As far back as my earliest memories, I can always remember being crazy about cars. Like most young boys, I was very influenced in my younger years by my father’s interests. Other kids had dads who were sports fans or dads who were hunters, but that wasn’t my dad. He has a wide variety of interests, including music, aircraft, fishing, and bicycles, but the one we really connected on was cars. Some of my earliest memories are of being a very young boy sitting on dad’s lap and looking at a car book or magazines. I’d try to identify different makes and models of classic cars and he’d teach me the ones I didn’t know. While other dad’s talked sports stats and played catch, my dad and I talked cars and worked in the garage. Dad’s passion for cars was most fueled by the purchase of his 1972 Ford Gran Torino Sport. This car had a major impact on our family. So, I’ll tell the story of this car, but I will start off with some of our family history.
My Grandparents immigrated to Canada in 1949 when my father and his siblings were all young children. They were the proverbial immigrant story, leaving worn torn Italy, and arriving with literally pennies in their pocket to start a new life. My Grandfather was able to get a job working in a mine smelter. Initially my family had some pretty modest accommodations, but my Grandfather scrimped and saved and was able to buy a house by 1953. Within 10 years of purchasing the house he owned it outright. My Grandfather achieved this through many hours of back breaking labour and sacrifice, including never purchasing a car.
My dad, like most other boys who grew up in the 1950s, had an interest in cars. He could name them by make model and year with the best of them. He knew all about car specs, engines and the other minute details that only a true enthusiast knows. When my dad turned 16 he was chomping at the bit to drive but he had no car to learn on, while most of his friends had family cars. His friends earned their licences and cruised the streets, which made things all the worse for my dad. Nevertheless, my Grandfather was steadfast, he refused to buy a car until the house was paid off. By 1963 my Grandfather had paid off the house, and shortly afterwards he decided it was time to buy a family car. He didn’t know how to drive and wasn’t interested in learning. He decided he’d buy a car for my dad on the condition he also had to drive the rest of the family around. My Grandfather was not a car enthusiast, so he figured he’d buy the newest and therefore best car he could afford. He ended up buying a used 1960 Dodge Dart Pioneer 4-door with a 225 slant six and three-on-the-tree. This was a Canadian market car, so while similar to the American derivative, it had a Plymouth interior. While it wasn’t exactly the car of my dad’s dreams, he was ecstatic to finally have some wheels. After the Dodge came home my Dad had his friends to teach him to drive. Shortly afterwards he took the driver’s test, passed, and was cruising the streets.
The Dodge proved to be a problematic car. Almost immediately there were problems with the transmission and eventually as the miles accumulated it started to have oil consumption problems. My grandfather’s next door neighbour and close friend was a GM mechanic. After looking at the Dodge he convinced my Grandfather it was time to dump the Dodge and suggested buying a GM product. My father was all for this idea. In his eyes, the 4-door Dodge was hardly cool and he felt the fins really dated the car. So in 1966, they went car shopping again.
At this time my dad had completed high school and was taking some time off school to work underground in the mine to earn money. That money, however, was for his upcoming University education. So again, my Grandfather was still bankrolling much of the purchase and he had the final say.
Both my father and Grandfather wanted to get the newest car possible, but that’s about where the similarities ended. My dad was pushing for a brand new Oldsmobile Cutlass 2-door hardtop with a V8, but that was too expensive for my Grandfather’s liking. My Grandfather found a 1965 Chevrolet Impala 2-door with a mere 9000 miles on the odometer and he purchased it. He thought the price seemed to be a great deal compared to that small Cutlass. What he didn’t understand the bargain price came at a cost; it had a 230 six and a Powerglide.
The Impala hardtop was much more stylish than the Dodge, but it certainly wasn’t any better when it came to performance. Nevertheless, it was an improvement overall in my Dad’s eyes. With the Impala being a practically brand new car my father did his best to look after the car through his University years. He was even able to store the Impala for its first couple winters when he bought an $80 ’55 Chevy Bel Air as a winter beater. The Impala served as reliable transportation for many years, hauling my dad and his family and friends. He’d even stuff it with as many as 8 adults and kids on family trips.
Despite my dad’s best efforts, by 1972 the tin worm was starting to win the battle on the Impala. With about 100,000 miles on the clock the straight six was starting to consume oil. By this time, my dad had finished university and started a new career. He decided it was time for a brand new car.
So in early 1972 he went car shopping. He wanted something sporty, with V8 power and good looks. He checked out the Oldsmobile Cutlass again and the Plymouth Satellite Sebring Plus. He sought the advice of the GM mechanic neighbour, and he recommended the Monte Carlo. It was nice but didn’t really have much of a sporty vibe to it.
My dad really loved the looks of the Camaro, specifically with the RS grille, but the back seat was just too small for adults. My dad knew he’d be driving my grandparents on occasion. So he needed a back seat that could handle an adult in relative comfort and that ruled out any pony cars.
Eventually he went over to Ford. There he saw the all-new 1972 Gran Torino Sport fastback (SportsRoof in Ford parlance) and was immediately won over. Like the 1972 Camaro RS, he really liked the big open grille on the Torino. He road tested a light blue fastback car and shortly thereafter struck a deal with the salesman. Since this was his first new car ever, he ordered it the way he wanted. My father was never a hard-core performance enthusiast, but after years of being stuck with six cylinder cars on soft springs he wanted something with some decent highway performance.
After spending hours looking over the options, he selected the torquey 400 V8, the C6 transmission with floor shift, a traction-lok differential and heavy duty suspension. Of course he wanted sporty looks, so he picked bright red paint, the laser stripe and the sporty Magnum 500 wheels with G70-14 Goodyear Polyglas raised white letter tires. To match the racy exterior, he ordered bucket seats, console, and full instrumentation. Air Conditioning was too expensive so he picked white upholstery to help the interior stay cool. One of my dad’s biggest passions is music, consequently the top of the line AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers was a necessity, and it turned out to be the priciest option. He also told the dealer he wanted a retractable rear mounted antenna, which they agreed to do a custom install after delivery.
The car was ordered in February of 1972. It was built in the Ford’s Oakville, Ontario plant on March 28, 1972, one day behind schedule and delivered to the dealership in early April 1972. My father met the truck at the dealership and watched it being delivered off the truck. The dealer completed the PDI, installed the rear mount antenna, mudflaps, and performed the “Ming” rustproofing. On April 8th, 1972, he accepted delivery of his brand new Torino and brought it home.
The Torino had a bit of a rough start once it arrived home. Within a day of picking the car up, Dad took his cousin out for a drive trying to show off his new wheels. Well, impress his cousin he did not, as the car wouldn’t restart. The battery was dead, so it was boosted and brought back the Ford dealer. The culprit was the voltage regulator and it was replaced under warranty. To add salt to the wound, within the same week, the dealer told him to bring the Torino back in for a recall. Ford had a massive recall on the rear wheel bearings for its all-new 1972 intermediates. The dealer replaced the rear wheel bearings with a larger bearing and installed thicker, stronger rear axle shafts. My dad was beginning to think maybe he bought a lemon. Despite these early problems, the Torino proved itself very reliable over the long haul, never giving dad anymore significant problems. Even the GM mechanic neighbour admitted it may not have been a GM product, but it was a good car.
Although the Torino was purchased by my father alone, like his previous vehicles, my Grandfather was instrumental in the purchase. For the Torino purchase, he agreed to help my dad with a loan so that my dad wouldn’t have to go to the bank. And just like when my Dad had his Dodge and his Impala, Dad continued to use his Torino to drive my grandparents on trips. Even though my Grandfather was never a car enthusiast by any stretch, after many miles in the Torino over the years, he grew to have great affection for the car. And of course, he always liked the fact it shared its name with the Italian city.
My father did his best to try and look after his old Impala, but the Canadian winters just were too harsh and it eventually succumbed to rust. He had decided the only way to keep his Torino from suffering the same fate would be to never letting it see winter use. After the he bought the Torino, he kept his ’65 Impala as a winter car until it was too far gone. Over the years he had a variety of other daily drivers for winter use. He was so dedicated, that there was a brief period when the Torino was my parent’s only car. Yet, he and my mom continued to store the car and would walk or take the bus in winter.
Every fall my dad followed the same routine. He’d create a detailed check list and thoroughly prepare the car for storage. Of course, he followed a very strict maintenance routine and kept detailed records from day one. Some described him as fanatical when it came to his vehicle maintenance, but he always preferred to say he was “fussy” about his car.
It wasn’t too long after my dad bought the Torino that he met my mom, who quickly became acquainted with his so-called fussy nature. Although she came from a family that treated cars like appliances, she learned to accept my Dad’s love for his car. Eventually my parents married and they decided to drive across Canada and the USA to the west coast. They embarked on the trek with the Torino.
The car performed very well over the trip and I still have the detailed gas mileage logs my dad kept. He got a best of 21 mpg (imperial gallons), but at one point in Saskatchewan the mileage dropped way off. The car started running poorly and backfired. He took it to a Ford dealer in the small Saskatchewan town. The mechanic claimed that the problem was the timing chain had skipped and need to be replaced. My dad refused this repair, citing that the car was still fairly new and didn’t have enough mileage for that to occur. He only authorized a new set of points, a condenser, resetting the ignition timing, and they poked a hole in the damaged muffler. The car ran better, but it wasn’t until the next fill-up it seemed to be back to normal. To this day he believes it was just a bad tank of gas. I replaced the factory timing chain in 2014 and it was still in excellent shape, so clearly that dealership wasn’t being truthful.
Not long after marriage, my parents started their own family. I came along followed by three younger siblings. We may have had a family of six, and the Torino only seated five, but there was never any question about selling the car. My parents had a family station wagon for my mom, while the Torino was my dad’s car. Of course, that didn’t mean the Torino wasn’t used for family duty. It was still the second car and it transported us kids, and had child seats installed at some points over the years.
My dad took a lot of heat from family and friends over the years for his so called “fussy” behaviour when it came to his cars. He was the only dad I knew that made us kids take off our shoes when we were in the back seat of the Torino so we didn’t scuff the white upholstery with our shoes. But don’t get me wrong; although he was very particular about the Torino, it was a well-used car. Summer family vacations to cottages often required us taking the family wagon along with the Torino, especially if our grandparents tagged along. It went on camping trips down rough dirt roads, carried all kinds of loads (including firewood) and was used as much as any other person’s car. My dad was just very good at ensuring that wear and tear was minimized. Despite his behaviour, we kids growing up didn’t mind and didn’t really know any different. Riding in the Torino was lots of fun and the car always drew lots of attention from our friends. Of course he’d have to “blow the cob webs” out of the motor every now and then. That old 400 sure did push us back in our seats pretty well!
Over the years the Torino just became more and more ingrained into our family life. Every year I’d look forward to the first spring day that I’d get to help take the Torino out of storage. I learned how to change wheels and do my first lube oil and filter job on this car. Dad kept on top of all the maintenance over the years including having it repainted when the red paint oxidized. It always looked and ran like new.
When it comes down to it, I know that my father’s passion for his car had a major influence on my life. This old Torino was more than just another car for him and me. The Torino was really the catalyst that fed his passion for cars, which in turn spawned my love for cars. While my Grandfather was never a car enthusiast by any stretch, even he grew a strong affection for the old reliable red Torino. No matter what was going on in our lives, the Torino was something my father and I could always connect on. It truly had become a member of the family.
The 72 midsize platform catches a lot of crap (much of it deserved) but your writeup helps me to remember how impressive these cars were when they first came out. Ford’s midsize cars had always felt a little small and lightweight but not this one – it was big and brawny. As with most of what was coming out of Ford then it had the feel of very high quality with thick doors and pretty decent interior trim materials.
The 72 Gran Torino with its big grille was a beautiful car in 1972. The GM stuff may look better to us in 2017 but the new Gran Torino got a lot of praise then.
I love the personal story, and it is evident how respectful your father was of the car. Pretty much the opposite of my own dad who treated his cars like disposable tools. I have read bits and pieces from your comments over the years and look forward to more of this story.
I agree. Ford did an superior job in attention to detail, and in materials and finish. While GM cars of the time consistently did a slightly better job in some design elements (steering and suspension) they always seemed as if the bean-counters had the last word.
Fords seemed to put a bit extra in materials, fit and finish, by comparison.
The ’72 Chevelles were called “outdated” by car reviews of the time. But, now are part of the ‘classic’ era.
OTOH, the ’72 Gran Torino has a following, too. It shares platform with the ’77 T Bird featured earlier this week. [most already know but just showing how different cars can seem to average folks]
The 72 was great looking, the later Torinos were pretty dated, pretty quickly.
Growing up we had a neighbor that had a 72 Gran Torino sedan, and although it didn’t have many miles on it, the 351 would overheat in the summer with the A/C blowing if you sat in Dallas traffic too long, where my parents 69 and 76 Chevelles would keep right on trucking.
A current neighbor of my parents has a 74/5 Torino Coupe, and when comparing it to my 77 Chevelle sedan, it looks rather homely. It does have nicer materials than my admittedly tired survivor that’s seen too much family hauler duty in the last few years.(the formerly nice original interior has now gone to tatters)
The same thing happened to my 1972 Cutlass Supreme with the 350 Rocket V-8. Sitting in traffic with the air conditioning on was not a good idea.
The hefty chrome logs put on each end of this car to meet the federal standards really hurt this design. They were not well integrated with the basic design. One would think that Ford would have designed this car with the bumper standards in mind. It wasn’t a state secret that the standards were going to begin taking effect for the 1973 model year.
You are right, there are few cars that so totally changed in character from 1972 to 1973 just by their bumpers as these were.
It also occurs to me just now that the 72 Gran Torino might be the only car of the 1970s that could do either luxury brougham or sport in an equally convincing way. The notchback could be equipped in a way that it made a convincing mini-Thunderbird. Your car proves that as a red Sportsroof with buckets and a suspension upgrade it could be a great sporty road car too.
Great story, thank you! I love the head on picture of the brand new Torino. It looks like it’s rarin’ to go! And the white upholstery really makes the package.
Wonderful family story, thank you. I think many of us don’t realize how much superior American and Canadian cars seemed at the time, compared to affordable European cars. Immigrants including my family and my in-laws came from Europe where nice cars were unobtainably expensive. Affordable cars were tiny and slow , and often unreliable.
My family was astonished that big luxurious reliable and fast American cars were affordable and obtainable. Even basic, low-option models were a huge step up for many immigrants. Yes, many counter-culture Americans loved their VW’s, Austins and Fiats by choice . But when tiny cars are your only option, then a V8 Olds Cutlass looks like a dream come true for many people.
My late father had the same reaction when the American branch of his German employer offered him the choice of his first ever American fleet car in 1973. He picked the biggest estate with biggest motor, a 1973 Chevrolet Impala with 454 V8.
My mum dreaded every time she had to drive the land barge despite the wide streets in Dallas, Texas.
Awesome story !!
That 400 Ford was an oddball, but they always felt really good especially compared to other big inch smog motors of the era.
Back in the late 70’s early 80’s I was around and drove several 400’s.
My buddy’s 75′ Grand Prix,,,,, bulletproof but VERY weak 400,,,,,,,, absolutely GREAT car but SO,,,,, SO VERY WEAK….
Neighbor’s 76′ Cordoba,,,, dead on it’s feet 400, and my Granny’s 74′ LTD,,,,,,,which was punchy as hell and would smoke the tires right off of it if you wanted.
And my dad’s 79′ F150 Super Cab.
I remember noticing around 1984-85 that Pop’s supercab with the 400 had 99970 something miles on it so I snuck it out one night to roll the odometer over, picked up a couple buddies and proceeded to rag the hell out of it.
It would smoke the tires from a dead straight start,, “for a bit”, (Big Uniroyal All Terrain Tires Too).
Neither friend had ever been in it and both commented, damn man, this thing hauls ass.
Pop’s 400 powered supercab lived a VERY hard life, one thing he did that drove me crazy was totally random maintenance..
When the oil was pitch black he’d change it, (it was ALWAYS pitch black to my eye),,, he’d pull it up on ramps, drain the oil and do the filter.
Then he’d start it up BONE DRY, back it off the ramps “fairly” quickly, shut it down, and THEN refill it with oil.
Oh man how I hated that….
He traded it on a new 87′ F150 at 130000 miles and it was T I R E D …………
The Ford 400 was an oddball. It was a stroked version of the excellent 351 Cleveland. But for some reason there was no 4bbl carb option. They all received restrictive 2bbl 350cfm carbs that strangled power over 3500 rpm. My guess is that a 4bbl 400 would not pass the emission regulations at the time.
Putting on an autolite 2150 with bigger venturis helped somewhat. I found a 1.33 on eBay (supposedly from a ’69 390) and rebuilt it. A bigger 2150, dual exhausts and a Pertronix will really wake up a 400.
Here’s a list of the carb sizes
0.98 = 190 CFM
1.01 = 240 CFM
1.02 = 245 CFM
1.08 = 287 CFM
1.14 = 300 CFM
1.21 = 351 CFM
1.23 = 356 CFM
1.33 = 424 CFM
Yes, the 400 is a bit of an oddball, and a much unloved engine, despite that fact that it’s actually not an inherently bad design. The 2bbl definitely chokes these engines out. These early engines used 2V Cleveland heads, and they like to breath. A 4-bbl really wakes up the top end, although they still have a very mild cam in stock form.
Growing up with malaise era cars, the Torino always had decent performance. This 400 was always a strong motor, and had especially good highway performance. By todays standards it’s no longer a fast car, but it feels much stronger on the bottom end than my nearly 400 hp truck.
The ’72 400 in this car was also blessed with almost no emission controls. While some Torino engines, especially the CA emissions cars had a fair number of controls, the only one this car had was the evaporative emissions the temperature controlled vacuum advance. This was easily bypassed years ago connect the vacuum hose directly to the vacuum advance.
Nice car, great story, lucky guy.
I worked on these things when they were brand new. Beginning with the 71 models, each year brought further smog modifications. Changes to the 71s & 72s cost a bit of power, but didn’t affect drivability much.
Smog requirements beginning with the 73 models caused a huge drop off in performance, fuel economy and drivability. It took almost 7 years and advances in technology before the automakers figured out how to both meet emissions requirements and provide decent drivability.
The 73-79 models of almost every manufacturer were really inferior to what had gone before and what was to come after.
Vincec’s Dad got the last good year for 70s engines.
And being a Canadian model, it probably had higher compression and less detuning with less strict emission requirements. ’72 is a great year for this car, I always liked it’s fastback and thin bumpers.
Your father chose well, I too am accused of being a little “obsessed” with taking care of my car and truck, but it pays off when a 300k miles 30 year old car (second owner bought when 5 years old) and 13 year old truck (only 16k miles, only vehicle I ever bought brand new) still look and run great in original condition. Lucky where I have lived rust is not an issue year round.
Your Grandfather was wise to put his effort into a quick house payoff, the interest savings is huge. I paid my house off in 5 years and lived off as little as possible to make this happen. It was totally worth it, the feeling of having no mortgage hanging over your head is priceless.
My dad never hung on to his cars long, the longest I recall was his bought new ’66 Beetle I bought from him in ’72 when I got my license at 16, I managed to total it (and the ’71 Capri I collided with) in about 9 months time. The engine, stereo and interior did wind up switched out with the ’63 Beetle I bought as it’s replacement, finished the job a day before the insurance company towed the ’66 away.
Hope this car stays in the family for many years to come, great writeup.
No difference between Canada and 49-State emissions in this period.
I spent a lot of time around a 72 Torino as well. Mom’s 64 Rambler gave way to a 72 Gran Torino 4 door pillared hardtop in “Ivy Glow” with a white vinyl top and green interior with a 351/2bbl automatic and air.
She had not really considered anything from GM. A visit to the Plymouth dealer netted us a direction to the back of the lot where there were two Satellites with taxi grade interiors and rubber floor mats. The only serious competition to the Torino was a brown AMC Ambassador Brougham.
Mom’s Torino was a bit newer than your dad’s. purchased off the lot in May or June 72, and had the revised rear axle from the factory. She did have a recall for the engine fan and a seat belt grommet. A pretty solid car, all in all. The stock Ford shocks gave up by 25K, but a set of Gabriel Red Ryders cured that. Failures amounted to a failed water pump seal that dumped a load of new auti-freeze, turn signal switch and a carb that got severely fouled and needed a rebuild. The gas filler, behind the rear license plate, was not my favorite piece of design. Gas stains abounded on the cap and plate frame from overflow as the cap was barely above the level of the tank and the cap was a poor fit. A locking cap, a popular option when the price of gas doubled, fit better and ended the car’s incontinence.
The car only had about 50K on it by 81, but tinworm was making it’s appearance, so it yielded to a new Mazda GLC.
I remember the axle recall well. Ford’s first proposal was to leave the weak axle in place and install a retaining plate so that when the axle broke, the wheel would not fall off. Ford was eventually persuaded to redesign the axle so it wouldn’t break in the first place.
I was talking with an owner of a 72 at the Motor Muster at Greenfield Village several years ago. He was a younger guy and had never heard of the axle recall. He said he had noticed the retaining plates on the axle and wondered what they were for. Ford must have taken a belt and suspenders approach to the recall and installed the plates on the stronger axle.
Great story! Your Dad’s jacket looks like it is from the U of T.
What part of Toronto did your family live in? Some of the photos look vaguely like East York to me, or possibly St. Clair Av. I grew up in the area west of High Park.
Thanks for the kind words. The Dodge picture is in Toronto, when my dad was visiting my great aunt. Most of the other pictures are Sudbury.
Thanks for sharing this with us. I find biographies like this very compelling reading, especially when cars (or just one car) is such a pivotal player. It’s as if your dad knew this would be a family heirloom from day one.
Nice that he kept it out of the salt. As we all know, rust resistance is not these cars strong suit, to put in mildly. I remember me and my dad flying to Toronto in August of ’79 for a family reunion. My 19 year old self knew cars got rusty in Ontario, but was astounded to see Torinos and Montegos of this vintage with rust clear up to the door sills, so bad that many didn’t even outside mirrors, just jagged holes where they used to be before falling off under their own weight.
Rust-resistance was the weak point for a lot 1970s cars. I remember visiting Watkins Glen in upstate New York in May 1982. A 1974 Oldsmobile Delta 88 hardtop sedan drove by on the main street. The entire bottom of the rear quarter panels had been eaten away by rust.
My brother, who lived in Eastern Ontario, bought a new Maverick in 1974. By 1978, rust was appearing virtually everywhere below the roof. By 1979, he had $800 worth of body work done for naught, as it was terminal by early ’81.
The TLC that Vince and his father have given this blessed Torino is a remarkable story. Especially so, considering the dubious reputation Fords of this vintage earned as among the most notorious rusters of the malaise era. Southern Ontario’s wet and snowy winter climate, combined with heavy road salt use, creating perfect conditions for the worst rust few cars of that era escaped.
So was that “Ming” rustproofing any good in your severe conditions? Dealers pushed it mercilessly here. My fiancee (now wife) had it on her ’83 Corona, but the car didn’t live long enough; the body looked fine when we traded it (’89), but then we hardly have winter to speak of!
Spray on rustproofing whether applied at the factory or the dealer, had a shelf life. If you didn’t take it back in for annual inspections and reapplications, the mastic rustproofing tended to dry out and separate. As the extreme temperature changes in much of Southern Canada from frigid winters to hot summers was hard on cars. From plastics that cracked and discoloured easily. To inferior factory protection against rust. Plastic fender liners were not common yet, as the crevices inside fender wells held compacted dirt for years. Acting as a sponge for water, and perfect conditions for rust.
I wouldn’t say it’s being too cynical to suggest many car manufacturers delighted in the thought buyers were forced to replace their cars after much less than 6-7 years. As a child in the 70s, I still remember seeing cars covered in rust. To the point where they appeared unfit to drive safely.
As usual Roger is right on the money. These Torinos and most other early to mid 1970s Ford products were horrible rusters. I know most other stuff from this era was bad, but the Ford’s were the worst. IIRC there was either a class action suit in Canada or some sort of secret rust warranty that Phil Edmonston talked about, covering Fords from 1970 to about 1976 or so. The late 70’s Fords were much improved for rust resistance. My dad had a ’76 Malibu too, and while it seemed to be more rust resistant than the Fords, these cars were also horrible rusters too. Just ask a body man from that era.
The Ming rust proofing has held up well on the car. It hasn’t really hardened, but this car has never seen a winter either. My dad also had it Rust Checked and Krowned over the years too. The car is 100% factory sheet metal, but man what a mess to clean up when I started doing detail work on the car.
My father’s ’74 Vega GT didn’t last 5 years, Cleveland’s winters ate that car up. By ’79 it was so rusty it was unsafe to drive and had to be junked. No great loss.
Thanks for such a wonderful story! Sometimes it takes years before we realize the effect that our fathers’ had on us, whether we knew/acknowledged it or not! I can still remember the Car & Driver article on the 73 Torino, which stated that “Ford chromed a railroad tie and hung it on the front of the car”. Such a letdown from the beautiful 72! :-).
Your Dad sounds like he’s pretty cool. In my family I was the “expert” who passed his knowledge on to my father, though he did know who owned what car in our area whenever I said I was interested in a particular make or model.
A co-worker had one of these 72 Torinos. His was gold with a white vinyl roof and white interior. That was one of THE classiest cars a friend owned. Wish I could find one and it was affordable. These cars are so classy looking, I wouldn’t mind owning any body style….even a 4 door sedan.
I’ve known of your appreciation for Torinos for a while, and it’s great to read the story behind your interest. Quite a story here, too, and you’re dad’s meticulousness with this car is remarkable. My father was similarly meticulous, but never had the interest in keeping a car for a long time.
Your reference to his gas mileage logs brought back vivid memories for me, since my dad also kept mileage logs. He’d always keep his log book and a slide rule on the sun visor, and would calculate each tank’s mileage before leaving the gas station. Through years of doing this though (he stopped sometime around 1990), I never remember him referencing the logs for anything. He tried on many occasions to teach me how to use the slide rule, but I could never get the hang of it.
It is good to read a story of a 1970’s US car that isn’t negative and full of “malaise”. Not every Big 3 car back then was a “lemon”.
Funny you should say that, because in my opinion the 72 Torino was a high point for the mid sized Ford while the 73 (IMHO) was the visible start of Ford’s slide into The Malaise Era. Pretty much every 73 Ford was a “carryover” model from 72, but the 73 Torino has THE worst 5 MPH bumper.
Malaise only ever has meaning when a pure design gets neutered and decontented. These in 1972 were pure, as were the 1971 Chrysler B bodies and even the 1973 GM Collonades. By 1975 though these same cars were all much different than where they started, and that’s where the “malaise” sets in.
Even then though, I’m getting a bit fed up with it too. 9 times out of 10 when a 70s car is brought up on the internet it will predictably be a public execution, beating dead horse tirade about the awfulness of low net horsepower and bloat and vinyl blah blah. Honestly with the looming notion of autonomous cars and worse yet car-free ride sharing today, it amazes me people can still muster up vitriol for cars made 40 years ago when the future at present is that much bleaker. It’s one thing to be real about cars, which CC authors excel at, but the barrage of hatchet jobs on cars like these elsewhere are even worse to read than regurgitated praise “iconic” cars get.
I’ll guess 75% or more of the (anonymous) people who post negative comments on the Internet in regards to American cars of the ’70s have never driven one. I haven’t. I’ve driven a ’64 Falcon, a ’67 Lincoln Continental, a 1986 Ford Thunderbird (inherited from my Dad) and a 2000 Mitsubishi (a rental car I drove for a while).
Now that you know I’ve never driven one: Lemme now tell ya how ~awful~ cars of the ’70s are! 😀
Great story Bill Mitchel; families and cars are the best of subjects.
“Of course he’d have to “blow the cob webs” out of the motor every now and then…”.
[Smile] – My father called it cleaning out the carbon.
It was his (and my) reward for a maintenance and tuneup job done well.
(And I pretty much thought I could see the offending carbon streaming out behind the car as we roared along Long Island’s Southern State Parkway).
That Torino is beautiful.
Vince you suddenly have me viewing Torinos in a very favorable light. That’s no small feat, so thank you.
From the sounds of it, you and I aren’t too far apart in age. My father, too, bought a new Torino, but his was on the other end of the spectrum – a base model ’73 four-door. It was one of the few I’ve ever seen with the different front end used on the base model cars. His was 302 powered and delivered 12 mpg regardless of how it was driven.
Like your dad’s, it was as reliable as the sunrise. He kept it for 123,000 miles before selling it in 1982. In his ownership it slipped time once and that was about it. He sold it to a young girl who had a 50 mile commute to college and it did that for several more years.
I’m glad the Torino is still around in your life. I’m looking forward to reading more.
I have read of your father’s ’73 Torino in the past, and definitely the opposite of my dad’s experience. Pretty well the opposite car too, being a base model with a 302. It is sometimes amazing how much different two people’s experience can be owning the same (or similar) car.
My all time favorite year of the Ford Torino’s, I really liked the aggressive front end of the 1972 models and them not being fully smogged as well as them being plagued with emission control devices, 5mph bumpers, I can’t help but think of Clint Eastwood’s character in the movie “Gran Torino” every time I see a 1972 Ford Gran Torino with the sportsroof, my engine choice would’ve been the 351 4bbl V8 since it was the performance engine.
I didn’t mind the 1973 Torino’s but I’ve hated the taillights off of the 1974-76 Torino’s and thought it ruined the car.
A 351C would have been my choice, as well, and in that light blue color, sans the white vinyl top.
If I had ordered the car, I would have chosen a 351-4V as well. But I do think my dad pick the best engine for his use. It was a highway car, and the low RPM torque of the 400 made it an effortless highway hauler while still getting decent mileage. You also have to keep in mind he was going from six cylinder cars to a big V8, so this was a big upgrade. The 351 is faster, but it had a slippery converter and had a soggy bottom end. Great for a performance oriented driver, but for a highway hauler the 400 is a better choice IMO.
I never much liked the larger Windsor engines (starting with the 351W) but can still appreciate that rationale of choosing the 400 over a 351C. The 351C wasn’t particularly high-strung, but with those big valves, it was much more a high-rpm ‘runner’ than the low-end torque of the more sedate 400, and for extended loafing along the highway, well, a 400 would be okay, maybe even better, over the long haul.
What a great story and read – it was so easy to get “lost” in this. Thank you for this, on the eve of Father’s Day Weekend.
Your dad’s $32,000 (adjusted for 2017) Torino looks like the perfect combination of everything – Sportsroof bodystyle, Magnum wheels, fiery red paint, white interior, even that laser stripe.
I loved the undercurrent of his attention to the extra care and preservation of this Torino as it related to having grown up in what sounds like a household that was careful with money (as was much of the postwar generation) – which I totally get, identify with, and respect. My dad was born in the late 1920’s, and I wonder sometimes if my own tendencies for avoidance of unnecessary waste stems from his own sensibilities that he passed down to me.
Great story! (Should I say Gran story?). I love these family histories.
Great Story Vince! (Now that I know your name is really Vince, I’ll stop calling you Bill ;o)
I had said this to you once before, but the 1972 Gran Torino is the nicest looking of all the Torinos, IMHO. I was hoping you’d do a COAL on this one, since you’ve said before that this car has been in your family since new. Wow, what story. I’ll say it again, “Best. Torino. Ever!”
Hey, if I didn’t know any better, I could swear this Torino pictured on the Wikipedia article was your very car… Is it? It would seem fitting that a car as nice as yours would be famous. ;o)
Specifically THIS picture…
Looking forward to Part 2!
Thanks for the kind words Rick. And good eye, that car on Wikipedia is mine, but that is an old picture (probably around 2006 or so).
I don’t know if the 1960 Dodge Dart trim levels were different in Canada. In the U.S. they were (lowest to highest) Seneca, Pioneer, Phoenix.
Fantastic read! Love hearing your family’s story and how it was entwined with cars. The pictures are great too–I love seeing the Torino when it was new, when it was stored, when it traveled. I noticed your caption that many of your childhood pics have been destroyed (glad you still have these). I can share in that lament, as we had a number of car related snapshots that I used to love looking at (like my Pop with his ’64 1/2 Mustang) that I wish I could share here today. Long story short: for my mother’s birthday in 2005, my brother offered to digitize all our family photos–albums, shoeboxes, etc. He was scanning and sorting them all, as a gift to her and the rest of the family (these were the days before everything was uploaded to the cloud–he was downloading them on hard drives and disks). Unfortunately, all the photos plus the computer with the scans, were all in one place–my brother’s house in Lakeview New Orleans. Then Hurricane Katrina hit, filling his house with over 8′ of water. All the images were destroyed. So note to all CCers–back up your pics and and store old snapshots on the cloud where they can still be retrieved in the event of a disaster.
Thanks for the kind words. Good advice on the photos and sorry the hardship Katrina must have caused your family. Part II will explain why many of my childhood photos were destroyed.
i would also encourage everyone to digitize their old family photos. there are a number of services that make it painless. after my mother passed, we used some of the estate money to get this done. scancafe (no connection, etc.) worked directly from the photo albums without needing the negatives and the results were very impressive. i made copies of the photo dvd’s and distributed them to my siblings. i also uploaded them to the cloud.
Great story. I wonder if a man’s passion for a ’72 Gran Torino would make a good movie ?
Anyway, I can relate to what Vince’s grandfather did in buying a house before a car because that what my Polish immigrant father did. It was 8 years before he bought his first car, a brand new 1968 Plymouth Barracuda.
Fear is the key
“Fear is the key”
~ maybe just better foresight .
CC Gold Star award to your father! That’s the best thing I’m going to read for a while, thank you for putting it down in pixels.
This will be filed as evidence that a little care applied consistently yields worthwhile results. OCD…bah!
Great story. And what a fantastic father, sharing his car interest with you! is there such a thing as ‘father envy’? 🙂 I’ve always liked the looks of that model Torino. Shame they ruined it the next year.
As for having a car in the family for several generations, I almost pulled that off but my wife wasn’t on side. We couldn’t afford the registration on a third car that wasn’t being used much, and she’d never really liked it, so it had to go.
There was the other option, of course, if the two were…um…incompatible
Agreed ~ when my ex Wife shoved off she said ” and you can _KEEP_ this crappy Ghetto house and all your old cars and Motos too ! ” .
=8-) . _thank_ you dear ; you gae me my Son and freedom, I’ll never be able to thank you enough .
Great read. Bring on pt 2.
I’ve been a big fan of the ’72 Torino since it first came out. But that year only, with the wide mouth grille!
It started because a guy who worked for my dad bought a ’72 Ranchero GT. It was red, with a silver laser stripe and Magnum 500 wheels, and a white interior. I THINK it had a 400 V8.
A Ranchero version of the family Torino!
He decided to trade it off a couple of years later toward a Dodge Ramcharger, of all things.
I have memories of my uncle test-driving one of these when he had his old Fairlane taken in at the dealer for service. The one my uncle borrowed was gold metallic and I believe it had a 351 4-barrel.
My grandmother sat in the back seat of the fastback SportsRoof model and complained about how it was claustrophobic and that it had small side windows and high seatbacks that made it difficult for her to see out of the car and that killed any chance that the salesman had of making a sale on one.
In addition to the grill style, a less desirable one-year-only trait was the seat style.
Everything was high-back, even the base 4-door taxi-cab bench church pew had high-backs. Must have been quite an outcry against them, because they were back to applied headrests a year later.
The claustrophobic rear seat environment was the most consistent criticism that I’ve come across from period Torino reviews. Ironically, it’s not all that different from the majority of modern cars, with high window lines and huge headrests that have the same effect as the ’72 Torino’s high-back seats.
I read an owners survey of Torinos from 1972, and the rear visibility was a significant complaint. I’m sure Ford heard a lot of those complaints too if they changed the seat design so quickly.
The high back buckets stayed around in 1973, but as Roger pointed out the bench seats went to a conventional style with a head rest. 1974 buckets went to a low back with separate headrest. I will say for seats from this era, these high back seats offered much more neck protection than the later seats with separate headrests (which IMO offered little to no protection).
Visibility when reversing the Torino is not good, and my Dad complained about that for years. The window is very high up, so you don’t have a good view of things that are low and close to the rear. Compared to a lot of modern cars, the rearward visibility isn’t out of the ordinary. The forward visibility is very good though, much better than the average modern car, largely due to the thin pillars.
Rear seat accommodations are not loaded with glass, but it is better than the formal roof cars. In my car with the bucket seats you have decent forward view and the large space between the front seats makes it feel more open than the isolation chamber of a bench seat car. My kids have never complained about the back seat being hard to see out of.
That rear window configuration was an unfortunate carryover from the 71 stang.
Unlike other Ford products of the early seventies (Mustang, Thunderbird, et al), I wondered how the Torino seemed to escape Bunkie Knudson’s touch. Maybe all he got to do was that steeply sloped rear window and someone else did the rest of the car.
Although Bunkie certainly got his ‘Bunkie-Beak’ with the gunsight nose on the Mercury version of the Torino.
A mechanic buddy of mine, who is similar in age and car history to me (54 in October and just bought car 53 this month) had a 72 Torino sports roof.
To this day it is the one car that he always talks about with pride and a warm smile.
Thanks to all for the kind comments. Someone mentioned this was posted on the Eve of Father’s day, and that was intentional. Today is actually my Dad’s birthday and part II will be published on father’s day. I surprised him today and told him about the article.
Thanks again to all for the kind words and I hope you enjoy part II.
CC Gold Star +1
_Thank_you_ for this ! .
Not everyone is close to their Fathers and your tale of _three_ generations is very heart warming .
This must be the ultimate incident of the CC effect. I went to the Motor Muster at Greenfield Village today, and saw this:
I muttered to myself “is this the one that was just written up on CC? The wheels look right.
…the interior looks right.
What part of Canada did he say he was from?
The window sticker was on display with some other material next to the car. It has a 351, nope not same car. I talked to the owner. He has never had this car at the MM before, and had never heard of CC. I explained that a near identical car was written up only a few days ago, so he looked up CC on his phone and scrolled to this article.
Wow Steve, that is the CC effect! To this date, that is the closest I have seen to my Torino. Not only does it have the bucket seat white interior, its’ also from Canada and it’s a non-A/C car too. It seems most of the red Torino’s had black interiors, and there were definitely far more chrome trimmed cars than laser stripes. This car also has the less common chrome trim on the lower rear valance (which I don’t care for), and doesn’t have the trunk molding my car has. It looks like the seats were reupholstered without the comfortweave (which is no longer made). Was this a 351-2V (H-code) or 351-4V (Q-code) car?
Do you know if this was an original laser stripe car? The reason I ask, is that it is missing the chrome fender lip moldings. A lot of people are adding the laser stripes to their cars now that they are reproduced, and laser strip cars used specific fender lips moldings (which were also specific to 1972). The chrome trimmed cars used shorter molding that ended at the chrome trim. These 1972 laser stripe moldings are next to impossible to find today. Many add the laser stripe today, it’s kind of the equivalent of guys putting SS badges on Chevelles. In a lot of cases they just don’t install the moldings when the laser stripe is put on. The ’72 Torino in the Clint Eastwood movies had this flaw too (among a others).
Do you know if this was an original laser stripe car?
Argh! See the placard to the right of the car in the first pic? That placard had the window sticker on it. It crossed my mind to take a pic of the sticker, but I didn’t. The placard also had both English and French versions of the 72 Torino specific brochure and some other literature.
I looked at the sticker for the engine spec, but did not look for the other things you are asking about. I read that it was a 351, and it might have said 2bbl, because I asked the guy if it was a Windsor or a Cleveland. If it said 4bbl, I probably would have assumed Cleveland. The guy said it was a Cleveland.
Given that the guy was displaying that window sticker, and there are plenty of people around that are more sharp-eyed than me, either he had a phony sticker for a laser stripe car made up to fool people so he wouldn’t be called out for putting the stripe on a car that did not originally have it, or this is the real deal.
Here’s the other interior pic I took.
While I wasn’t a fan of mid-’70s cars, I’m happy to see these rare early versions, with their integrated, stylish chrome bumpers. Especially compared to the horrendous painted plastic or chromed ‘railroad-ties’ that festooned nearly everything in North America by 1974.
Happy Motoring, Mark
The 400 may be considered a oddball by some, but is in fact a excellent platform for a performance engine. 400 based engines have won the Engine Masters challenge more than once.(Can you say Jon Kaase?) Lets not forget it’s heart is in Cleveland….