1968 Oldsmobile Toronado
Separates the men from the boys
W34 OPTION AT A GLANCE:
The W34 option was introduced for the 1968 Oldsmobile Toronado as a high performance option for Toronado customers who wanted something more powerful than the 375-horsepower Rocket V-8 that was provided as standard equipment. 1968 was the first year for the new 455 engine, and while most found its performance capabilities more than adequate, it seems there have always been those who want something a bit more potent. Enter...the W34. And the customers who ordered these cars weren't always typical, as you will see later in this article. 1968 Toronado's equipped with the W34 option are very rare, as only 124 were built. Priced at $210.64 for 1968, it was the most expensive year for the option, and there's little doubt that a drop in price to $47.39 for 1969 and 1970 is greatly responsible for its increased popularity during those two years.
The stock 455 was modified with a hotter high lift camshaft (GM part number 400165), with specifications of 286°, a 285° intake, 287° exhaust, and a .472 lift on both intake and exhaust. Heat-treated valve springs. A cold force-air induction system was plumbed to intake air from under the driver's side fender, assuring a consistent flow of cooler outside air to the carburetor. A low restriction dual exhaust system made sure the engine could breathe properly, and the rear bumper was cut out to make room for the exhaust outlet pipes. The stock Toronado distributor was recurved to enhance performance.
To handle the additional power, a special Turbo Hydra-Matic Automatic Transmission with a heavy duty torque converter was fitted as part of the W34 package. This transmission can be easily identified by the "OM" code on its identification tag, which was exclusive to the W34 option. Even the windshield washer jar was modified on W34 cars. It was notched to allow room for the cold air induction duct work, and carried special part number 9791348. It was used only on the 1968 Toronado with W34 option.
In the engine compartment, a vacuum sensor was mounted to the left side of the radiator. A special radiator featured an indentation in the brass where the sensor attaches to the radiator. This sensor was designed to open the headlamp grille covers regardless of headlamp usage during periods of high radiator temperature. With the grilles open, additional air flow was available to help cool down the engine. Most owners never knew if this feature worked or not, but we have proof that it indeed does!
Laura, the Granddaughter of an original 1968 Toronado owner equipped with the W34 option, told Automotive Mileposts that she remembers her Grandmother's new 1968 Toronado very well. It was Burgundy Metallic in color, with a Parchment vinyl roof and Buckskin Custom vinyl interior with Strato Bucket Seats and Sports Console. In addition to the W34 option, this Toronado had virtually every option offered, including a factory stereo tape player, which is why this car is remembered so well today. The Grandmother and Granddaughter shared a love of music, and when they were in the car together, they always had a popular 8-track tape playing, usually at top volume.
The story goes like this: The Granddaughter's parents had purchased a new home in a different city, and had dropped her and her Brother off at Grandma's house to visit while the move was taking place. Once the move was done, it was determined that the Grandparents would drive the Grand kids to their new home in separate cars so that Grandma could stay for a couple of weeks and help Mom decorate the new house. This would allow Grandpa to go back home when he was ready, and Grandma could head home later in her Toronado. The kids switched back and forth between cars during the trip, and at one point Laura remembers looking out the back window of her Grandfather's 1963 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight (yeah, he was an Olds man!) just in time to see Grandma's headlamp grille covers open. She asked her Grandfather why the covers had gone up without the lights being on, and he said he didn't know.
Weeks later, Grandpa asked the Olds dealer why the covers opened and they told him it was to provide additional cooling for the engine under high temperature conditions. Sure enough, on that day when the covers opened it was 101 degrees. With the Comfortron set at 70, the cruise control set at 70, and The Magic Lanterns' latest 8-track tape playing "Shame Shame" [click to listen at YouTube, or use the player below] over the speakers, Grandma's Toronado never lost its cool! (Laura says this was her Brother's favorite song at the time, and he remembered they were listening to it when they waved at each other, just after the grilles opened.)
Laura says this was her Grandmother's one and only brand new car, and she
ordered it the way she wanted it, and drove it for over 20 years before
passing away. The day she died, Laura says her Grandmother drove her Toronado
to have her hair done. The car still survives today in Laura's garage.
And she's pretty sure if she looked hard enough around her house she could
find a few old 8-track tapes to play in it!
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