I first saw the TV series "Starsky & Hutch"
in the summer of 1976. Upon seeing the special car in the show, I became interested in what make and model the
bright red and white striped vehicle could be that was doing all those stunts.
Previously, I had been interested in several other types of
cars such as the Pontiac Trans AM, 1974 Dodge Charger 440 SE, and Oldsmobile Cutlass 442. But, when I saw the Ford
Gran Torino, I knew that was the car for me.
I had saved money while working for my dad since the age of
13 for the purpose of buying myself a car. Now my search began. I had read in Motor Trend magazine (December '76)
that Ford Motor Company had produced a limited number of factory reproductions of the "Starsky & Hutch"
TV Gran Torino. In January 1977, I checked with the local Ford dealership (Larson Motors) about the possibility
of locating one. The salesman had no success mainly because of the rarity of the model, and the Gran Torino line
had been discontinued after the 1976 model year. After checking with various used car dealers and classified ads
in newspapers, I, too, had had no success.
Then, in the early fall of 1977, my friend Tracy Lockhart
told me that his brother Kent had worked for a man in El Dorado, Kansas who owned a "Starsky & Hutch Special"
that he might be interested in selling. Finally, I was able to contact him. He was an oil field man named Raymond
Ross. He told me the car had low mileage (12,200 miles), was in excellent condition, and he would sell it for $4,500.
I was in the process of setting up a deal with Mr. Ross when, due to some teenage male indiscretions (involving
some egg throwing around Halloween), my parents decided that I didn't deserve to drive for awhile, let alone purchase
the Gran Torino.
After paying penance for my mischief, I was allowed to re-establish
contact with Mr. Ross in the early spring of 1978. Luckily, he still had the car, and I made arrangements to purchase
El Dorado, Kansas is about 20 miles from Wichita, where coincidentally,
my father was to attend a bank meeting in April. Prior to their leaving, I gave Dad and Mom a check made out to
Mr. Raymond Ross for $4,500 to buy the car. They traveled to Wichita with Terry Anders and his wife Norma. (Terry
was an employee of the Sterling Federal Land Bank.) After the bank meeting in Wichita, my parents had Terry drive
them to El Dorado to meet Mr. Ross to inspect, to buy, and to change title and license for the Gran Torino.
Driving home to Atwood, no problems occurred except for a
damaged fan belt that was repaired at the nearest service station enroute. When they arrived in the early evening
with my prize, I could hardly contain myself. As I first laid eyes on my car, it was love at first sight. True
to Mr. Ross' word, the car was in excellent shape. It even smelled new inside. I was pleased!
My Gran Torino was built at the Ford Motor Company's assembly
plant in Chicago, Illinois in March, 1976. It was shipped to Merle Yost Ford of Wichita, Kansas where Raymond Ross
purchased it brand new for $6,900. The car originally came equipped with a 400 CID 2V engine, XPL type C-6 automatic
transmission, conventional 2.75 ratio rear axle, heavy-duty suspension, HR78x14 Firestone tires, cruise-o-matic
speed control, single exhaust system with dual catalytic converters, bumper protection group, manual air conditioning,
dual color-keyed sport mirrors, anti-theft package, complete tinted glass, bright red paint with special application
("Starsky & Hutch" special stripe), vinyl bench seats with white interior trim, and maroon carpet.
It was one of only 1,000 units produced.
REPAIRS AND MODIFICATIONS
The car had some paint damage aft of the front and rear wheels (due to stones being thrown by the tires). I knew
from watching the TV series that the car on the show was more performance package-equipped than mine. I decided
I would make some mechanical changes to back up the car's already aggressive appearance.
About a month after I purchase the car, I took it to Dick Serr's Body Shop to have the stone chips in the paint
repaired. The red paint was sanded off from the bottom of the white stripe to the top of the rocker panel trim
plates and from the bottom of the middle body seam to the top of the trim plates behind the rear wheels. After
the sanding was complete, these sections were repainted with the proper code [2B] bright red enamel.
TIRES AND WHEELS
The original tires and wheels were not the same as those on the TV series S&H car. I replaced the 14"
tires with two P225/70R15 100S M&S (front) and two P275/60R15 107S M&S (rear) B.F. Goodrich TA radials.
I replaced the 14" wheels with two 15"x7" (front) and two 15"x8.5" (rear) American Racing
(Indy) slotted aluminum mag wheels.
The original Philco stereo system had an 8-track, AM/FM radio and CB radio combination that malfunctioned and could
not be repaired. The speakers were also inadequate. In 1984, I replaced the entire stereo system with a Pioneer
KEX 20 Cassette deck with an Am/FM tuner, Pioneer GM-5 main amplifier, Pioneer TS-1645 tri-axial speakers (front)
and TS-6907 quad-axial speakers (rear).
In August of 1988, I purchased another 1976 Gran Torino 2-door with the interior I required to convert my car to
the sports equipment package. It had black vinyl interior with bucket seats, a center console with a floor transmission
shifter, and a full performance instrument panel. I removed all of the interior components from the donor car for
installation into my car. The seats were in bad shape and had to be reupholstered. My friend Jeff Hahn (Hahn's
Upholstery) did the work. While Jeff and his brother Bruce were doing the seat repairs, Kenny Guerin (owner of
J&K Import Car Repairs) installed the donor car's steering column, transmission shifter, performance instrument
panel, wiring harnesses, and courtesy lights into the stripped-out interior of my Gran Torino.
After Kenny was finished, the car was delivered to Hahn's
Upholstery for the final interior components' installation. Jeff had replaced the vinyl on the seats with rich
Brandon black fabric which was not only more attractive, but also more durable. He replaced the maroon carpet with
deluxe black cut-pile carpet, installed a new black cloth headliner, the center console, the black door panels,
and the rest of the related interior components from the donor car.
After the weather improved in the spring of 1995, I took the Gran Torino out for a drive and discovered the exhaust
system had deteriorated. I soon learned that the required exhaust system components were no longer available from
Ford Motor Company or any auto parts distributors. I took my car to a muffler shop in Thornton, Colorado called
Exhaust Pros. A new dual exhaust system with aluminized steel 2 ¼" exhaust pipes and two low back pressure
turbo mufflers were installed. The installation is as good as a factory installation.
PERFORMANCE AND SUSPENSION
With all the previous improvements completed, there was still the matter of improving the actual performance and
handling of the car. I wanted to keep the car basically Ford Gran Torino stock, so after many hours of research,
I decided the best plan was to locate another 1976 Ford Torino or Mercury Montego equipped with the 460 CID 4V
Police Interceptor (PI) package, purchase it, and strip it of all the components required for the final conversion
to my car.
After an exhaustive search for the car I needed, I finally
located one in Hartwell, Georgia - thanks to a wanted ad I ran in "Mustang & Ford Trader" magazine
in the summer of 1996. One evening the fall of that year, I received a phone call from a former Georgia police
officer named Larry Dobbs. He had seen my ad and had the car I was looking for. He sent detailed pictures of his
car. Upon inspecting them carefully, I knew this car had the equipment I required. I purchased this rare automobile
from him for $1,000 with the agreement it would be delivered to my front door for another $500.
SUSPENSION AND REAR AXLE
In December of 19997, my friend Ernie Benhardt and I removed the rear axle and all of the suspension and break
components from the 1976 Torino police cruiser. We did a complete rebuild and repaint job of all these components.
We installed all new bushings and ball-joints in the front suspension components.
I took the rear axle control arms to Larson Motors where technician
Marvin Stanley removed the old bushings and installed new ones. Bill Abel (owner of Western Drivetrain, Inc. in
Aurora, Colorado) did the required work on the rear axle third member. It was reconfigured and rebuilt to a 9"
3.25 ratio traction-loc assembly.
Ernie and I then installed these rebuilt suspension, axle,
and brake components into my Gran Torino. We also installed new coil springs (Coil Spring Specialties of St. Mary's,
Kansas) to give the car the proper lift in front for the larger displacement engine and the oversized tires on
the rear axle. I installed a pair of Gabriel High-Jacker air shock absorbers on the rear axel and a pair of Gabriel
heavy duty shock absorbers on the front suspension.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
In March of 1998, I took my Gran Torino and the 1976 Torino police cruiser to Kenny Guerin's shop where he and
Mike Laugle removed the 460 CID 4V Police Interceptor engine, engine oil cooler, transmission cooler, air conditioning
compressor pulley, air intake system, engine compartment electrical system, transmission lines, oil cooler lines,
and fuel lines from the Torino police cruiser. The 460 CID 4V Police Interceptor engine was taken to Yuma Auto
Supply and Machine for a complete rebuild, balance, and reassembly. Jack Watts completely disassembled the engine,
tanked it, and inspected it. He torque plated, bored, and honed the cylinder block .030" oversized.
He precision balanced the connecting rods, polished the crankshaft,
resurfaced the cylinder heads. 005, and installed bronze valve guides. After this work was complete, Phil Dressel
reassembled the engine with a Federal Mogul engine kit including Allied 8.5:1 compression cast pistons with Perfect
Circle moly piston rings, a Crane high performance hydraulic camshaft with a double roller timing chain, and a
high volume oil pump.
While work was being performed on the engine, Kenny Guerin
and Mike Laugle were restoring and installing the engine oil cooler, transmission cooler, large capacity radiator,
catalytic converters, air conditioning compressor pulley, throttle linkage, air intake system, alternator, and
the engine compartment electrical system from the Torino police cruiser into my Gran Torino.
Now the Gran Torino and the newly rebuilt 460 Police Interceptor
engine were delivered to Herzog Automotive for final assembly. Jim Herzog removed the old engine and transmission,
installed a TCI Break A-way 11" torque converter and a B&M Street Performance shift improver kit into
the C-6 automatic transmission. He installed the 460 4V Police Interceptor engine and the upgraded C-6 automatic
transmission into the Gran Torino. Then he did all the final installation of equipment and final adjustments.
And so, the long task is complete. I am extremely pleased
with the way my car has turned out!
The following are the parts stores and suppliers who were crucial for my Gran Torino's restoration and modification:
Green Sales Co. (Cincinnati, Ohio), Dearborn Classics (Bend, Oregon), AutoKrafters (Broadway, Virginia), Marsau's
(Sterling, Colorado), McLavey Parts (Sterling, Colorado), Yuma Auto Supply (Yuma, Colorado), H-R Tire (Sterling,
Colorado), Miller Obsolete Parts (Vestal, New York), Larson Motors (Sterling, Colorado), H&S Machine (Sterling,
Colorado), Western Drivetrain (Aurora, Colorado), Exhaust Pros (Thornton, Colorado), Kanter Auto Products (Boonton,
New Jersey), Budco (Detroit, Michigan), Staub and Sons Custom Machine (Lakewood, Colorado), Coil Spring Specialties
(St. Mary's, Kansas), Soundtrack (Thornton, Colorado), and JEGS (Columbus, Ohio).
My humble thanks to the following people without whom this automobile could not have been purchased or completed:
God the Father, Kenny Guerin, Jim Herzog, Ernie Benhardt, Jeff Hahn, Bruce Hahn, Jack Watts, Phil Dressel, Bill
Abel, Mike Laugle, Lyle Larson, Gary Lambert, Rod Lambert, Rod McClaran, John Wray, Donald (Shorty) Bilyeu, Marilyn
Crane, Dean Miles, Tim Richie, Bob Klein, Bernie Holzworth, Eric Grotts, Tom Staub, Tracy Lockhart, Kent Lockhart,
Terry and Norma Anders, Larry Dobbs, Rick Rudd, and special thanks to Raymond Ross (for selling me the Gran Torino),
my fiancée Loding Weingardt (for auto show preparation assistance), and extra special thanks to my parents,
Harry and Christeene Bostron (for inspecting the car, delivering the check to Mr. Ross for the Gran Torino, and
driving her to her new home and owner)!