Curbside Recycling: 1974 Ford Torino – Life Ain’t Always Gran

Lest one think all American branded four door sedans of the 1970s were so ornamented as to have a tackiness quotient comparable to a high quality rubber cement, let us offer this very base 1974 Ford Torino as evidence to the contrary.

For most of us, these base model Torinos have likely been relegated to the darkness and murkiness in the rear portions of our brain.  Appropriate, as this Torino was found sitting at the rear property line of a local salvage yard, behind a very colorful row of second generation Neons – which still looked happy, even in death.

Ford differentiated the base model Torino in 1973 and 1974 by offering this unique nose.  This is the first one I have seen in person since 1982.  I’m not joking.  The ’73 Torino my parents bought new had this front and this is the first one I’ve seen in person since they sold that car in (drum roll, please) 1982.  As a child, I thought their Torino was some one-off goofball by Ford as I could find an abundance of Torinos with the same tail lights but never this front end.

This is the front most associated with the 1974 Torino.

Base model cars around here are not uncommon – this yard is just outside the state capital and all those base model sedans used by the various state agencies don’t migrate that far after being sold.  Might this Torino be a member of that service oriented club?  It’s hard to say but the possibility is there.

The base model Torinos were definitely intended for service minded endeavors.  It also seems like the base Torino is the car Ford didn’t want anyone to know about as it is barely in their brochure.

It seems service mindedness only gets a person so far in life as our featured Torino is one of only 31,000 base model Torino sedans built for 1974.  For comparison, AMC sold nearly 28,000 Matador sedans that same year.  Add up the three body variants of the base Torino, which includes the two-door and wagon, and one is still a few units shy of the Gran Torino sedan and its 73,000 examples.

Ford, being Ford, was not satisfied with just two levels of Torino as had been the case as recently as 1972.  Figuring there was money to be made in something even more gran than the Gran Torino, Ford also had the available Gran Torino Brougham, a car so nice they named it thrice.  But I suppose it makes sense; one name for the base model and keep adding a word for each step up in trim level.  To a degree the Gran Torino Brougham was simply gilding the lily as there were only 11,500 sedans sold.

I’m speculating our featured Torino had the standard 302 V8.  Maybe it’s a 351; Ford would make the 351 the standard engine across the line for 1975.

Fuel mileage on this one would be interesting to know for comparison purposes.  The fecal brown metallic ’73 Torino my parents owned had a 302 that got a very regular and predictable 12 miles per gallon on leaded fuel.  It’s doubtful a 351 in one of these would be profoundly different.

Ostensibly, the 302 was rated for 140 net horsepower in 1974, up five from the previous year.  Having to pack around 3,793 pounds of unladen and fluid-free Torino, it was not a thoroughbred so much as it was a work horse.  For comparison, the curb weight of this Torino is within 80 pounds of a 2020 Toyota RAV-4 hybrid.  While I am no fan of Torinos, perhaps all the jabs about their porkulence are undeserved since a new compact Toyota tips the scales in the same neighborhood.

Visually the Torino didn’t always do itself any favors, which could best be summed up with those bony hips that constitute the surface of the rear doors and extend to the rear bumper.  As a child, when these hip bones were at eye-level, all those protuberances just seemed silly, with the door handle lurking among the creases.  Other cars had much more smooth sides; I never could understand what these added to the overall package.

Looking at these as an adult, they aren’t as prominent as they once seemed.  It’s strange how time can alter one’s perspective.

This being a 1974 model also alters one perspective – or their expectations.  After seeing the front end, I was greatly anticipating seeing some horizontal tail lights mounted within the bumper, a la 1973 Torino.  Not so much.  These tail lights are the dead giveaway for it not being a 1973.

I was hoping this was a ’73 but, hey, at this point, beggars can’t be choosers.

Apart from the color, the interior is exactly as I remember – minus the weeds, of course.  The speedometer reminded me of a speed trial my father took in their old ’73 Torino long ago on a flat, straight three mile section of road near where I grew up.  In retrospect, it took a mighty long time for that particular Torino to huff and chuff its way up to 80 mph.

They got 123,000 miles out of their Tornio before selling it to a college student who drove it for many more miles.  The only mechanical problem it ever had during their ownership was a broken timing chain.

One thing to keep in mind – that automatic transmission was an option as a three-on-the-tree was still the standard transmission.

These vinyl rear seats wear like iron.  Their’s did, as has this one.  A little elbow grease could make this one nicely serviceable again – but would it be worth the effort?

For the observant, there has been a little nugget seen so far which presents a mild, yet distinct, inconsistency.  It signifies this Torino having had a mishap of some variety in its life, a mishap the owner appeared determined to rectify so they could keep their Torino going.

Noticed it?

Here it is.  The trunk lid is from a Mercury Montego, indicating this is likely its second time in the boneyard.  The trunk was still locked, so any interior inspection wasn’t possible.

I’ll admit to having been a vocal critic of the Torino.  Sure they were a bit too rotund, a little too thirsty, and not known as great handlers.  But it was 1974 – all cars sold in the United States had their individual challenges, be it aptitude for drink, rust, rough running, or general anemia.  Some just hid their vices better than others.

Earlier today my mother, of all people, summed up the Torino most succinctly and eloquently, a statement she made about their plain and basic ’73 Torino.  She said “Jason, it wasn’t the paragon of luxury but it always got us there.”

I suspect the same held true for this particular Torino.  It was on the road until 2014.