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Long wait for Torino has paid off

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, at 11:43 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, at 6:07 a.m.

Sometimes a new car makes such an impression that you just can’t get it out of your mind. That’s what happened in the case of the brand-new 1970 Torino GT that Greg Dye spotted shortly after it showed up in his parents’ neighborhood.

Motor Trend, in fact, chose the restyled Ford Torino as its Car of the Year in 1970.

The original owner of this particular Torino GT had bought the burgundy colored hardtop for his wife, but she only drove it a short time before it became the husband’s daily driver, Dye said.

“It was right around the corner from my folks’ house,” he said. Eventually, he noticed the car was just sitting outside, no longer being used.

“I thought to myself, `That car is just going to waste sitting out there in the sun,’” Dye recalled.

He approached the owner and asked if the car was for sale.

“It had 98,000 miles on it, but he wasn’t ready to sell it. I went back a year later, but he wanted too much money for it,” he said.

But when Dye told him he wanted to restore the car to its original condition, he agreed to sell it to him for $1,000, knowing it would cost many times that to return it to showroom condition.

“You’re talking $10,000 to $15,000 for a complete restoration,” Dye said.

That was in 1986, but the project didn’t get underway for a couple of years, while Dye saved his money to get started on the car.

“It was all complete, in original condition and it ran good. I think the right door and fender may have been replaced,” Dye said. He had the body bead-blasted down to bare metal and then painted by Bill Everhardt in a custom-mixed burgundy shade to match the Dark Maroon color listed on original Ford paint charts.

The Torino had evolved from Ford’s mid-sized Fairlane of the late 1960s, with the 1970 model getting all new sheet metal.

“They made it wider and put some aerodynamics in the body,” said Dye.

The GT version of the Torino has a blacked-out egg-crate style horizontal grille that houses hide-away headlights. It also featured a wide, horizontal tail light panel and thin black horizontal honeycomb grilles tucked up under a short ducktail spoiler on the rear deck lid.

A wide range of engine and transmission options were available. Dye’s Torino GT came with the 351 cubic inch Cleveland V-8 engine, which was mated to a 3-speed C-6 automatic transmission.

He had Stan Allen rebuild the engine, replacing bearings, seals and other parts, but not having to rebore the cylinders.

“Everything is high performance … it runs like a new car,” Dye said. But the high compression heads and big four-barrel carburetor meant it drank quite a bit of premium gasoline.

So Dye swapped out the factory-issued, 14-inch wheels and tires in the rear, substituting taller 15-inch tires to get a little better gas mileage. He retained the original Ford “dog-dish” hub caps and trim rings treatment all around, though.

He enlisted Madeline Briscoe to reupholster the black vinyl bench seats, keeping the factory pattern, but upgrading to rich black leather. The Torino still has its factory air conditioning, the push-button AM radio in the dash and its original headliner.

Kevin Kaiser installed a set of Flowmaster mufflers under the Torino, bringing the dual exhaust out below the back bumper, producing a muted rumble when the gas pedal is engaged.

“The car is 90-percent original. The good thing is that no teenager ever got a hold of this car. I was in my 30s when I got it,” said Dye, who has logged about 35,000 gentle miles on it since the restoration was finished.

He’s driven it to Branson, Mo., several times and the Torino GT is a regular at the Spangles cruise-in at Pawnee and Seneca, where he sometimes fires up the home stereo system he has installed in the trunk to provide background music for fellow car lovers.

Reach Mike Berry at mberry@wichitaeagle.com.

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