The Toronado Owners Association was formed somewhat by happenstance in 2005. Bill Payne in particular had been curious about the various codes that can be found on 1st generation Toronados and had been working on trying to decode them for several years. At the Olds Nationals in 2005, he and Scott Barrett ran into a Toronado owner, Jim Foor of West Virginia, who was also in the Riviera Owners Association (owning multiple Rivieras also). In their discussions, Jim pointed Bill and Scott to Darwin Falk, an ROA member who was Technical Advisor to the ’66-70 Rivieras and who’d also been working on decoding these cars for many years, with good success.
In late summer 2005, Bill, Scott and Darwin exchanged calls and Darwin shared his knowledge of how to decode the data on Toronados as had been done for Rivieras. During those calls, comparisons were made and there was a wistful feeling of ‘wouldn’t it be nice if Toronados had a dedicated organization like Rivieras had’.
Those wistful conversations and Bill’s ‘damn-it-we-can-do-this’ attitude eventually blossomed into action. Mike Vogt was then recruited to the cause and began to develop a website for us and with extra prodding agreed to handle editing for a ‘newsletter’. The team spread the word via emails, letters, and word-of-mouth of what we were thinkingand started gathering names for a membership roster. Volume 1, #1 of what was to become the Front Wheel Driver was readying for Nov/Dec 2005 publication. Bill assumed leadership as our first President, and we were off and running.
David Landes, among those owners early responding as interested in the idea, graciously agreed to print Volume 1, #1 for free as a donation to the idea/cause. That generosity allowed us to take the unusual step of sending out that inaugural issue for free to anyone who responded as interested, along with a plea to send in membership dues to get the TOA started.
The response was quite good; we almost immediately had 100+ members which soon grew to 200. In our first years, the 6 issues were 3 in color (actually part color 1/2 the pages in color, 1/2 in black-and-white) and 3 issues totally in black-and-white. The term ‘newsletter’ stuck for a while; we kept calling the Driver a newsletter, but right from the start, Mike’s work was far from a newsletter; it was a full-scale magazine dedicated to Toronado.
In our naiveté, we initially numbered our members as three digits, so Bill became member #001, Scott #003, etc. We didn’t contemplate going beyond that (as we now do, with 4 digit numbers). When the founder of the Toronado Chapter, Ralph Braun, quickly jumped on board also, we decided it was appropriate that he be honored with TOA member #002. His idea was the first; we just took the idea to another level with TOA.
TOA’s launch then was very dependent on six people: Bill Payne for the drive force, Scott Barrett for getting us ‘legal’, Darwin Falk for setting up structure, Jim Foor for bringing us all together, Mike Vogt for persevering in editing our magazine and creating our website, and David Landes for allowing us to get the word out in the manner we did.
TOA’s long-term success would not have been possible without a seventh key contributor, Jane Giliberti. Jane joined the cause shortly after formation and has been the day-to-day voice and person we rely on to handle all of our member’s needs. At the time, Jane didn’t work full-time and so she was able to handle follow-up much better than the rest of could who had full-time jobs. Ironically, for the last few years, Jane too now has a full-time job yet somehow she’s managed to keep up with everything along with her career.
The final reason that TOA is succeeding long-term is that from its inception, TOA has had a strong set of bylaws for governance and a very active Board of Directors (there are 7 board members, from whom the Associations’ officers are chosen). All those Board members who have served their terms throughout the years have been vital to keep the TOA going strong. Those Board members include Greg Kalkoff, Scott Mountney, Mark Bristol, Pat McMillan, Larry Simon, and Sampson Craig.
At the time TOA was forming in 2005/2006, the two car clubs we were most aware of, were both embroiled in fiscal scandals and bickering. TOA’s bylaws are heavily influenced by those events and are written to ensure that consensus rules for key decisions and that all financial matters have at least two sets of eyes on them. Ironically, one of those clubs, once rescued from their own turmoil, subsequently borrowed heavily from our TOA bylaws to rewrite their own.
As the years have progressed, TOA’s membership has become international and has grown to over 500. That growth allowed TOA to first increase to 4 color issues per year, then 5, then 6 and then just this year (as the costs of color printing gradually became more affordable) to print all the pages of the Driver in color.
During that growth, Mike Vogt stepped down as editor in April 2011 while continuing as Webmaster right up to today. Members Steve and Lucy Blakey picked up editorship at that point and have continued improving our magazine over the subsequent years.
TOA continues in its mission by delivering new content every two months in the Driver, by sponsoring projects to get Toronado parts reproduced, by providing free ads to members each issue, and by creating Toronado-related merchandise for our membership to purchase. Our website is key to our mission to preserve and promote the Toronado and has a wealth of historical information and a public forum to help keep everyone’s Toronado on the road or further a restoration. We look forward to many decades of success, even as our cars get older and rarer. It’s fair to say that TOA’s history is all about people; those that got it going and now those that keep contributing.