1977 Toronado XSR
Update May 2011
We all know about the spectacular red XSR, #00055, that resides in New Jersey (Collectible Automobile, June 2003) whose story was told by those directly involved in its resurrection below. However, we now have evidence of two other 77XSR cars - one of which has been definitively proven!
In the May/June 2011 (Vol. 6, issue 3) issue of the Front Wheel Driver magazine, we presented the second 77XSR, #00048 – a silver beauty, to the world. It was vetted and proven to be a true XSR, smashing the prototype-only myth surrounding this car!
More research, in conjunction with the GM Heritage Center, proved the possibility that several more were produced. We already had photos of a yellow car sitting in a used car lot in Milwaukee, though it has not been verified and its current status is unknown. We also have photos of the white car in "Setting the Pace," which now believe to be the actual prototype (a modified 76).
More information about GM's power T-top project (with a Cadillac focus, though the 77XSR is mentioned) can be found HERE on the Wayback Machine. Please note that both this article link and the Collectible Automobile article emphatically state that only ONE car was ever built.
NOTE: The below information was on the original Toronado.net site, which we took over. We are leaving this as is for historical sake.
XSRs: Oh, dear. Let's nip this in the bud right now to try and reduce the confusion that's been going on for 20 years. There was only ONE XSR, it's here in Rockville, MD being restored. XSR has power T-Tops and wraparound and was a prototype; it's a '77. Production model was XS, all of these had power moon roofs and wraparound. Dennis Casteele's book is incorrect, and I believe the sales literature is also. XS-R model was never released for production as power T-top scheme was too expensive. I din't know all this 'til an ad for the XSR turned up in the Washington Post a couple of years ago and Don Ross of Southbury CT bought it. I hate to do it, but in the interest of historical accuracy, my unfinished story on the XSR follows. The car has been painted, we're waiting on the painting of the gooey filler panels. It also needs to be pin-striped and have the body side moldings installed. Then comes the Grand Reassembly and after that, mechanical shakedown.
Resurrection of A Prototype
Doug Kitchener and Don Ross
The prototype 1977 Toronado XSR has been found and is being restored. Here is the saga of this rare car that never made it into production, a development project shared between Oldsmobile and American Sunroof Company (ASC).
For model year 1977, Oldsmobile, making use of a new technology for bending glass, introduced the Toronado XS, which featured a wraparound backlight and power moonroof. This model was continued through 1978. According to legend, part of the reason for the introduction of this car was to make Toronado sales more popular, in order to deplete the large inventory of body shells in anticipation of the planned downsizing of the Toronado for the 1979 model year.
The Toronado featuring power T-tops which slid in toward the centerline of the car, stacking over each other. What is not generally known is that there was only one prototype of this car built, and that the XSR package never made it into production. (By the way, the late Dennis Casteele's book, The Cars Of Oldsmobile, is incorrect about XSR production figures and should refer instead to XS models. Another "legend", unconfirmed at this writing, says there were 30 or so XSR cars built with lift-off T-tops. We believe that if these cars did in fact exist, that they were destroyed.)
The XSR was a collective effort of Oldsmobile and ASC. In anticipation of the downsizing of the Toronado for the 1979 model year, Olds wanted to deplete its inventory of E-body shells. They believed that the wraparound rear window and opening roof panel would add to the appeal and exclusiveness of the Toronado. It was also a good way to showcase the new hot-wire glass bending technology (later used on the '77-'79 Chevrolet Caprice and Impala coupes).
ASC had developed the power T-top system and wanted to show it off (and of course, market it). So, after some discussion, a Firethorn 1977 Toronado Brougham coupe, VIN 3 57M 000055, was pulled off the Oldsmobile assembly line and sent to ASC for the conversion, which would include installation of the wraparound backlight and the power T-top system.
Oldsmobile apparently decided that the T-top part of the conversion would be too expensive, going instead with a moonroof. The XSR prototype was initially ordered to be destroyed. ASC, however, took the position that they had a vested interest in the car (their $5000 prototype power T-top system!), and they felt that the concept was marketable, so the XSR prototype was sold to ASC through an Olds dealer in Flint, Michigan. ASC owned the car for four years, showing it at specialty shows and promoting its power T-top system (which evidently was a commercial flop... ever seen a car that has it?), putting 19000 miles on the car during that time. At that point the car was sold to a used car dealer in Ohio. Someone at the used car dealer apparently liked the XSR because when the car was sold to a Louisiana collector a year or two later, it had over 40,000 miles on it. The Louisiana collector got in trouble with the Bureau of Eternal Revenue somewhere along the line and the car was impounded (along with other assets). Apparently it was stored outside in a swampy area for some time where it evidently sustained considerable rust damage. This was, in part, due to the fact that the drains for the T-top system were never "plumbed" through the body cavities and to the outside of the car, since it was a prototype and not expected to see actual service as daily transportation. The car was eventually reclaimed by the Louisiana collector and then sold to another car collector near Winchester, VA about ninety miles from Washington DC.
At about this time, Toronado enthusiast Don Ross enters the picture. In June 1993, OCA's Toronado Chapter held a meet in the Washington DC area. Don attended the show, driving down from his home in Southbury, CT in his silver '77 Toronado XS. It was at the Toronado meet that he met fellow chapter members Fred Nissen and Doug Kitchener, both from the DC area.
That fall, Fred spotted an ad in Washington Post classifieds for a 1977 Toronado that he believed from the description was the XSR prototype. Don was the only person he could think of who would both appreciate the car and could afford to restore it. Fred sent a copy of the ad to Don, who promptly went to Winchester VA to look at the car.
He found it to be running but not driveable. It was partially disassembled and had suffered some rust damage, but it was an XS model with the wraparound rear window and it did have power T-tops which still operated with a little help.
After some negotiation, the purchase was made, and Don then made arrangements to transport the car to a shop to begin restoration.
The first day Don contacts Olds History Center; they confirm one prototype by ASC (discrepancy about number of prototypes built existed prior to this) (Casteele book is incorrect)
(All XSs had sunroof and wrap around, one prototype with power T-tops which slide inboard.)
Doug & Fred go to Elwood's, discover XS in junkyard with good quarters.
Due to funding and more problems found, car not ready in time for '95 OCA Grand National Meet in Greensboro, but Don tow dolleys it down from Bedford for car show,
Bodywork, mechanical and underhood detailing done, Don decides that car should have base/clear paint that first shop isn't equipped to do, (also Firethorn color is not available in DuPont Centari paint system) so car goes to Congressional Oldsmobile in Rockville, MD to be painted in Glasurit 4800 two- stage paint system by JR Richardson and Bob Gartner.--
Submitted by: Doug Kitchener
XSR-The Saga Begins
The Kobiashi Maru has set sail for the Promised Land! Drove the XSR home from the paint shop today. For those not familiar, Toronado XS models were limited production in '77 and '78, and featured the wrap-around backlight and a power moonroof. This car, the XSR, is the one and only prototype, which had power self-storing T-tops instead of the moonroof (the full story is somewhere on Sparky's FAQ page, www.execpc.com/~gaklkhof/torofaqs/htm). Despite what the sales literature and Dennis Casteele's _Cars Of Oldsmobile_ say, this car is documented to be _one of one_.
Barely roadworthy, rear brakes fubared, steering groaning, "Hot" light on and chime squeaking because the MISAR computer system is fubared and disconnected, trans selector out of adjustment, no turn signals because of a busted lever, but it made it! When I got home, grounded the "Hot" sensor and silenced the nagging mother-in-law goddam chime, scrubbed and dressed the tires, removed various bits of masking tape from all over, cleaned the windshield and dash, and installed the driver's side mirror. Tomorrow's first order of bidness is adjust the shift linkage, figure out why the RR tire keeps going down (suspect rim leak from possible rusty bead), try and order a turn signal lever, and see where the back brakes are leaking.
Still waiting for paint shop to do all the soft filler panels front and rear... no power to seat and windows... LR rim bent, no spare tire, inside door panels off, and on and on... paint looks good tho!
I'm not on the list right now due to time constraints, so please cc me if any comments, or email me direct with any questions!
Doug Kitchener (email@example.com)
Last Wednesday I went junkyarding over in Delaware for parts for Don Ross's prototype '77 Toronado XSR (this car is the only one built with power-operated self-storing T-tops. Picked $200 worth of good stuff off a nice Firethorn '77 Toronado Brougham we found there in January that some wastoid had trashed by running it into an embankment... justice prevails tho, the junkyard owner told
me that this turkey is now doing time in the slammer for attempted murder (presumably this doesn't have anything to do with the death of a really nice Toro...).... Came home with both outside mirrors, both door handles, both door lock cylinders, decklid with lock cylinder and key, complete jack, air cleaner, driver's window glass, three relays for PWs and climate control, 2 wheels, both sill plates, one headlight door (other busted), LH parking lamp, both taillight assys, power antenna, grille, hood release spring, handfuls of hardware, vents and plugs that go in the rear quarters where you open the door, and I don't know whatall else. Most stuff was already unbolted and laying there, and the door webbings had been sawzalled to get the PW motors and lock soleolinoids out... still took an hour and a half! But the result is that we now have decent trim for the XSR... most of the stuff that came with it was pretty rough! Only thing trimwise I'd like to get is the fender "scripts" or nameplates (they're not script!) and I may be able to get them new.
Take it from me, the second gen cars are difficult to work on! 'Fraid I'm gonna have to pull the dash on this one, the headlight switch is busted, and no power to the window motors! My efforts are hampered by a series of cretins who have "worked on" this thing before me... well, if there were no wrongs to right, I wouldn't be Superman! :) Another friend said awhile back that we shoulda just whacked the roof off this car and grafted it onto the $200 one he and I got with a bad 403... I'm beginning to think he's right!
XSR Czar Don Ross was down from Connecticut this weekend. On Saturday, he and I went to the Delaware junkyard where reposes a '77 Toronado Brougham, and picked off another load of miscellaneous parts.
Sunday was a big day. Don came out in his silver '77 XS, and Fred Nissen was here in his '69 Ninety-Eight convertible. Don had been complaining about driveability problems with the silver car, so Fred got to work. He replaced a couple of vacuum lines that weren't sealing (a repair shop had replaced them, but the hose they used was one size too big) and worked the EGR valve open and closed several times to unstick it and clean it out a little. Presto! Idles like a clock, driveability problems gone! We then adjusted the steering box and lubed the door and hood hinges, and then attacked the XSR.
First order of business was the vacuum lines on that car. They were misrouted, missing and/or deteriorated. Once again, Fred tackled that project, and then tried to adjust the carburetor. Sadly, the carb is goofed up and will have to be replaced, so we weren't able to cure the driveability problems this time around. We sent Don off to have a tire swapped off a bent rim onto a straight one, and also asked him to pick up some oil, a filter, brake fluid and hamburgers. Fred showed me how to pull the bottom of the dashboard off, so I can begin the process of replacing the damaged headlight switch. Fred had to leave, but I went ahead and pulled the LR brake drum, the brakes were fine with no evidence of leakage. Fellow OCA members Eddie Mayhew and Cory Correll showed up, as did my neighbors Kenny and Jeff. I bled the rear brakes and we discovered a leak where the line from the front of the car to the rear connects to the rear hose. A turn and 1/2 of a 7/16" wrench cured that. We took the XSR for a quick blast around the block, but driveability was awful due to the defective carb. Then we pulled the XSR and the silver XS up on the grass for a photo session. After that, it was time for Don to leave, so the guys all pitched in to help him load the silver car with a decklid for the white XS he's restoring, a front bumper for his '68 Toronado, and all the excess XSR parts that we had doubles and triples of; door panels, quarter extensions, busted power antenna and piles of other stuff. The decklid was hanging out of the trunk, and the '68 bumper went diagonally from the front passenger footwell, through the notch in the front seat and into the LR passenger area. Don's departure was worthy of a scene from "Sanford and Son"!
Left to do:
Replace headlight switch and reassemble dash. Detail and reinstall junkyard taillight assemblies. Replace and set carb.
Pick up replacement turn signal lever from Templeton Olds and install. Make another trip to the Delaware junkyard to pick off a rear marker light pigtail and the wheel opening and rocker moldings from the junk car. Pick up and reinstall loose parts from Congressional Oldsmobile's paint shop; includes the quarter panel extensions, bumper fillers and grille. These parts should be ready this Friday.
Take car to Shop Day at Stohlman Olds on 5/3 to check all brake system fittings and connections and front axles for leaks and tightness; change oil, etc.
Begin "shakedown" mode!
April 28, 1997
by Doug Kitchener
Another in a series of reports on the reassembly/restoration of Don Ross's prototype '77 Toronado XSR.
It's driveable! I did drive it home from the body shop a few weeks ago, but that was out of necessity, and it wasn't really "streetable" at that time. The main thing was no back brakes, which I told you in the last update was traced to a loose brake line fitting at the rear of the car. Last week I dismantled the tilt-and-telescope steering column and replaced the busted-off turn signal lever ( with a discount, a cool $65 from our friends at Templeton Oldsmobile in Vienna VA; lots better than the $95 list price! For you turkeys who are not Olds Club members, it pays to join and there's your proof!).
Anyway, detailed the column and wheel at the same time and got it all back together with no mishap. Pain in the tail tho. Turn signals were working. At that point, decided to start working on the external lighting, despite the fact that I know the headlight switch is busted. (We have another one, but it's gonna be a real party to put it in.) Well, both headlamp wiring harness grounds were disconnected, so that was the first thing. Trust me, nothing will work right up front if the ground wires aren't connected to the firewall. Had bought new replacements for most of the small external lamps, as they were all dangling and were either oversprayed, broken, missing or obviously bad. Rear lights, in the form of brake lights and turn signals, were already working. Replaced the tail lamp fuse and got tail lights, rear side marker lights and parking lights (the front marker/cornering lights are not yet installed, see below.)
>From an experiment backalong when I hooked up the headlights, I had thought that the headlamp switch was stuck in the "On" position. The stem pulls right out of the switch and won't latch. However, it turned out that the Twilight Sentinel control was on at that time. This time, hooked up the headlights. The car was still wearing all four of its original Guide headlamps, which we had hoped to preserve for the sake of authenticity. No such luck. One low beam was burned out, one high beam blew as soon as the lights were turned on using the Nightwatch, and the other low beam blew the second time the lights were turned on. Three for four! It'll get a new set of halogens.
I was feeling lucky, so decided to see if I could get some of the interior lights working. Put a new fuse in the "Dome-Trunk" circuit and it blew almost immediately. Also on this circuit are the high-mounted stoplights and rear lighters. The rear lighter sockets and elements were all crusty, rusty and corroded, so figured they were the problem. Pulled the wires off them, put in another new fuse and presto, 3 of four courtesy lights, and one of two high- mounted stop lights on each side, and the trunk lamp worked. New blubs for the burned-out stuff, and spliced a cut wire to the power decklid release, and it worked.
Wow! Time to take the car for a blast. Ran up to the auto parts chain store a couple miles away; got caught in a shower. Flipped on the wipers. Nada. Drove home without 'em and the shower lets up. Started jiggling connections at the wiper motor and it woke up. But the driver's side arm had no tension, and both blades were shredded. My neighbor discovered that the wiper arm was loose and not latched, so that cured that and saved a search for a new arm. New refills from the parts store and the wipers work, more or less... the pulse part doesn't seem to work yet, but I think it's a matter of more connection jiggling.
Can't get one of the little "T" ID lamps on the front end to work. The socket seems to be no good, will pick off one from the Delaware parts car. Driver's side power door lock and passenger side electric seat back release don't work, who cares. One of the horns is burned out, and somebody already picked them off the Delaware car, worse luck! Washer bottle is missing in action. Courtesy lamps won't come on when the passenger door is opened. Haven't tried the cruise control or the heater/AC system. Still have to install the door panels, but gotta do a little work on them first; the retainers won't stay in because the cardboard backing is torn around their mounting holes. Some filament tape to reinforce that area should fix that.
The carb that's on the car is messed up so it doesn't run very well, but a temporary replacement is being rebuilt as we speak. A permanent replacement will soon be procured from Leon's Auto Parts, "The Walking Man's Friend" in Leon VA. I'm planning to take the car this Saturday to Stohlman Olds in Alexandria VA for the Capitol City Rockets Chapter's monthly "Shop Day". This about 50 mins from my home in Gaithersburg MD, so should be a good shakedown cruise. Will put it in the air and change the oil, lube the front end, check the CV joints, check all the brake line fittings to be sure they're tight and bleed the brakes, adjust the trans shift linkage which is out of whack, lube the emergency brake cable, maybe paint a couple of wheel wells, hook up the fuel gauge at the tank and check all those lines, and have a look at the exhaust system which seems to be leaking.
Also gotta detail the trunk, the Delaware parts car had all of the trunk trim intact and in good condition, so it's going right in this car after the trunk gets a couple coats of Rustoleum Semi-Gloss Black and maybe a shot of trunk spatter paint (not correct, but the black/turquoise looks neat!)
This afternoon, found the windlaces which trim out the rear of the door openings, they were buried in the trunk. Cleaned them up some with soap and water, but gotta get some gray primer overspray off them and install them. Also found all the battery holddown parts which need to be cleaned up and painted semi-gloss black.
The idiot paint shop still hasn't painted the bumper fillers, quarter panel extensions, and the retainers for the cornering/front side marker lamps. Went and nuked them today about that. They'd better have them done by Friday morning; I'm starting to get mad.
The biggest outstanding glitch will be door weather seals and "B" pillar seals. Will try and get these off the Delaware car in one piece. Wish me luck.
Hopefully, the car will debut Sunday at a "Spring Dustoff" at Congressional Olds in Rockville, MD. The interior is still a mess; the dash pad and lower trim panel are out, the headliner is sagging and the body shop dust is still everywhere, especially in the rear passenger compartment (it's amazing how little room there is back there, especially considering how big this car is!). Will try to at least get in the back and vacuum, but I get claustrophobic back there. Even with the wraparound backlight and glass roof panels, the black interior of this car is like a cave, day or night. The Delaware junkyard car had a Firethorn interior which matches its exterior paint and that of this car; sure wish this one was that color. It's gutted now, but must have been really pretty when that car was in its prime.
Gee, I just had a thought... if we get the carb straightened out, get the gas gauge working and figure out what the scraping noise from the left front on right turns is, maybe I can take the XSR on the 2-hour jaunt to the Delaware junkyard! Do I dare? Stay tuned, the next "XSR Update" should really be something. Thanks for listening, gang, writing all this stuff down helps me to keep track of what I've done and what I need to do! Later, dudes!