This partially explains why the Gran Torino pictured above caught my eye when I saw it parked Sunday afternoon in downtown Muscatine. It’s not that I was a huge fan of the TV show, which was broadcast from 1975-79 on ABC. It starred Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul as David Michael Starsky and Kenneth ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, respectively.
Nope. The real story is that the second car I ever owned — with my younger brothers, Scott and Doug — was a 1976 red Ford Torino. (Note: I had to share this car with my brothers because my parents were somewhat stingy and also really smart; they knew better than to let us each have a car. The first car Scott and I owned, for those of you keeping score, was a really ugly 1972 Ford Galaxy 500 that we bought from a neighbor for $300. He had kept it in his barn, but hey, it was a car.)
Sadly, I don’t have any photos of the Torino. If either of my brothers have one and share it with me, I’ll post it here later. But it looked sort of like this one when we bought it. This would have been in 1983 or ’84. We bought the car from a couple in Des Moines. They were about to have a baby and wanted to sell the Torino before getting the new minivan they had ordered. We paid them $1,800 for the car, which had about 50,000 miles.
It also had the quarter vinyl top like the one on the car shown here. But the vinyl was ripped and shredded. It looked like someone had dragged a tomcat across it. We wanted a hardtop anyway, so the first thing we did, once we got the money, was take the car to an auto-body shop in our hometown and BEG the owner to take off the vinyl, fill in hundreds of tiny holes and repaint the roof. It looked great when he was done.
He was a good guy and he made us a good deal on four used aluminum wheels. As I recall, we paid him $100 for the four of them. We took those wheels home, polished ’em up and saved some more money until we could buy four new Kelly Springfield tires. We topped it all off with one of the better car stereo systems you could buy in 1984 and a dual straight-pipe exhaust with Cherry Bomb/Glass Pack mufflers. Aw, now there’s a sound. When I hear it, I’m instantly 17 again. (You have to click on the link to give it a listen. I insist. We’ll wait for you to come back.)
Some of my friends had newer — and, I suppose, — nicer cars. And there were faster cars. Our Torino had a Ford 351 V8 Cleveland motor that Scott built and an automatic transmission. But you could easily top 100 mph in it and we all did. More than once.
But none of my friends’ cars were any cooler than that Torino. I wish I still had it, which is one of the reasons for this blog post. On my Facebook page Sunday, I posted the photo above of the car I spotted in Muscatine. A friend asked if I was planning to trade in my old Ford Bronco.
All I could say is: I wish.
The problem is, I don’t know whatever happened to the Torino. It’s probably in a junkyard somewhere. When I left for college, my brothers got to keep the Torino, and they more or less ran the wheels off of it. None of us were old enough to know better even though we all thought we knew everything.
And I bought a 1974 AMC Matador for $600 from a widow in my hometown. It was actually a faster car than the Ford even though it looked funny. Sadly, I didn’t keep it either. Nor do I have any photos of it. But the Matador is a story for another day.