Full view of the Magna Torrero

Magna Torrero: Not Just One for the History Books

Out-innovating the competition has been a Magna hallmark for 65 years. Case in point: The revolutionary 1989 Magna Torrero concept vehicle that illustrates the mobility technology company’s visionary perspective and influence throughout the global automotive industry.

As it takes its rightful place at the Canadian Automotive Museum, Torrero’s contribution to car culture is being underscored once again. Torrero continues to serve as a reminder of Magna’s expertise and ability to unlock creative solutions, drive change and set the future in motion.

Widely regarded as being decades ahead of its time, Torrero helped set the standard for today’s SUVs and crossovers, from styling and off-road capability to infotainment and convenience features. Loaded with computers and 11 cameras, Torrero previewed safety features that would not become standard on production vehicles for years. A fax machine for rear passengers provided a foretaste of the car as a rolling office, decades before the advent of remote work.

In addition to its importance as a multi-purpose trendsetter, the legendary Torrero heralded Magna’s step into the business of designing and manufacturing cars...

Full view of the Magna Torrero
Close up view of hub cap on the Magna Torrero

Torrero’s name was designed to evoke buffalos and bullfighting, an ancient sport once performed on horseback by aristocrats to demonstrate superiority.

Automotive designers hustled to copy Torrero’s eye-catching and aggressive styling cues when it debuted in early 1989 at the North American International Auto Show, followed by an appearance later that spring at the Geneva Auto Show. Photographs from the time show crowds – and Magna competitors – swarming around the vehicle to get a better look.

In an era of boxy sedans and station wagons, Magna’s muscular four-wheel-drive concept luxury off-roader stood out with its beefy fenders, large grille, and sharply raked windshield. Fred Gingl, a former Magna executive who penned the original sketch of Torrero in the mid-1980s, said Torrero was designed to look “more like a piece of art, loaded with innovations.”

“It was disruptive and futuristic,” Gingl said. “One publication said, ‘It’s not a car, it’s not a truck, it’s not a station wagon.’” As one stunned reviewer put it, Torrero “flies in the face of traditional luxury cars.”

The Magna engineers and designers behind Torrero were charged with creating the “ultimate high-performance driving vehicle, a new type of car with outstanding capability” during a two-year period in the late 1980s.

Company archives reveal the details of the daunting assignment: Torrero (codenamed CMC-44 for the vehicle’s 4x4 capability) should have the “strength, spirit and stamina to cope with the demanding environment of the American Northwest, the legendary ‘Big Country’ of rocky plains and big peaks, where only the most rugged survive.”

Torrero rolled out as a showcase for Magna’s most advanced and innovative technologies, from its 532-hp 8.1-liter V8 and pivoting front seats to a full array of electronic gadgets, including a video player.

Close up  view of outside mirror on the Magna Torrero
View of interior of Magna Torrero including steering wheel and driver's seat

The company oversaw every aspect of Torrero’s development, from planning and program management to production feasibility.

Three prototypes were built, including the one on display at the Canadian Automotive Museum. Another was scrapped and a third was given to a movie company in California. Its whereabouts remain a mystery.

Although Torrero was never intended to make it into production, it led to more business with premium automakers such as BMW. It continues to be an inspiration to Magna employees and industry watchers with its futuristic look. More importantly, it represents yet another example of Magna’s expertise, experience, and enviable track record as an industry leader.

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