Car Show Classic: 1970 Ford Torino Brougham – The Torino Before It Was Gran

I have long been fascinated by the 1970-71 mid-sized Ford line, especially the Torino.  I was a kid when these cars were new, and saw them go through the arc of new-used-beater.  On these cars it was an accelerated arc, to the point where they vanished from my locale decades ago.   Even in the world of vintage cars, when was the last time you saw a non-GT/non-Cobra 1970-71 Torino at a car show or cars and coffee event?  For me it has been never – until recently.

Even here at CC these cars have been ignored.  I could not remember one being written up, and checked our index – would you believe that the 1970 1/2 Falcon has been featured here three times, yet no other version of the 1970-71 Fairlane or Torino has received its fifteen minutes of fame?  Well, it is time to do something about that.  For your consideration, a 1970 Torino with the full-on Brougham treatment.  Kind of.

My first association with one of these is Mr. Bloomfield.  Mr. Bloomfield was an English teacher in my Jr. High School (grades 7-9).  He seemed middle-aged then, but was likely in his mid 30’s.  He had an engaging personality and seemed like a pretty conservative guy, other than the goatee he wore.  I was one of the nerds in the “Audio-Visual Club”, and one of our duties was to take one of the heavy reel-to-reel video tape recorders home whenever there was a television show that one of the teachers wanted to capture for playback in class.  It was that teacher’s responsibility to help us load the equipment and give us a ride home.

At that age, I had figured out what almost every teacher in that school drove, so I knew that I would be getting a ride in a beige 1970 or 71 (I never really could tell the difference) Torino 4 door.  It may have been a Fairlane 500, but at the time I considered all of those cars to be Torinos.

Mr. Bloomfield’s beige sedan was now on the edge of being a beater.  I remember seeing the big blisters under the paint on the tops of both fenders.  Mr. Bloomfield told me how the car had started to rust there, and how he and his father-in-law had sanded everything down and filled the holes with lead (yes, that was what he said) and repainted the fenders, but now the rust was coming back and he felt like he had wasted his time.  This was probably about 1974 or so, so the car was only three or four years old.  Sadly, this seemed normal to me, at least on these cars.

But when these cars were new, they were real beauties – for possibly the first time since the Fairlane made its debut as Ford’s new mid-sized car in 1962.  Mr. Bloomfield’s beige sedan was a far cry from the bright red Torino GT convertible owned by the mother of one of my 6th grade classmates in the fall of 1971.  I have never forgotten that car – the one with the long stripe that started at yellow and blended into the same red as the car.  That one had been virtually new and every kid in my 6th grade class got jealous whenever we saw it pull up in front of Glenwood Park Elementary School.

Ford styling of 1969-1971 marked a brief period of transition between crisp but conservative designs of the mid 1960’s and the full-figured look of the 1970’s that many (including yours truly) consider to be Ford’s era of bloat.  Out of all of Ford’s models during that time, the 1970-71 Torino might have been the prettiest of them all.

One trope of automotive history is Bunkie Knudson’s influence over Ford styling during his brief reign atop the company.  Bunkie had indeed brought some GM people into Ford styling (Larry Shinoda being the most notable), but then GM influenced everyone in those years.  The actual story of this car surprised me when I read it, in that the car was styled before Bunkie showed up, and in how all of the names involved were the same names I had read in connection with most other Ford designs of the 1960’s.

Through most of the 1960’s, Bill Shenk spent his days designing wheel covers and emblems for Ford vehicles.  An experimental emblem mocked up from an Oreo cookie seems to have impressed his bosses and by 1967 Shenk was promoted to senior designer and assigned to the Mercury studio at the request of its head, Buzz Grisinger.  In that role, he was assigned to do some sketches for the 1971 Montego.  Shenk worked through several sketches that included a side character line that disappeared into the door and some Coke bottle elements in the shape – as shown in this photo found on the website of The Henry Ford.  He then got word from Bob Koto that he was to work up a clay model for a “Plan B” version of the Fairlane, while Koto worked on a proposed Montego.

Shenk was assigned four modelers (the normal number was twelve) and that small team turned Shenk’s sketches into a full-sized mock-up of a 2-door hardtop.  Shenk was also assigned a body engineer who tweaked some long-standing Ford rules for things like wheel-opening shapes and sizes.  Each of these various models would be displayed in Ford’s courtyard to Lee Iacocca (VP of Product Planning) and Gene Bordinat (VP of Styling).  These models were traditionally covered in an identical silver Di-Noc, but Shenk recalls that he took a risk and opted to do his model in bright red.

Shenk’s car was chosen from all of the models that day, with Shenk recalling that Iacocca had told Bordinat “Go back and tell Shenk don’t touch the car.”  About that time Bob Koto lobbied Grisinger for permission to take over development of Shenk’s proposal but Grisinger refused,  allowing Shenk the go-ahead to keep on refining the model for final approval.  He also told Shenk that this was now the official proposal for the Ford Torino.  In an article he wrote for (which can be read in its entirety here), Shenk concluded: “The 1970 Torino grew out of a combination of free-wheel styling, constrained time requirements, and accidental occurrences that would never happen again at Ford styling during the next 26 years I was there.”

Larry Shinoda in the Ford design studios, probably sometime during 1969. A prototype Torino Sportsroof is in the background. Shinoda did work on the 1969 Torino Talladega and a prototype of the Torino King Cobra, but does not appear to have contributed to the production version of the 1970-71 Torino.


In an era when the Ford Motor Company was leading the industry into traditional styling cues and luxury for the masses, it is pretty clear that the 1970 Torino was envisioned as a car to put Ford on the map in the mid-sized sport/muscle car segment that had been so popular, and that the rest of the line worked itself out from there.

Ford put a lot of effort into this line, which was (depending on the source) either all new, or a very heavy update of the 1968-69 car (which had, itself, been a heavy update of the 1966-67 version).  The 1970 model was on a longer 117 inch wheelbase, and was also wider and heavier than its 1969 counterpart.  Also, this was the year that Ford added a 4-door hardtop to the line to augment the sedan, 2-door hardtop, SportsRoof (fastback) and wagon models.

That “new” vs. “facelift” debate is an interesting one.  The 1970 Torino won Motor Trend’s Car Of The Year award that year, which was an honor ostensibly reserved for all-new models.  However, this was the model’s final two-year cycle on the old unit body platform which shared its basic suspension design with the Mustang and Falcon.  However “all-new” the ’70 Torino might have been, it was certainly not as “all-new” as the car would be when it got a re-design on a full frame for 1972.

Popular Science magazine tested 6 cylinder versions of the Torino, along with Malibu, Satellite and Rebel in its April, 1970 issue.  The Torino acquitted itself well in the test, with the testers noting exceptionally good brakes.  Interestingly, the Torino was not as quiet as the Chevelle, perhaps not a surprise in the Torino’s final iteration as a unit construction car.

We will leave the GT and Cobra versions for another time or place, because today we come to celebrate the Torino Brougham.  A car whose splash was surprisingly muted, coming from the company that had made a lot of money selling luxury at a popular price.  Without including the 1970 1/2 Falcon’s 67k units, the Fairlane/Torino line was good for over 360,000 cars in 1970.  But the Broughams?  Only 16,911 of these 2-door hardtops (and another 14,543 4-door hardtops) made it out the door.  In the waning age of the sport/muscle car, the GT/Cobra sold at roughly double the volume of the Brougham.  And about that name – Both this car and the 1970 LTD shared in the honor of being Ford’s first modern day use of the term “Brougham”.

How rare are these cars now?  I have been on the hunt for a Torino 4-door hardtop since I started contributing to CC over a decade ago, but have yet to come across one after all this time.  But as consolation prizes go, this 2-door hardtop Brougham is pretty good.  Yes, I might have preferred an example with original-style tires/wheels and that has not been treated to a poor-quality respray in a very, very non-original color.  But when it comes to finding a 1970-71 Torino, we cannot afford to be picky because there are so few of them out there.

The interior merits special mention – though this example is showing its age, it is a treat to see how nicely Ford trimmed these cars inside.

Let’s have a better look at that seat.   Ford was kind enough to move one out into a soft field of weeds so that we could have a better look.  This level of trim would have been credible in an LTD of the time.

Top: Brochure shot of the 1970 Torino dash. Bottom: Brochure shot of the 1969-70 (not 1970 1/2) Falcon dash.


We cannot be so forgiving of the dash panel.  Was there a less impressive dashboard and instrument panel in any mid-sized car of that era?  This dash, with its too-small instrument panel section looks far too much like one from the Falcon.  Of course, the Fairlane/Torino shared much with the Falcon in the 1966-71 era.  It would have been nice if the dash had been more in keeping with the looks of the rest of the car.

I had a conversation with the owner, who professes to be more of a Chevy guy.  However, he says that he has really enjoyed this Torino since he bought it a while ago (after the respray, so that is not his fault) and it never fails to generate comment.  He shared an interesting bit of data, telling me that the hidden-headlight grille on this Brougham is worth as much as the entire rest of the car.  If this is true (and it would not surprise me a bit) he is to be saluted for keeping this original Brougham intact because it is a far rarer example than its sportier siblings.

We all know that the (plain) Torino had a very short life at the apex of Ford’s mid-sized hierarchy, and was displaced by the Gran Torino in 1972.  Personally, I have always preferred these. I know, they were terrible, terrible rusters and often aged quite poorly.  In my own limited experience (a long-ago test drive of a 69 Fairlane), they felt smaller and more lightweight than did the competition, despite the cars’ large physical size.

But whatever may have happened to the other 16,910 of these, I am glad that at least this single example has made it to 2024 without suffering too much indignity.  This Torino might not have been Gran, but my day at the car show certainly was.