O F F - T H E - S H E L F

The following editorial reflects the personal thoughts of Doug Breithaupt relating to our common hobby of miniature cars. It is intended to generate discussion
relating to 'Tales of Toy Cars'. Your letters are welcome and may be submitted via e-mail.

Toronado deserves more respect in small-scale
If you were asked to select the most innovative American car of the 1960's, there are several good nominees. The Chevrolet Corvair with it's air-cooled rear engine and compact size would be a good choice but VW, Porsche and others had already offered this package. The Chrysler Turbine of 1963 was very interesting but only 50 were produced and it never went into full production. The 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado not only brought front-wheel drive back to the U.S. market but proved that FWD and serious horsepower could be combined. The Toronado also offered a unique look courtesy of Bill Mitchell's GM styling experts. The Toronado was the 'buzz' car of 1966 and is still considered one of America's best by many Europeans.

Curiously, Americans have much less respect for the original Toronado (1966-70) and no respect for the models that followed (1971-92). In the collector market, only the 1966-67 Toronado models bring any money and a very nice example can still be bought for $5,000. The later models are hard to sell for any more than pocket change. Perhaps the FWD is simply not of interest to buyers sated on RWD muscle cars. Perhaps the lack of a convertible model has left these stylish hard-tops to languish in the back-lot of special-interest cars. I have owned a '67, '70 GT, '71 and '72 Toronado so clearly I am far from objective in this matter.

In small-scale toy cars, the Toronado has not seen many examples. Perhaps this is about to change as Johnny Lightning is set to offer a new casting of the '66 Toronado in early 2004. The story is that Tom Lowe, owner of Playing Mantis owns a '66 Toronado. If that's what it takes to get a new model of the Toro, so be it. The prototype photos look very nice and I will be watching for my chance to get one.

Of the older '66-'70 Toronado models, I have just four in my collection. The first is from Siku of Germany. It was originally produced with the hidden headlights open, an odd idea. The same casting was re-done later with lights down and new speed-wheels. The casting is a bit too square, common with Siku models of this generation. The second version looks much better with bigger wheels.

The second '66 Toronado is from Aurora's Cigar Box series. It is a decent casting but the top is too short. I like the turquoise color on the example I have and the front and rear are fine. The third example is the easiest to find, from Tootsietoy. Shown here repainted in black, this basic model is also a '66 Toronado.

The last example is the Custom Toronado first offered by Topper as an original Johnny Lightning model. It is indeed a custom as the front is from 1970 while the rear is from 1966-68. The hood and doors open and the overall shape is quite good. When Playing Mantis revived the Johnny Lightning name, the Custom Toronado was one of the the models re-introduced. The doors do not open on the new casting but the hood does. It's too bad JL has not offered this model with full detailed paint and the 'halo' style vinyl roof.

The early 2nd generation Toronado models of 1971-72 were handsome cars and sold well. They offered more innovations like early ABS on the rear wheels, high brake/tail-lights and the first air-bags. The only small-scale example of the 2nd generation Toronado is Tomica's 1978 XS model in. The Toronado followed the Eldorado and Riviera with down-sized models but only the Riviera has been done in small-scale by Road Champs. The fourth and final generation Toronado (1987-92) is barely remembered in full-size with no chance of ever seeing small-scale representation.

Sure I'm biased but I can also speak from experience that the early Toronado models were great cars and deserve far more respect in every scale. Will it ever happen? Perhaps JL's new Toronado will inspire other manufacturers to consider doing their own version. Perhaps the viability of a new toy Toronado will inspire younger generations to assign greater value to Oldsmobile's most innovative model.

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado - due in February 2004 from Johnny Lightning

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado - Siku (version 2)

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado - Siku (version 1)

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado - Aurora

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado - Tootsietoy

1970 'Custom' Toronado - Topper

1970 'Custom' Toronado - Playing Mantis

1978 Oldsmobile Toronado - Tomica