Retrospect: 1973 Oldsmobile Toronado

The second generation was more luxurious

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The Oldsmobile Toronado had established itself as a full-fledged personal luxury car by its second generation. The 1973 Toronado is a spirited kind of elegance. It is an exceptional luxury car that is famous for its handling and its looks. The Rocket Olds 455 4-bbl V8 engine powers the 1973 Toronado that I am using as my photographed specimen. High style and distinctive motoring go hand in hand. The front-wheel drive Toronado invented the personal luxury car niche. The Toronado of the 1970s refined the image even further. It was so exclusive that it had its own dedicated assembly line. The second generation Oldsmobile Toronado was built from 1971 until 1978.

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The second generation Oldsmobile Toronado is ultra-luxurious. They are so much like the Cadillac Eldorado that it takes the eagle-eye to tell them apart. The last full-size Toronado rolled off the assembly line in 1978. There is always power to spare in a Rocket Olds V8, a formidable experience awaited its owner. Oldsmobile had been making cars since 1897 and was America’s oldest continuous automaker.

There has always been a love affair with the Rocket Olds V8 engines, and what better way than the 7.5 litre 455 CID V8. It is not only powerful but also durable. The Rocket Olds 455 V8 mated to the silky-smooth Turbo Hydra-Matic were standard. Horsepower had dropped because of federally mandated emission controls and the use of unleaded gasoline. Nevertheless, it was still a Rocket Olds. For the 1973 model year, it produced 265 hp @ 4,200 rpm with 519 Nm of peak torque @ 2,800 rpm.

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The second generation Toronado had gone through a cultural metamorphosis, it had become ‘runnin buddies’ with the Eldorado. It was a truly unique Oldsmobile, Toronado introduced the Unitized Power Package (UPP) which was a revolutionary new approach to automotive component design and space utility. The large V8 engine was placed longitudinally with its front-wheel drive network right beside it, and all placed in a neat package in the engine bay no larger than one of a rear-wheel drive vehicle. The 1973 Olds Toronado is a pristine example of American luxury and ingenuity with perfect form and function.

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The second generation Toronado was available in two interior trim levels. The standard luxury coupe offered a notchback front bench seat with folding center armrest. It was available in a luxurious cloth with vinyl or glove-soft expanded all vinyl. The optional Brougham trim package shown was available in a unique hand buttoned tufted sew-style with both front and rear center folding armrests. A luxurious velour-like cloth with vinyl or glove-soft expanded vinyl were the choices available. This is before the leather-era so don’t scoff. This stuff was really soft to the touch. The Brougham package included 60/40 dual adjustable front seating, cut pile carpet, courtesy lighting, and special nomenclature. Both choices were Cadillac-like in attitude, they were equally as luxurious as the Cadillac Eldorado.

With either trim package, the interior was exceptionally spacious due in no small part to the front-wheel drive and its flat floors. This car is like a big ole’ floatin’ Barco lounger out on the highway. It puts contemporary automobiles to shame. The more you drove this car…the more you wanted to drive it. Six passengers could travel comfortably with room to spare. The Oldsmobile Toronado was really a Cadillac Eldorado in disguise!

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Look at how big this car is compared to what we drive today

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Standard features and accessories included: power disc/drum brakes, power steering, dual exhaust system, Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission, flow through ventilation, remote control outside rear view mirror, front seat head restraints, and electric clock.

Popular options for the day included: air conditioning, power windows and door locks, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, 60/40 power front seats, tinted glass, cruise control, vinyl roof, automatic head lamp control, steel belted radials, cornering lamps, lamp monitors, and an 8-track tape deck. (don’t you dare…go there)

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The architecture is far more luxurious than the previous generation Toronado. The second generation is larger and more Cadillac-like. This 1973 Toronado was the epitome of Oldsmobile luxury. You haven’t driven a personal luxury car if you haven’t driven the Eldorado, Toronado, and Riviera from this genre…they each provided unabashed luxury with the accent on personal luxury…America was ‘ridin-high’ in the Spirited Seventies.

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The subframe design of the first generation Toronado disappeared. The second generation used a separate body on frame design similar to Series Eighty-Eight and Series Ninety-Eight. It retained its torsion bar suspension system in the front but replaced the leaf springs in the rear with helical coil springs.

The styling of the second generation Oldsmobile Toronado didn’t change much. For 1972 it received front disc brakes with audible wear indicators. The 1973 model year got the federally mandated 5 mph impact-absorbing front bumpers, and vertical tail lamps in the rear. (I cringe at the thought of this hitting your Toyota Camry) The 5 mph impact rear bumper system was added in 1974 and fixed rear side opera windows were an option. (I cringe at the thought of this backing into your Toyota Camry)

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The 1975 model year added a high energy ignition system, a catalytic converter to lower emissions and rectangular headlamps for a more contemporary appearance. The second generation Toronado maintained the luxury length of 219.9”, rode upon a long 122” wheelbase, with a 79.8” width. They were extremely large vehicles. For the 1977 model year, the Toronado shed its massive 7.5 litre 455 CID V8 for the 6.6 litre 403 CID V8 engine.

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The Oldsmobile Toronado introduced the “eye-level” brake/signal lamps which became federally mandated later on. A rear wheel ABS became an option. Its Rocket V8 engines had lower compression ratios to facilitate the use of unleaded fuel, and the anti-smog devices many of which did absolutely nothing but cause grief. These full-size cars actually got better gas mileage burning premium fuel with no smog controls. This generation of vehicles were doing a swan song and we didn’t realize that we were witnessing the last of the finest American automobiles we had ever seen…

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From 1974 until 1976 the Toronado was part of GM’s first experimental production runs for driver and passenger air bags which GM named the Air Cushion Restraint System. These Toronados had a unique steering wheel. They were fitted with a knee bolster beneath the driver’s side of the dash as well.

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The second generation Oldsmobile Toronado were the last of the breed. The third generation Toronado was luxurious but it just wasn’t quite the same league as the first generations. From 1971 until 1978, these personal luxury cruisers were running neck to neck with the Cadillac Eldorado. They were powered by the legendary Rocket Olds V8 engine. The Oldsmobile Toronado had established itself as one of the world’s most unique personal luxury cars. It was so exclusive it had its own dedicated assembly line for quality control. The second generation Toronado with all of their elegance and the emphasis on personal luxury, attracted many new buyers. The highly styled Olds Toronado was always a trend setter from its inception, and an immediate hit with auto enthusiasts.

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The Oldsmobile Toronado inspired a new generation of the front-wheel drive automobile. It also created the personal luxury coupe niche in the automotive industry. This car inspired the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado. The 1971-1978 Toronados were the last of the full-size personal luxury coupes. NotoriousLuxury salutes the Olds Toronado as being the pioneer to American front-wheel drive cars. Throughout their tenure, innovation was the impetus…never a copycat and always the leader was the formidable Rocket Oldsmobile –

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Special thanks to Rodd Sala

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Toronado style looks like an Eldorado

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1971-1972

1971-1972 Oldsmobile Toronado

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1973 Oldsmobile Toronado

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3 Responses to “Retrospect: 1973 Oldsmobile Toronado”

  1. You stated..”This generation of vehicles were doing a swan song and we didn’t realize that we were witnessing the last of the finest American automobiles we had ever seen…”
    Because of new federal safty and poluttion laws these cars were not that reliable. And they were to huge without any incfrease in the interior,,thats why I prefer the 1960’s You could get almost the same luxury from a properly equiped caprice or galaxy or Monaco for alot less and they were smaller on the outside and more powerful.

    • As far as your reliability claim goes, I had a 1976 Fleetwood Brougham and I drove it 233,000 miles before I sold it about 6 years ago. I drove a 1975 Ninety-Eight Regency 150,000 miles without major service. I drove a 1973 Coupe deVille 200,000 miles and was still going when I sold it. I had a 1972 Electra Limited that I drove well over 100,000 miles. I have always driven GM products. True, the GM left a little to be desired in the Spirited Seventies,but they were more reliable than Both Chrysler and Ford. You really cannot compare cars of the 1960s to the cars of the 1970s. When I talk about Toronado, that is Eldorado-style luxury, no Caprice or Galaxy is even in the same league as the personal luxury niche…they are extravagant by nature. One shouldn’t buy them if one cannot afford the eccentricities…

  2. I have a 1973 Toronado. It’s light blue with a white vinyl roof. Love it.

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