Mike Brittnacher spent his first round of Ford Torino ownership behind the wheel of a 1970 Torino GT. While not the hairiest and scariest muscle car around, the GT was still plenty rowdy and fast for a teenager.
When it came time for a second Torino a little more than a decade ago, Brittnacher decided to look for something a little more understated and refined. It took him a while, but the Fort Atkinson, Wis., resident was able to find a car a little more on the “mature” side that turned out to be just his speed.
“I was looking for a couple years and I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, everybody wants a four-speed and all that, but I’m getting older, give me an automatic, and I’d like air conditioning. So I looked for a couple years and I came across this,” said Brittnacher, pointing to his lovely triple-green ’71 Torino Brougham. “It was a factory air car, power steering and power disc front brakes. It was a nice car. Low mileage — it had 32,500 miles on it when I bought it. I bought it out of central Illinois — Reddick, Illinois — but it came out of West Virginia.
“The reason [I got it cheap] was there was an elderly gentleman who had this car, and he kept crunching it into the garage and bending it up a little bit,” Brittnacher laughs. “So the kids took it away from him, and it sat for a while. Then a guy from Illinois found it and bought it, fixed it and put a paint job on it — but it was a cheap paint job. You can see where he taped and everything else. I saw it for sale and went down and looked at it and I liked it and came home with it that night. I drove her home that same night.”
Brittnacher had to convince himself that he liked the green-on-green-on-green color scheme, but it turned out to be an easy sell. The car was in such nice shape and had so few miles that the green grew on him rather quickly. The wood-grained accents inside, paisley-esque seat upholstery and dark green vinyl roof covering all worked nicely together and certainly make the car unique.
“I have a lot of people tell me they don’t like the color green,” Brittnacher says, “but on this car it looks good!”
“My first car was a dark green, and when I saw this, yes, I liked the combination.”
BLUEPRINT FOR SUCCESS
The 1971 model year marked year four for the Torino nameplate, which continued to cement its reputation as one of the popular intermediate-sized cars on the American market. With 14 different models in the family, the Torino could be almost anything a customer desired — from reliable family sedan to a big-block muscle monster.
The Torino was named after the Italian city of Turin and arrived for the 1968 sales year as a high-end sub series of the popular and long-running Fairlane intermediate. The Torinos were marketed as slightly fancier versions of their Fairlane parents, but by 1970, the script was flipped and the Fairlane became a variant of the Torino series. By ’71, the Fairlane name was retired and the Torino nameplate soldiered on alone as Ford’s bell cow midsize series.
The base Torino offerings for ’71 included a two-door hardtop, four-door sedan and four-door station wagon. They came standard with a 250-cid six-cylinder. One step up the ladder was the Torino 500, which had a few more bells and whistles and came as a two-door SportsRoof or hardtop, four-door sedan or four-door hardtop, or four-door wagon. The GT version was aimed at the go-fast crowd and included two-door SportsRoof and convertible models, with the even hotter Torino Cobra available as a SportsRoof coupe.
The Brougham version resided at the top of the Torino totem pole and could be found in both two- and four-door hardtop varieties. A Torino Squire station wagon was also available and was the equivalent of a Brougham wagon. The Brougham included all the Torino 500 equipment, plus wheel covers; chrome exterior moldings; soundproofing package; Brougham ornamentation; cloth interior trims (in a choice of four colors); and standard 302-cid/210-hp V-8 engine. For those who wanted more under the hood, a 351-cid Cleveland was available in both 240- and 285-hp varieties, as were 429 CJ and 429 CJ-R power plants. Ford’s Shaker Hood Scoop was standard on the 429 CJ-R.
The Torino underwent a major body restyling for 1970 that included a longer, lower profile and sleeker lines all the way around. Ford received high marks from critics and scribes for the car’s styling, versatility and road manners. Motor Trend even named the Ford its “Car of the Year.” For ’71, revisions were minor and affected mainly the grille and some trim. Grilles were divided in the middle on all models except the Cobra, and Hideaway Headlamps were among the options for buyers who wanted a little more “cool” factor.
The Torino 500 hardtop proved to be the biggest seller among Ford’s intermediate family with a hefty 89,986 examples leaving Ford assembly lines. Brougham models were much less popular, with only 4,408 four-door models ($3,248 base price) and 8,593 two-door hardtop ($3,175) versions produced.
A BEAUTIFUL ‘BRO-HAM’
The Torino Brougham’s relative scarcity wasn’t a huge selling point that Brittnacher weighed when he purchased his green ’71, but it didn’t hurt. Mostly, he figured finding such a nice low-mile original Torino in any flavor was too good of an opportunity to pass up, even if it needed a little TLC.
“I tried to put it back to stock as much as I could … I pretty much did something to it every year,” Brittnacher said. “It needed work. It’s been repainted. When it was repainted there was only one pin hole — one tiny rust hole about the size of a pencil head where the rear window sits in. That was the only spot of rust on the entire car.
“I re-did the engine bay, detailed all that and painted what I could without removing the motor. I was real [particular] about what I was going to do with it. I did have it all repainted and a new vinyl top put on it … The seat tore on me and I had to find the material. It looks like a paisley print almost. I finally found it in Oregon. The material was $98 a yard! I had some problems with the air conditioning, but I finally did get it working and I tried to keep everything pretty much stock as much as I could. There are a few differences on it, but most people wouldn’t know it. It came with power steering, power front disc brakes, factory air, automatic three-speed. It’s still a matching-numbers car. It’s got the Rim-Blow deluxe steering wheel, and the 351 two-barrel, of course … It’s got the open 3.00 gears and Hideaway Headlamps. And those work with the vacuum, nothing electric. I have all the vacuum lines and all that. And it’s got the Magnum 500 rims on it.”
The most noticeable change Brittnacher made that Torino purists would pick up on is the black paint below the body side trim that gives the Brougham a subtle two-tone personality. It’s not stock, but Brittnacher liked the look and he went with it. “It should be green below, but I went with satin black, just to kind of blend in with the tires and blend in with the ground.”
Brittnacher has rolled up about 3,000 miles a summer on his green machine. He’s got a little over 68,000 rounds on the odometer now and he figures the 351 Cleveland has quite a few more in it before it will need any work. “I might have to re-do the engine bay again one of these days,” he says. “It’s starting to look a little ragged. Other than that, there’s not a lot left for me to do.”
Every time Brittnacher hops in the Torino and takes it for a joy ride or heads out to a weekend car show, he gets reminded what a good choice he made when he pulled the trigger on the hardtop back in 2009. He was hoping to find a nice, solid weekend driver that he could trust out on the road and that reminded him of his teenage years and his first Torino. The Brougham definitely fills the bill.
“I love to drive it,” he says. “It’s so smooth and comfortable with that bench seat. It rides so nice and you can cruise 80 mph down the highway, no problem. It starts to purr a little harder at around 80, but 75 is just perfect. But it goes really good!”
Of course, the “Brougham” name on the car can occasionally throw folks for a loop. Not everybody immediately knows that the term is supposed to identify the green hardtop as a more well-dressed member of the Ford family.
“It’s the fancy muscle car, I guess,” Brittnacher adds with a chuckle. “One time there was a real elderly lady who came around and I didn’t have the sign up on it. She kind of looked at it, then came back around later and said, ‘A “Bro-Ham?” Who the hell makes a Bro-Ham?” … And we laughed, oh man!”
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