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This is a reconstruction of an article in the Fairlaner,
a publication of the
Fairlane Club of America,
Volume XVI, Number 1,
January-February 1996, pages 13-16
(reprinted with permission of the magazine).

"1976 Starsky & Hutch Ford Gran Torino"
Photos and Information by Doug Stevenson and Kat Porter Story by Bob Mannel

   
A funny thing happened in the fall of 1975. A Gran Torino became a TV star in the police series "Starsky & Hutch."
 

Fairlaner Magazine Cover Photo of Kat Porter's Starsky & Hutch Gran Torino

At Spelling-Goldberg Productions of 20th Century Fox in Beverly Hills, the fan mail soon poured in with questions such as, "What model is that car? What year is that Torino? Does that Torino have a stick shift or is it automatic? How can I get my hands on a Torino like that?"

Ford could hardly mind all the attention the Torino was receiving, particularly since the show was partly sponsored by Chevrolet and Dodge!

   

In fact, Ford was delighted. A little known magazine called Service Life (Volume 8, Number 2 - March/April 1976), which was produced by the Dealer Publications Public Relations Staff for Ford Parts and Service Division, carried an article by Bill Carroll titled "Torino Steals the Show." In the article, he describes how the Torino came into existence.

"George Grenier, transportation chief for Spelling-Goldberg Productions, said the idea for the Torino's design actually was 'a synthesis of many ideas of production executives.' He elaborated: 'Last summer, Aaron Spelling came to me and said: "George, we need a specialty car for a new series. Do something to one of our cars to make it stand out."

"'We use cars from Ford Motor Company's Studio-TV Car Loan Program,' Grenier continued. 'I checked the entire Ford line and spotted a stock Gran Torino that had possibilities. We painted it tomato red, added a wild white stripe and a star was born.

"'Of course, we had to make some modifications to the vehicle for the purpose of stunts performed on the show. The car has mags, oversized tires, air shocks and hijackers on the rear end to cause a sever rake.

"'With a 400 CID engine, it can really accelerate, which is necessary for the many chase scenes.'"

George Grenier then went on to say that two identical Torinos were used. One car had a camera mounted on the roof so viewers could see what "Starsky & Hutch" saw. The other car was for exterior shots.

As the show gained popularity, Ford dealers saw their opportunities. As Bill Carroll reported, "Some Ford dealers had a few Torinos painted red and white, advertised the fact that a 'Starsky and Hutch-type car' would be at the dealership and drew throngs of youngsters."

Then Ford Motor Company got into the act and "ordered a limited production of a similar car - 1,000 units - to be produced at the Chicago Assembly Plant. The car, available for dealer orders, has very similar paint treatment style."

Read Ford's Press Release about the 1,000 S&H Units

   
Doug Stevenson's car is one of those one-thousand, limited production cars. He looked for a long time to find one and finally ended his search in August 1993. When he purchased it for $2,000, it had over 148,000 miles on its original 400 cubic inch engine. The car had been fairly well maintained by not driving in winter, but during summer months had seen regular service.

Doug Stevenson's Starsky & Hutch Gran Torino

   

Doug's car was manufactured on March 17, 1976. For those interested in specifics, here is how Ford described his car's options:

  • 351 Cleveland Engine/Corning Englehard 400 Catalytic Convertor
  • Bright Red Paint with Special Application
  • Vinyl Bench Seats with Black Interior Trim
  • XPL Type, C-6, Automatic Transmission
  • Conventional Rear Axle
  • HR78 x 14/B Radial W/S/W Tires
  • Sport Steering Wheel
  • Bumper Protection Group
  • Manual Air Conditioning
  • Anti-Theft Package
  • Complete Tinted Glass
  • Styled Steel Magnum Wheels
  • Heavy-Duty Suspension
   
However, Doug's car had long departed from being completely original, so he changed a few things to suit his budget and desires, while maintaining the "Starsky & Hutch" look. The interior, already customized with black and red crushed velour was switched to that of a 1973 Gran Torino. As Doug says, "the best that I could come up with that my budget allowed."

Doug Stevenson's Starsky & Hutch Gran Torino

   
The engine was replaced with a 1974 460 V8, bored .030 over and hopped up with some goodies such as hot cam and Holley 750 cfm. To add some flavor to the authenticity of the car, he included a Motorola 2-way radio control head and a tear drop flashing light. Doug also runs slotted mags rather than the original Magnum 500 wheels, although he is not sure whether every single "Starsky & Hutch" car had the same style wheels.
   
All "Starsky & Hutch" Gran Torinos carried a special tag in the engine compartment on the right side along the passenger cowling.
The PS-122 code is [sometimes] here as well as the full DSO number - in this case, 240022.

0022 DSO on tag on firewall

   
Note the door tag also carries the same unique DSO number - 240022.

data tag with paint code VIN and 0022 DSO

   
According to Doug, the black stripe covering the red and white (arrow) was not factory stock. Instead, Ford painted the white and then applied the red paint over it. 

Non-stock black pinstripe around white stripe

   

Doug has done considerable research on these cars and has talked to other "Starsky & Hutch" Gran Torino owners. Here is what he has learned so far:

  • All were built on a 1976 Gran Torino platform, not Torino or Brougham.
  • Production started in March 1976.
  • Dual color keyed racing mirrors and deluxe bumper group (front & rear guards and moldings) were part of the package along with the special paint. Also any other option that was available on a Gran Torino could be ordered.
  • 351 V8s were standard, while 400 & 460 V8s were optional.
  • The white stripe was put on the car before the red. In other words, the red paint overlaps the white, instead of the stripe being painted on the car.
  • Paint code used for the red was 2B (Bright Red).
  • All carried a 0022 DSO number after the actual 2-digit DSO [ Canadian cars had 8000 instead of 0022 ]
  • [Some] carried a PS 122 special ID code on the data plate in the engine compartment near the passenger windshield. [ All have the data plate with the car's DSO ending in 0022 ]. This code is also on the build sheet.

Fortunately, several build sheets have survived to confirm that last item. A very fine example comes from Kat Porter's "Starsky & Hutch" Gran Torino featured on the front cover. Note the special '2B' paint code and special order code of '0022'. The DSO number in block 29 & 30 is '52'. Combined, the DSO number on the data plate would read '520022'. Doug's car carries a DSO of '240022' while a third known "Starsky & Hutch" Gran Torino has the number '430022'.

   

build sheet

   
If that is not convincing, then the 'STARSKY AND HUTCH UNIT PS 122' at the bottom says it all.
   

build sheet

   

The 1976 Torino might have been the last of a great breed, but the "Starsky & Hutch" Gran Torino insured that the Torino name would go out in grand style.

View More Photos from this Article

Read the Follow-up to this Article

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