I (Joe) have had every kind of bad car there is, and I've loved them all. I've had a 1983 Cadillac with the blockless engine, I've had two Volare station wagons (at least they were 4-speeds!), and yes, I've even had an Oldsmobile Diesel.

My Olds Diesel was a 1979 Toronado. I bought my Toronado during my Sophomore year in college (1985) and drove it about 5 years. Not too many college students would drive a big sofa-on-wheels like this, so I felt the name "Mr. Bays" was appropriately stuffy (I'm a big car guy at heart). In those days custom tags in Virginia were $15, so naturally everybody had them (above).

Unfortunately I don't have a good picture of it looking like a 79. In most of my pictures it's wearing a 1982 front, which is styled like a Cord 810 (very handsome). I always kept wide whitewall 70-series tires on this car. The car just wouldn't have looked right without them, no matter how Caucasian you are.

Tornados had a front wheel drive setup that was reduced from the original Toronado, which was based on early 60's GM engineering. The engine was mounted front to back in the usual way, but over to one side. The torque converter was mounted on the back of the engine. Through a chain, it drove a Turbo 350 Transmission turned around backwards, driving a differential flange to flange.

It was front wheel drive and weighed about 4500 pounds, so I used to enjoy driving it to Virginia Tech in blinding snowstorms on the Interstate. Fast. Dale Earnheart fans used to spiral their SS Monte Carlos into the median to get out of my way. Later, I figured out I could keep one of these around much cheaper than a 4x4 and still get anywhere I needed to go in the snow.
This is the only picture I have showing the original top. Mr. Bays was a bronze color (Carmel?) with a fluffy tan top and Camel Tan interior. In this photo I had shot primer on the quarter panel because of some minor surface rust coming out from under the top. I was taking a night "auto-body" class just for fun.
Mr Bays has to be credited for starting my interest in build sheets; I found it, behind the rear seat as usual, while I was putting in a pair of Alpine speakers. We have a large collection of Trans Am build sheets, and my observations about them are shown on the Build Sheet Bingo page. There are some interesting similarities, like the handwritten number, some of the RPO's, and the big "O" in the corner (telling us that P on the Trans Am build sheets is for Pontiac.)

Toronados had a whole ton of standard luxury equipment, which is too long to list here, except mentioning all E/K body cars had air shocks and an onboard air compressor standard, which is kind of interesting. 1970's luxury cars were in transition, with a mix of traditional 1960's doodads, plus some modern features like a rear sway bar, rear disk brakes, and an aluminum hood. Mr. Bays had several strange or interesting options;
  1. AM/FM/CB Radio. I wish I still had this, as it's the same CB radio used in 79 Trans Ams. Of course, Mr. Bays also had the power antenna with "cocoon" field coil hangin' on it, a major status symbol in 1979.
  2. "Astro-roof", a power retractible glass moon roof with a sunshade. What could be more pleasant?
  3. 6-way power and reclining passenger seat, just the ticket for that hot date at Virginia Tech. Especially with that moon roof in the equation. The driver's seat didn't recline. It is hard to believe today that reclining seats were so novel in American cars.
  4. "Tempmatic" automatic air conditioning. This was totally analog and pneumatic climate control. It dates back to the 1960's, and was as low-tech as it could possibly be and still work.
  5. Rear disk brakes had been available on Cadillacs for years before appearing on the 1979 Trans Am. These are very different but will still fit on a rear-drive axle.
  6. Illuminated thermometer built into the outside rear view mirror. The good ol'fashioned bimetal kind. Useless, but tastefully done, and a huge 1960's status symbol.
  7. Telescoping steering column. This allows short people to not sit ridiculously close to the steering wheel. They ought to put it on every car as a safety feature, but instead it's available on no cars. A few cars today have adjustable pedals, which has the same effect.
  8. The build sheet says digital clock, but it was the kind with a motor and gears in it to move the digits.
Around 1987 I fell asleep at the wheel and wrecked it. I had replaced the head gaskets on it that same day. I didn't think we'd be able to find a front clip for it but we got lucky. Dad found one on a 1982 drug-seized car. I never shall forget the day I put it back together. I worked on straightening the frame all day, then stayed up all night with a bunch of my brother's friends. Drove back to Virginia Tech and found a "project team" waiting at my apartment to put me to work.

I drove it several months with the red front, then decided to paint it in the driveway. Here is a photo during the prep work.

It still had rust problems under the top, so I decided to remove that. I had to grind off all the lugs for the top trim and also I had to improve the body seams. They don't waste effort on them at the factory when the car's going to have a vinyl top
Here's another view showing that cool moonroof. I found out gold is very hard to paint. You need all the metal flake to point the same way or at least randomly. If you have bands of dry and wet in the paint job it will be visible. I painted it two or three times, and finally I put a very dry mist coat on it to control the metal flake, and followed that with a big coat of clear.

I have noticed from other people's cars that silver is even harder to put on than gold.

I always knew someday it would fail me. It blew the head gaskets twice, but I could still drive it. It quit one day in 1987, of all things, on my way to a job interview at Celanese in Rock Hill, SC. All the chemical engineers were in class, so there was only one person I knew to call: Our one classmate who never showed up for class. She took me to the airport in Roanoke, VA. Later, I married her.
Because of the horrible Diesels, it was nearly impossible to find a good Olds 350 back in the mid-80's. Again, we got lucky. Dad bought a 1976 Olds Delta 88 with just 66k miles on it for just $250. I performed the engine swap right in our apartment parking lot, which of course had a rule of no car maintenance in the parking lot. In those days, boxer shorts were worn hangin' out under (not over) short pants. I had hauled the engine back on Ron's little red truck shown on the sidewalk.

My paint job looks pretty good in this picture, doesn't it?

After the conversion to gas power, Mr. Bays was a really quiet and heavy-duty car. It had all that diesel stuff like a 100 amp alternator, oil cooler, hydraulic-powered brake booster, 4-core radiator, double firewall with triple sound insulation, great big exhaust, and 7-quart oil pan. With the gas engine I had about 200 hp, and I could wear out the CV joints in a hurry.
Here I am on my wedding day, in 1989, leaving for a honeymoon with that one classmate who was home when Mr. Bays broke down. This picture shows the last time I ever opened the door for her. Mr. Bays, now gas powered, is on his way to the airport again. We didn't get far, but this time the airline was at fault rather than Mr. Bays.

Mr. Bays's wide whitewalls have been scrubbed, and check out that one Cadillac hubcap. We're all clean and wearing our best in this shot..

It became obvious at about 150,000 miles that Mr. Bays was never going to actually quit, but he was just going to become sort of an eyesore. I saw this silver 1981 in somebody's yard for sale and eventually parked Mr. Bays and drove this instead. I bought it for about $500 and drove it 4 years. Another bad car gone good, this car had the first-year GM computer engine controls, with a computerized carburetor and a stepper motor controlling the idle speed. This whole setup worked flawlessly until I finally donated it to the Salvation Army.

I turned over a crock pot full of my famous queso dip in this car, and I couldn't get the smell out. No kidding.

It was a sad day when my old friend went off to the crusher...

I wish I had some pictures of the inside, because it was just so gorgeous, even when it went off to the junkyard. The crusher guys got it off the trailer with a fork truck, skewering it through the (closed) moonroof. They weren't impressed.