Monday 15 March 2010
We Brits aren't very good at name checking our towns in popular music, unlike our American cousins; look at a map of the USA and it's littered with song references: New York, Phoenix, Tulsa, Witchita, Alabama. And we're just as shy at promoting our car heritage: OK, Tom Robinson regaled us back in 1978 with tales of his Grey Cortina and John Shuttleworth (who was Jilted John in a former life) got plenty of mileage out of his Austin Ambassador (Y Reg).
But for it to work, you have to be singing about automobles - just ask Chuck Berry. Great big shiny, in your face, gas guzzlers: Springsteen opted for a Pink Cadillac and for Prince it was a Little Red Corvette. But when it comes to truly iconic vehicles you could do a lot worse than Wilson Pickett's Mustang Sally. The Mustang has become synonymous with Steve McQueen and Bullitt and therefore can do no wrong. But it wasn't the only behemoth the Ford Motor Company built in the 60s and 70s.
In 1968 Ford replaced the Fairlane with the new kid on the block, the Ford Torino. With radical coke bottle styling and a distinctive grille it became a best seller. Named after the city of Turin (the Italian Detroit of the time) it defined America. And with the top of the range model, the Gran Torino, they produced a vehicle that despite being out of production since 1976, remains every petrol head's muscle car of choice.
Although it was used in the Starsky and Hutch TV series (Ford were quick to jump on the bandwagon at the time and produced 1000 replica Soul machines), it has now taken on a new lease of life thanks to Clint Eastwood: his 2008 movie Gran Torino, with a stunning soundtrack by Jamie Cullum, has ensured its legacy lives on. Click on the link for my interview with Jamie Cullum from last December when I asked him how he got the Clint Eastwood gig.