When the Ford Torino comes up in a discussion of muscle cars, most enthusiasts immediately conjure up thoughts of the '68-'71 models, such as the legendary Cobra Jet. The early, Fairlane body style, Torinos were indeed muscle cars, but many Torino aficionados will quickly point out the lesser known'72 and up Torinos as being the real brutes.

In '72 Ford completely redesigned the Torino, as a full-frame intermediate category vehicle. Offered as a two-door hardtop, four-door sedan, or station wagon, the cars did not have much of a classic muscle-car appeal. However the Gran Torino SportsRoof option, with its sleek Talledega like C-pillar, and nearly horizontal rear window, had all the right curves to be a classic.

Jon Mikelonis, a FORDMUSCLE associate, always envisioned the '72-'73 Torino fastback as one day becoming a highly sought after muscle car. While guys were buying up Mustangs and learning to warm-up little 289's and 302's, Jon was busy tweaking the Cleveland's in a trio of '72-'73 Torinos and Rancheros owned by him and his brother.

Eventually the '73 (and yes it is a '73) seen here became Jon's full-time vision. What left the factory as a 'Medium Bright Yellow' sportsroof, with an ill-conceived vinyl top, is, 28 years later, the immaculately painted and buffed out olive green seen here.

Over the last decade Jon's Torino has taken on many appearances, including a fully gutted and stripped, lemon yellow Nascar replica, down to the deep-dish black stamped steel wheels and yellow lettered Goodyears. If you know your Torinos then surely you are just chomping at the bit to point out the car is a '72 not a '73. Rest assured, it is indeed a '73, but Jon always felt the '72 front end was more aggressive looking than the '73, so he gave it a face lift. All the body panels and hood, forward the windshield, are off a '72.

A couple years ago Jon realized that time had caught up with him, and his '73 Gran Torino was indeed becoming the desirable muscle car he knew it would. Prices were going up, collectors were hoarding rare parts, and his Torino was getting a lot of double-takes while crusing around town. So in 1999 he embarked on a two year project to bring the car back to its original aura. Note that we're not calling it a restoration -because that seems to imply that a car is brought back to its factory condition. That was not Jon's intention. He wanted to bring the car to a state of "correctness", not only in terms of a Torino, but also in terms of the '70s muscle car era. The goal was to show off the cars inherently beautiful lines and aggressive stance, but also reveal the potential of a car that came from the factory with all the basics to be a serious legend.

To achieve this goal, countless trips were made to the local wrecking yards to pick up spare body panels, trim and moulding. One of the nice things about the 72-73 Torino is that Ford made nearly 750,000 of the hardtops, sedans, wagons and sportsroofs. Most of the trim pieces and body panels transfer right over, and can be easily found off wrecks or cheap donor cars. The car was gutted, every panel was repaired or replaced, and the entire car was prepped for paint. Jon performed all the body work and applied the Olive single-stage himself.

The original 351C-4V engine was rebuilt and modified to put out around 450 horsepower. The original '73 "open chamber" 4V heads were set aside, and the engine was setup with '71 closed-chamber 4V heads to get the compression up and a more efficient burn. The heads were cleaned up and setup for 1.8:1 Crower rockers (actually they are big-block Chevy rockers) and stronger 3/8" pushrods. A custom solid Ultradyne cam was ground up with 250 duration (at 0.050") and 0.640" lift.

Initially the engine was setup as a 8000rpm breather, with a Street Dominator intake and 1050 cfm Dominator carb. (Yes, there were some ambitions here about setting the car up for the Silver State Classic - 90 miles of timed racing on a open desert highway.) However to back it off for street driving the engine is now fitted with a Edelbrock Torker intake and 750cfm carburetor.

The 1973 Front clip had to be removed along with 4 inches of the front stub. The doors were removed as well since they were heavy with filler.

A parts had to be car located. Jon found this "puzzle car" in Mojave, CA and brought it home. It had all the right parts to complete the conversion to a 1972.

Jon didn't want any yellow paint showing since he was making a color change. The car is fitted with new doors and the 72 fenders.

The rest of the 72 front end was put in place and every last bit of paint stripped off the car.

The firewall and inner fenders required painting too. This was also a good time to clean up the motor compartment.


Tech Archives Project Cars Readers Cars Feature Cars