1976 Ford Gran Torino Squire: Seventies Suburbia

I’ve always had a thing for the midsize ’70s Ford wagons: Gran Torino, Montego, LTD II and Cougar. The most likely reason is one of the first Matchbox cars I ever got was a metallic lime green ’77 Mercury Cougar Villager wagon, with opening tailgate.

image: ebay.com

It, along with my Pocket Cars Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham and Lincoln Mark IV, were almost always with me – in the car, outside, at the dinner table, etc. They are rough now, but all of them did survive my childhood.

This morning this ’76 Gran Torino Squire popped up on Marketplace, via the Finding Future Classic Cars fb group, and I had to check it out. You just don’t see these. Production was nothing compared to the LTD and LTD Country Squire wagons in the mid-’70s, likely due to the Torinos simply not having the interior room you’d expect for their size.

But I still like them. Not enough to buy this, but I enjoyed gawking at the photos of this survivor. I don’t recall ever seeing one, even in the mid ’80s when there were still Gran Torinos running about-albeit in increasingly Swiss-cheesed condition.

Though there were plenty of sedans and coupes-and related Rancheros. In recent times I’ve seen a few nice ones – a red and white ’75 Gran Torino coupe, brown ’76 Gran Torino Sport coupe (read about those two here), ’73 Gran Torino sedan (also in brown), blue base ’72 Torino coupe and an EXTREMELY rough ’72 Gran Torino sedan.

Per the ad: “This is a nice 43 year old wagon with just 75,000 miles. Very solid, a few dings, dents and scratches with nice interior, one tear in front seat. Runs and drives good with 351M engine. $5,000 OBO. Hard to find old wagons this nice. NOT PERFECT BUT NICE DRIVER.”

One thing’s for sure, you’d be the only one with one of these at the car show or cruise night!

29 Replies to “1976 Ford Gran Torino Squire: Seventies Suburbia”

  1. AvatarJeff Zekas

    Our neighbor had a mint condition Crown Victoria wagon. Loved that car. Hard to find them nowadays. I’ll watch old episodes of Magnum PI and Chips, just to see all the seventies and eighties cruisers. The problem with these cars is the 100,000 mile odometer, which rolls over, and they you have “only 70,000 miles of a 40 year old car!”. These “low mileage” cars mysteriously never have the receipts to prove that low mileage. Not to worry: easy to rebuild those old V-8s, or get a crate motor at Summit.

    Reply
  2. Avatarjsj123

    The underhood parts look rough, take a look at the master cylinder. Maybe I am spoiled living in the dry west. The carpet and interior parts don’t look bad in the pictures

    –Stephen

    Reply
  3. Avatarstingray65

    I have to say that this car represents the absolute worst of Detroit during the awful 1970s – huge size with limited interior room and awful styling, terrible build quality – rattles galore as soon as out of warranty, awful handling and no feel steering, slow acceleration and terrible fuel economy, and mediocre rust proofing. How do I know? I had many friends whose parents carted us around in these awful cars when they were new or slight used. I’m amazed to see one that is original and still this nice, but it only brings back repressed nightmares.

    Reply
    • AvatarJohn C.

      I don’t know Stingray about limited room. That view with all the seats folded shows a useful flat and just huge cargo area. The front and rear seats show to be extra wide and have ample head and leg room. The tumblehome styling creates a smaller glass area that creates somewhat a closed in feeling, but today that is universal and so seems wrong to complain about. Notice it is getting by on a Windsor 351 that sounds slow until you remember all the 80s related Ford wagons making do with 302s, and then think of all those 76 French and Swedish three row wagons trying to maintain any momentum with their pushrod two liters. I wonder how much the buyer was saving getting by with a Torino instead of a Country Squire?

      Think of when these were replaced by the 1980 Granada wagon. Import fans may revel in their more sensible size Euro styling but the Torino trader might be thinking that the 200 six in most of them was pretty pathetic. Room inside was down not up so much so that there was no third row anymore. Get by with less folks, so says President Carter.

      Reply
      • Avatarstingray65

        They are 215 inches long and look at the rear seat cushion – short and relatively low to the ground and poorly padded from my memory – not comfortable at all. Sure the cargo area is large with seats folded, but really not that impressive given the length and width of the vehicle. A contemporary Volvo wagon could give a 351 equipped one of these a pretty good run in acceleration and space, and had much more comfortable seating, and a Fairmont wagon was a far, far, far better vehicle in terms of space utilization, handling, and fit and finish and with a 302 faster than one of these whales with a 400. I can’t say enough bad things about these 70s Torinos

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        • AvatarJohn C.

          An automatic Volvo could keep up with these, only if they doubled the spend and got a 265 with those rough V6s. Yes your trim was better after you had been relieved of so much extra cash.

          Most Granadas, Fairmonts replaced Mavericks, had 200 inch sixes. A few had Limas to pretend you were European, none had 302s. What none offered was a third row, because maybe space utilization didn’t really measure up. The price was still higher if not Ford’s margins, all of the post oil shock austerity was awfully slow bringing down inflation. Thanks Volker and Greenspan.

          Reply
      • Avatarjsj123

        Easy mistake to make, but this car does not have a 351 Windsor, it has a 351 M. Not one of Ford’s better motors, it was a bastardized 351 Cleveland. Yes, Ford had 3 351 motors. The 351/400M was great at consuming gas, but no so good at hp/torque production. Probably hooked to a FMX transmission, a cast iron cased boat anchor.

        No, the Fairmont was a much better wagon, plus you could bolt Mustang 5.0 parts to it

        –Stephen

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        • AvatarJohn C.

          You are correct about being a 351M. The torque though was quite a boost though over the related Panther 302 in similar weight wagons. There was always then another round of austerity, as if this 76 didn’t already reflect enough.

          Reply
  4. AvatarDavid Stanley

    John C, small nitpick, but that’s not a 351 Windsor. That’s a 351 Modified.

    Ford had 3 different 351s in the 70s, the 351 Windsor, the 351 Cleveland, and the 351 Modified. I drove a 71 Ford Custom 500 in High school in the early 80s with a 351W. The engine in the photo is definitely not a 351W.

    The 351C was part of Ford’s 335 series and was made from 70-74. The Ford 400 (70-79) was made from the 351C block but with a taller block/deck height. And the 351M is nothing more than a destroked 400 (75-79). Rather than Ford running two similar engine lines with two different block heights, it made more sense to run only one block that could accommodate both the 400 and 351, so Ford dropped the 351C and made the 351M alongside the 400. So both the 400 and 351M shared the same block, even though they were both based on the 351C. It can be confusing. In the end, the 351W was the longest lived 351 from Ford (completely unrelated to the 335 series).

    Reply
  5. AvatarHammond Egger, Esq.

    I gotta go with stingray65 on this one. IMHO, Ford lost their midsize mojo after 1971. The 1972-78 midsizers are numb and overwrought with terrible interior space utilization. Restyling them into the Cougar/LTD II for 1977 fixed the looks somewhat but they remained poorly packaged and thirsty.

    0A comparison with the Fairmont is unfair. The Fairmont was a clean sheet designed from the get go to maximize interior space and fuel economy, albeit with the same hoary engines that were new when Robert McNamara was busy murdering the Edsel. The remainder of Ford’s US passenger car line was still comprised of late ’60s-early ’70s bits sliced and diced in Lee Iacocca’s vinyl-topped Veg-o-Matic.

    Through 1978, a Ford salesman could make a straight faced argument that the Torino/LTD II was more car than the equally superannuated Maverick and the Granada, which we all know was a Malcon [sic] in a Mercedes suit sourced on Wish from a blind tailor with shaky hands. Likewise, these were a package more affordable and trimmer (by a hair) than the dreadnought LTD.

    In 1979, the fair comparison was⁵ with the 99 44/100% new Panther. The Panther LTDs were comparatively cavernous inside with a smaller footprint on the exterior, just like GM’s 1977 line. And the 1979 customer hellbent on hauling his family in a Dearborn product could order anything from a pinchpenny special LTD S to a tricked out Country Squire guaranteed to make him the Jones to keep up with. These attributes made the Panther worth the step up for many a prospect.

    These are worth keeping for their value as historical artifacts and fun toys, but they’re neither good cars nor particularly interesting.

    Reply
    • AvatarJohn C.

      Look I can understand that not every car appeals to everybody. That said, if the Fairmont was so delightfuly designed in the Euro tradition, why did it weigh more than the Maverick despite the now standard lighter Lima four? Why design a car for people who just hate you and think you are just vinyl top vegomatic man. You know the ones with that pot smell emanating from there parental hand me down. Who can rely on him?

      Notice, I am sure you have some how not, how many Tbirds came off this platform, the best ever sales years for it. It wasn’t a Mustang in a sport coat, it was a car a real man could drive while wearing a suit. Notice also that like the GM colonnades and the Chrysler B bodies they were able to transition seamlessly to full size austerity for much longer lives. The Panther lasted till 2011 and you still see Molotov cocktails thrown at them in todays riots as they were so hard to replace in real tough duty. Torinos have a legacy still with us today.

      Reply
      • AvatarCJinSD

        Automotive styles change. The jet-age stuff of the ’50s was as different from the fake luxury of the ’70s as Amy Winehouse was from Cardi B. The ’70s ended with a whimper, and it wasn’t just former-hippies that wanted to wipe the decade off their boots. Why should Detroit have permanently adopted the style of their cheesiest, most revolting, and most lamentable decade?

        I’m not sure why you think the Maverick was lighter than the Fairmont. Perhaps you found some 1970 curb weights, when the cars didn’t have impact bumpers or door beams? When the Fairmont was introduced, it started about 175 pounds lighter than the lightest 1977 Maverick and topped out about midway between the lightest and heaviest Mavericks.

        Reply
        • AvatarJohn C.

          Of course styles change. When you first heard Whinehouse, you wonder why on earth there are all these English girls trying to sound like some black grandma while on the way to rehab. Now they sound charming compared to the grandmas great grandchild bragging about the sewer between her legs and not having spent enough time in church to know how to sing..

          I get tired of all this lazy spiting at cars with out bothering to think why it was how it was. The Torino started as a stretched Falcon. Well with the first Granada coming, yet another of the patented 400k sales Iacocoa fresh starts, it had to be bigger but still noticably downgraded that the more profitable full size. Mission achieved. You could have Brougham, fleet special or Starskey and Hutch style. More importantly, you were providing an ideal basis for Tbirds high volume, high profit glory years. These cars were a success. When designing the replacements it was austerity everywhere. No money to go front drive that could have matched room in a smaller package, the way GM and even Chrysler were doing, you instead had to do a 200 cubic inch special that was more Falcon than Torino. Giving them sell out Euro style to go with all the increased euro style road noise was not something to cheer. Unless the goal is to spit on your buyers and insure domestic failure. The 80s Granadas failed in the marketplace, the 70s Torino succeeded. Given the spittle toward the middle class family man was most prominent from the bearded wonders, they were perhaps not the ones to go to for advise on Torino replacement

          Reply
          • AvatarLynnG

            Dead on John, the Torino in the 1970’s was the go to multi purpose mid-size car and was everywhere. As Tom correctly pointed out you could get a two or four door sedan, a two door hard top, a station wagon, even a three passanger ute. They were cop cars, taxis, company cars, family cars, personnel luxary cars, mucle cars (i know that is a ways but with strips and mag wheels and glass packs it could pretend). What some people under 40 do not remember is Torinos were as common as Camery’s are today, one in almost every surburban driveway.

            Everyone here is also correct even when new, styles like the station wagon tended to rattle a lot. But as Jack has pointed out, when you have that huge open space behind the driver to the back of the car, every sound is amplified. That is why Crew Cabs are less noisy the Suburbans.

          • AvatarCJinSD

            There were a few Torinos in my world, but they were anything but the go-to midsize vehicles. There were far more GM Colonnades, GM PLCs, and Ford Thunderbirds than there were Torinos in traffic. Although Torinos may have been singularly forgettable cars, I definitely remember more Valiants and Volares too, although those were compacts. GM was still selling boatloads of full sized cars in the ’70s too, and I remember far more of them.

            Looking at production numbers, it does seem that Ford sold almost half a million Torinos in 1973, but they began diversified their intermediate line with Elites, LTD IIs and a Thunderbirds, which combined with the Torino being the worst American intermediate car(footnoted in the Wikipedia article) caused Torino demand to level off around 200,000. Those were probably the bargain fleet cars you remember. That this is a ‘Squire’ Torino suggests that it was probably one of the most expensive Torinos sold, yet its accommodations are strictly steerage class.

          • AvatarJohn C.

            I wonder what year fox body Granadas sold 500,000 copies. Even 200,000? Even replacing both 1st gen Granada and LTDII? Without Iacocca Ford needed advise, too bad they chose the council of the wrong.

          • Avatarstingray65

            Yes Ford sold a lot of Torinos – as I said above I had a lot of friends that had a Torino in the driveway, but for several it was their last American car, and I’ve never heard one in the years since say “I sure miss my Torino – why did I ever sell it?”. On the other hand, the Fox Body Fairmont was one of the smartest choices Ford ever made – certainly proving to be a smarter decision than the more expensive X-Body at GM.

          • AvatarJohn C.

            Yes it was such a besmirched name that Clint Eastwood chose it to represent the lost American ideal in that great movie… what was it …. oh yea Gran Torino. I am sure sure your neighbors loved their later Asian hill people cars especially the ones with the “big gay wing” on the back and the fart can.

            If the Fairmont/Granada were so great, why didn’t they sell. Perhaps because the people who liked them only bought foreign so were not going to do Ford any good.

          • AvatarCJinSD

            1980 was the year Chevrolet sold 800,000 Citations, before their sales tumbled because they were awful cars. It was just like with the Ford Torinos.

          • AvatarCarmine

            The X car issues aside, sales numbers falling off had a few other factors, the extended 1980MY the 1st run had staring around April 1979 and the summer 1981 introduction of the J and A body cars ate the X-car sales from top and bottom.

  6. Avatarsgeffe

    Ford changed from the straight-spoked steering wheels to the design found here in 1975, according to what I could see on “oldcarbrochures.com.” The Grandfather of the kids of the family across the street when I was growing up had a Torino Squire in this exact color scheme, but it was a 1974 model, because I remembered that wheel—the grille shown here was probably 1974-1977, or whichever year was the Torino’s last before the advent of the LTD II the following year. I can also remember the blue 1973 Gran Torino wagon that friends of our family had—that thing was a TANK! Complete with the seats in the way back!

    Reply
  7. AvatarJohn C.

    Lynn, Stephen, and David above are correct that Torinos had flaws. Some others not mentioned were the tendency of the transmission to slip out of park, the leaking ability of period Ford power steering and the truly lousy job Ford was doing of keeping engines running decent power levels while meeting ever tighter emmissions. That cost the Torino the 250 six in 74 just when it really needed it for fleet sales.

    But these as well as the colonnades were the last designs from the period where big three designers were on top of their game and trying to give you more than what the gave you last time. They were American and designing for Americans, not trying to impress Europeans or give Asians a template of how to move forward. That is why they lasted so long beyond when they could no longer be mid size, the spirit of them could not be duplicated.

    Notice Clint picking a 73 Gran Torino for the movie. Not a Judge GTO or a Boss Mustang. He was just an everyman who worked the line and was clever enough to use the unending option list to spec out the perfect car for him and then keeping it forever as a monument to himself, his country, and Ford. The Ford designer understood Mr. Kowalski and didn’t resent him for existing. Did Mr. Honda or Mr. Toyoda?

    Remember the different wheelbases that the 2 and 4 door mid sizes rode in the 1970. This enabled the differentiated long hood short deck personal coupes by building them on the four door wheelbase. Imagine instead the result of trying to do a Tbird off a gen 1 Granada. I just would not have fed the trend.

    Reply
    • AvatarCarmine

      He bought a car from the plant he worked at, it would have been more interesting if he worked at Pontiac or at least GM…..also, just so you’re aware, its fiction.

      Reply
      • AvatarJohn C.

        What would have really been cool, was if Clint’s character circa 73 could have still been living off his parents while limiting his lustings to 73 Audi Foxes and Datsun 510s. In his older age the Asian hill people wouldn’t have cared what was in his backyard garage and he could have consigned his lessors to their fate.

        Reply
    • Avatarsgeffe

      Which they did in the years immediately after the Torino metamorphosed into the LTD II in 1977 (thank you Wikipedia), and the T-Bird dropped down from the full-size platform to this platform in the same year!

      Then, of course, the shark was truly jumped with the next T-Bird riding conspicuously on the Fox platform, of course from which was also spawned, a * Granada * in 1981!

      Reply
    • Avatarjsj123

      I don’t think the Torino shared any (many) parts with the Falcon. The Falcon morphed into the Mustang, Maverick and Granada. Fairly sure the Torino was on a larger platform. The cool thing thing to me is I have parts from the Mustang, Maverick and Granada on my Falcon, plus Fox body and Explorer parts. I miss being able to go to the junk yard and pull parts I could use on the Falcon.

      Reply
      • AvatarJohn C.

        The 72 and later Torino were on the larger platform. Remember the larger Torino/Tbird morphed into the Panther, so police interceptor, Marauder stuff should work on it. The earlier than 72 Torinos were on the biggest ever USA stretch of the Falcon so would have been right on top of Granada had it not grown. Remember the Falcon went on in Australia till circa 2017. It got bigger over there too, there was no way to manufacture locally a Mazda 3 size vehicle(their big seller) at local wage rates no matter where the market was and the government was not willing to keep out or at least tariff up the foreign stuff to preserve the industrial base.

        Reply

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