This restored 1969 Ford Torino is staying in the family

Courtesy Robert Marical

I was 8 years old the day we went to pick up our brand-new car in October 1969. It was the first and only new car my dad ever owned. He was going to trade in his old Mercury, but it died two blocks from the Ford dealer in Montebello, California, so he and my uncle and my sister and I walked those two blocks to the dealership. My dad handed over the keys to the salesman and told him where he could pick up the Mercury.

The Brittany Blue Torino fastback sat on the lot. It was so sharp, and even sitting still, it looked fast. It had a 351 emblem on the fenders and GT badges on the wheel covers, the grille, and the rear (fake) gas cap, with chrome hash marks by the rear side windows to emphasize the sleek body. Inside, the light blue interior had bucket seats with headrests and a center console for the three-speed automatic shifter.

That Torino became a big part of my childhood and teenage years. My sister and I learned to drive in it, and it was the car I used for cruising with friends and dating. Later, when my dad retired, the Torino was rarely used. Dad never really took care of the car and only did what was needed to keep it running. By then, I had moved from Southern to Northern California and was busy raising my own family. Each time I went home to visit, the Torino looked worse than the last time. Unfortunately, his Social Security income wasn’t enough to keep it up.

1969 Ford Torino action shot
Courtesy Robert Marical

When Dad passed away in 2015, I inherited the Torino and shipped it up to my house. It had only 81,000 miles on the clock, but the whole car looked rough. The paint had faded and the hood was rusty. There were dents and scratches everywhere. The interior was a mess, too. The center console had become brittle and cracked, the carpets were badly stained, and the front driver seat was ripped open. You could see the springs inside it, and my dad had stuffed some old towels and newspapers in there for support. The engine still ran, but it didn’t run well, and it seemed very tired.

I loved that Torino, so I vowed to restore it—and to keep it as original as possible. Using some faded memories and a Polaroid photograph that was taken shortly after we got the car, I spent the next three years working on the Torino. I resprayed the factory blue paint and replaced the interior with new light blue Corinthian leather, plus a new center console, carpet, and headliner. I had the transmission and rear end rebuilt and kept the 351 totally stock; turns out it just needed the carburetor rebuilt and a good tuneup.

Today, I’m pleased to say the car looks like it did in the Polaroid, and it drives exactly like I remember. My one wish is that I could have done this while my dad was still alive. But I know he’s got a big smile on his face as he sees the Torino restored to its original glory. Someday, I’ll pass it down to my son, and he, too, can share the story of our family Torino with his kids.

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