By on January 9, 2013

Torinos (and Montegos) were among the Malaisiest of Malaise Era machines, so it seems fitting to follow up the ’75 Gran Torino Junkyard Find with today’s ’76. Yes, just as Nixon’s resignation came just before the Fall of Saigon, Ford kept following up one big, slow midsize car with even bigger and slower versions.
This may be a Ford Elite, the short-lived personal-luxury-coupe version of the Torino, but the Wikipedia entry indicates that the Elite came standard with cloth seats, not the vinyl seats seen here. The emblems are all gone, so this could still be an Elite with a seat swap.
Just to confuse everybody, Ford added the 351M (a destroked 400M) to its array of (nominally) 351-cubic-inch pushrod V8s. That means that Windsor/Cleveland/Modified mixups will be driving parts-counter guys crazy until the last Ford V8 gets melted down.
This car is a bit rustier than the ’75 we just saw, but it’s an (allegedly) more desirable coupe and you’d expect such cars to be worth more than scrap value. Not in Denver, it seeems!

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71 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1976 Ford Torino...”


  • avatar

    Ah, the corn starch (?) infused gauge clusters that crumble the moment you disconnect them from the speedometer cable. That brings back some not so pleasant memories!

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Today would be Nixon’s 100th birthday, since you brought him up. His resignation occurred almost 9 months before the fall of Saigon, which I wouldn’t describe as ‘just before’. History doesn’t link the two events.

    As for this Torino, I really liked the styling of Ford’s 76 lineup, especially this coupe. But you couldn’t put enough motor in it to make it go.

    • 0 avatar

      I am not suggesting a link between Nixon’s resignation and the Fall of Saigon, just a link between the historical one-two punches that made the Malaise Era feel so grim.

      Though, come to think of it, Nixon did accomplish his #1 goal for the Vietnam War: not “losing” the war while he was in office.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’ve read various theories about Nixon’s resignation being a coup. This link quotes a Stratfor article alleging the FBI was central in the plot to remove Nixon.

        http://abriefhistory dot org/?p=638

      • 0 avatar
        rpol35

        Nixon resigned because Barry Goldwater told him that he about to get impeached and he’d be forced out of office; resignation was the only half-assed “honorable” way to get out of the mess that he had created….but I digress.

        I was too thinking that the coupe would have more value than the sedan but it is still worth very little intrisically just like everyone else’s mid-sized from the mid ’70′s; these Fords in particular were pigs on wheels that sounded like a Hoover at full throttle.

        Someone at one of the Hemmings publications has been trying to push the “virtue” of the GM A-body Colannade (’73-’77) but I can tell you first hand, having been a Chevy dealer mechanic in ’73 & ’74, they were crap on wheels and I doubt they’ll ever have anything value-wise approaching the ’64-’72 models. As for Fords of this era? fuggetaboutit!

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        It was only (visually) grim if you were paying attention to the DET garbage. That visual afterbirth was ‘created’ by throwing clay in a pile on a month long mescaline bender. Seriously, who thinks that car was “styled” any more than a Moskvitch? I crapped something more artistic this morning.

        There were hundreds of beautiful, well-drawn cars from the DS-21 on. None were made in the corporate committee vomit-mill that was DET. Once we invent the time machine, we go back and kill Harley Earl. Maybe then American cars will be relevant past 1950.

        Lambos, Jensens, Jaguars, Benzes, Lotii, Triumphs, Alfas, FIATs, I could do this for hours. They all actually looked good. DET excrement could barely be recognized as cars. Sure there were a few. And by that I mean 3 or 4 in 40 years that didn’t suck from top to bottom.

        Why don’t we own the car market anymore? Every visual trainwreck since the mid-50s is why.

  • avatar
    gsf12man

    Not an Elite, just a common-or-garden Gran Torino.

    • 0 avatar
      west-coaster

      Yes, the Elites had distinctive single (per side) headlights, from what I recall. (Good grief…I’m kind of ashamed that I even know that.)

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Taillights were different on the Elite, too. This is a plain ordinary Torino.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        Correct on the single round sealed beams on the Elite.

        Elite rear lamps looked more like those found on a Cougar from tat era, with more cast metal over the lens.

        My dad had a 76 Gran Torino with yellow 4dr with brown roof and interior.

        351 w HD trailer package with hitch, wiring, cooling package, battery, and a trailering axle. Damn, the cat or axle or both put out so much heat, the rear seat would get so hot the occupants would sweat.

        The the front seat was so uncomfortable, my dad swapped it with about 20k miles for a 77 LTD II which was a great and trouble free car (got my first speeding ticket in that one, just curious to see how fast it would go, a few weeks before it was replaced with a new 79LTD, 77mph marked down to 69 in a 55 on I-696. My dad as a very responsible big shot at AAA, and this being his company car, nearly killed me for my carelessness.)

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        Who cares? This crapmobile is as attractive as a fat chick puking on your lap while you are trying to make her and her porcine posse go away.

        In a world of beautiful, sexy, future-looking Euro-cars (starting 20 years prior) there was visual auto-scatology such as this horrid Ford committee-turd.

        Wanna know why DET lost this whole generation? Here ya go.

  • avatar
    bufguy

    Long gone here in Buffalo…salt killed them 20 years ago…Ford had the worst rust problems of any of the big 3. A friend of mine had a 1970 Torino…previous generation with fenders that were perforated with rust within 3 years of a Buffal winter…GM’s were much better, especially the 70-72 A-bodies.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      It’s true, Ford had quite a bad reputation for corrosion problems in the 70′s. Of course Japanese cars of the 70s were just as bad if not worse, but Ford’s reputation for that lasted a really long time.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        And the thing is, Ford had an effective patented rustproofing system for years, but didn’t convert its last assembly plant to use it until 1982. Toyota actually paid royalties to Ford to use the system while Ford was putting out future rustbuckets. By the ’80s, a cheap galvanizing process made cars far more rustproof.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        Despite the electro coat process, Ford also licensed a VW process to try and reduce rust.

        My favorite gag from the time was Ford and GM blaming their rust perforation problems on having bought cheap Japanese steel; this despite Ford’s making its sheet steel in a wholly owned captive subsidiary.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    At least it has a unique steering wheel not found in ALL other Fords.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      I saw that steering wheel in the F-100 and then F-150 right up to 1987, all Torinos, LTD -with buttons for the radio, Galaxie and Fairlane 500 from that vintage.

  • avatar
    BigMeats

    The extended bumpers from this era were popular among suburban kids. If the car was parked just right in the driveway, we could launch off the bumper and dunk a basketball.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Good grief…that thing reminds me so much of my mother’s 1976 Montego! Right down to the blue vinyl interior (ours was blue metallic on the outside, though). Say what you will about this boats, ours ran without issue for 13 years until my parents moved back to Germany and took the old girl to the scrap heap (where it was ironically resold…I saw it on the road for another year or so after we got rid of it). While the front and back seats were long enough for, um, extracurricular activities by a certain teen-aged boy and his willing GF, it got a tad sticky during summer months.
    Good times…good times…

    • 0 avatar
      cfclark

      I remember the vinyl seats in my parents’ Torino, and I can’t imagine trying to participate in anything extracurricular on those…fortunately the car was gone by the time I was of an age to require more comfortable accommodations.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I had a ’68 Montego MX with a real, 4bbl 351 Cleveland with full leather buckets and a 4-speed. It’s hard to believe how such a good car (for that era) was turned into a pokey, bloated, gas guzzling pig in just half a decade.

  • avatar
    Gregg

    The 1972 Torino and Montego were about the best looking American mid-size sedans and coupes of that era. Ford immediately trashed this decent styling in 1973 by not anticipating the new bumper regulations in the 72 redesign. They added battering rams to the fronts (with already huge overhangs)) in 1973, and added big ass rear bumpers in 1974, with no attempt to integrate them at all. At least Chrysler and General Motors tried to style their 5 mph bumpers, but Ford went blithely ahead, adding a lot of extra length and bulk, even while cutting hp in their attempt to clean up their inefficient engines.

    These became truly bad cars. The bodies were recycled/modified into other models later in the decade (the Elite being an example). The one bright spot for this mess of iron was when they took the gargantuan 1976 T-Bird, with the biggest battering rams of all, and morphed it into the “smaller” T–bird with a body based on the Montego’s. It was over the top, late 70′s tinsel excess, but given that it was smaller than what came before, and cheaper, it sold like gangbusters.

  • avatar
    west-coaster

    When I was in high school in the late 1970s, there were two guys in my senior class who had somewhat matching Gran Torino coupes. (They weren’t gay or anything…”not that there’s anything wrong with that” as was said so famously on Seinfeld.)

    One was dark blue with a white vinyl top and white vinyl interior, and the other was dark brown with light brown vinyl parts. (I know.) But they both had Cragar s/s wheels, the ones in back being gigantic, with white-lettered Pos-i-Traction tires. Air shocks in the rear gave the cars that period cartoon-ish rake, as well as clearance for the big tires. To the casual observer, these cars looked a bit bad-ass, especially with “Starsky and Hutch” still airing on network television each week.

    The funniest aspect of the Twin Torinos was that their wheezy stock engines couldn’t even hope to break the rear tires (or I supposed “tire,” as neither car had limited-slip diffs) loose in an impromtu burnout contest held in the school parking lot one day. Only pouring generous amounts of water onto the ground combined with some manic brake-torquing could get a single rear tire spinning, and rather anemically at that.

    Those cars were the exact definition of All Show – No Go.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Ford created the 400M by making a taller deck block than the 351C and adding a longer stroke, everything else between the 2 engines is the same, and all parts interchange except for the wider intake manifold on the taller block.
    In 75 they decided to save money by installing the 351 windsor crank into the 400 block to create the 351M, and the shorter deck cleveland was discontinued. Buying parts for the cleveland and M engines is easy because they all used the same parts, except the wider intake as I noted earlier.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      Good lord. The Windsor 351 lived on in trucks up to about ’96, why did Ford mess around creating the 351M at all?

      • 0 avatar
        zbnutcase

        Because at the time the Windsor plant could not keep up with demand.

      • 0 avatar
        Onus

        Good question. They made the 351m by destroking the 400. This was a truck engine and since the windsor’s were not in the trucks at the time they decided that they needed something in the 351 size range again. So they changed the stroke from 4.0″ to 3.5″. Exact same as a 351w but a ton heavier.

        The windsor’s actually replaced these engines in ford trucks and the 460 on the higher end. 1983 was the first year of the 351 windsor and 460 back in trucks.

        The only reason these engines designed is that the emissions were built into the engine design. When it had to be changed ford didn’t feel like redesigning everything so they scrapped it all.

    • 0 avatar
      zbnutcase

      Not all parts interchange. The 351M/400 has larger main bearings, motor mounts and bellhousing flange are the same as the 429/460 (the 400 was designed to be interchangeable with the 460)And if one more person calls it the 400M, I am going to go off. LOOK at that emission sticker; DOES it say 400M?? NO, says 351M/400. As Fords only 400, needs no other moniker! And don’t be fooled by malaiseness; a built 400 is a holy terror!

      • 0 avatar
        Numbers_Matching

        400 = torque monster. Never got any respect though.
        351M always had detonation problems due to excessive deck clearnace/chamber volume/comp. ratio issues.

      • 0 avatar
        Maintainer

        “And if one more person calls it the 400M, I am going to go off.”

        I feel your pain.. I think MM does that just to tick people off.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        I grew up in a 1971 LTD with the 400 (its first year) and it had the same problem with knocking/detonation, from the day that it was new (we put 221K miles on it with only a timing chain replacement). The only reason it wasn’t as bad later in the 1970s is that they lowered the compression ratio (thus killing power and fuel economy).

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        ZB, you are correct about the larger bearings, same bellhousing pattern as the 385 series engine, etc. I was referring to normal replacement items that normally may be replaced during a vehicle’s lifetime that you would generally walk up to the parts counter to get. All of those parts are shared between the 2 engines, such as water pumps, fuel pumps, valve cover gaskets, etc. The timing chains are even the same length despite the difference in deck height. The 400 can be made to produce tremendous power with very little money invested. Over the past few years more and more of them have been showing up in boats around here on Lake Erie.

      • 0 avatar
        Onus

        Throw those aussie heads on one. Oh damn…

        Great engines in modified form. Trying to find one but here in the northeast i fear they are all long gone.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        Onus, surprisingly the 400 is not that heavy of an engine, it’s actually not much heavier than a small block chevy. The heads were one of the best flowing designs offered on a factory engine. Even the 2V heads outflow many modern aftermarket heads designed for other engines.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        “A built 400 is a holy terror.” I have followed quite a few buildup articles on these engines over the past 15 or so years. To say that they make alot of power for a little cash is an understatement, but you won’t read about those things on an import 4 cylinder loving site like this one.

      • 0 avatar
        Onus

        Interesting. Didn’t think they were so light.

        Neat so really a stock engine just needs a cam change to improve it? Seeing the heads flow so well.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        @Onus, an intake, carb, exhaust and cam swap do wonders for any stock 70′s V8. The gains in power are even better though with a switch to flat top pistons, as most 70′s engines had dished pistons to lower the compression.

  • avatar
    econobiker

    Blue interior in a white car! And a white interior and brownish interior listed above.

    Pre-historic interior colors before grey, tan, and black only interiors killed off the dinosaur of having a rainbow myriad of interior colors…

    I can only imagine the production line space taken up by all of those interior color choices back then…

  • avatar
    DM335

    This is either a base Torino or a Gran Torino, but definitely not an Elite. The Elite, which was called the Gran Torino Elite in 1974, had twin opera windows, single headlamps and tail lamps that looked like orthodontic braces (try to imagine all of that on a current car). This car with no rub strips on the bumpers, vinyl interior and no cruise control on the steering wheel is most likely a base Torino. It is hard to imagine how “base” a base 70′s car can be.

  • avatar
    v8corvairpickup

    Another note about the Gran Torino Elite, the body styling was more like the Montego and LTD II than the Torino. The overall body shapes were all similar but the contours on the sides of the LTD II, Montego and Elite were more alike than the Torino.

  • avatar
    ICARFAN

    My grandma had a 4-door version of this car, white with that blue interior that smelled like and texture wise reminded me of a shower curtain while riding in it as a kid. Anybody know if those clear vinyl seat covers are still available?……LOL.

    • 0 avatar
      BigMeats

      Oh, dude….. my sainted blue-collar Catholic mother kept EVERYTHING in our living room covered in that clear vinyl. The car seats escaped only ’cause my dad wouldn’t have it in *his* domain.

      BTW, I’m listening to Bowie’s “Fame” right now….
      It wasn’t *all* malaise back then :-D

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      The clear bubbled seat covers were from the Fingerhut mail-order catalog. We went through 2 or 3 sets of them on our 1971 LTD. Unfortunately, they didn’t protect the fabric from UV damage and color fading, and after being on for 20 years, I finally took them off.

  • avatar
    scrumpy

    My first car was a used 74 Gran Torino 2 door. Light tan vinyl roof over metallic copper. Drove it through college eventually selling it. Went through one transmission and numerous tires. Had some rust but not too bad. The one thing I remember is that it would always start – even on the coldest days.

  • avatar

    It’s hard to describe just how depressing the mid to late 1970s were for car enthusiasts. Nothing ran well, as companies struggled to comply with new emissions standards. The five mph bumpers made most cars ugly and hanging big weights off the ends of the cars didn’t help with handling and dynamics. Even cars like Lotus were affected, the Europa had to have longer springs in the US to meet headlight height standards. There were some cool cars being made in Europe but many of them were never imported here. The downsized B body GM cars gave some hope in the late 1970s, but those were followed by the execrable X-cars.

    Still, I don’t think that the new CAFE standards will usher in a new malaise era if only because there’s been a lot of engineering knowledge acquired in the past 40 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Also the tools for designing and virtually testing new designs before going to tool have speeded up the process and ensured better results.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      They were most depressing in the US for those driving US-spec junk.

      For those who drove grey/black-market, or just converted their Euro-cars back to Euro-spec, life was good and smokin’ hoosiers in Vettes with a 6.9 Benz was always a hoot. They’d still pass inspection too. Uhhmurica? Frak no.

      Typical pathetic DET shortsightedness and cheapness lead to this outcome. They got what hanging on to 30 year outdated tech gets you – behind everybody else 30 years.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    It wasn’t that bad for a car nut then, until the $1.25 a gallon days of 1980-82.

    You could still buy a used muscle car or V8 coupe for dirt cheap then. I looked at used 1969-70 Cutlasses in HS, late 70′s, and were priced from $500 to $1500. Also, the new 77-79 F bodies were respectable as new cars, the lessons learned in trying to maintain performance with emissions, led to the EFI era of the late 80′s up.

    So, the Clean Air act was worth it, cars today are clean and have high HP. So what that some 70′s cars had low hp, it was over 30 years ago.

    And for [goodness] sake, stop using ‘malaise’! It’s done to death here and CC.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      VW started using EFI to meet emissions in 1968 on a fairly inexpensive car. Was it Bosch patents that caused the Americans and Japanese to wait almost 20 years in many cases? Or “not invented here” or trying not to make any significant investments, but just “get by”?

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        The EFI tech Bosch developed was all based on US patents and the typical loser-think of DET and the idiots who run it. (Yes, Bosch had been doing mechanical FI since the 1920s.)

        The “electrojector” was a Bendix system available as an option in 1957 on some AMC/Chrysler products.

        DET figured out that it might take a bit of investment of time and resources to perfect it, so, who cares? We’ve got carbs. They’re stone-axe trash, but Americans will buy anything. So sure, license that tech to those crazy Germans.

        Funny that, those crazy Germans sold the tech back to us for 30 years+.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “This may be a Ford Elite…”

    If you don’t know the cars from that time, how about not “guessing”? Also, some forget that the 1972 Gran Torinos have a following, due to a certain movie.

    Can go on and on about the low HP, but with 40 years past, why bother? It’s beating a dead hosrse!

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    In the mid-80′s I briefly owned a 75 Cougar XR-7 a version of this car which was nothing but a dressed up Torino/Montego. It had most options-351W, magnum 500′s, buckets, console, gauge pkg, handling pkg etc. Though it was a far cry from the 67-73 Mustang that the original was based on as well as the 70 Mustang I previously owned it had a bit of model bloat but still was ok for a malaise era personal luxury coupe.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    If I’m not mistaken, the Elite was a Ford response to the success of the Monte Carlo on a shared chassis with the Cougar (except for the front and rear designs). As a semi-tyke back then, I though they were pretty sharp looking for the times. Obviously the public didn’t.

    “In a world of beautiful, sexy, future-looking Euro-cars (starting 20 years prior) there was visual auto-scatology such as this horrid Ford committee-turd.

    Wanna know why DET lost this whole generation? Here ya go.”

    Not quite. It was a different time and you had to be there. Very little from Europe met America road needs, sensibilities and reliabilities. The larger Volkswagen (411) was a market failure and greatly underpowered. Even some of the more affordable choices (Capri II, Manta) were brittle by our standards.

    When DET did react with smaller vehicles, often they were half-baked (Aspen; X bodies) (exception B bodies). And they floundered as they bumbled through stringent emissions demands, etc.

    What did kill them was turning out half-baked, cost-reduced shit at the end of the decade just as Toyota and Honda were developing acceptable products to the US.

    Good times…..

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Thanks, I was there. That’s why I am so vociferous about the failings of DET. That car was gang-bang-BF-cm-stain-on-the-couch ugly. Looking at it makes me vomit in my mouth. I had hoped all that crap had been crushed by ’79, just so nobody else had to see how miserably Americans can fail.

      You may have liked it, but that’s your taste deficiency. The rest of us don’t share it. Hence why DET no longer rules the roost.

      Capri II, Fiesta I, Gen II Civic, 78 Corolla, Opel Manta Rallye 1900, all were better cars than the domestic tripe on offer.

      • 0 avatar
        chicagoland

        All those imports from the 70′s rusted away, even more so than Yank Tanks. So much for superiority.

        And, DET still has a pretty good market share, since Foreign makes cannot compete in real work trucks. The Tundra was supposed to kill Big 3′s truck market, how’d that work out?

        Yeah, in cars, DET still has to learn, but cant say the are down an out.

        And to kids who assume in the 70′s all was gloom and doom since stock factory cars had lower HP. Well, ever head of the aftermarket? And used 64-72 V8 2 doors were in abundance, and we had lot of fun driving and tuning Cutlasses, Chevelles, and Mustangs.

      • 0 avatar
        and003

        Porschespeed wrote: “Who cares? This crapmobile is as attractive as a fat chick puking on your lap while you are trying to make her and her porcine posse go away.”

        Fans of ‘Starsky & Hutch’ might disagree with that assessment, given how it was the car of choice for David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser when it came to chasing down the bad guys. Indeed, years ago, entertainer Funkmaster Flex and his Team Baurtwell associates restored an actual ‘Starsky & Hutch’ Torino for him to add to his auto collection.

        Incidentally, seeing this car reminds me of a recent article in Popular Hot Rodding where Johnny Hunkins and artist Ben Hermance came up with ideas to turn unpopular 1976 vehicles into hot rods. The 1976 Ford Torino was one the cars chosen for this article. I’m not a fan of Ford Torinos, granted, but I can appreciate the effort that Hunkins and Hermance made to come up with ideas to address its many issues.

        Hermance’s pictures can be found here:
        http://www.lateral-g.net/forums/showthread.php4?t=39233

      • 0 avatar
        hootbot

        If by “rest of us” you mean “just you.” Then yes. Stop pretending you opinions are objective.

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        Do you dig the “striped tomato” (which was a cultural joke even when that lousy show was on the air cuz’ only rednecks liked that turd)?

        Good for you. Enjoy your Yugo. Polish that turd.

        The styling ethos of DET is currently driven by EurAsian imports (if you wanna sell a non-fleet car). Not Harley Earl visual committee vomit. Believe whatever fantasies you will, the facts on the ground agree with what me and my mates have been saying for 40+ years.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Definitely no Elite but then again, what is? Elites had single headlamps, opera windows through a landau roof, a wide bodyside molding, and fancy full length tail lights. Basically, a rebadged Mercury Cougar. For 1977, they gave it concealed headlamps, new tail lights, slapped a Thunderbird nameplate on it, and sold hundreds of thousands.

  • avatar

    Our Drivers’ Ed class in high school as equipped with Torinos and I learned to drive in a 1972 or 1973 sedan. They had nine different models of Torino at the time but I suspect we had the inline-six version with, of course, a 3-speed automatic. I don’t recall that it was such a bad car but forty years passing has seen our expectations get pretty high. Now, the closely-related Ranchero but from the previous 1970-71 geneartion with a Super Cobra Jet (!) would have been nice…

  • avatar
    and003

    This car would make a good basis for a “Starsky & Hutch” restomod project, utilizing a 5.4L Modular engine from the current Shelby GT500 and an Art Morrison chassis.

  • avatar
    gnrlee01

    is this car still available?? can you tell me how i can find out anything about it and/or its current owner for possible purchase?!?!?!
    gnralee01@yahoo.com
    thank you for any information and help you can give me!!!
    steve.


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