The Working CRT Touchscreen in This $4200 1990 Oldsmobile Trofeo Is Worth That Price Alone
Few phrases are as dated as “CRT touchscreen”—but we want it all the same.
Among the more tragic aspects of how GM mismanaged several storied brands into the ground between the mid 1990s and 2010 is how promising things looked just a few years prior. Foreign imports might've been gaining an edge on build quality, but it was Buick of all companies that introduced the first setup recognizable as a modern infotainment system back in 1986, a nine-inch, green-on-black CRT touchscreen available in the Riviera. A few years later, an updated version of that tech moved over to one of the more radical cars GM made in that era: the Oldsmobile Troféo, a beautiful 1990 example of which is for sale on Craigslist for just $4,200, functional screen and all.
If absolutely nothing in that sentence grabbed you, you're probably reading the wrong article. Now, over four thousand bucks is admittedly a lot of money that can buy a lot of interesting cars in assorted conditions. But you won't find another with the time capsule magic bestowed by a working piece of extremely dated tech like the Troféo's Visual Information Center.
We'll get to the car in a second, because I know you want to know more about our boy VIC. It can control the climate and radio and monitor a variety of other systems within the vehicle. There's a calendar, rudimentary navigation in the form of a compass and trip computer, and even early cell phone integration. It's not enough for me to just explain it to you, though. Watch it in action:
Watching that video and seeing that Troféo owner scroll through the VIC is like being taken on a trip back to another decade. I find it amazing that it still works, but the owner of the car mentions in many of his videos that there are very few failures of the system. MotorWeek also has a vintage review detailing how this system worked, filmed around when the car was released.
It was damn impressive at the time, became far less impressive as the Nineties wore on, and finally circled back around to impressiveness as screens started to take over car dashboards this past decade. Minus some clearcoat issues, the rest of this Craigslist car is in excellent shape; the owner reports new tires, struts, and solid HVAC performance. It also has the good alloy wheels—wire wheels are a rare option not seen on the 1990 model. You can see in the dashboard shot that it has about 138,000 miles on it.
The first-generation Oldsmobile Toronado was one of the most radically-styled and mechanically-unusual cars of the 1960s. Complete with a visually striking sloped rear end and front-wheel-drive, the Toronado was considered very innovative at the time. After the first generation, however, the car gradually became uglier and uglier until 1985, when it looked like this:
For 1986, the body style was radically changed to try and combat the Toronado's slow sales. The body-on-frame construction was ditched in favor of a unibody, and all of the emissions-strangled V8 engines were dropped as well. GM predicted with greater fuel economy due to a V6 engine and the new body style, it could attract more buyers. It was wrong.
Sales dropped even harder. The high price of oil that GM anticipated never occurred. Vehicles like the massive Lincoln Town Car and Chrysler Fifth Avenue ate its lunch, and it was stuck with an oddly preportioned, underpowered lump.
Radical changes had to be made in order to attempt to recoup the loss. For the 1987 model year, Oldsmobile introduced the Troféo as a submodel with a number of mechanical and styling changes. The slump continued, however. In a final attempt to claw back sales and compete with the slew of superior European imports, Oldsmobile took the nuclear route in 1990.
The only carryover body panel from 1989 to 1990 was the hood. The car was lengthened by an entire foot, almost completely in the rear. The interior was changed as well, with the color touchscreen control center being introduced as an option. Finally, the faux-wire wheels from the previous body style were thrown out. Modern, turbine-style alloys were bolted up in their place. All of these changes added up to one of the most unique, '90s-looking American cars ever made—inside and out.
Unfortunately, the new Troféo couldn't save Oldsmobile from its sales slump. Going full-weird doesn't typically work, and as a result, not many were made. Also, very few buyers were willing to pay for the $1,300 dollar touchscreen option, making them extremely rare today.
It may be a cool looking car, but it's pretty weak in the performance department. The factory-supplied V6 offers just 165 horsepower, sent to the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. Speed isn't what you buy this thing for, though. You buy it for the style.
The design and technology weren't the only weird part of it, though. Oldsmobile was swept up in a 'Not your father's Oldsmobile'-themed ad campaign until its demise. It resulted in some extremely weird commercials, one of which featured Harry Belafonte's daughter Gina singing a Trofeo-themed cover "Day-O". Luckly it's been preserved for history.
Why a song and dance? Why are they on a tropical island? So many questions that will go unanswered.
Anyway, the Olds Trofeo is one of the most unique cars of the '90s. Showing up with it at any car show would definitely turn heads, especially one like Radwood. At just $4,200 bucks, this rare car is an easy ticket into an island-themed, Oldsmobile lifestyle. I think that's what the Buddha meant when he described what Nirvana was like. Could be mistaken.
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