Olds bragged about Toronado's new faster-acting steering setup and the "G-Ride" system that included "Supershocks" with Teflon-coated cylinders to cut friction for smoother operation. Power-assisted front-disc/rear-drum brakes were continued as standard equipment, but Motor Trend found the Toronado, with its substantial front weight bias, a bit hairy to control in a panic stop from 60 mph.
Other key standard features included power steering, a self-regulating electric clock, radio antenna imbedded in the windshield, hidden windshield wipers, and wheel covers. Standard safety equipment included lap and shoulder belts for two front passengers, seat belts for all others, two front head restraints, an energy-absorbing steering column, side-guard door beams, padded instrument panel and sun visors, and more.
An electric rear window defogger, which Toronado had pioneered, was a popular option. So were an AM/FM radio, power windows and door locks, power seat (two- or six-way), air conditioning, tilt and telescoping steering column, power trunk release, cruise control, low-fuel warning light, trip odometer, and triple-white stripe tires. A posh Brougham interior with a 60/40 divided front seat and individual controls for driver and passenger was listed, too. Fifteen exterior color choices were offered, enough to please even the most discriminating buyer.
In a question-and-answer interview in the December 1970 issue of Motor Trend, Oldsmobile Division General Manger John Beltz described the kind of buyer to whom the Toronado appealed. "He's a very selective and discerning individual. He's better educated than any of our other owners, or most owners in the industry. . . . He's making more money than even our Ninety-Eight owners. He's very successful. He's younger than the majority of our owners. So there you begin to get a picture of an individual who you might call an active, affluent person . . . a thought-leader type of individual," Beltz said.
Manufactured at a rate of just 26 cars an hour on a dedicated assembly line, the '71 Toronado made its public debut on September 10, 1970. Even though a 67-day strike that fall crimped supplies of all General Motors cars, response to the new Toro was encouraging. Model-year production edged upward to 28,980 units, the most since 1966.
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