Curbside Classic: 1972 Ford Gran Torino Sport SportsRoof – Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?

Well do ya? Yes. Yes I do. I will immediately admit that, unlike the movie Dirty Harry, which I misquoted in the title there, I haven’t yet seen Gran Torino. But I did find one that looked like an exact copy of the one in the film. And the funny thing is, this is not a recently imported one that was made to look like the star car. Did I feel lucky? I did. And you will too.

Many of you know a lot more about Torinos than I ever will, but in the interest of those who are not up to my (mediocre) level, let’s start this off with a few basic pointers. This intermediate Ford model got started in 1968 as a higher trim Fairlane, using a unit body design. In 1970, the Torino name became the dominant one and styling got longer and more Coke-bottly. The range was very complete, including all manner of body styles from convertibles to wagons and everything in between, as well as the SportsRoof fastback coupé. Trim levels got busier too and engine options ran the gamut from the 250ci (4.1 litre) 6-cyl. to the 429ci (7 litre) V8.

For 1971, the Fairlane and Falcon names were retired, leaving the Torino as the only game in intermediate town – though the inevitable me-too Mercury models did stick around. The big change came for MY 1972 though, as Ford re-engineered their mid-sizers completely, only retaining the name and some trim and drivetrain elements.

Part of Ford’s grand reinvention of the Torino was to ditch the monocoque and revert to body-on-frame. Not sure why they did that, but they were hardly the first Detroit maker to make that move. Another big difference with previous Torinos was that two-door cars had a shorter wheelbase (114’’ versus 118’’ for sedans, wagons and the related Ranchero pickup), which helped the coupes look sportier. Alas, convertibles were not afforded that opportunity, as they never made it past MY 1971.

Here’s what the Torino range looked like for 1972. Four body styles, two wheelbases and three trim levels – pretty straightforward, really. Base engines for all Torinos was still the 250 straight-6, except for the Gran Torino Squire and the Gran Torino Sport, which came standard with a 302ci (4.9 litre) V8.

Our feature car is a spicier variant, though. Which must have been the case for quite a few of the SportsRoof coupes, I suppose. If any Torino was to have a hot engine, it would likelier have been one of these.

Here’s what’s under the hood. Stupidly, because I am unfamiliar with these engines and this shot is a little blurry, I’m not really sure what we actually have here. The owner, who I had a talk with, did tell me what it was, but I took these photos a while ago. It doesn’t look eaxctly like the 351 Cobra Jet V8, or the Cleveland, but I’m no good at identifying V8s. Someone will be kind enough to point out what this is in the CComments section, I’m sure.

In my defence, the part of the engine bay I was much more interested in was the one that included this little inscription. This is the original importer’s plaque, the first time I photographed one, positively confirming that this car has been in Japan since new. New Empire Motors was the largest Ford importer in Tokyo, having been in the business of selling blue oval products since the mid-‘20s – including those that were assembled locally. The company still exists, but is now focused on auto parts and maintenance, having closed their dealership branch back in 2000.

Besides the importer’s plaque, the Torino’s current owner had a binder full of documents, including a copy of the original order form, which was dated from early 1971 as I recall. The 1972 cars’ basics, trim and options list must have been communicated ahead of time to the Ford reps in Japan, as this Gran Torino was special-ordered well before the ’72s were officially out. It took the car the better part of a year to reach its destination. Shipping a Gran Torino Sport halfway across the planet takes some doing, and apparently quite a long time.

It was given a thorough (and probably quite costly) restoration recently and re-registered, which explains why this 50-year-old Ford looks like it’s fresh off the boat. It’s now ready to carry on for another half-century of faithful service.

Detroit’s interior styling in the ‘70s was very hit-and-miss. For instance, most GM products of that period, with their pseudo-cockpit dashes covered in plastiwood, are downright awful. But this is a definite hit. Superb colours, elegant and uncluttered design – a very pleasant surprise.

I imagine not much changed in this regard when the ’73 models came out. Which is more than we can say about the exterior, of course.

The Torino’s ’72 face, with its wide-open maw of a grille underlined by a complex front bumper, was famously a one-year-only design, being heavily reworked for 1973 to include a giant prognathous railway tie of a 5mph bumper that dramatically altered the car’s looks. Not that the original is an oil painting, but still, Ford could have designed something a little less jarring for ‘73. Or allowed for the mandated bumper change to be integrated in the ’72 front end better to begin with.

According to CComments in previous posts on the matter, the differences don’t end there, either. The beefed-up bumpers called for chassis to be modified as well, which means the ’72 frames are a one-year-only oddity. Someone in Dearborn was not doing their sums right.

Whatever the case may be, this must have been one of the most expensive Gran Torinos ever bought, given how many optional extras the original customer ordered and where said order was placed. One can only surmise how that person must have felt when taking ownership of this big green coupe in the spring of 1972. Must have felt pretty lucky too.


Related posts:


Vintage Ads: 1972 & 1973 Ford Gran Torino – How Much And How Little Changed In One Year, by PN

CCOTY Nomination: 1972 Ford Torino, The Fertile Breeder, by Jason Shafer

Auto-Biography, Part 1: 1972 Ford Torino · A Torino, Fathers, and Sons, by VinceC

Cohort Pic(k) Of The Day – 1972 Ford Gran Torino, by Jim Klein