For all of the iconic vehicles that the Ford Motor Company have produced in the last century, few are remembered and revered as much as the Gran Torino car.
Long before Clint Eastwood scowled his way through American drama film “Gran Torino” in 2008, the Gran Torino car was already considered to be a titan of the muscle car scene. With bigger engines, smoother styling and a more luxurious look, the Ford Torino releases of the 1970’s soon overlook the popularity of Ford’s previous staple, the Fairline. With over two million vehicles produced in less than a decade, the Torino models weren’t perfect – but they sure had plenty of fans.
The Origins of The Gran Torino Car
While these days the name Ford is commonly associated with family style sedans, in a different time the Ford Motor Company pioneered vehicles that partnered innovation, practicality and style. It’s not an exaggeration to state that Henry Ford, the founder and owner of Ford Motor Company, changed the world in 1908. With the release of the Model T and the manufacturing process used to churn out relatively inexpensive cars, the pioneer was rapidly en route to ensuring every American had access to a set of four wheels.
Ford went on to spend the better half of a century perfecting their motor vehicle production line. From Model A’s to Mustangs, the Ford Motor Company regularly dominated the top seller lists for both the American and international car markets. However, in order to stay relevant and maintain their position, the company was required to stay at the forefront of innovation and design.
The Ford Torino was produced between 1968 to 1965, with the first being the 1968-1971 Torino GT. While this model was initially developed from the highly successful Fairlane, the name change was introduced by Ford’s “bigwigs”, who wanted a more aggressive option for drivers who had outgrown the smaller pony car in the showroom. Although the Fairlane remained in production for a number of years and was marketed as the economic option, the two-door Torino GT would initially slide in to replace the top two trim levels of the Fairlane.
On its first release, the Torino featured a powerful Cobra V8 engine that was accompanied by flashy finishes with the trim, molding, and newly designed wheels, and mirrored the Ranchero with the front end design – and it was sexy. Although style went on to receive numerous upgrades and tweaks throughout the years, the original design largely stuck around until 1970.
In 1970, the engineers at the top proceeded to upsize the Torino in both width and length, and lowered it closer toward the ground. The engine also saw an upgrade, with the introduction of the Cobra Jet, Super Cobra Jet, and 429 Thunder Jet as options for the Torino. Buyers had the options of a four speed manual transmission, large Magnum 500 chrome wheels, and hideaway headlights if these additions tickled their fancy – but the movers, makers and shakers at Ford weren’t about to stop there.
Just two short years later in 1972, Ford concentrated on the Torino and redesigned it in three trims: Torino, Gran Torino, and Gran Torino Sport. With the iconic coke-bottle styling seen in that era, and in dark-metallic green, this was the top of the line model with Ford’s “hot motor” – otherwise known as the 5.7-liter Cobra-Jet V8 with a four-barrel carburetor. The redesign offered a new front end look, eliminated the convertible option which had been available in previous versions, and touted luxury interior finishes.
Unfortunately it was also around this time that car manufacturers around the world faced pressure to lower emissions. In conjunction with consumers pushing for safer and more practical cars, Ford pumped more metal in the body for crash protection and modified the engine to cap emissions. One of the most notable changes to the Gran Torino Sport for 1973 was its large front and rear bumpers. This amendment came about as a direct result of a law passed in 1972, which required all new cars to be able to withstand a 5mph collision in the front and 2.5mph in the rear without damaging safety-related components. To meet these regulations, Ford decreased the compression ratio and power delivered by all the Torino’s engine capacities. The combination of added weight meant the Gran Torino Sport’s 0 to 60 increased to 7.7 seconds.
In its final year, Ford produced 1,000 replicas of the internationally loved model seen in “Starsky & Hutch”. While all of them were two-door coupes, they were available for purchase with any of the customised V8 engines available at the time. The red hue initially used on the television show had been discontinued, but was brought back for the special edition.
Despite its short lived tenure, the legend of the Gran Torino car has remained. With prices in Australia often commanding over $50, 000 for fully restored models, it’s safe to say that this vintage muscle car’s popularity doesn’t look to be declining any time soon.