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Oldsmobile is a car company that might be easier to forget than some other defunct manufacturers. Its heyday was definitely in the early 1970s, and unfortunately, it didn’t return to the same level of magnificence. Its legacy is cemented in young American history, dating back to 1897 before its demise in 2004. Oldsmobile changed hands in the early 1900s to under GM’s wing, and in that time, it produced some of the most iconic cars ever made. It was ahead of its time on a few occasions where these vehicles came into play.

1966-1970 Toronado: futuristic in style and drivetrain

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado in the mountains
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado | Bob D’Olivo/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images

Oldsmobile Toronados from the late 1960s looked like they were born in the wrong decade. With its straight body panels joining sharply at acute angles, surrounding widebody fender wells, the Toronado was a shiny and pristine coupe. It was also quite heavy and needed every bit of the 375 horsepower that came from its 7.5-liter V8. Its looks were on point, but it had a particular idiosyncrasy unheard of in a classic car. The Oldsmobile Toronado was one of the first American front-wheel-drive cars. On this basis, we can’t recommend it for muscle car lovers, but it’s a stunning car nonetheless, and definitely an iconic Oldsmobile.

The iconic 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire: the first turbo car

1963 Oldsmobile Jetfire
1963 Oldsmobile Jetfire | GM Heritage Center

Oldsmobile was innovating long before the Toronado came into being. In 1962 Oldsmobile released the Jetfire, the first production turbocharged car. It had a turbo that spooled for five psi and delivered 215 horsepower out of its 3.5-liter V8. The Jetfire handled cooling with a water-methanol mixture, and it used fuel injection. Even with all of this, the Jetfire wasn’t particularly fast, but it was revolutionary. Unfortunately, the car was too complex for the typical motorist, and the car lost some of its innovative properties before it was eventually discontinued. The Jetfire is not only an iconic Oldsmobile, but an iconic innovator.

1970 442 W-30: pure iconic American muscle

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Muscle cars don’t get any more classic than the Oldsmobile 442. It was big, loud, and mean. The W-30 was a performance package for the 442, and it included a 455 V8 which sent 370 horsepower to the rear wheels thanks to a performance camshaft and carburetor. The W-30 also allowed the 442 to shed some pounds with a fiberglass hood, an aluminum differential carrier, and less interior insulation, according to Oldsmobile Forever. This allowed the 442 W-30 to hit 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, a blistering score for its era. The 442 is cemented as one of the most iconic Oldsmobiles.

1975-1980 Oldsmobile Starfire: iconic swan song of the 1970s

1979 Oldsmobile Starfire funny car doing a burnout on an aircraft carrier
1979 Oldsmobile Starfire funny car | Pearce/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Oldsmobile wasn’t entirely done when the 1980s rocked up with its space-age design. Like many Oldsmobile cars, it was simply born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Though the Starfire had futuristic looks for the 1980s, it didn’t have the horsepower to be a force. Toward the end of the 1970s, the Starfire got a Chevrolet 5-liter V8, but it only made 145 horsepower. It was, unfortunately, a product of the time. However, this means if you were to find one, you could swap whatever engine is in for another V8 since there’s enough space under the hood. A Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z engine from the mid-80s might do well with its 245 horsepower. 

Oldsmobile as a company may not have stood the test of time, but its cars sure will. In its later years, Oldsmobile made some underwhelming cars, but it will live on in its innovation and its impact on cars.


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