1966 Oldsmobile Toronado Development
Dick Ruzzin’s Personal account of the development of the ’66 Tornado
I was new and experiencing my first design program of note. It was all like magic, as sketches, words and imagination all converged on the project and influenced what was going on in the studio.
I clearly remember my participation and that of others in the room which follows. I was really impressed with the management as they discussed the abstract future of the design, even though it was incomplete. They apparently trusted that it could be developed into a solution for a project that we designers had no knowledge of.
The Name: Toronado
The name came from Chevrolet, used on a show car. It was originated by a designer in Chevrolet. Studio #1, Ira Gilford. He had a conversation with his father and uncle and developed the name which was then used on a Chevrolet show car. The roots of the made up name are, TORO (Bull), and NADO(Tornado). Oldsmobile asked for the name and Chevrolet gave it to them. Everyone thought it was a great name.
The E-car Program
The Toronado was one of a series of three cars that also included the Buick Riviera and the Cadillac Eldorado. The chassis was engineered to be capable of both front drive for the Toronado and Eldorado and rear drive for the Riviera. There was a balance of both interchangeable parts and specific parts for the individual cars.
The windshield, A-pillar and door side glass was shared by all three cars.The roof panel and backlight were shared by Toronado and Riviera. Door inners were shared by all three as well as various underbody panels. Each car’s individual sheet metal pieces allowed the unique appearance achieved byall three. The only piece that you could really see as common was the windshield pillar.
To clearly define and communicate its vision of the future unnamed E-Car, John Beltz, Chief Engineer of Oldsmobile bought a dark red Ferrari. This tight four passenger close coupled coupe was seen also by the Oldsmobile Studio as a personal car size that was appropriate for the future product that would be called Toronado. This size would have dictated a smaller platform for the car. The spread of size between the needs of the three ultimately dictated a larger size.
Advanced Design #3
We were asked to send all of our primary sketches and board drawings to Advanced #3 to start the program as we could not do it because of other pressing work. Chuck Jordan also wanted to register the design in comparison to the coming Riviera and Eldorado that were not as far along. I assume he wanted to see a firm direction for all three.
We started a clay model to match the Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, maybe on the then current Camaro / Firebird platform.
Later when it came back as an incomplete full-size clay model we made massive changes to the clay buck to match the new E car platform and started in earnest to complete the design for production. There was a lot of work to do.
Evolution of the Design
The greatest design credit should be given to Don Logerquist, the designer who originated the theme that the red rendering and the cars design was developed from. The sketch was made during our efforts to develop an alternate design for the 1965 Oldsmobile B car that was underway as a full sized clay model. Chuck Jordan was excited about the design that was being put on the alternate side of the B clay and he brought Irv Rybicki in for an opinion as he had been Chief of Olds before Stan Wilen. He called it a design that could be used in the near future on a “special car” for Oldsmobile. Shortly after that the red rendering was started, worked on by Dave North, Don Logerquist and Stan as advisor. Dave did most of the layout and rendering and Don helped develope the look of the surfaces.
I saw Irv use this technique later when I was Chief of Chevrolet #2, he started watching for design solutions as soon as he knew a new program was coming, even before anyone else knew it.
It is true that Dave North did the rendering with some of Don’s help. Stan was the one who inspired the front end, a thin long slot like the Firebird 3 and I eventually did the rear, a derivative of the Ferrari GT Kamm inspired race car called the Bread Van, tailpipes and all. Stan helped with the tailamps, coordinating them with the front grill, asking me to keep them low, above the bumper and as wide as possible. A simple harmonic solution It was and had to be in sharp contrast to the rear designs on the Riviera and Eldorado.
If you look at the red rendering compared to the final car you will see that it is very different. The major design element, the two large wheel flares, are not seen on the red rendering. They emerged after Bill Mitchell eliminated the top line on the rear quarter and connected the rear corner of the Kamm inspired rear end to the outboard roof crease that had to match the Riviera roof panel. The rear wheel lip flare was naturally very large as it had to reach further to meet the quarter surface, much further than the front wheel lip flare. This problem resulted in the change of the entire body side section, upon close examination you will see that the two flares are at a different angle, this was done to make them look the same.
The final lower bodyside was an attempt to create a “frame” look which Bill Mitchell was enthralled with at the time (See the 1964 Pontiac Tempest / GTO). It worked very well to give the car the look of a low center of gravity. and a line to connect the two wheel shapes. This was a contribution by Stan who watched and balanced the design as it went.
Bill Mitchill changed the design from the red rendering after the clay model came back to Oldsmobile Studio from Advanced Design #3. He connected the line on the roof to the tail end of the car to create a side plane carrying the large wheel oriented shapes, front and rear. This was a brilliant move that took the design to another level making it more unique than ever. It also helped connect the quarter line on the Toronado to the roof panel that we had to share with the Riviera, although this made the execution of that part of the car more difficult for us.
Advanced Design #3 Studio
We were asked to send all of our primary sketches, scale models and board drawings to Advanced #3 Studio to start the program, as we could not do it because of other pressing facelift work on existing models. Chuck Jordan also wanted to register the design in comparison to the coming Riviera and Eldorado that were not as far along.
When it came back as an incomplete full-size clay model we started in earnest to complete the design for production. There was a lot of work to do, the front and rear were not up to the side view theme as the design was being led by the red rendering with the fender peak going from the baqck of the car into the sail panel. Bill Mitchell changed it and then the rear could be done in its finalized form.
—Dick Ruzzin, Junior Creative Designer in Oldsmobile Studio
Bill Porter sent me message when he found out that I was writing a memoir of the Toronado a couple of years ago.
It was about a project he was working on in the Advanced area in the early 1960s. Specifically, a scale model done by Les Johnson that had a low body line that went rearward fro m the front wheel opening, hopping over the skirted rear wheel and then becoming horizontal again and going on to the rear of the car. There was a large flare into the quarter at the top of the hopping line. Les asked Bill to make a sketch of it for him, which he did. Bill Mitchell came in and responded to it.
I think that there is no doubt that they had created a theme that was the result of similar needs to ours in the Oldsmobile Studio years later as the Toronado was developed. Stan was the author of the low line that went over the wheel openings. He did this to impart a focus on the wheels as a theme to become foundational for Oldsmobile. The Toronado theme was a much larger statement that when conceived as shown on the red rendering did not have large flares, they evolved during the three dimensional surface development. I do recall that Don’s gray and yellow pastel sketch did have them.
At the time the Toronado was designed there was a great deal of enthusiasm, generated by Bill Mitchell for wheel oriented design solutions. A large, volume of work was being done in the Design building around this theme and outside there were a large number of themes that were being used on race cars around the world. The combination of elements that made up the Toronado design were completely originated and assembled in Oldsmobile Studio under Stan Wilen.
The enthusiasm generated for the design was a result of its unique individual elements and its design solution in total that was very fresh. There is no doubt that there may have been some design elements that through previous years were similar to the final solution in some ways. Neither myself, Frank Munoz, Dave North or Stan Wilen ever discussed any work that had been done elsewhere in the building in referance to the developing Toronado design.
I did see in Chuck Jordan’s office once a small idealistic theme model in silver that had a clean monocoque side with wheel portrusions, but not the same theme that we developed in Oldsmobile Studio, it was simpler.
GM Design was a design generating machine. You could say that everything had an effect on everything else.