: Late 80s / early 90s GM experts: Advice needed!

08-07-06, 01:06 PM
A good friend of mine is looking at buying a 1990 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo. It has 79,000 on the clock and has the 3.8L v6 engine.

They're pretty rare in this spec I believe?

The car is in generally good shape.
The transimission shifts smooth, the engine is smooth and quiet (except for what sounds like a lifter tick on startup for the first minute or so) and most electricals work.

1) The aircon doesn't work, could need regasisng or could need a compressor?
2) The carpet in the trunk is wet but it's not apparent where the water is coming from (good shape underneath, no rust, and the trunk seals look good). It's been that way for years we're told...
3) The biggest problem is the screen. That screen controls the HVAC and does all sorts of other cool things in a neat 80s kinda way. The problem is it has an intermittent problem where the display just becomes one bright narrow horizontal line from left to right, in the middle of the screen.
4) The drivers side door won't lock/ulock under power locking, you have to use the key.
5) The CD player doesn't work (the radio portion does)
6) The power antenna doesn't work

Does anyone know anything about the screens in these things, can they be repaired, can you buy new ones? What are the known issues with these cars?




Night Wolf
08-07-06, 02:29 PM
My gosh, that exact car is my list list of cars I want.... possibly even next...

79k is brand new for a 3800, these Series I seem to be even more relaible then the Series II. the 440T4 transmission is a tough unit too... same as the tranny in the 4.9 Caddys, but less power and lighter car means they last quite a long time.

1) AC can be fixed, do it yourself and save alot of money, compressor ok? fix any leaks, bring to a shop have a vaccume pulled and system evac, then charge with R134A.... AC will work again.

2) there must be a leak somewhere... biggest concern is rust/rot in the spare tire well.... is that ok? then I woudln't let it stop me.

3) Car is very advanced for its day, very. Vicky will give some issues later on in life, there is a company that refurbishes the screens, makes them like new again... may cost a little bit, but it'll work.

4) either the little acuator in the door is bad, or the rod slipped off and isn't connected to the lock itself.

5) it's nearly 18 years old.... probably send it to a specialty shop.

6) its a regular GM power antenna of the era.... millions of them around.

Totally awesome car tho!

I bought my 1989 Oldsmobile Eighty Eight Royale in December of '03, 500 bucks, it had 116,316 miles on it.... today, it is currently my only car and I rely on it every day to get me where I need to go. She is just about to hit 133,000 miles, and I wouldn't hesitate to drive it anywhere.... just a week ago I drove it from NY to FL without as much as a blink... and the gas mileage.... 21mpg around town and 30mpg on the highway is pretty nice from a mid/full size car, cranking the AC. The Toro is lighter and smaller, so it'll be quicker and probably get better mileage....

get the car, you'll be happy with it..... with 79k on the driveline, the next mechanical repair would be in about 120k, and that would probably the tranny needing a rebuild, probably last longer then that even. struts/brakes etc... are wear out items and will need to be replaced reguardless.

08-07-06, 02:50 PM
I agree with NW. This is worth taking a chance on.

Good luck!

08-07-06, 03:18 PM
I'll let my friend know tomorrow.

I've been pushing him to get it because it's just SO cool.

From doing some research it seems to be the only one (there *may* be another we're not sure) in the UK. How's that for an exclusive ride?

The weak dollar probably renders this comparison useless but it's up for $1,800. For comparison, over here a 96 STS with similar mileage would be worth about $7,000+ and a top condition (but not show winning standard) late 80s 3rd gen fbody about $8,000 (a tired one, but useable, would be worth about $5,000).

So it's a real cheap car over here (as american imports go).

The screen is *really* cool and the seats (inc the rear ones) and doorcards are really pimp.
Is there a website for the place that fixes them??? It's the only thing that really concerns him about the car. The rest (aside from the ac) we figure we can easily fix ourselves.

08-07-06, 03:30 PM
I have got 8 years experience with the CRT in a Reatta.

Before replacing parts, try unplugging both the CRT display and the central power supply and replugging. Use contact lube if you have it, WD-40 will work in a pinch. After 15-16 years of high and low temps, low and high humidity plus dust, these contacts can get intermittent. If that fails, You can send the CRT to Rex Services (708-448-5558) in the Chicago area for a rebuild for around $100

The majority of CRTs sent in for repair worked and It was speculated that the problem was corrosion on the connector.

There is also a very common cold solder joint on the circuit boards. If you are up to it take it apart and touch a soldering iron to the red wire where it is soldered to the board. Often fixes the problem.

The engines are bullet proof. Sold mine with 190,000 miles 308,000km on it and it did not use oil between changes. Transmission are slightly weak. I always ran synthetic fluids and flushed and changed filters every 2 years.

Air-conditioning can cost $2,000+ to fix, this is why I sold mine. Compressor, condenser, evaporator and controller = $$$$$

The antenna probably broke the nylon actuator cable and to stop the motor running the relay was pulled. Repairable or replaceable without major cost.

Go for it.

08-07-06, 03:45 PM
+1 for EDBSO and NightWolf info.

We use to have a 91' Trofeo (VIC Equipped too) that was Maroon Red. Make sure he has the suspension checked out and everything greased/lubed. The Trofeo also has a transversely mounted mono-leaf rear suspension not unlike Corvettes- quite cool.

Ours had this weird thing with the calipers in the rear rusting internally as well as when the brake pads were worn to a certain point they would "clank" against the rotor over bumps. Both easy to fix.

Overall IMO I'd say its about the same reliabillity wise (if not better with the 3800 drivetrain) as other Cadillacs.

08-07-06, 04:03 PM
When I was selling my Roadmaster, I looked at a '91 Toronado. Even though it wasn't a Trofeo, it was still a very cool car. I didn't get to drive it, but even from just sitting in it, I liked it a lot. It had like 166k miles and was kind of beat up. It was triple navy blue, the clearcoat was fading and the navy blue cloth interor was kinda beat up. If it was like 100k miles and in better condition, I would have seriously considered it.

08-07-06, 04:08 PM
I suspected a cold solder joint. We had an intermittent problem on his Neons dash down to those. the symptoms are:

The screen comes on when (and only when) the engine is started.
Everything on it works fine, the touchscreen, the buttons etc.
But every now and then it would flicker to that horizontal line and then back to normal. After a few minutes it settled down and worked fine. After about 30 mins it suddenly started flickering again, more and more until it eventually ever came back from that horizontal thin line across the screen.
The touch screen aspect was still working though and you could tell from the colour of that line that the gun was trying to draw the picture.
It's as if the horizontal deflector is working so the gun scans left to right but the vertical deflecotr is not working so the gun is just drawing over and over the same line.
Turning the car off and back on didn't fix the problem but when we shut the car off for about 20minutes and then tried it worked again.

He did tell me the rear suspension was Corvette inspired so we guessed that meant a leafspring but we figured it couldn't be... Looks like we figured wrong!

Thanks for the info guys!
One thing I love about this forum is that you can ask about almost any american car and someone will know the answer!

We found a new aircon compressor for $200 and a condensor for $160.
How do we know which bit has failed?
If it was the controller would the VIC report it? It reports everything as working and we can change the temperature on the screen but the aircon still blows warm. I couldn't hear the compressor cycling either, if it's got no pressure does it just stay shut off for safety opr should it try to cycle (I ask as his old Neon used to cycle on and off continuously when it was low on gas)?

08-07-06, 04:21 PM
Low on freon the computer shuts the compressor off. Reset from the crt or disconnect the battery.

What requires fixing? You have to have a good gas sniffer to tell. More air-con info here than you ever thought possible. Automotive Air Conditioning Parts & Equipment - ACKITS.COM (http://ackits.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=black%20death) read about black death it all could be toast.

Reatta and Riveria of that era also have the composite rear transverse leaf spring.

08-07-06, 04:43 PM
The 3800 engine is a great one! I have a 1990 Olds 98 Regency Brougham and it has 256,000+ miles on it and runs like a top!

08-07-06, 05:11 PM
+1 on the contact cleaner idea. I came back here to suggest it and everyone else thought of it first thing.

08-12-06, 05:42 PM
Right, first off, thanks to all who replied.

We picked the car up today for just under $1,700.

The screen seems to be working perfectly for now (we have a backup one bought off ebay though which alledgedly works).

What a wonderful car!
The ride is very soft, but not too bouncy. I think it rides better than my STS whereas my buddy thinks the STS rides better.
The engine is VERY quiet, but there is more tyre or wind noise in the Olds than the Caddy.

The seats are softer but the padding isn't as thick.

It's not quick.

As for problems:

1) The parking brake has to be pumped several times, but even then the car rolls down a hill, so only the Parking peg in the tranny is holding it.

2) The CD player deffo doesn't work, nor does the antenna

3) There is a cup and coin holder in the centre console that flips around, but it's broken at one end. (are these easy to get hold of?)

And a question:

4) There are turn signals at the back (added onto the bumper for UK law), turn signals in the front (using one of the daytime running lights I think) and there are also turn signals in the front bumper, but on the side near the front wheel arch. Normally these are off (ie no turn signal, no running light etc). However, when you use the turn signal to turn right, an amber light flashes in it (as we in the UK would want) and it also illuminates (without flashing) in white. This seems wierd. I understand that the amber turn signal in there was probably added in the UK, but why when you use your turn signal would it illuminate in white and not flash? The one on the left doesn't do this when you use the left turn signal...
Is it meant to illuminate the road you're turning into???

The car returned 27.5mpg (US) at 70mph on cruise for most of the journey (there was also some, but not much, 50mph and 30mph stuff through towns). I think that's really good.

08-12-06, 06:25 PM
Sounds great! :thumbsup: 0-60 in the Trofeo is about 10 seconds , for 170hp and I believe 225 ft/lb of torque. They are definitely not quick. However they handle alright. Again, great gas mileage - that engine sips it.

Heres my take on the issues ...

1. The parking brake is hydraulic (Should only have to pump it 4 times) ... I forget if its actually utilizing the rear brakes or if there is a separate brake within the rotor. Have to check up on that one...:bigroll:

2. Funny the tape player which went in the same slot on ours never worked. We replaced it with a remote cd changer that hooked into the radio antenna. Check the fuses for the antenna atleast... Is the antenna still in place, can you hear the motor move?

3. I found this one on ebay... wood covered... eBay Motors: 80'S-90'S ...CADILLAC,OLDSMOBILE CUP/COIN HOLDER (item 4551412989 end time Sep-11-06 15:53:31 PDT) (http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/80S-90S-CADILLAC-OLDSMOBILE-CUP-COIN-HOLDER_W0QQcmdZViewItemQQcategoryZ34206QQihZ002QQi temZ4551412989QQrdZ1QQsspagenameZWD1V) Not sure what else there is.

4. Yes its meant to illuminate the corner when you turn but I think its supposed to come on only when the headlights are active.

08-12-06, 08:05 PM
Antenna problems like yours are usually a relay. Buy the Haynes manual and find out where the relay for the antenna is. 79 K on the 3800 is nothing. Worry more about the transmission esp. if it is leaking at all.

08-12-06, 09:42 PM
The Toronado isn't quick by todays standards, but considering what came before it, it's pretty darn good.

Night Wolf
08-12-06, 10:07 PM

Just today a guy came into Advance with a '92 Trofeo, well he was getting parts for it, and we were talking aobut it, car wasn't there (had Vicky too)

gosh they are awesome cars. Honestly, the NA Series I 3800 isn't a dog, in my Eighty Eight.... bigger and more heavy then the toro, and I have the cast iron intake manifold.... 165hp and 220ft-lbs torque, she moves along quite well, I mean, I don't need to wind it out at all, and if I do decide to put it to the floor, it'll scoot along pretty good, catch it at the right time, and it'll jolt you into the seat. My car has the optional "performance" gears, 2.93.... but still, shes a good performer, and the gas mileage... gosh, can't complain there.

I want a '98/'99 Riviera next, but they hold their value quite well..... if I can find a mint '91/'92 Trofeo around here in Florida for a few grand.... gosh, I'd hop on it... this era of GM cars is just awesome, I like them alot, and the engine.... gosh.... my '89 Delta 88 with 133k+ runs like a top... car has underbody rust issues from being in NY since 1989, but gosh that engine runs awesome... uses about a quart of oil every 1,500 miles, not bruning it, but just uses it... tho I think its leaking from the intake manifold and possibly valve covers, as its wet around there, but no drips on the ground.... adding a quart every 1,500-2,000 miles dosn't break the bank, nor bother me, and only benifits the enigne greatly.

The 440T-4 is a great transmission... bolted to the NA 3800 and in the lighter Eighty Eight/Torondado chassis, they are under alot less stress then the Caddys with the 4.9 and a more heavy car.... all the 3800 cars in the junkyard, unless severly rotting away (back in NY) or in an accident.... they had 250k+ on them... meaning, the things last, and last a long time.

I'll keep driving the Olds until it drives no more.... 500 bucks almost 3 years ago.... gosh... I've put over 17,000 miles on this car so far and it made the trip from NY to FL in 36 hours problem free. Everytime I get in that car, I just love the idea that I drive an Oldsmobile, and that it has a 3800.... puts a smile on my face.... for those 2 reasons, when I am not driving the car, I want to, really bad.....

My mint '79 Sedan DeVille got wrecked, and my '93 Coupe, my baby, the car I was going to never, ever get rid of.... gets stolen, and all I am left with is the 1989 Oldsmobile, which started life with me as a knock around winter beater.... just keeps calling me back... I really wish this car didn't have the rust issue that it does, cause I would keep the thing forever, I serisouly have no reason at all to ever sell it, or stop driving it, othen then the fact that one day either the engine cradel is gonna drop from the chassis, the wheels are gonna fall off, or body panels will randomly fall off..... all the while the 3800 will keep chugging away as happy as could be.


Thats a video I made a while back... dunno if I posted it or not... kinda old now... but it was some of what the Olds has been thru.... I've fixed more stuff on it now, and its my only car, my daily driver, getting about 500 miles/week put on it. Gosh its such an awesome car.... the great thing is, all the little things that I was super paranoid about on the DeVille, just don't bother me on the Olds... I take care of it, don't beat on it, and just drive it, I coudln't ask for a better car.

Night Wolf
08-12-06, 10:09 PM
BTW when I ran the Eighty Eight at the track... 131k miles, no race prep at all (removed the spare tire, big whoop) and all stock engine.... and not really thrashing it too hard ont he launch, she got a 16.9@79mph...... not bad for a 1989 family sedan with 131k miles..... and thats a true time, not one of those times that are made up using equations.

08-12-06, 11:25 PM
Figured Id share these too... the only photos ever taken of ours. This was in Minnesota...

http://img145.imageshack.us/img145/7467/trofeofrontcornerfv1.th.jpg (http://img145.imageshack.us/my.php?image=trofeofrontcornerfv1.jpg)http://img145.imageshack.us/img145/7140/trofeoinsidecarar1.th.jpg (http://img145.imageshack.us/my.php?image=trofeoinsidecarar1.jpg)http://img145.imageshack.us/img145/1960/torondaotrofeorearendcm2.th.jpg (http://img145.imageshack.us/my.php?image=torondaotrofeorearendcm2.jpg)

08-13-06, 12:05 AM
Trofeo is a car I like but from a distance as I would never own one. Solid drivetrain but quirky electronics. If this is the car your friend likes then he should go for it. :thumbsup:

08-13-06, 02:30 AM
Thats flipping cool. I dig it. I prefer the ToroTrof in that pearl white.

08-13-06, 03:52 AM
It's triple black.

It doesn't seem to leak anything (no drips under the car), there doesn't seem to be any rust (that's from just looking underneath with the car on the ground).

The antenna itself looks rusted solid, can't hear the motor trying to move at all.

Witht eh headlights on yes it illuminates the sidelight thingy in the bumper, but only on right turns, the left one doens't illuminate.
I think we may deactivate that completely as it makes it hard to see the side repeater which has been put in there as well. That's a lot more useful in the UK. We'll just use the whole thing as a giant side repeater...

Overall it's in great shape really, I'm surprised so much of it actually still worts.
There are a few scratches, a lot of swirl marks and some cracks in the clearcoat here and therre. Only one or two *tiny* door dings so it's very straight. It just needs a real good cutting and polishing.
The previous owner painte dfthe wheels black which looks a bit "ghetto" as you guys would say.
We'll get a scotchpad and get that stuff off.

I'm real impressed with the car!

08-13-06, 09:59 AM
I like the 90-92 Toronado/Trofeos, but I'd probably never buy one. They're awesome looking cars that deserved more power. A 0-60 of 9.7 seconds is barely adequate for a luxury/sport coupe with such a illustrious heritage. They should have used the S/C 3800 or the 4.9V8 in there! They always had a nice interior though, with full instrumentation, but I would opt for one without that video screen, because that's gonna be an expensive fix, and it's tied in with every other system in the car, when it goes, you really can't drive the car.

So if I ever needed a cheap, reliable, classy 2nd car, I'd go looking for a '90-'92 Toronado/Trofeo.

08-15-06, 11:24 AM

How do you change the bulbs in the daytime running lights at the front?
You know, the triple row of amber ones in the front bumper under the headlights?

I can't figure it out!

08-16-06, 09:22 AM
Turns out there shouldn't be any lights in the bumper, just a one piece reflector.
Someone in the past replaced those with 3 lights on either side for UK law.
So looks like the bumper has to come off to replace a bulb...