Here’s What Happened To The Ford Gran Torino Movie Car Clint Eastwood Drove
The Ford Gran Torino Sport from the Clint Eastwood movie was an original rather than a replica, making this a highly desirable classic car.
There are a few movies named after the car that features them. Clint Eastwood’s 2008 Gran Torino is one such movie that features a Ford Gran Torino, but is more of a family and interpersonal relationship drama.
Updated December 2022: When Gran Torino first hit theaters 14 years ago, interest in the mid-size muscle car saw a resurgence. What many don’t know, however, is the remarkable story behind the movie’s car itself. We’ve updated this article with the latest information so Gran Torino fans can revisit the film’s true star—the Gran Torino Sport—and the fascinating backstory surrounding it.
The movie, Gran Torino, is good. The car, however, is great. It’s a dark green Ford Gran Torino Sport driven by Clint Eastwood’s character, Walt Kowalski. So let’s talk about this particular Gran Torino and its origin and how it came to star in a Warner Bros film directed by Clint Eastwood. Where the car came from and where it is now almost makes for a story as good as the movie named after it.
Here’s what happened to the 1972 Ford Gran Torino that Clint Eastwood drove in the 2008 movie Gran Torino.
The Movie And The Car: Gran Torino
Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a Korean War veteran who comes across initially as a racist but soon forms a bond with his neighbors, the Hmong family, and one of the teenagers, Thao. The bond between the recently widowed Kowalski and Thao forms when Thao tries to steal Kowalski’s 1972 Gran Torino Sport after coming under pressure from a local gang.
The movie is an interpersonal drama that unfolds beautifully. While we cannot call it a car movie, there is enough of the Gran Torino in it for us to take a long and admiring look at it. When the Ford Torino hit the market in 1968, it was the highest trim of the Fairlane before moving on to become an independent nameplate.
In 1972, Ford concentrated on the Torino and redesigned it in three trims: Torino, Gran Torino, and Gran Torino Sport, turning it into a 500,000-sale success. The car in the movie is the Gran Torino Sport from 1972, one of the 92,033 built for that year. Coke-bottle styling and in dark-metallic green, this was the top-of-the-line model with Ford’s “hot motor,” aka the 5.7-liter Cobra-Jet V8 with a four-barrel carburetor. With a 300-horsepower output, the Gran Torino Sport flew from 0-60 mph in under seven seconds. It held its own against many muscle cars of the time, although later, the Torino aged pretty badly and lost much of its classic car value.
The movie car also came with the Ram Air Induction package with a functional air scoop and a split twin exhaust. Magnum 500 wheels with Goodrich radials and the gold laser stripes with a black vinyl top made this one of the most memorable movie cars of all time, although we also remember the red Torino in Starsky & Hutch
How Did Warner Bros Get The Ford Classic?
Unlike many movies and series where the car is often a fake from the inside out, this Gran Torino Sport was the real deal. Eastwood’s staff found it listed on eBay by a classic car dealer. The previous owner Jim Craig had no idea the car was about to star in a movie. He had bought it as a barn find in 2000, restoring it after five years. In 2007, Craig sold it to a classic car dealer in Utah, and this is where Warner Bros got their car from.
The car was in good enough condition that all the studio had to do was re-chrome the bumpers, and it was ready for action. After production of the movie ended, Eastwood bought it for personal use, though it now stands in the Warner Bros Studios Picture Car Museum in California. But there’s a backstory to this car as well.
The Original Owner Reunited With The Gran Torino
The movie, Gran Torino, was a huge success, grossing some $269 million worldwide. Enough to even have Dave Beckett, from Monett, Missouri, want to go see it, even if he was not much of a movie fan. His first car was a Gran Torino, and he remembered it fondly enough to want to see a movie named after it.
Only when he watched the movie did he realize that it was once his car. When he read an article in the local papers about Jim Craig and how he owned the car before Warner Bros bought it, Beckett called Craig and received confirmation that this car was truly his car, the same one he drove off the lot in 1972.
At the time, the car wore a dark green vinyl top instead of the black one in the movie, so restored by Craig because the green was no longer available. Beckett had this car for more than two years before he traded it for a 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. The Gran Torino was later bought by Paul Norvell and then by Ray Dotson, both from Purdy, Missouri, before ending up in a barn where Jim Craig found it in 2000.
When Beckett contacted the car museum at Warner Bros Studios, he got a chance to spend some time alone in the car. In fact, he still had an old key that worked, which brought back some memories for him. Beckett is glad he watched the movie, and even more glad they retained the car. And now, he is a Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros fan for life.