Oldsmobile Toronado: the last Detroit dinosaur

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BERNAT LÓPEZ / ©RACERZ

In 2004, the last Oldsmobile comes off the assembly line at the Lansing Car Assembly plant near Detroit, signaling the end of the 106-year-old automotive brand, America’s oldest. In 1897, Ransom E. Olds, an Ohio-born engine maker, founded the company in Lansing.

In 1901, Oldsmobile debuted the Curved Dash Oldsmobile, a gas-powered, open-carriage vehicle named for its curved front footboard. More than 400 of these vehicles were sold during the first year, at a price of $650 each (around $17,000 in today’s dollars).

Just some years later, the firm was the second brand, after Buick, to become part of the newly established General Motors (GM). Oldsmobile became a top brand for GM and pioneered such features as chrome-plating in 1926 and, in 1940, the first fully automatic transmission for a mass-market vehicle.

Oldsmobile concentrated on cars for middle-income consumers and from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, the Oldsmobile Cutlass was America’s best-selling auto. However, in the decades that followed, sales began to decline, prompting GM to announce in 2000 that it would discontinue the Oldsmobile line with the 2004 models.

When the last Oldsmobile rolled off the assembly line in April 2004, more than 35 million Oldsmobiles had been built during the brand’s lifetime. Along with Daimler and Peugeot, Oldsmobile was among the world’s oldest auto brands.

For sure, the main Oldsmobile car was the 1966 Toronado, one of the most famous American cars of all time. Weighing 4800 pounds211 inches long, and riding on a 119-inch wheelbase, this model was the first front-drive production car made in the USA since the 1937 Cord 810. With a dual-snorkel air cleaner, an extra-large intake manifold, and twin exhaust pipes, the Toronado had a gross output of 385 horsepower.

The round, flared wheel openings were revolutionary in their day, and the beltline surface tension helped pioneer an organic, fuselage body style that marked some of the best GM styling throughout the divisions in the late 1960sand early 1970s. 1966 Toronado: the last Detroit dinosaur