Monday 15 March 2010

Gran Torino

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.


  1. For a while (76/77)I was literally obsessed with Starsky, Hutch and the real star of the show the Gran Torino.

    Went to a custom car show last year and after decades of dribbling, finally got to see real-life Zebra 3 replica face to face. I told the owner how gutted I was having forgotten to wear my Adidas SL 76s (the very rare edition as worn by Dave Starsky). So as a consolation prize - he let me sit in the drivers seat with the cardigan, gun and light on top. Smashing.

    Bloody tiny inside - it's like a reverse TARDIS, with a sort of knee-to-chin seating arrangement.

    Great Jamie interview - have you read William Goldman's Which Lie Did I Tell for a great offstage take on Clint?

  2. I haven't read it Mondo, but a few years back, while visiting friends in San Francisco, we went to his restaurant in Carmel - The Hog's Breath Inn. Clint was a no show unfortunately, but, a great time was still had by all.

  3. Gran Torino was an awesome movie. I loved it. And the car is pretty sweet, too. Though I wouldn't want to have to pay to fill up the gas tank, lol.