Heavy Metal Affliction - 1973 Ford Gran Torino Sport
If not for its prominent role in the hit cop buddy show Starsky & Hutch, the Ford Gran Torino might be somewhat of a forgotten relic. Unless you are one of the many people who grew up riding around in one in the early 1970s when the Torino was about as commonplace as bowl haircuts and Toughskins.
The Torino was a replacement for the long-running Ford Fairlane and competed with the much more widely remembered Chevy Chevelle. The base model came with the utterly reliable Ford inline 6-cylinder but you could build one with just about any V8. Like most cars of the early 1970s, it was hobbled by fuel-crunch emission requirements and heavy, but supposedly safer, 5-mph bumpers.
Today we take a look at a well-kept survivor owned by Forza fan Kevin Caveny – Gamertag Cherry man 1. Caveny found his original, numbers matching Gran Torino on Craigslist in a small town in Illinois. He was looking for a Mustang, but they were a little out of his college student price range. This Gran Torino Sport is somewhat of a barn find as it was kept safe under a tarp and had been listed for more than a year before Caveny took a good look at it and decided to buy it.
When Caveny and his dad went to look at it, they learned that the 80-year-old second owner had purchased the car from a used Ford lot in 1973 with 7,800 miles. Through the early 1990s the previous owner had used it as a family-hauler. When he parked it the car it had only 61,000 miles on it. Before he threw a tarp over it, he had it repainted the original 2B Bright Red, and had the motor gone through.
From that point until it was sold to Caveny a couple years ago, the Torino pretty much got driven around the block once a month to keep the battery charged. As Illinois winters are known to be car killers due to the use of road salt, and the Torino itself is known to be particularly vulnerable to rust issues, the fact that this one was found in pristine condition is a testament to the care it has received over the years.
Nothing is known about those first 7,800 miles. However, the option list that includes bucket seats, a center console that moved the gear selector from the column to the tunnel, as well as the Magnum 500 wheels and the classic laser stripe says the original owner was definitely trying to make a statement. What you can’t see but makes this Torino all the more special is the fourth letter in the VIN.
That fourth letter is “Q” and it designates that this car was built with the 351 Cleveland V8 and is considered a Cobra Jet motor. The 351 Cleveland came with a four-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust and was more powerful that the available big-block 460 V8. It also got “better,” and I use that world lightly, gas mileage. Better means up to 15 on the highway and single digits in town.
Thirstiness aside, a 1973 Gran Torino weighs over 4,300 pounds, and let’s be real, anyone buying a car like this, in the 1970s, or in the new millennium, is not looking to hyper mile it. It’s about power, it’s about smoky burnouts and it’s about the rumble of an American V8. In the words of Caveny, “Because power, plain and simple power.” A 1973 Gran Torino weighs over 4,300 pounds, so even with all 248 hp pushing the beast, 60 mph is still nearly 10 seconds away from a dead stop.
Ford runs strong in the Caveny family. His dad has owned a couple Mustang Mach 1’s and as you can tell in the garage photo below there is a late model Mustang keeping the Torino company. The father and son team have done some of their own work to the car. When the power-steering pump went bad, they replaced it, then replaced it several more times before they realized the return line was bad and causing the repeated failures. They went through a similar learning process when they replaced the U-joints.
Despite being run on low fluid a couple times, the C-6 transmission just passed an inspection. The C-6 is known to be bulletproof; so is the near legendary 9-inch rear end the car is equipped with. When the carburetor failed irreparably, they had to replace it with a slightly different model that required an intake from a 1970 351 becasue the original carb is no longer sold, anywhere. All the old parts are kept on a shelf in the garage for antiquities sake.
The Torino gets driven regularly, as its recent twenty-thousand plus miles show. Caveny keeps it out of the salt to preserve it though. When he takes it to Cars and Coffee events or car shows there is always someone who remembers someone in their life that owned one. “It’s amazing to see the faces of people light up when they see something that old and so different from the Mustangs, Chevelles, and other classics you always see at car shows,” Caveny said.
Caveny says he wants to keep his Gran Torino Sport at least a while longer. He hopes to drive it in the 2017 Hot Rod Power Tour that starts in nearby Kansas City. For a young guy who is just going to college and says he wants to own a Lamborghini at some point or a new Ford GT someday, the Torino is an interesting starting point.
With so many of the Torinos of the early 1970s rusting out, going to the crusher, simply left to rot due to the fuel crisis or just because at the time they were thought of as disposable transportation, it’s great to see this one preserved.