Barn-Find Ford Spared from Parts-Car Finish
By Jeff Barnes
When Andrew Crouch first spotted his car on an internet forum in 2001, his plans for it were less than spectacular. The car – a 1972 Ford Gran Torino Sport – was stashed in an Iowa barn, beat up from years of drag racing. Its windows were shot out and even the rear quarter panels were a mess, dented out from a beer keg thrown around in its trunk.
Given the condition, this was going to be a parts car for Crouch, but after a week of looking at the coke-bottle styling and considering the NASCAR history of model, the Omahan decided to give the Torino another shot at life. Today, after a nine-year build and another nine on the road, he’s got a midsize muscle that finds fans everywhere it goes.
Crouch, 42, knows most of its history. He said the original owner in Dana, Iowa, got the car on special order, taking every performance option except the TracLok rear end. “He got the heavy duty ‘police package’ competition suspension, which was the top of the line,” he said. “He bought it for driving, but the second owner made sure that it truly lived. It got street raced and dragged raced.”
The second owner quit driving it when the cost of gas became prohibitive, buying a Ford Escort and parking the Torino in a barn in the mid 1980s. “At that point, it took a 17-year barn nap,” Crouch said.
Crouch bought the car in June 2001 and ended up spending 12 hours in unearthing it from its nap. “I aired up all four tires and got it into the light,” he said. “It had literally an inch of dust on it. Kids had knocked out its glass and mice had packed the engine compartment with walnuts, at least fifty pounds.”
When he and his wife Melanie got married in Las Vegas, he took half of the wedding-gift money for a side trip to California and a parts car for the Torino. Another trip was made to Niagara Falls to buy what Crouch believes were the last new quarter panels in existence for the car. The two-barrel 351 Cleveland engine came from a co-worker’s mother’s ’71 Torino. Front seats came from a Lincoln Mark VII and the rear seats from a mix of a ‘90s Thunderbird and a Crown Vic.
He spent two years block-sanding the car after taking off the vinyl roof and side trim. He credits his wife for making the push back in 2008 to get it painted for the Hot Rod Power Tour which was coming to Lincoln. Crouch got it painted in the original Medium Bright Yellow, adding black to the scheme for the hood; the paint was only seven days old when the two put 3,900 miles on it, driving from Newton, Iowa, to Mobile, Alabama and back.
“We were getting only 136 miles to the tank, too,” Crouch said, thanks to the car being geared for drag racing. The couple and the car have been on the tour every year since.
Nostalgia weighs heavy with the car. Crouch always meets those whose families or friends had a Torino, yet he doesn’t find a lot of the cars. “A lot of people bought the Torino for the transmission or engine that they put in their Mustangs, or the rear ends for other project cars,” he said. “For that reason, there’s not a lot of Torinos around. It has an amazing amount of steel, but it’s actually lighter than a Mustang of today. It’s just as wide as a brand new Mustang with a little higher roof line.”
Crouch absolutely loves driving the car. “It’s comfortable and you can still drive it fast, and if you take it up to 125 mph it wants more,” he said. “You can cruise 100 mph all day long and it won’t break a sweat.”