Car of the Week: 1978 Olds Toronado XS

I own a ‘78 XS that I purchased in early 2017 from the son of the second owner (since deceased), who had owned the car since 1980.
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Car of the Week 2020
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By Daniel Gulino
Las Cruces, N.M.

I own a 1978 Oldsmobile Toronado XS that I purchased in early 2017 from the son of the second owner (since deceased), who had owned the car since 1980. The car had sat undriven outdoors under a cover in southern Florida since 2003 but had recently been moved to southern Georgia where the son lived. He decided to sell it, and I bought it sight unseen — after only seeing the car online and talking extensively by phone with the seller — and had it shipped to my home in New Mexico.

Since then, I’ve pretty much completed the restoration on it. I’ve replaced many items, including a new fuel tank and all new rubber fuel lines, completely redone brakes front and rear, new shocks, stabilizer links, and ball joint on one side, new radiator, water pump, alternator, and fuel pump, rebuilt air-conditioning compressor and conversion to R134a to bring that system back to life, and myriad other small jobs (getting the cruise control and horns to work, replacing the power antenna, replacing the sunroof weatherstripping, etc.). I also had the car repainted in its original Carmine Red.

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The accompanying photos show the car being pulled out of the Florida muck and loaded onto a flatbed truck and the other two showing the car in “as-received” condition are from the seller. Note the missing rear fender extensions. I was able to get new fiberglass replacements, and the shop that painted the car installed those as well. The other photos are after it was painted and new tires and NOS wheelcovers were put on.

Note the license plate. I got that idea from an XS that was for sale on eBay out of West Virginia and that had this on its license plate. Fortunately, no one in New Mexico had yet taken it, so I did.

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The [planned] Toronado XSR ... was supposed to have been an XS with power T-tops instead of a power sunroof, and it was to have been added to the Toronado option list for 1977. But just before the car was to have gone into production, GM pulled it, as the story goes, because of problems in getting the T-top retraction mechanism to work reliably. The plan had been to bring out the model for 1978, but that never came to fruition, either. See the attached dealer bulletin from March 1977.

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By the time the decision was made in March 1977 to cancel production of the XSR for that model year, advertising for the 1977 models and 1977 Toronado sales brochures featuring the XSR had already gone out, and orders for the XSR had been taken by dealers.

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How many prototype XSRs were built has been a matter of debate among Toronado aficionados, with the normally definitive “Setting the Pace — Oldsmobile’s First 100 Years” by Walkinshaw and Earley showing only one built, while there has since been documented evidence that at least three were built, with two of them known to have survived.

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