How many movies do you know that the title of the film is the same as the feature car? Unless the film title is completely about the car, it’s pretty rare. But Gran Torino is entitled well for the premise of the movie. Because, to main character Walt Kowalski, played by Clint Eastwood, this 1972 Gran Torino Sport is his most prized possession.
After returning from the war in Korea, Walt worked for Ford Motor Company in Detroit, where he built his Gran Torino alongside fellow assembly line workers. As you can see the car is in perfect shape, just as the day it was built. Unfortunately, Walt, now widowed and much older, is not in perfect shape. He is frustrated that his neighborhood is now populated almost entirely with people who remind him of the war. His health is failing and his mind is more troubled than ever. Gangs are causing trouble for the rest of the neighborhood and safety is a major concern.
The Gran Torino is nearly stolen by one of the neighborhood kids, Hmong who is trying to become a member of a gang. Hmong’s family insists that he repay for the damage he’s caused Walt. After doing chores and helping Walt out, Hmong and Walt become friends. For those who have not seen the movie, I want to stop there. Let’s talk about the car a little bit.
As I’ve pointed out before, the car is 1972 Gran Torino Sport. There were 496,645 Torinos produced by Ford in 1972. However only 92,033 were Gran Torino Sport models, like the one featured in the movie. What makes the Gran Torino Sport special? At first glance, one would notice integrated hood scoop. All of the Sport models had the scoop, however they’re only functional with the rare Ram Air Induction package. Some of the Sport models also had the “Magnum 500″ wheels as this one does. The laser stripe on the side is an optional piece for the Sport models, and ’72 was the first year the stripe ran down the full length of the car.
The base power plant for the Grand Torino Sport is the 302 C.U. Windsor V8 2 barrel. However 351W, 351 Cleveland, 400 and 429 were all available as well. These motors will built for low compression (8.5:1) for better fuel economy, thus reducing horsepower as well. 1972 was the beginning of the end for muscle car era. That’s part of what makes it a perfect fit for the movie. Both the car and the main character were part of a time that was challenging and difficult for some people to accept. Frozen in time, the car and character struggle to move on in a new changing world.
When watching featured cars, I often wonder “Where did they get these cars?” Well I did a little research about the ’72 Gran Torino in the movie and traced down an article from the Cassville Democrat. The Missouri paper did a special article about the car and it’s previous owner, Jim Craig. Jim said the car was a “barn-find,” but was in decent shape mechanically. He had the car for about five years before doing a full restoration. The car was kept original as it is in the film. The car was not bought directly from Jim by Warner Brothers, but through a classic car dealer on eBay. Until the film was released, Jim didn’t know his car was the car featured in the film.
I really enjoyed the film. However I do have one issue with it. In the movie Walt talks about working on a production line and how he installed the steering column in his car. Being a car buff, I had to look up the production plants that made Gran Torinos. Not to my surprise, ’72 Gran Torinos were not made in Detroit. This makes for a little historical inaccuracy in the film. But I don’t think it takes away from the over-all quality of the movie. Hollywood does something like this in every production. There are very few perfectly historic films. I think they like to leave things like this for us to talk about.
I think it’s a great film. I really enjoyed watching this movie in Blue Ray. I would say it was my first Blue Ray experience. On a 47 inch screen in high def, Clint Eastwood looked about 7 foot tall and appeared to be in the same room. Yea I know, I’m exaggerating. I would recommend buying this film to be part of a car movie collection! As a matter of fact, it’s in our gift shop (Gran Torino Section)! Check that out, while we roll out the next On Screen Cars article!
Update: The guys over at GranTorinoSport.org forum have confirmed the engine in the movie car is a 351C 2V with CobraJet Heads. Thanks for all your help guys!