Eric English
December 1, 2009
Photos By: Randy Lorentzen

Dan Widmann's '72 Gran Torino
You've got to hand it to Dan Widmann and Steve Strope, for taking the road less traveled. To the point, outside of a period NASCAR piece, when was the last time you saw a highly mod-ified '72 Gran Torino? Uh, like never-or at least never like this! To say that Widmann's '72 is the most extreme example of the breed is clearly stating the obvious, but a more provoking line of thinking may be to ask the following question: Why hasn't it been done before?

"I've had a car like this mentally planned for years" says Strope, owner of the build house Pure Vision Design in Simi Valley, California. "I just love the fastback bodystyle, the oval track heritage, and that great rear three quarter angle stance-but it took a while to find the right guy who shared my vision." Strope had a false start several years ago with a different client, and when Widmann first approached Pure Vision about a high-end build, he actually had a '68-'70 Charger in mind. Strope's first reaction was "no more Chargers," and while the right amount of monetary persuasion might have changed his tune, Widmann listened as the car builder shared some alternative ideas. "I wanted Steve to be enthused with whatever we did, so it made sense to keep an open mind" says Widmann.

When the list of possibilities came to the Gran Torino, Strope was able to do more than simply sketch a concept of what he was thinking. On the premises was the '72 which had been started for the earlier customer before he got cold feet. With the ability to see the metal in the flesh, and discuss ideas and attributes of the car, Widmann became convinced this was the one for him. "While I've tended toward Mopar muscle in the past, my first car was a '70s Torino wagon, and I own three Fords as daily drivers. With that in mind, deciding to move forward on the Gran Torino project shouldn't really come as a shock."

Much of the chassis work had been completed prior to Widmann acquiring the pink slip, but little else-other than a Ford Racing 514 quietly resting between the fenders. There was no reason to mess with a good thing, and the 514-cube 385-series surely qualifies. Sporting large by large internal dimensions, this FRPP crate motor features Super Cobra Jet aluminum heads, a stout solid roller cam, and belts out 625 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of torque as delivered. Strope and company did opt to switch to a Holman Moody-supplied dual quad intake with Edelbrock carbs, along with a pair of Yates sheetmetal valve covers-all of which lend a bit of NASCAR vibe to the whole affair.

To be truthful, while the drivetrain is plenty impressive with its big-inch power, Gear Vendors overdriven Top Loader four-speed, and narrowed 9-inch, it's fairly straight forward compared to the rest of the build. Custom fabrication and quality workmanship are what takes a Pure Vision effort over the top, and everywhere you look on the '72, this theme abounds. The car is a visual knockout thanks to the PPG Lexus blue paint and flawless bodywork administered by Gold Coast Cus-tom, Inc.-not to mention a nigh perfect ride height dialed in via QA1 coilovers. Wheeltubs were required to fit the massive 20x12-inch Bons-peed rims and P335/30ZR20 Pirelli steam-rollers, but once massaged, the massive rolling stock was swallowed up by the Gran Torino's generous wheelwells. Interestingly, the hunkered down attitude was more difficult to achieve than might be imagined. With ride height a foremost part of the initial planning, it was determined that getting the exhaust out of the way would be essential to maintaining civility in the rear world of speed bumps, driveway approaches, and more. As such, Dan Fink raised the floorpans, and the frame was modified so oval 3-inch exhausts could pass right through-in tandem, the two techniques did the trick.

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That bit about Widmann driving the car extensively is no joke, the owner going so far as to have Strope install chrome-moly child-seat anchors so his 2-year-old daughter can safely enjoy the ride. Should the engine be a bit too raucous, an elaborate Planet Audio stereo can easily overcome the noise. Should the heat make things uncomfortable, cranking the Vintage Air A/C will bring interior temps back in line. In short, this is a completely functional street machine that pretty well does it all-and with an identity all its own. Which brings us back to our earlier query of why it hasn't been done before? In part, we attribute it to the lack of excitement absent of a hard-core factory performance model-the same malady that afflicts all other makes and models of the same era, not to mention minimal parts availability. You could also call it a "lack of vision," "stuck in a rut," or "inability to think outside the box." Whatever the case may be, we suspect this particular effort will be inspirational to those who've ever been tempted to deviate from the norm. Kudos to everyone who had a hand in making it happen!

The Details
Dan Widmann's '72 Gran Torino

Ford Racing 514 crate engine (M-6007-D514RT)
10.25:1 compression ratio
4.30-inch cast stroker crank
Eagle H-beam connecting rods
Forged pistons
FRPP Aluminum Super Cobra Jet heads, 2.20/1.76-inch
stainless valves
Blue Thunder dual quad intake
Dual Edelbrock four-barrel carbs
FRPP solid roller camshaft, 0.640-inch lift, 254/258 degrees duration at 0.050
MSD billet distributor
Custom serpentine accessory belt drive

Custom stainless headers by Dan Fink
Spin Tech mufflers
3-inch oval exhaust tubing

Close-ratio Top Loader four-speed
Gear Vendors overdrive
Hydraulically operated Centerforce clutch

9-inch by Randy's Ring and Pinion
Strange aluminum case
3.70 gears
Detroit Locker
31-spline Currie axles

Front: Custom adjustable QA1 coilovers, modified control arms, Fatman Fabrications 3-inch drop spindles, ADDCO swaybar
Rear: Red Zone Race Fabrication-installed Art Morrison four-link, swaybar, and adjustable QA1 coilovers

Front: Wilwood 14-inch slotted and drilled discs, six-piston calipers
Rear: Wilwood 14-inch slotted and drilled discs, four-piston calipers

Front: Custom Bonspeed "Big Block," 18x8
Rear: Custom Bonspeed "Big Block," 20x12

Front: Pirelli P-Zero Rosso, P245/45ZR18
Rear: Pirelli P-Zero Rosso, P335/30ZR20

Eric Thorsen Custom Upholstery recovered Glide Engineering bucket seats in GT40 inspired gray leather, suede headliner, Just Dashes recovered panels, Redline Gauge Works reconfigured gauges, Planet Audio stereo and speakers, Vintage Air A/C

Gold Coast Custom, Inc. modified front and rear bumpers (the front being tucked closer to the body, and bumper bolts eliminated; the rear was cut in the middle, narrowed, tucked in at each end, and contoured to reflect the coved accent line above the rear wheels), PPG Lexus Blue base/clear