Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to expand conventional thinking while we’re at it. This was the true peak of the classic muscle car era, rife with fire-breathing HEMIs, Ford Cobra Jets, and at least four different GM big blocks. Let me introduce you to a true full-size coupe–but one with over 400 hp driving the front wheels. I give you the Oldsmobile Toronado W-34.
The Oldsmobile Toronado was what you would call a breakthrough car when it debuted in the fall of 1965. General Motors was at the top of its game back then, with the recent introduction in 1965 of their entire stable of all-new full size-cars (from Chevrolet right up through Cadillac), a redesigned Corvair, their now 2-year-old mid-sized cars (Chevelle, Special, F-85, and Tempest), along with freshened versions of the Corvette and Chevy II. It was now time to come out with something that was sports-car inspired, but large enough to be a luxury car (remember, we’re talking about the mid 60′s!). After 8 years of research and tests, Oldsmobile was confident enough in the engineering of the components that would be used in their first FWD muscle car, and so the Toronado was put into production.
The Toronado was GM’s first subframe automobile, which means it was a partial unibody with a subrame that ended at the forward end of the rear suspension, serving as a mounting point for the leaf springs. It carried the powertrain, front suspension and floorpan, allowing greater isolation of road and engine harshness. The radical new ride was a styling success, but not much of a sales success.
The Toronado went on for the 1966 and 67 seasons with few changes, however, there were changes coming. A special option code called W-34 was available on the 1968–70 Toronado. This option included a cold-air induction system for the air cleaner, a special performance camshaft and a “GT” transmission calibrated for quick and firm up-shifts and better torque multiplication at 5 mph (8 km/h). Dual exhaust outlets, similar to the 1966–67 model years with cutouts in the bumper, were also included with W-34. The W-34 option provided an additional 25 horsepower from the 455 by using larger intake valves, and was similar to a W-30 442 option in a rear-drive Olds. The compression ratio was 10.25:1, and the final drive ratio, 3.07:1.
For 1970 only, the W-34 option also included special “GT” badges on the exterior of the car. The W-34 Toronado was capable of 0–60 mph in 7.5 seconds and the standing 1/4 mile in 15.7 seconds @ 89.8 mph. With its low stance and 400 front-drive horsepower, there was nothing else like it in 1970–it was a unique luxury-muscle coupe with more hp per pound than any production FWD car until the Cadillac Allante.
Of the 25,433 Toronados built in 1970, only 5,341 were Toronado GT models, making the GT the rarest of Doctor Olds’ “W” Machines (W-34). Advertising copy of the day described it as ” A One-of-a-Kind Car, in a Carbon Copy World.”
There you have it: a large, comfortable, 2-door coupe, its expansive hood hiding a 400 hp V8 mated to a beefed-up transmission. I ask, is this not the definition of an Obscure Muscle Car? Or should it be disqualified by its FWD? State your case and be ready to defend it.
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