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Car of the Week: 1971 Ford Torino GT

For one man there is only one car, a 1971 Ford Torino GT. So much so he has had three of them in his lifetime.
Car of the Week 2020
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Dave Hartman loves white 1971 Ford Torinos so much he’s bought identical cars three times. Well, identical on the outside, anyway.

The Plover, Wis., resident is pretty sure three times is a charm. It took him three cracks at it to get exactly the one he wanted: a gorgeous — and somewhat rowdy — muscle machine that probably put an end to his Torino GT shopping. He knows it’s going to be very difficult to top the one he’s got.

“Yeah, this is my third 1971 Torino GT in Wimbledon White with laser stripes,” he says with a chuckle. “My first one I bought when I was 15 years old in high school in 1980, and that one had a ginger interior, which is a light brown interior, with a laser stripe, but it was white. Then in ’90 I bought [another] ’71, also with a red interior and laser stripes like my current one and it had a 351 four-barrel. My first one had a 351 two-barrel. And this one is my third … with a 429 Cobra Jet and this one was purchased two years ago from a Ford guy I know out in Pennsylvania.”

A look at the 429 Cobra Jet

A look at the 429 Cobra Jet

Hartman’s infatuation with the aerodynamic Torino GTs started when he worked at a Buick dealership as a teenager. He wasn’t even driving age yet when he spotted his future ride while he was busy washing cars. 

“They took one of these in on a trade and I’d never seen it before,” he recalled. “And that was the first car I bought… I just loved the body style. It’s got that classic early ‘70s body style and classic lines. A lot of people ask about the laser stripe, ‘Oh, is that something you painted on?’ No that’s a factory laser stripe. And people will walk up to it and say, ‘Oh, it’s a Grand Torino.’ No, that was 1972, this is a Torino GT. You just don’t see any of these things out running around. They made enough of them in the early ‘70s, but this body style catches a lot of attention. "

Shifter on the tree and a bench seat, just like Hartman likes it!

Shifter on the tree and a bench seat, just like Hartman likes it!

Hartman says he spent 10 years scouring classified ads and scouting for a particular combination of goodies that all added up to his ultimate Torino. He finally found it in a private collection and he knew his search was over. 

“I wanted the best version of what I had and I’m kind of nuts because I didn’t want the console shifter. I wanted the shifter on the column. I wanted a bench seat, I didn’t want a bucket seat. That’s what I had in my last two cars and I kind of wanted to go with what I grew up with as far as Torinos go. The shifter is up on the tree, C-6 automatic transmission … We’ve fought some gremlins in it with the carburetor. It’s still got the original Rochester carburetor in it. “For me, this is the pinnacle, this is the top of the line.” 

The ‘Sportsroof’ Evolution

In mid ’63, FoMoCo went to a semi-fastback roof to make its racecars faster on the track. By 1965, the design was cloned for other production cars. In 1966, Dodge went fully fastback with the jumping-ramp-shaped Charger, and by ’68 Ford had cloned the Charger look into the SportsRoof body, which was found in most of its muscle car lines. Torinos came in various other body styles, too, but it was always the fastback that created its image.

The 1968 Ford Torino GT was the sporty version of the Fairlane 500 and was based on that model. The Torino GT actually came in three versions. Model 65D was the two-door hardtop, which sold for $2,768.17, weighed 3,194 lbs. and had a production run of 23,939 units. The convertible — Model 76D — was much rarer and only 5,310 were made. Prices for the ragtop began at $3,020.40 and it tipped the scales at 3,352 lbs. in showroom stock condition. The real image car was the Model 63D two-door fastback, with its $2,742.84 window sticker, 3,208-lb. curb weight and 74,135 units produced. Dubbed the “SportsRoof” by Ford, the car was a hit by almost any measure.

FoMoCo were the trendsetters with the fastback aerodynamics.

FoMoCo were the trendsetters with the fastback aerodynamics.

Fairlane standard equipment included government-mandated safety equipment, a 200-cid six or a 302-cid V-8 and 7.35-14 tires. The standard Torino models (sports coupe, sedan or wagon) added wheel covers and an electric clock. The sporty Fairlane GT included all this plus a vinyl bench seat, a GT handling suspension, argent silver styled wheels with chrome trim rings, F70 x 14 wide oval tires, GT body stripes, a gray GT grille, GT nameplates and a 302-cid/210-hp V-8. Power brakes were required if the optional 390-cid big-block V-8 was ordered.

The 390-cid engine came in two versions. The 265-hp edition with a single two-barrel carburetor added just $78.25 to the price of a Torino V-8. The 325-hp four-barrel version was $158.08 extra and also required an extra-cost transmission (either the heavy-duty three-speed at $79.20, a four-speed manual at $184.02 or Ford’s Select Shift Cruise-O-Matic at $233.17).

A look from behind

A look from behind

Real muscle car lovers were probably more interested in getting a Torino GT with a 427-cid/390-hp V-8. It was a $622.97 option for all Fairlane two-door hardtops and you could not get it with Select Aire air conditioning, power steering, a 55-amp generator, a heavy-duty suspension or optional tires as extras either because it didn’t make sense or these options were already required.

For the 1970 model year, the long-running Fairlane became a sub-series of the Torino, which featured swoopy “Coke bottle” from the pen of Ford designer Bill Shenk. The unibody cars has striking long hood-short deck lid styling with even flatter fastback rooflines in the SportsRoof models. The pointed noses had full width grilles with quad headlights and chrome front and rear bumpers that integrated nicely into the flowing body lines.

For the 1971 model year, the Fairlane and Falcon nameplates were dropped altogether. The Torino menu included a whopping 14 models. The base model was available as either a two-door hardtop, four-door sedan or four-door station wagon. The mid-tier Torino 500 came as a two-door hardtop, two-door SportsRoof, four-door sedan or the wagon. The Torino Brougham was the fanciest of the group and could be had as either a two-or four-door hardtop. A well-equipped Torino Squire station wagon was also included in the lineup. The Torino GT came as a two-door SportsRoof or convertible, while its sibling, the Torino Cobra was still only available as a two-door SportsRoof.

Styling changes on the 1971 models were minor. The grille on the GTs was divided in the middle with a new emblem in the center. Hideaway headlights were optional on the GT, Torino 500, Brougham, and Squire wagon.

The grille of the Torino GT

The grille of the Torino GT

The engine lineup included a 250-cid inline six-cylinder for the base Torinos. The 302-cid V-8 was standard on Broughams, Squires and GTs with the Cobra sporting the 351-cid four-barrel. All engines, other than the 429s, saw a slight drop in compression. Ram Air induction was an option on the 351-4V, 429 CJ, and the 429 SCJ. Torino GTs with Ram Air Induction featured a shaker scoop.

Making a good thing better

Hartman says he has had to resist the temptation to make his sweet Ford “too nice.” He wanted it to run and perform as good as it looked, but didn’t want it to be so perfect that he was afraid to drive it anytime the spirit moved him — which is quite often.

“[The previous owner] had it just sitting there and it needed work done on it, but nothing major,” he says. “I had it over to Fast Freddie’s Rod Shop over in Eau Claire, [Wis.], and they rebuilt the rear end, the transmission and they sent the engine to Pasko’s RPM, which is an engine specialist just north of Eau Claire in Cumberland, and he built it to original factory specs and they put Vintage Air on it. It had aftermarket factory air installed by the dealer when I got it. I still have that system in the attic, but it has that system in place right now. And everything else is pretty much stock on the car with the exception that it came with trim rings and hubcaps. It has Magnum 500s on it now, but I have those in the garage as well. The interior looks like the day it came off the showroom floor. Everything else is pretty much original.” 

In addition to the non-Ram Air Cobra Jet 429, the Wimbledon White GT’s list of amenities includes the laser stripes, power steering, tinted glass, AM radio and C6 transmission. 

"The car had been repainted once in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s with single-stage paint. Freddie’s repaired a little bit of rust under the doors where it was rusted through. They fixed a couple spots, but they didn’t repaint it.” 

Hartman hasn’t ruled out a second repaint someday in the future, but for now the paint still looks too good to mess with it. 

“Fast Freddie’s said ‘Look, we advise against it, because people that put a brand new fresh modern paint job on have a tendency not to want to drive it or take it to shows or out in the rain or whatever, and my intent with this car was just to take it out and drive it. He said, ‘It looks great.' Yeah, the second paint job has a few flaws, but you want a car to drive. You don’t want it to set it on display.’” 

The odometer showed just over 100,000 miles when Hartman brought it home and he has added about 1,500 happy miles since then. The Torino GT makes regular appearances at local weekend shows and cruise nights, and last July was on display at the Iola Car Show in Wisconsin. After looking for a decade for this one, Hartman doubts he will run across any exact replicas on any show fields. 

“I finally got me dream car,” he says. “For me, this is as good as it gets.”

Hartman with his Torino GT

Hartman with his Torino GT

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