Super Rare Q-Code! 1974 Gran Torino Elite

By the mid-’70s, rising gas prices and increased emissions controls had just about made everyone forget about the classic muscle car era. Horsepower wars gave way to “sporty” models that emphasized styling with a side-order of performance that was compared to other new cars more than to the pavement pounders of the late ’60s. Against that backdrop, though, some models were better than others, and one such gem was the still-available Q-Code 351 cid (5.8L) four-barrel factory-installed in this 1974 Ford Gran Torino Elite. Offered for sale here on craigslist, this interesting example of Ford’s last gasp of ’70s performance can be yours for $7,000.

While not visually exciting, this Q-code 351C or “Cleveland” carried over from 1973. Hemmings called the Q-Code ’73 Mustang the “Last of the Hot Rods.” You could order your ’74 Gran Torino with a (170HP) 400 cid (6.6L) or even a (220 HP) 460 cid (7.5L) V8, but the four-barrel Cleveland made more power, 255 HP, and was considered the only high-performance engine offered that year. Of course, the 351C can be built to make much more power, as evidenced by this 500 HP build by Keep those original parts, though!

Turbine wheels with oversized tires give a little hint that this is not your Grandmother’s Elite. This triple-black specimen is not perfect, but it will drive onto your trailer, and it looks fairly straight.

The “Gran Torino Elite” began in 1974 as a trim level to bridge the gap between the Gran Torino and the Thunderbird. It became its own model for 1975 and 1976 called simply the Ford Elite. Rumors of four-speed Q-Code Torinos have circulated, but most sources believe ’73 models saw the last such combination. Years ago if you mentioned a “351,” those in the know always asked “Windsor or Cleveland?” The high-flowing heads on the “C” made it the hot ticket in stock form. I helped a friend upgrade his dyno software years ago, and he mentioned that he’d tested a completely stock 351C before rebuilding it for a customer. It made slightly more than the advertised horsepower with all the miles and no tuning or upgrades. What stories can you share about the legendary 351 Cleveland?

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  1. Big_Fun Member

    The big bumpers and the 70’s style may not be everyone’s idea of performance.This is a bright light in the sea of 2V engines offered by any manufacturer, really. The color, 4V 351C, factory stereo and tach and gauges make it the example to buy, if one was looking for an Elite. Or even just some cheap(er) wheels to drive and have some fun!

    Like 10
  2. Bob_in_TN Member

    I’m with Big_Fun, this isn’t a bad example of a mid-70’s Ford two door personal luxury coupe.

    The Elites always struck me as a half-hearted attempt by Ford to capitalize on the then-hot market segment. Some styling changes but otherwise they weren’t that much different from their Torino roots. Ironically, the 1977 Thunderbird could be described the same, but with more dramatic, sporty styling and being a Thunderbird that was affordable, the sales took off.

    Like 8
  3. john gousse

    I would love to see a MARTI report on this. Iwould bet they could get it to be a 1 of 1. This has to be super rare. Too bad he didn’t clean up the inside.

  4. Bob

    I had a 1970 Torino GT Convertible with a 351C 4V. It had a bench seat, 4 speed, and shaker hood. Rebuilt by Pioneer motors in Warrington, PA before I got it. Fireball cam and an 850 double pumper double feed; it posted a best of 12.2 at 121. This was in 1980.

    Like 2
  5. nlpnt

    Context being everything, triple black must’ve been quite dramatic on a car like this in ’74. Nowadays black-on-black is the least desirable possible color combination, both overdone to the point of cliche and hard to keep looking clean.

    Like 3
  6. Willie1

    Had a ’73 Gran Torino Sport back in the day. 351-4V automatic, black on black on black. Stock engine would bark the tires going into second after I put a shift kit in it. Pass everything but a gas station. Sadly, had to replace it with a ’70 Maverick 6 banger when family started.

    Like 1
  7. Mitchell Member

    This is cooler than the Starsky and Hutch Gran Torino change my mind

    Like 6
    • JoeNYWF64

      Ask Paul Michael Glazer – he hated the striped tomato.
      That hood could even be longer than a ’69 Grand Prix’s!
      I wonder if David Soul hated his beat up old 4 door big ford on the show, whose horn blew, i think, everytime he opened the door. lmao

      Like 4
  8. Complinitor

    I had a 73 with the c code engine in the 4 speed. It was black with a red swoop similar to the starsky and hutch car. Could lay rubber and three of the four gears all day long with a ticker on number four.

  9. fran

    My brother had one but in white, it had a 460 in it, wow was that fun!

    Like 1
    • Paul N

      my older brother also had one in white, maroon interior. I always thought they were sharp looking cars

  10. TJM

    I was working for one if the big 3 car dealerships in 1974. Most customers were unhappy with the fuel economy, performance, And reliability let alone the looks of the big bumpers of the 1974 vehicles. In 1975 they went to unleaded fuel, electronic ignition, with much improved drivability performance, and I saw a lot happier customers who bought new cars that year.

    Like 1
  11. martinsane

    Cool rig, but i do like a boat and especially one that could drive through a building unscathed.

    Like 1
  12. Mike Garrett

    The way I learned about “Q” codes was when i bought a 74 Gran Torino Sport in 1976. When i looked at the car I noticed that it had dual exhausts and thought to myself that’s cool, but didn’t give it any more thought than that until i went to buy insurance. My agent saw the “Q” in the vin number and said uh-oh!

  13. DavidH

    Dad’s Gran Torino station wagon with trailer pulling package; 4:11 rear end had a 351C. I wish I owned it today. Dark red with woody side trim over all black interior. I learned to drive in that car and I got to use passing gear a couple times. Dad’s philosophy was “ he who hesitates is lost”. Thanks for the driving lesson dad !

    Like 2
  14. GP Member

    I had a 1976 Elite, Silver with blue side trim, blue half top and blue interior. I loved the ride of that car, the look of it and the mileage was good. I sold it to someone who wrecked it. I wish I still had it. I like the one above, it is worth the asking price to me.

    Like 1
  15. John Oliveri

    What a difference a set of wheels make, those wheels on this car kills it, this wasn’t a muscle car, it was a Luxury cruiser, friend of mine had a 74, triple black w a sunroof, loaded w options, a 460, black lacquer w a lot if clear, hand pinstripes, those thick Ford moldings, and Spoke wheels w Vogues, car was 4 yrs old when he had it, it was hot, a club cruiser, not a hot rod at all

    Like 3
  16. Bmac777 Member

    I knew of 2 of these that used to make a whistling sound when accelerating, both were 76’s. I can’t remember what engines they were but has anyone here had that issue? I always wondered if it was a vacuum leak or some kind of emission control problem.

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