Grandma’s Ride: 1971 Ford Gran Torino

One of the most frustrating dilemmas for a car enthusiast is trying to find a low mileage collectible.  Every time you find a low mileage car, it is in the least desirable body style (read: four door), it always has the least desirable engine and transmission combination, and, every single time, the color is one that would make a goat vomit on sight.  In other words, a grandma’s car.  Grandmas don’t order Hemi Cudas or Buick Regal Grand Nationals to drive to church on Sunday.  However, every once in a while, you find a grandma’s car with a little style and some potential.  Take a look at this 1971 Ford Gran Torino I found being sold on craigslist near Birmingham, Alabama for an asking price of just $2500.

Why do I think this is a grandma’s car?  Well, there are a few clues.  First off, it is being advertised as a 42,000 mile car.  Grandmas don’t roam too far, so this is somewhat believable, even for a 1971 car.  Second, the buyer states that it has some rust.  Usually, grandma cars are garaged.  If this car sat outside since 1971, it would have rusted to the ground by now.  Fords of this era and rust go together like bacon and eggs.  Third, as seen in the pictures, the bends and scrapes and bumps seem to be in the corners.  Grandmas, especially when they get to the point that they are about to lose their license, sometimes practice “back till you bump” parking strategies.  Nothing major, since they don’t drive at high speeds, but the bumps are part of the deal.

Under the hood, we see the next clue.  The engine is a standard 302.  Sadly, grandma ain’t got no need for no big block 429 Cobra Jet motor.  The good news is that the new owner looks to have the basis for a great small block build.  There are speed parts galore for these engines, so you have something to build on.

A deeper look under the hood reveals that everything is nice and tidy.  Nothing has been monkeyed with so far, and it appears that it has a new carburetor and maybe some recent air conditioning work.  Grandma don’t like to sweat on the way to church, so let’s hope everything has been kept up in that department.  It also looks like the car was originally a gold color, but the rest of it has been primed for some reason.

Inside, the vinyl bench seat looks to be in pretty good condition.  The only problem is some splitting rather high up on the seat back.  The vinyl of cars of this era is usually impervious to a nuclear blast, so some minor repairs could make this seat last for years.  This vinyl is, unfortunately, one of the slickest surfaces man has ever created.  Be sure to be belted in before you make a hard turn, and, whatever you do, never Armor All it.  It is not fun to slide off the seat at 50 mph and end up on the sidewalk.

The real draw is the mileage, shown somewhat clearly in the picture above.  Its nice to start with a car that hasn’t been completely worn out.  Even if you are going to do an engine and transmission change, the little stuff like switches, hinges, and trim can nickel and dime a project to death.  This car obviously needs paint, a headliner, some upholstery work, and something other than the steel wheels and plain hubcaps it rides on.  However, there is a lot of miles left in this good looking old Ford.  While it may make grandma mad, my plan for it would be to repaint it black, slap on some Torq thrust wheels and low profile tires, find some bucket seats for the front, and drive it while I build up a bored and stroked big block Ford mill.  Back that up with a Tremec six speed and a Ford 9 inch rear end, and you’d have yourself one fine 3,600 pound cruise missile.

Oh, yeah.  Don’t tell grandma what we plan to do with her ride!


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  1. Geebee

    Don’t say grandma’s never buy big engines. A blue-grey haired school teacher in my hometown bought a brand new 429 Torino Cobra, in 1971. Flat black over a kind of spruce green. Heard she traded it for a new Cutlass around 1978. The Torino was always kept immaculate; somebody got a sweetheart of a car. Hope it’s still around somewhere!

  2. Stanley

    Not a gran torino

  3. MorganW Morgan Winter Member

    “Gran” Torino name first appeared in ’72…

    • Toast54

      Seems that in ’69, Ford was calling them Falcons, then changed to Torino the ’70 model year. As a junior in high school, I worked a part-time job driving an elderly man to his lumber customers in SW Oklahoma. His car was a gorgeous yellow Torino GT just like this one. We would have to stop at every little one stop light town, either for a customer or so he could use the “facilities”. He accused me of ruining his battery listening to rock stations on the AM radio while he visited his buyers…so it goes

  4. redwagon

    car was primed because grandson got a hold of it.

  5. Jeff Staff

    Sorry for the “Gran” mistake. When I think Torino, Gran just kind of pops in there. I’ll try to be more careful in the future.

    • Walter Joy

      More like a “Granny” Torino

    • Trey

      How about actually researching the model in question before you publish?

  6. Don H

    Granny was not a granny when this was new, 😗

  7. Dean

    Get off my lawn, sonny!!!

  8. Chris Kennedy

    Um… Might have been grandma’s car..once..untill the lead footed grandson got a hold of it perhaps? This ole Torino looks like it has been ridden hard and hung up wet?

  9. Rabbit

    GONE! Figured it’d go quick. Incidentally, my Grams next to last car was a 69 Dart. 340. Traded it in in 85 on a V6 Camaro. I was heartbroken.

  10. rdc

    Everytime I see a 70-71 Torino I think of my dad’s 70 Torino fast back 6-cylinder so plain he had to add power steering to suit mom. It was sold to a collector who initially said it was going to be a parts car. However, he later said he was going to keep it as is being a low mileage grampa car. :)

    • rdc

      My dad’s 70 Torino. Rather poor damaged photo

      Like 1
  11. Jeffro

    My grams had a baby blue 1970 Torino GT. 302 4V auto. She drove to grocery store and dr appointments. But she got there in a hurry !

  12. Darrun

    The “little old lady” (she was probably 40 back then) that lived across the street from me as a teenager, had a Torino GT with 351 Cleveland and the laser stripe. If my recollection is right it was a 1971.

  13. C Carl

    I like big Fords and this is as small as I’d want to go. Grandma had good taste.

  14. Gyzmo

    Grandmas don’t buy cars with big engines? Don’t tell my grandmother that! She bought herself a ’67 Delmont 88 Convertible with the 425/380HP V8 right off the showroom floor on her 55th birthday….It’s still a cream-puff with under 40k miles on it….(BTW…I now own this car)

  15. W9BAG

    This has potential, but I’m surprised that no one noticed that the A/C condenser mount appears to be terribly skewed, as if it had been an accident. I would have an expert body shop take a look. It’s also missing the gear selector indicator; a possible indicator of a frontal collision.

    • Stang1968

      Yeah I saw that the radiator core support looked very wavy and the hood latch looks askew compared to the firewall.

  16. Howard A Member

    The ’71 Torino was a neat car, and I agree, it may have been grandma’s at one time, but someone, and it wasn’t granny, trashed this car. I wonder if the kid ( who trashed it) put a new carb on, thinking it would run better, and the vacuum line to the brake booster is off. Missing shift indicator, broken heater control knob, yellowed gauges, I hope someone got it cheap, it could be a neat car again.

  17. Big Mike

    Make a comment like that about Grandma’s car. The first cars I remember as a kid that my Grandmother’s owned did not fit in that old saying. My Grandmother’s were the type to give that old saying a run for the money, don’t get me wrong they were both God fearing ladies, but when it came to cars!!!!

    Mom’s Mom bought a 1968 Hemi Cuda brand new off the show room floor, and she drove it like she stole it every day. This car was replaced by a 1973 Dodge Charger w/340 Magnum in it. After that she was into more standard car, they had a couple of New Yorkers and finally a Caddy up till her passing in 1998, oh yeah she also wore leather driving gloves all the time!!!!
    My Dad’s Mom went from a 1966 Ford Galaxy to a 1968 Firebird, and yes she drove it to church on Sunday’s and the race track on Monday’s. 2 years later this car was replaced with a 1972 Chevelle SS, in 1978 she started driving Chevy Impala’s.
    I current own the Chevelle, she gave it to Mom and Dad for some reason and when I turned 18 Dad gave it to me and I drove it for years and restored in in 1995. I have attached it picture.

  18. Jubjub

    A Spring Special. Neighbor had a really sharp brown one back in the day. Was a package deal with a bunch of decor options. Only came in silver, metallic brown or mint metallic green, halo top and the awesome poverty cap, deep dish trim ring combo. Yeah, they’re only 14″s, but one of the best wheel embellishments ever! Somebody really needs to repop the hard to find and horribly expensive, Boss 351 only 15″ trim rings for said dog dish caps.

  19. Chuck Pierce

    I see the place, on the front bumper, where there used to be a military base sticker affixed. Maybe a serviceman/woman bought it new or the replacement bumper came from a car that went thru the front gates, somewhere. I had a ’70 Fairlane 500 with the 302. Good reliable vehicle.

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