429 SCJ, 4-speed, original paint, $12,800.
1972 Ford Gran Torino Sport
When Chester Nolph was ready to buy a new car in 1971, he spotted Ford’s advertising literature for the 1972 models and decided that he had to have a Torino. While the design certainly struck his attention, Ford’s new four-link suspension and coil springs in the rear were also hot selling points. The Torino, along with the Thunderbird, received major restyling for 1972, and the “Coke-bottle” styling that was in vogue at the time was even more pronounced. The overall shape was much more aggressive than in 1971, and the rear roofline was extremely low. Up front, the grille, in some people’s opinion, looked similar to that of the Cobra, but it prompted the great Tom McCahill to comment that it looked like a “land-locked tuna sucking air.”
Base model Torinos featured high-back bench seats, “dog-dish” wheel covers, a three-speed manual transmission, and a 250 cid six-cylinder engine. Gran Torinos were the top trim level for 1972 and had the added features of front disc brakes, cloth and vinyl trim, carpeting, side moldings, twin horns, DeLuxe steering wheel and more. The Sport included a 302 cid/140 hp V-8, hood scoop, sport mirrors and a unique grille. Inside, the interior was fitted with all vinyl-pleated seats and trim.
Nolph went down to Gould Ford in Brookville, Penn., where he had purchased several new cars in the past, right off the lot. This one was different, though, as he ordered it from the factory, just the way he wanted it. Specific items that Nolph checked off on the options list included the Class 111 trailer-towing package, because he fully intended to spend time pulling his camper. To take full advantage of the proper towing set-up, he also wanted to order the powerful “K”-code 429cid V-8, rated at 205 horsepower. However, the salesman encouraged him to contact his insurance agent first, as insurance companies were cracking down on muscle car owners.
After finding that he’d have to cough up an additional $1,500 per year for insurance if he got the 429, he looked into the other high-performance options offered that year, including two different 351 “Cleveland” V-8s – one rated at 163 horsepower (1972 was the first year for the horsepower rating change, now rated SAE Net, deducting for the drain caused by accessories and the transmission), and the other rated at 248hp – and a 400cid/172hp “Cleveland” equipped with a 2-bbl. Motorcraft carburetor, the one he ultimately chose.
Nolph ordered the Gran Torino on January 8, 1972, and took delivery March 6th. Three days later, he got to test out the Traction-Lok differential with a fresh eight-inch snowfall blanketing his area. After some 35 years of ownership, Nolph says the Gran Torino has been one dandy of a car and is fun to drive. His wife was the main driver of the car for the first eight years, putting on some 60,000 miles before deciding to be a stay-at-home mom. He admits, now, though, that he never did buy a camper, instead opting to add a one-car garage to his new house.
Today, with more than 91,000 miles on its odometer and no overhauls, it’s mostly an unrestored car with all numbers matching. A new paint job, along with engine and chassis detailing, has allowed him to show the car competitively. I caught up with him in Denver after he and a friend drove their muscle cars 3,100 miles to the 2005 AACA Grand National Meet. They both went home with a Grand National first place awards, and each drive to all the AACA meets they attend. Nolph says, “If I can’t drive it there, I won’t be there. The ‘thumbs up’ going down the highway and the conversations with strangers make it all worthwhile.”
West Peterson is editor of Antique Automobile, the official publication of the Antique Automobile Club of America.