Out in Front The FrontWheelDrive Oldsmobile Toronado Part 1 Ate Up With Motor

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Out in Front: The Front-Wheel-Drive Oldsmobile Part 1

Technologically and stylistically, the Oldsmobile Toronado was a landmark a sophisticated big GT that was also the front-wheel-drive American production car in 30 years. This week, we at the origins of the 1966-1970 Toronado and the and development of its unusual FWD Unitized Package.

Note . This replaces our original 2008 on the Toronado. It has been completely and expanded, adding a great of new information and new images.


Today, front-wheel drive is found on everything from Japanese kei -cars to crossover Until the early eighties, the majority of passenger cars in Europe, and Japan used some automotive historians le Système Panhard . a front-mounted driving the rear wheels a central propeller shaft. The FR had its drawbacks, but it was simple, durable, more importantly, cheap.

alternative layouts had been since the earliest days of the Walter Christie built a of successful FWD race cars as as 1904 but for various reasons, failed to unseat the well-established

Although mid-engine, rear-drive configurations came into for sports cars in the seventies, the rivals to the FR setup were the rear-drive (RR) and front-engine, (FF) layouts. Both the FF and RR offer several advantages the FR layout. The first was superior a result of putting the mass of the directly over the drive The second particularly compelling for cars was packaging efficiency. In an FR the occupants must share with the propeller shaft and which are particularly intrusive in cars like the first Ford Thunderbird.

Packaging the drivetrain at one end of the vehicle leaves room for passengers and cargo, and it can facilitate assembly, allowing the to be installed as a single unit.

Both configurations also notable drawbacks. RR cars are practical with air cooling water cooling, while inherent tail heaviness their straight-line stability and some unwelcome cornering FF cars, by contrast, tend to be stable, but their front bias produces heavier and making the front wheels for both power and steering causes its own handling quirks.

drive also tends to be in part because of the multiple joints needed to allow the to accommodate the full range of motion.

One of the very few American FWD to make it to production before War 2 was the remarkable coffin-nose Cord Aside from its dramatic developed by Cord chief Gordon Buehrig, it featured a preselector gearbox (controlled by s electro-vacuum Electric Hand ) and an 289 cu. in. (4,730 cc) Lycoming V8 making 125 hp (93 the 1937 812 also offered an Schwitzer-Cummins supercharger, giving 170 hp kW) and 110 mph (176 km/h) performance. The had fine performance and roadability, but it was expensive and it suffered a host of mechanical problems. Only were sold before ended in August 1937. © 2009 Jack Snell ; with permission)

Except for the V8-powered Tatras, the RR layout to be associated with small cars, but before World War 2, drive had a much racier The lack of a prop shaft FWD cars (particularly single-seat cars) to be lower with a frontal area and a lower of gravity, all beneficial on the track. Harry Miller offered a of quite successful front-drive cars in the late twenties, led to a brief vogue for FWD prestige like the Cord L-29, the Gardner and Ruxton, and a stillborn Packard.

While the subsequent Citroën Avant and Cord 810/812 not quite luxury cars, were definitely upscale in price and appointments. Unfortunately, of those cars suffered teething problems and the Depression was not an time for launching new models expensive new technology. Only s Traction survived the decade.


When automotive production after the war, European developed a new generation of inexpensive FF including the Citroën 2CV, Dyna, Saab 92, and Borgward In America, however, front-wheel was all but extinct. Henry Kaiser s for a postwar FWD car never made it the prototype stage and even domestic compacts like the Rambler and Hudson Jet had conventional FR

The last American production car front-wheel drive had been the 812, which was discontinued in Still, the advantages of the FF configuration not lost on Big Three engineers. In GM exhibited a number of FWD concept at its traveling Motorama show: a and a four-door hardtop christened II, and a compact panel truck L Universelle.

Conceived by GM Styling and the Engineering Staff, the LaSalle IIs intended to showcase various features, including front-wheel unitized construction, fully suspension, and a transverse, fuel-injected V6. The FWD powertrain, developed as a collaboration the corporate Transmission and Power groups, was called the Unitized Package, or UPP, combining and transaxle into one compact We ve been unable to find specifications for the LaSalle II s UPP, but in any it appears they were notional a working prototype t ready by the time the Motorama in January 1955, so the show had simulated rear-wheel-drive powertrains

The Engineering Staff didn t a functional UPP prototype until after the Motorama closed.

The La Salle II four-door hardtop, here at the 1955 Motorama. the hardtop and the roadster were for scrap after the Motorama but a private collector later the remains and restored them, exhibiting both cars at events along with vintage GM concept cars. copyright 2010 General LLC. Used with GM Media Archive.)

The GMC L Universelle was more realistic, mating s new 287 cu. in. (4,706 cc) V8 to a transaxle based on the Dual Range Hydra-Matic. the the Citroën Traction Avant and (which bowed around the time), L Universelle had a longitudinal rotated 180 degrees and mounted the transaxle; the final drive reversed the transmission s rotation, so the would not move backward the transmission in Drive. To allow for the driveshafts to pass between the A-arms, the front springs longitudinal torsion bars. The was a dead axle with a center section, allowing a flat load floor.

It was a practical idea, offering utility space in a relatively package, but the awkward cooling layout with the radiator behind the cabin, exhausting a roof-mounted grille suggested it wasn t quite ready for time. Nonetheless, GMC did seriously putting it into limited (now with a transversely engine and a bus-derived angle system), but cost considerations led to its in 1956.


was also interest in front-wheel at some of the divisions, which in days still did much of own research and development work. of the strongest interest came Oldsmobile, particularly from advanced engineering chief K. Watt. Watt was an early of front-wheel drive, and it was at his behest the Advanced group began work on FF powertrains in early

The project had strong support Olds assistant chief John Beltz and at least interest from chief Harold Metzel, but Jim Dawson, a senior project engineer in the group, told authors Walkinshaw and Helen Jones that it was really Watt who had for front-wheel drive.

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Following the recession that began in GM launched the new corporate X-100 which eventually spawned the senior compacts : the Buick Pontiac Tempest, and Oldsmobile When the X-100 project Andy Watt and John suggested that Oldsmobile s have front-wheel drive.

the senior compacts were to have all-new engines and it seemed an appropriate time to a new layout and front-wheel drive give the compact F-85 a edge in interior space.

The V6 originally intended for Oldsmobile s FWD F-85 was a clean-sheet, 60-degree developed by motor engineer Burrell; it was not related to the 90-degree Fireball V6. Retired Olds Bill Thomas says wanted to use the 60-degree V6 as the base in the 1964 F-85, but lost out to the Buick engine. According to Jim Dawson, the Olds V6 s design passed to Chevrolet, where it the basis of the corporate 60-degree V6 launched in 1980. The first-generation V6 was cast iron, but the second-generation 173 cu. in. cc) version, seen here in a or 1989 Buick Regal, had heads and 125 net horsepower (93 kW). © 2007 JayHind2008 ; released to the domain by the photographer)

In early Watt s group began of an experimental FWD compact, powered by a new 215 cu. in. (3.5 L) aluminum V6. The engine was transversely on a short subframe two separate chain drive one connecting the engine and transmission (a automatic, presumably Hydra-Matic-based), the connecting the transmission to the final The prototype was 180 inches (4,572 mm) on a 112-inch (2,849mm) wheelbase, the size of a Chevrolet Corvair.

Various sources describe it as based on either a 59 Rambler, a or a pre-production F-85, but the cobbled-together of its powertrain and front subframe the prototype s weight to a hefty lb (1,526 kg), more 200 lb (91 kg) heavier than a contemporary Six and at least 800 lb (363 kg) heavier the Corvair. At some point the development, the V6 was superseded by Oldsmobile s of the 215 cu. in. (3,528 cc) aluminum V8, which dubbed Rockette.

According to Michael Lamm, the first were not ready for testing the spring of 1960. By then, the F-85 was already approaching with the aluminum Rockette and a conventional rear-drive layout. Our are not clear on whether delays the prototype led Olds to forgo drive for its initial senior models or whether the decision had been made for other

Either way, it appears the FWD package was still being for future models, perhaps the F-85.

If that was the plan, it considerably soon long the 1961 models went on The 61 model year was not a strong one in and early sales of the Olds were sluggish. The F-85 was for an economy car, in part its aluminum engine made it to produce; a FWD version would be costlier.

More profitable models, like the sporty launched in May 1961, seemed a bet for the compact market, particularly the Ford Falcon s triumph the Corvair suggested that car buyers had little appetite for novelty.

Not exactly the face that a thousand ships, but a commercial hit sunk a variety of more cars. The first Ford was not technologically groundbreaking (although its construction was still a novelty for cars in those days), but a optimization of familiar technologies in fine packaging efficiency and economy combined with curb weight. The strategy off: The Falcon proved to be the successful of Detroit s early outselling the Rambler, the Corvair, the and the B-O-P senior compacts by a margin.

Oldsmobile was not ready to the idea of front-wheel drive, but by 1961, Watt, Beltz, and had turned their attention to cars. Oldsmobile s third FWD would be a converted Dynamic

Harold Metzel and Oldsmobile manager Jack Wolfram the idea of a big FWD car to corporate management, but met considerable resistance. Aside the cost issue, some executives doubted it would A FWD compact was one thing, but a full-size car a torquey modern V8 was something

Selling a big FWD Olds to the corporation be an uphill battle.

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