Monday Musings

Thanks to 56packardman for putting a link to yesterday’s post on the Studebaker Drivers Club (SDC) forum. I would thank SDC members for clicking on that link often enough so that views of Disaffected Musings reached their highest level in about a month, but I doubt any of them are reading this.

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I absolutely do not condone industrial espionage and theft of IP by Chinese companies and the Chinese government. Without respect for property rights economic activity is excessively constrained and without healthy economic activity nothing that a population and its government want to achieve is really possible. Such behavior is also, obviously, a blatant violation of international law.

However, I understand the motivation for such illegal and unethical behavior. Between the so-called “one child policy” and the enormous number of deaths due to pollution in China, the country is at real risk of growing old, of demographic “collapse,” before its population can become first-world wealthy. Yes, I know the “one child policy” is no longer in effect, but the policy existed in one form or another from 1979 to 2015.

Many people say that the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t care about the Chinese people since the party holds control without fear of political opposition. While I don’t accept the view held by many in this country that the Chinese Communists are infallible and all-knowing, the party leadership is not stupid. Economic stagnation and retreat after years of progress could cause widespread dissatisfaction leading, possibly, to rebellion.

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On this day in 1965, the Oldsmobile Toronado debuted (as a 1966 model year car). Of course, the Toronado was the first US-produced front-wheel drive car since the Cord 812 in 1937. The car was named 1966 Motor Trend Car Of The Year and also finished third in the European Car Of The Year competition.

Oldsmobile had been working on front-wheel drive (FWD) since 1958, although at first the goal was to put FWD in a compact car. It’s probably difficult to understand today given how many FWD vehicles exist, but for the US market at this time FWD was “way out” there. Eventually, given that buyers of economy compact cars were less likely to be influenced by technical innovation than buyers of larger cars (and more likely to balk at the cost of a car that included some amortization of significant development expenses), Oldsmobile moved its focus to putting FWD in a “personal luxury” car.

(A personal note: my father, who was an auto mechanic, was very dismissive of front-wheel drive cars. He did, however, own many four-wheel drive Jeeps.)

From Mecum Auctions a picture of a 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado offered at its Kissimmee auction in 2016:

 

See the source image

 

The engine for the Toronado was Oldsmobile’s 425 cubic-inch V-8, but tweaked to give more horsepower and torque than the engine did in other cars. (The Toronado motor produced 385 HP/475 LB-FT of torque compared to the 375 HP/470 LB-FT or 365 HP/470 LB-FT output of other cars.)

The transmission was the Turbo Hydra-Matic 425, which was based on the Turbo Hydra-Matic 400. However, compared to the TH400, in the TH425 the gearbox was separated from the torque converter, turned 180 degrees (which also required reversing the directions of its internal gear rotation and clutch engagements), and offset to the left. The Toronado transmission also used chains, and not gears, to transmit power.

The Toronado was a success selling about 41,000 units in model year 1966. This was a very similar performance to the debut year (1963) of the Buick Riviera, a car in the same market segment as the Toronado, in which 40,000 cars were sold. Although Toronado sales declined by half in 1967 they subsequently recovered and reached nearly 56,000 in 1973 after a redesign in 1971. The car was produced in four different generations through 1992 with almost 800,000 built in total.

Sadly, Oldsmobile cars are no longer manufactured. The company that introduced (or co-introduced) modern front-wheel drive, the modern overhead-valve V8 and, of course, the modern automatic transmission has been out of existence for over a decade. As has been mentioned before, Oldsmobile is the only US company to have produced cars in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. I think aficionados of American cars should never forget Oldsmobile.

 

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