Sign in to follow this  
Pete Phillips

1966 Toronado--was there a police package?

Recommended Posts

I've been asked to sell a deceased friend's 1966 Olds Toronado on behalf of his wife. He bought the car new and told me before he died that it was a special "police package", one of 100 built by Oldsmobile, for one of the state police agencies (Cannot recall which one he said). He picked the car up at the factory in Michigan and drove it home when it was new. Sometime later, he was contacted by Oldsmobile administrators who said it was sold to a civilian by mistake, and they wanted to buy it back or give him a normal production Toronado in its place. He refused. 

He was a well-educated mechanical engineer who was not prone to making up stories, but I have no documentation of this. I do know that the car is a very low-optioned vehicle, with manual windows, manual seat, no air-conditioning, AM radio only, small hub caps with no wheel trim rings, and no tilt steering wheel. It does have power steering and brakes, but I think those were standard on all Toronados.

Before I start pricing and advertising the car, I would like to know if the police package was really done on 1966 Toronados, or if it was just a figment of someone's imagination. Can anyone help on this?
Pete Phillips

Leonard, Texas

IMGP3234.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Without better photos it's hard to address this but this car sounds like a standard model, non deluxe. What I can see of the wheels, the caps are correct with plain steel wheels. I know of no special option package that was designed for law enforcement. Now I have heard of but not seen any photos of them used as police vehicle but due to the cost of these new, even in the base model she has, my guess is any that are out there were promos from confiscated autos. Similar to here in my very small town, they had for a while a newer VW made into a cop car but it was not supplied by VW Corp. Just a knucklehead who got his car pinched in a sting. Very impractical for actual use and it was auctioned off a year or so later. Good luck with the sale.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Short answer, no.  Longer answer, yes, but this isn't one of them.  More on that in a minute.

As far as police packages, here's the page of Police Apprehender Options from the 1966 Oldsmobiles from the Salesman's SPECS booklet.  Note which model is conspicuously absent.

1966%20Oldsmobile%20Dealer%20SPECS-13.jp

 

Here's the Toronado page from the same booklet, for reference.

 

1966%20Oldsmobile%20Dealer%20SPECS-12.jp

 

Now about that "police edition" 1966 Toro.  Olds DID build a prototype shorty Toro, intended for use by the Lansing PD. That didn't work out and the one car that was so modified now resides in the R.E. Olds Museum. It was used from 1966-1972 to push stalled cars at the Lansing factory.

 

Oldsmobile-Museum-Oldsmobile-Toronado-Pu

Edited by joe_padavano (see edit history)
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, deaddds said:

Without better photos it's hard to address this but this car sounds like a standard model, non deluxe.

 

I see what appears to be a Strato-bench seat, indicating a Deluxe model.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As anyone that has done research for a story or car, memories fade and assumptions are expressed. 

51 years have passed (I forget what happened last week) and facts tend to get fuzzy.

It appears the car is a base Toronado built without options.....the cowl tag might give some hints.

On the first sheet, the most expensive car, Delta 88 Holiday Sedan at $3328 is $1289 less than the base Toronado

 With the other available cars w/ Police package, what town or state would order Toronados? Especially at a 38% premium.

Where did the 100 built number come from?  Can that be documented?

Edited by Barney Eaton (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've heard variations on this story for years and I'm sure you all have as well. A prototype or something unique somehow escapes from the factory and gets into the hands of a regular guy. Regular guy loves the car more than his children and refuses to sell it back when the factory tries to reclaim it. Often times this story includes an offer of "millions" of dollars for the car but its so special and beloved that he refuses to give it up at any price. Breathless prose accompanies the miraculous story of some amazing one-of-one car that shouldn't exist and is full of special technology and innovations developed by the factory but never put into production. No documentation, of course, but man, isn't it exciting?


The story is ostensibly designed to make a potential buyer think he's getting something so amazing and unique that the former owner wouldn't give it up at any price. Of course, it is for sale at a price about what a regular one would cost.

 

Hmmm...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Super special car stories are awesome but are worthless without paperwork and proof.  Matt could probably put a better percentage on than I, but 70% are completely  not true,  20% have some amount of truth and 10% are 100% accurate.

 

Btw,  always loved the Toronado.  My dad went through his "Eldo" phase in the 70s,  we had a 68,69,73 vert, 76 vert, and my aunt gave me a 74 vert to use in College.  I still have an NOS dash for that car if anyone needs one.

Edited by alsancle (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, gang, before I get accused of bumping up the price for what seems to have been a fabrication by the original owner (which, it looks like I am on the verge of being accused of), let me add that the original owner was David Corbin whom some of the Buick Club folks probably knew. Let's just forget about the original owner's account to me. I wanted to check it out with those who know these cars more than I do, and it apparently doesn't stand up. I am not inflating the price of the car, regardless. The car is for sale for $7000; Mrs. C. might take a little less than that. It has 104,000 miles, runs and drives flawlessly after I replaced many of the split vacuum hoses (headlight up and down not currently working); car has 4 new tires, new battery, recent belts and hoses, current license and can be driven anywhere. It does have some rust holes at bottom of left rear quarter just aft of the rear wheel opening. No A/C, no power windows, no power seat, no tilt steering wheel, just an AM radio and all of the standard equipment. Location: Leonard, Texas northeast of Dallas. Have more photos for prospective buyers. I drove it on a 90 mile trip recently and it has crisp handling (maybe a heavy duty suspension?) and more power than anyone ever needs from the 425. An honest, unrestored car that has been maintained by the original owners for 51 years.

IMG_0170.JPG

IMG_0171.JPG

IMG_0174.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll add that I heard the late owner's account of the "police model" for that car.  Being that it spent most of its earlier life in the Illinois region, the need for a/c is diminished at that time.  Being in TX, no a/c can be a liability.

 

If it was a genuine police vehicle, it would have a stiffer suspension calibration (possibly an option on normal production cars) and a Certified Speedometer, which would be so marked.  The THM transaxle would probably have a "high-speed upshift" governor, too.  It would be a situation where various parts and pieces would have to be inspected and verified "HP" as such.  Most might be incognito to the untrained eye, but checking production codes might be the answer.

 

It seems that Olds had an optional 425 in their rwd full-size cars, with about an additional 20 horsepower from a hotter camshaft or thereabouts.  My suspicion is that when the vehicle was ordered, THAT optional engine was ordered, which was the same one that went into the normal police package cars, but not Toronados.  Yet that optional engine would not show up on the normal order form!  Perhaps a "fleet option", which would not be in the normal salesman product spec book, but in a letter from Olds per se?  In the 1960s, many factory HP limited production models were announced via letter, from what I've seen.  In later years, "Fleet Options" were listed in a separate part of the Dealer Order Guids (at least in 1980-1990s Chevrolet, with "Fleet Color" being in that mix, too, along with Corporate Customer's specific signature color combinations).  I found out about "fleet colors" in the later 1980s when a customer came in looking for a tube of touch-up paint for a color that wasn't in the parts book for a Silverado we'd sold!

 

Due to the "100 built" item, it could well be that Olds did a trial run of the engines in that car, giving the dealers advance notice of how the cars would be built (equipment-wise), as Ford has done on some of their later "R" Mustangs.  They probably built them all with "few options" for a reason, to make them not really acceptable to normal Toro buyers . . . but to some people, those low-option levels would not be a big deal as long as it was a "limited production" model.  When the late owner got wind of this special Toro, he probably went to a dealer and got his name put on one, with "factory delivery" also specified.  It may also have been that Olds was putting the 100 cars out for law enforcement evaluation OR were going to put them in a demo fleet for their factory reps to market to law enforcement customers.  They would have made good undercover cars, as the Buick GNX cars did for FBI operatives in Florida, years later.  I do recall the late owner talking about that Toronado in glowing terms due to its special "police package" status, many years ago.  I have no reason to doubt his account of the car.

 

If the headlights are opened and closed via vacuum, they could well be similar to Corvettes with their "push/pull" actuators, run by a vacuum switch attached to the headlight switch.  Just a thought.  If they were run by an electric motor, there would be "a knob" to turn to manually open the light holders (ala some Chrysler products in the later 1960s with hidden headlights

 

In ANY event, the car is what it is . . . a low-option Toronado without factory a/c.  It would make somebody a nice car to prove "they did build them that way".  Plus, with fewer options, less propensity for trouble later on.

 

NTX5467

Edited by NTX5467 (see edit history)
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, NTX5467 said:

If the headlights are opened and closed via vacuum, they could well be similar to Corvettes with their "push/pull" actuators, run by a vacuum switch attached to the headlight switch. 

 

They are and it is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for that additional information and specification clarification!  When the Toronado came out, I was in junior high and I thought they were very neat cars.  Not sure about the front wheel drive, though, but John Beltz was quoted in a magazine as to how driving one to his preferred ski lodge in CO, on roads that other cars would be sliding off of, at greater speeds than other rwd cars could attain on that surface, was truly exceptional.  I also recall reading that Olds had several fwd cars in development prior to the Toro being introduced, as "The Advanced Engineering Division of General Motors".  It might not have seen the light of day had that platform also have been used by Cadillac for additional volume.

 

I'll concur on the brake issues, but those huge finned drums showing through the holes in the front wheels looked awesome and powerful sitting still.  I believe that platform was the first GM passenger car platform to use torsion bars in the front suspension?  A somewhat radical car for the times which Oldsmobile could build and it would sell.

 

Take care,

NTX5467

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Imperial62 said:

Willis,

The Toronado had a special version of the 425 already. The "hot" 425 was not available for the Toronado BUT the Toronado had an additional 10 hp over the Starfire 425. The Toronado required a special intake manifold and had a different degree of flow compared to the normal 425.  This was due to hood clearance. A normall 425 would not fit in a Toronado.

 

Toronado's had forged steel cranks, highly prized by Olds performance enthusiasts. There was no high performance version of the transmission. But, the transmission could take a lot of power. It was behind the 385 hp Toronado motor and the Cadillac's 429/472. 

 

Toronados also had no stiff suspension package based on my research. I could be wrong. But - again, Toronados were over-engineered EXCEPT for their brakes.  The drum brakes were a big error. Single piston master cylinder and drum brakes on a new platform creating a ton of heat - not good. 

 

Toronados needed factory disc brakes or aluminum front drums from day one. Why Oldsmobile went through all the work to create the Toronado then forget to do the brakes is beyond me. True bean counter 101 thinking.  So, a police pursuit package would likely include disc brakes, and this car does not have that.

 

I also don't think a Toronado, a sporty 2 door coupe would be any good for modifying for police use. How do you stuff a handcuffed suspect into that back seat?

 

A few corrections here.  First, the Toro 425 used exactly the same block, heads, crank, and rods as any other Olds 425 that year. Any 425 "fits" fine.  The only differences were the unique Toro intake with the depressed carb mounting flange for hood clearance and the unique Toro exhaust manifolds to clear the transaxle.  Second, every single Olds V8 from the 1964-1967 model years got a forged crank. Third, Toros got the same 10.5:1 CR as was offered in the optional "Starfire" 425, rated at 375 HP (vs the Toro's 385 HP).  This motor (RPO L75) was available in any Olds full size as a $100 option.  Fourth, Olds factory HP ratings are to be viewed with healthy skepticism.  The Toro intake and exhaust manifolds were not as conducive to making HP as were those for the RWD cars, yet the Toro was rated with an additional 10HP over the nearly identical RWD motor.  Much of this was marketing vs. reality - the top of the line Toro had to be the most powerful car in the lineup.  Chevy did the same thing when the otherwise identical Corvette motors were downrated when installed in the Camaro.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This post is about a year old now.  Is the Toro still for sale?  

I might be able to do some detective work and dig up an e-mail for a guy that was an Oldsmobile engineer during that time.  He was the brother of my girlfriend who I was dating around 1964.  We were in the Grand Rapids, MI area back then.  Her engineer brother used to travel to Arizona every year to do hot weather testing.  It's funny that I now live just a few miles from what used to be the GM desert test site.

J3 Studio - good to see you on here.  I bailed on the Corvette Forum after I sold my last Vette and moved.  I was Corvetteronw there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Before the Toronado it was believed that only a European car company could build something as sophisticated and complex as a front drive car, and that the size limit was 2500 lbs and a 3 liter (183 cu in)  engine. Anything bigger or more powerful would be impossible to steer, and dangerous to drive as the engine would overpower the steering.

 

The Toronado blew through those limitations like a hydrogen bomb. It was an engineering tour de force that astonished the automotive world. And it was so well done that you couldn't tell it was front drive, except that it worked so much better in extreme conditions. Some front drive models from the eighties, made by GM could have taken a few lessons from the Toronado.

 

When America was at the top of its game its auto industry could beat the world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was Alec Issigonis who designed the Mini and the 1100 series for BMC who claimed it was 'impossible' to have anything over 2 liters with front wheel drive.  Yes, he got blown out of the water when the Toronado was introduced and the Eldorado with an even larger engine a year later. (Don't recall his reaction, or whether he ever drove one to see what it was like.)

 

I can't say I've ever seen a 'police package' Toronado of any year.  And regardless, that $7000 asking price for this example is not out of line going by the photos of it, even with no prominence.  I believe the Production Orders for Oldsmobile are available from GM Heritage Center which will confirm if there are any deviations on it.

 

Craig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, 8E45E said:

I believe the Production Orders for Oldsmobile are available from GM Heritage Center which will confirm if there are any deviations on it.

 

Craig

Production Order?  Is that akin to a build sheet?  What info is on a Prod. Order?  How were they used by the factory?  Have a pic of one?

 

If such critters are available from GM Heritage, the availability has been a well kept secret.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, 8E45E said:

 

Well, don't believe everything you read on the interwebs (or in Hemmings, for that matter). First, that URL is oldsclub.com, which is NOT the "Oldsmobile History Center". It is also a dead link now (that article is nearly 15 years old). Suffice to say that the "build sheets" from pre-1977 Oldsmobiles do not exist.  The Olds community has searched for them for decades. Those paper documents were thrown away years ago.  The only reason PHS has the Pontiac versions is because one individual actually rescued them when Pontiac was similarly about to throw them away. GM of Canada has maintained the records for Oldsmobiles either built in Canada or originally sold there, but that info is not available for Oldsmobiles.  There IS some production info available at GM Historical. It does NOT go to the level of detail of build sheets. The data is all on paper documents that are not readily searchable. Access requires some effort. You are not allowed to simply photocopy the documents, either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am fully aware they are unavailable for US produced Chevrolet Division vehicles (except Corvette), and other divisions are 'hit and miss'.  It was brought up in 2015 at a seminar at the Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals show in Rosemont.  It may not hurt to contact GM Heritage Center and make an inquiry.  I have seen some for Oldsmobiles that were sold new in Canada, which is perhaps why I am under the impression they are available from the Heritage Center.

 

And they were not simply to be 'thrown away', those Pontiac ones were ordered to be destroyed, and someone was astute enough to divert them.  Chevrolet historians are now hoping this is what has happened to their build sheets, where Iron Mountain had the contract to store them for a specified length of time as required by the IRS, and then to destroy them, most likely by incineration, which was permitted at the time. 

 

Craig

Edited by 8E45E (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this