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Jeff W.'s "Starsky & Hutch"®
1976 Gran Torino Brougham

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As a 13 year old in 1976, Jeff was a big S&H fan, and especially of the car. In June of 2005, after much searching on the Internet, he found this 1976 Gran Torino Brougham for sale in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The car belonged to a young man who had been bequeathed it by his Grandmother. The car has a 351 Windsor engine and FMX transmission and has traveled around 92000 miles.

Jeff's niece used to nanny in Detroit and she gave him the name of a friend who was prepared to meet with the seller and assess the car for Jeff. He duly reported back that the car was "pretty cool" although, unfortunately, he failed to notice the 4 rust holes through the floor pan, the rust in the trunk floor, the wheel wells, and right across the rear tail light area. It was also rusted through both inner front fenders, the bottoms of the front quarters, and right across the skuttle/trim panel under the rear window.

Jeff was not sure whether he had been sold a "lemon" or whether this was just how 31 year old cars in Michigan look. Living in Wisconsin, just across the lake from Michigan, I can tell you this is how all old cars are around here, unless they are kept indoors and not driven all Winter - and it doesn't take 31 years for them to rust out, it only takes a few.

Jeff says the arrival of the car was not the joyous occasion it could have been. The car had cost him around $14,000 NZ (around US $10,200 at the time) just to get it in his driveway, and he was faced with the decision to restore it at much expense or abandon the project. 3 years and 8 months later, and around NZ $50,000, Jeff has his dream car!

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This car was originally metallic deep red/wine-colored with a white vinyl top and typical Brougham opera windows. Three weeks after arriving in New Zealand, the car was down to the bare chassis - not a single bolt left on it! Most of the metal fabrication was done by Jeff with no previous experience. He was very fortunate to meet two guys who run a paint and panel shop and were happy to lend him their time, equipment, and knowledge. Jeff! worked on the car 4-5 days a week for 7 months. He says, "It's amazing how long it can take to fabricate one tail light housing panel!"

The heavy metal parts (chassis, wheel drums, rear axle, etc.) were sand blasted to remove the heavy-scale rust. All panels were bare-metal stripped, repaired, etch primed, and polyester primed in preparation for painting. The engine and transmission seemed pretty fair, so other than new frost plugs, new sump and transmission pans, a paint job and new fluids, they're still all original.

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The interior of the car was in fair condition but was also deep red. Jeff replaced the carpet and hood-lining in black. The rest of the interior has been vinyl-painted black as a temporary measure, although Jeff says it looks pretty good.

The rear springs have been re-tempered and re-set 1 1/2 higher, and with 15 inch rims and 70 profile tires on the rear and 14 inch/65s on the front, it has a rake close to the original TV car. Although it had nice Gran Prix rims when he got it, Jeff opted for Ansen Sprint slotted mags for the original look.

The entire car was treated with RIPO rust preventative oil and the underside fully bitumen undersealed. The car spent 3 weeks in "Brad's" paint shop undergoing final blocking, filling, more blocking, priming and top-coating. It was painted white all over to ensure even color. The black 1/4 inch stripe is painted on over the edge of the white, then the whole car was clear-coated all over. The paints were "Mipa" brand and have numbers rather than names. The white is the equivalent to Ford 9A white and the red was chosen for its "cleanliness" next to the white. In some light it looks very red but in bright sunshine, it has a real orange tinge and looks pretty close to the original 2B Bright Red (2B really does look like a tomato in bright sunlight, especially when you compare it to PPG Viper Red).

The car passed its Entry Certification and road worthiness tests with flying colors. The inspector even commented on how well the panel repairs and metal joining had been done. Jeff has also fitted the car with the mandatory "tear-drop" red light and has added alternating red grille lights, white strobes in the grille indicator lights, and a Federal PA300 siren unit from a USA Crown Victoria cruiser.

Now, with only small details to go such as wheel center caps and a final tune up, Jeff can finally enjoy the fruits of his labor!

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Jeff says, "Working on this project has taught me a lot. Not only in respect of the hands-on metal work, but also in patience, expectation, and how important it is to have the support of a great family. My wife deserves a medal for what she has tolerated over the past 4 years. She is truly my rock and although it nearly destroyed us, we've come through and I am eternally grateful to her and my two wonderful kids for their love and support."

"At a guess," Jeff says, "there are probably only 8 or 10 Torinos of this model in New Zealand. To my knowledge there are only 4 or 5 S&H replicas, making them pretty rare out here. To own one is quite special."

Thanks for sharing, Jeff! You've done a great job restoring and Starsky-fying it, now have fun driving it!

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Created April 26, 2009. All Rights Reserved. Photos are the Property of the Car's Owner.

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