By Dave Turner
Photographs of the models discussed can be found after the text and table.
“More Car Than You Expected” – Torino 1972-76
A totally, all-new Torino was announced for the 1972 year, conceived as mid-size car, this new Ford was closer to the big Galaxie and LTD than the preceding Torino had been. The preceding Torinos were covered in Model Auto Review 247 and 248 in 2010.
Now based on a separate frame rather than the uni-body construction of the previous Torino the new cars came on two wheelbase lengths. Two door bodies came on a 114” while the rest came on 118”. The two lines, Torino and Gran Torino were easily identified, the latter had a rather jet-like oval air intake grille while the regular versions had a full width layout and came only as two door coupe and four door sedan. Gran Torinos added a Squire wagon and Sport two door coupe and Sportsroof to the two door coupe and four door sedan. Engine choice was wide to start with – 250ci six and V8s in 302, 352, 400 and 429 sizes.
For 1973, federal demanded hefty front bumpers were unavoidable and were accompanied by a wider flatter grille, basic Torinos continued with a full-width item. A new version was the better equipped Gran Torino Brougham in two door coupe and four door sedan form. The equally massive new rear bumper came for 1974 while a new engine option was the 460ci V8 – to cope with the extra weight no doubt. 1974 cars featured a grille that was now of seven vertical elements. Another new version came for 1974 as the Gran Torino Elite, in answer to Chevrolet’s Monte Carlo that provided a slightly less expensive competitor to Fords Thunderbird. With its distinctive grille of 14 vertical rectangles and twin opera windows in the ‘C’ pillar the new Elite really resembled a slightly smaller T’bird.
Significant for Torino, the TV series Starsky and Hutch featured a ’74 Gran Torino with eye-catching red and white paint finish, so much so that in 1976 Ford produced 1000 Gran Torinos finished in that colour design. Don Elliott did an interesting review of the shows and the cars in Model Auto Review 178, December 2003.
For 1975, all the range now employed the same Gran Torino front end while in 1976, the Sport versions were dropped and the Elite no longer carried the Gran Torino badge, instead becoming a stand-alone model in its own right. However the entire range became known as the LTD11 for 1977 sharing many items with the new downsized Thunderbird.
As far as models are concerned it is inevitable that the vast majority depict the ‘striped tomato’ in various sizes and forms, such is the power of TV. Almost equally inevitable is that most (all) models of the 1972 versions depict the Sportsroof with its ‘fastback’ styling.
It goes without saying that a Sportsroof appeared in the Hot Wheels range of toys, from 2011, the initial version in metallic green probably being as close to acceptable as Hot Wheels are likely to go – spoilt only by the big rear wheels and plated plastic interior. At least nineteen subsequent versions have already appeared, most in the Hot Wheels characteristic ‘much-modified’ form. Another toy of quite different type were the six early 1970s Fords from Funmate. They were all the same size so actual scale differed between them, the Gran Torino works out to 1:39. One-piece plastic body, combined plastic base front and rear panels, these were intended to be launched across the room from some spring loaded trigger.
At the other end of the quality spectrum is the recent 1972 Sportsroof from Neo. Stunning detail and perfectly applied name badges etc. The Premium X looks to have come from much of the same origins but compared to the Neo, there is even more detail, and if anything the finish is sharper. At least they depict two different patterns of side decoration that do result in two distinctly different characters. Yet another nicely finished 1:43 1972 Sportsroof comes from Greenlight begging the question do we really need numerous very similar models of the same subject? Greenlight also offered a very nice Starsky model in 1:43, featuring the ‘police’ light over the drivers door complete with its power lead running through the open window. On the strength of that we probably should regard it as a 1974 TV related model rather than depicting Fords run of replicas in 1976. Interior detail even runs to those 1970s/80s US seat belts that hung down from above the door threatening to strangle anyone getting in carelessly. Another superb 1:43 scale 19’76 Coupe came from Minichamps subsequently issued in additional colours and like the Greenlight model they feature some alloy looking sports wheels.
We don’t often get Ford promos from Johan, but they did a 1972 Gran Torino and yes it was a Sporstroof. Like AMT they offered the same subject as a kit, but unlike AMT it was simply the promo in pieces rather than a multipart highly detailed kit of parts.
Far more ‘model-like’ than Hot Wheels the Johnny Lightning series usually come up with excellent small scale miniatures and the their 1974 Gran Torino Coupe is no exception. Naturally it came as the infamous ‘striped tomato’ but as Ford themselves produced at least 1000 ‘replicas’ it can be happily regarded as a genuine Ford product. Various subsequent issues provided quite attractive stock versions however spoiled only by the slightly overlarge wheels and wheel openings.
From the 1970s, the 1:64 toy Coupe from Guiloy is very like the Corgi Junior in character, the latter is the one that got in with the Starsky and Hutch ‘striped tomato’ in the first place. Corgis small version featured a diecast body and plated plastic base that included front and rear bright parts. Later issues left the white plastic un-plated to the detriment of the overall appearance. Corgis large version was 1:36 with diecast body, plastic base and interior. Many original examples seem to have lost their white stripe, or were issued without one at a later date. Several re-issues of the large Corgi all retained the same red/white finish but under different themes. Some subsequent Chinese produced issues featured better paint detail – silver window surrounds and name badges for example.
For shear bulk, the 1:18 scale Ertl 1976 Coupe takes some beating, in fact its size and weight dictate re-enforcement of the display shelf. Sitting on its Magnum 500 wheels this model came in both Starsky or civilian guise, interior detail stretches to the “Gran Torino” scripts on the door panels, full dash fittings and tipping seats, while possibly exclusive to this example a dead fly in the front passenger foot well!
A pure toy was the 1:36 plastic creation from the Fleetwood Toy Corp. the fixed wheels are all part of the plastic base, while a rubber toothed central wheel projects downwards from the base to effect propulsion. The Scalextric slot Starsky Gran Torino comes with occupants and some extremely fine detail. too good to thrash around a slot track and smash up? The front wheels appear to be set a tad too far back in their openings, while the base is marked Hornby rather than Scalextric.
Daishin of Japan produced a 1:21 plastic radio controlled Gran Torino 2 Door the shape is OK but the side sculpture only approximates the real thing to a degree.
Finally as light relief from all these very similar subjects, Kess produced some very nice 4 door models, or to give its full title Gran Torino Brougham 4-Door Pillared Hardtop. Details include the appropriate sail panel decoration, vinyl top, buttoned upholstery and de luxe wheel trims. For some reason these came with a plain base devoid of any indications of maker etc. that could be very confusing in time to come when matching models to their boxes. Models like this have had a simple pencil inscription put on their blank base to negate this problem for owner, or even subsequent executor in the event of the final disposal!
|Johnny Lightning||China||1998||776||Coupe Starsky ‘Hollywood’||76mm||1:72||diecast|
|Johnny Lightning||China||2003||776||Coupe ‘Super ‘70s’||76mm||1:72||diecast|
|Corgi||China||CC00201||Coupe Starsky re-issue||150mm||1:36||diecast|
|Corgi Jr.||UK||1977-81||45||Coupe Starsky||74mm||1:73||diecast|
|Fleetwood||Hong Kong||427-400||Coupe Starsky||156mm||1:36||plastic|
|Lincoln Int.||Hong Kong||Coupe Starsky||1:25|
|Daishin||Japan||Coupe||253mm||1:21||plastic radio control|
|Scalextric||China||C2553||Coupe Starsky||173mm||1:31||slot car|
|Kess||China||2014||15013||Brougham 4 Door pillared hardtop||130mm||1:43||resin|
Mattel 1:68 diecast from Malaysia: T9672, 1972 Gran Torino Sportsroof, as close to a ‘model’ as Hot wheels got with this subject.
Funmate 1:39 plastic from Japan: 22, 1972 Gran Torino Sportsroof a very simple ‘projectile’ toy.
Neo 1:43 resin from China: 44740, 1972 Gran Torino Sportsroof, very similar, or identical, to the American Excellence model.
Johan 1:25 plastic promo from USA: 1972 Gran Torino Sportsroof , one of the few Ford promos from Johan.
Johan 1:25 plastic kit from USA: 502 simply the Sportsroof promo supplied in parts.
Premier X 1:43 resin from China: 225, 1972 Sportsroof, showing alternative side decoration to the Neo.
Johnny Lightning 1:72 diecast from China: 776 1974 Gran Torino Coupe in Starsky & Hutch colours.
Johnny Lightening 1:72 diecast from China: 776, 1976 Gran Torino Coupe dressed up as a Brougham.
Greenlight 1:43 resin from China: 86442, 1974 Gran Torino Coupe ‘Starsky & Hutch’ down to the beacon and its power lead.
Ertl 1:18 diecast from China: 36673 1976 Gran Torino Coupe. They look quite different in civilian ‘dress’
Ertl rear view of same.
Corgi 1:36 diecast from UK : 292, 1976 Coupe its white flash having fallen off!
Corgi 1:36 diecast from China: CC00201, re-issue of the Starsky & Hutch model with extra paint detail.
Corgi Junior 1:73 diecast from UK: 45, Again, the original Starsky toys often have lost their flash.
Corgi Junior 1:73 diecast from UK: A reissue of the small Corgi with unplated plastic base and grille.
Fleetword 1:36 plastic from Hong Kong: 427-400, Simple plastic toy no doubt taken from the large Corgi.
Daishin 1:21 plastic radio controlled from Japan: 1976 Gran Torino Coupe surprisingly not in the inevitable Starsky colours.
Minichamps 1:43 diecast from China: 85200, 1976 Gran Torino Coupe, also in black as 85201.
Scalextric 1:31 plastic slot car from China: C2553 1974 Gran Torino with Starsky occupants.
Kess 1:43 resin from China: 15013, 1976 Gran Torino Brougham 4 Door Pillared Hardtop.
We welcome your comments and questions. Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page, or email us at maronlineeditor at gmail.com.