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1977 ASC Oldsmobile Toronado XSR Prototype

For 1977, the Toronado would be entering the first of its final two years in the second-generation style with downsizing to an all-new body planned for 1979. GM had a significant supply of E-body shells and was looking for a way to sell them off at a pace more rapid than could be assumed from the historical sales rate from prior years.

For 1977, therefore, Olds partnered with the American Sunroof Company (ASC) to develop a new feature in automotive T-tops. The idea is to give the feel of riding in a convertible but with a bit more structure and probably somewhat less wind around you. Plus, the styling is cool.

The idea that Oldsmobile and ASC had was to create a powered T-top, where the roof panels, rather than being removed manually, would disappear into the roof at the press of a button. It would include the wrap-around rear window as well. Thus was born the concept of the Toronado XSR. The 1977 Olds brochure features the XSR prominently, even though Olds wasn’t yet able to produce the XSR to desired standards at the start of the model year. It was hoped that the XSR would increase interest and thus spur sales of the Toronado and help deplete the inventory of body shells.

Despite the hype and the brochure, the XSR was never produced. According to the book “Setting the Pace – Oldsmobile’s First 100 Years,” by Helen Earley and James Walkinshaw and published to coincide with Oldsmobile’s 1997 Centennial, only one XSR was built. Later documentation appears to support the idea that more than one, perhaps three or four, were built. Anything more than the prototype was supposed to have been destroyed, but that did not happen.

On March 14, 1977, Olds announced to its dealers that the XSR was canceled for 1977. The reason given in the memo is “Oldsmobile has experienced technical difficulties in achieving the quality that we desire in producing the XSR.” Whatever that means. It suggests that the automated mechanism could not be made reliable. Other sources say that the problem was more financial in that Olds couldn’t bring the cost of the XSR option down to the point where it could be expected to sell at a decent rate.

The memo says that Olds “anticipates” introducing the XSR for 1978, but it never happened. I’ve never heard why, but I’ll guess that it again had to do with money. When, as originally planned, the XSR was to be offered over two years, enough vehicles with that option could be expected to be sold to allow Olds to recoup its investment. But with only one year of sales available, 1978, perhaps Olds felt it could never sell enough to recover its costs. Whatever the reason, the XSR died on the vine. Too bad. It would have been cool.

Source: The Ill-Fated Toronado XSR | The 1977/1978 Oldsmobile ....