Home Entertainment Surprising Facts About The ‘Starsky and Hutch’ Ford Gran Torino

Surprising Facts About The ‘Starsky and Hutch’ Ford Gran Torino

Vukasin Herbez June 7, 2023

There have been many memorable cars featured on TV shows over the past several decades. From the original Batmobile in the early ’60s to Walter White’s beige Pontiac Aztec on Breaking Bad, many cars have become part of a popular subculture. Along those lines, millions of viewers will immediately recognize the bright red 1974 Ford Gran Torino from the legendary TV show “Starsky and Hutch.” This even includes car fanatics who weren’t born when this show was first on the air.

Even though the show and its plot are easily forgettable as a template of the “buddy cop” genre, the car isn’t. Overall it’s one of the most recognizable cars ever to be featured on television. Building on that recognition, the story of this famous red Gran Torino is an interesting one for car fans to dive into. We dove into the surprising facts about this legendary TV car you probably don’t know, so check them out right here.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

“Striped Tomato”

This nickname for the Gran Torino was used throughout the show but wasn’t part of the script. In fact, when producers saw the car, they weren’t very enthusiastic about the model and its color combo so they called it “Striped Tomato.”

Photo Credit: Ford

However, writers adopted the phrase and used it in dialogue, so the nickname stuck. After all, a big red Ford Gran Torino coupe couldn’t be called any different (via Star Cars). Now, the nickname will go down in auto history just like the car itself.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Around 10 Gran Torinos Were Used

As with all TV show productions involving cars, a single car is not enough. First, because of the type of shooting, which required one vehicle for close shots and publicity shots and one for action and stunt scenes. In every episode of “Starsky and Hutch”, a red Gran Torino was involved in a high-speed pursuit, a jump scene, or something equally as dangerous (via GQ Magazine).

Photo Credit: IMDB

So several stunt cars got damaged, which means more than one car was used. The exact number is believed to be around 10 vehicles. All were 1974-76 Ford Gran Torinos with identical paint jobs. However, they had slight differences in the shape of their white stripes.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod Magazine

351 V8s With Three-Speed Transmissions

Every Gran Torino used on ‘Starsky and Hutch; had 351 V8 engines and three-speed automatic transmissions. In 1974, two 351 V8 engines could be had. The standard version had 162 HP and the 351 CJ had 255 HP. Both were available in two-door models only (via Motor 1).

Photo Credit: Flickr

Even though those engines had significant displacement, the output was minimal since the industry was affected by harsh environmental standards in the 1970s. All car manufacturers struggled to make any power from those big but low-compression engines during this era.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

Exterior Modifications

In contrast to some other famous TV cars, the Starsky and Hutch Gran Torinos were unmodified cars. All the body panels were stock along with the interior details. The only visible modifications were the white stripe paint job, wide wheels with distinctive design, and chrome exhaust tips (via Fast Toys Club).

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Of course, cars that were used for stunt scenes had modified suspension, beefier frames, and other improvements to endure shooting those demanding scenes.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

Performance and Sound

Since all American cars were under attack from environmentalists in the 1970s, the muscle car performance from only a few years before was gone. It means that no matter how powerful the Gran Torino looked like, it needed to be faster. To make it look fast and have smoky burnouts on the set, technicians installed higher gear ratios so the car could accelerate quicker and easily roast the rear tires. In stock form, the 1974 Gran Torino could reach 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds. But it could do much better on TV with a different gear ratio (via Barett Jackson).

Photo Credit: IMDB

Another interesting detail is the sound. The rumbling of a V8 you hear when you watch this show is not the actual 1974 Gran Torino engine sound. Like the performance, the sound of the engines suffered from emissions regulations in the mid-1970s. So, the production crew recorded sounds of earlier, more powerful Gran Torinos and dubbed them over the shots of the Starsky and Hutch one.

Photo Credit: Ford

The Gran Torino Story

For eight model years, the Torino was Ford’s most successful intermediate model. Introduced in 1968 and discontinued in 1976, Torino sold in millions as a two-door sedan, hard top, coupe, and even a wagon. It was a popular, moderately-priced model with a wide range of engines and options (via Classic Industries).

Photo Credit: Ford

However, in the mid-’70s, the Torino sales started to decline, and by 1976, Ford decided to discontinue the model. Its successor was the Ford LTD II, which could have been a lot more successful line and lasted only a couple of model years.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Ford Released Its Own ‘Starsky and Hutch’ Model

In 1976, the show was amongst the most popular on American TV and even broadcasted in Europe. The “Striped Tomato” was popular on its own, and Ford decided to introduce a limited run of 1000 cars with signature paint jobs and details. All cars were based on the 1976 model and had 351 V8 in them. They sold at a little over what standard Gran Torino with the same options would be worth (via Hemmings).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Interestingly, the five-slot mag wheels used on the TV model weren’t offered on Ford’s special editions. Instead, Ford used Magnum 500 wheels, which is the only way you can distinguish the replica car from Ford’s special edition model.

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

There Are Some Original Cars Left

Out of the original 10 or so vehicles used in shooting, only a couple survived. Almost all cars used for stunt scenes were scrapped for obvious reasons. However, vehicles that were used for promotional shots, driving scenes, and so on survived (via Auto Evolution).

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

On the other hand, it is very easy to make a replica of the ‘Starsky and Hutch’ Gran Torino since the modifications are easy to duplicate. However, the original cars have documentation which shows that they are the real deal.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Starsky Didn’t Like The Gran Torino

Actor Paul Michael Glaser, who played Starsky and did most of the driving on the show, wasn’t actually a big fan of Torino. In fact, he hated the car. He wasn’t fond of the steering, suspension, driving feel, and design. He later admitted that he tried to break the car numerous times while shooting the show (via IMDB).

Photo Credit: Motor 1

If you watch any of the old episodes, you can see that often he hit the curb when parking or drove the car as he stole it. The Gran Torino proved sturdy. But the set mechanics had to repair it overnight so the shooting could continue in the morning.

Photo Credit: IMDB

Connected To Another Legendary TV Show

“Starsky and Hutch” was one of the most popular TV shows in the late 70s. Running 93 episodes over four seasons. It also gave way to numerous other cop buddy shows and films, often involving cars as supporting roles. But, we are sure you probably didn’t know about the small but significant connection between Starsky and Hutch and another TV legend – the infamous Dukes of Hazzard (via IMDB).

Photo Credit: YT

In the Dukes of Hazzard, pilot episode aired in 1979, the 1976 Ford Gran Torino Starsky and Hutch edition made a small cameo. Not a lot of viewers noticed it, but there it was, connecting two legendary TV shows.

Photo Credit: Ford

The ‘Striped Tomato’ Wasn’t The Only Ford Product

Even though the red Gran Torino stole the show, it wasn’t the only memorable Ford product featured. One of the most remarkable characters, Huggy Bear, drove a Lincoln Town Car on the show (via Quotes).

Photo Credit: Ford

This was a common practice back in the day. And if one manufacturer sponsors the show, it also provides the production team with lead cars and other vehicles. That’s how Huggy Bear got his Lincoln.

Photo Credit: IMDB

Worldwide Popularity

Besides the few remakes and one movie with Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear, Starsky, and Hutch Gran Torino became worldwide recognizable and used in numerous music videos, artwork, and commercials. It has become the quintessential American cop car and icon of 1970s car culture (via Amazon).

Photo Credit: eBay

Even though it has no specific modifications, high-performance engine, or unusual features, it’s still a definitive pursuit vehicle accompanied by a red light on the top and screaming tires. The Gran Torino later made its triumphant return to the screen in 2004’s ‘Starsky and Hutch’ remake starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.

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