We doff our hats to Clint Eastwood who is roughly 92 years old today and still in the business of making films. The American actor and filmmaker was 78 in 2008 and in what seemed like the twilight of his movie career when he directed and starred in the movie named after the Gran Torino classic car. The movie isn’t a car movie though. It’s about what The Guardian called “a crotchety old racist living next door to an Asian family, who discovers the error of his ways.”Indeed, Clint Eastwood is that crotchety old racist who also happened to be a freshly widowed retired Ford factory worker and a veteran of the Korean War. The crotchety old white racist also happens to have a car everyone wanted, a 1972 Ford Gran Torino.Eastwood’s Gran Torino may not be central to the movie but played a pivotal role, both symbolically and literally, in the story and the message it communicated. The dialogue is superb, such that a bell might as well ring with every word that comes out of Eastwood character’s mouth. Even if we forget everything said in the movie, the second it took Clint Eastwood to ask, “What the hell does everybody want with my Gran Torino” is one second we’ll never forget.

Gran Torino: The Car That Killed Racism


Clint Eastwood’s character in the Gran Torino is a testy widower named Walt Kowalski. It appears Walt already lost faith in his aging neighborhood before losing his wife of 50 years of marriage.

Walt obviously felt bitter watching his Highland Park Metro Detroit neighborhood turn from the abode of working-class white families to become a cesspool of criminal gangs and the choice dwelling for poor Southeast Asian “Hmong” immigrants, the latter of which includes Walt’s next-door neighbors, the Vang Lor family. To make matters worse, Walt has a distant relationship with his family. He knows they can’t wait to move him to a retirement home just so they can take his house.

In a sense, the only family Walt has left is his Labrador named Daisy. Such was the going when the neighbor kid, Thao Vang Lor, tried to steal Walt’s Gran Torino as an initiation rite into the Hmong criminal gang. The robbery failed when Walt catches Thao instead and sends the others scampering away with his M1 Garand rifle.

The Gran Torino-fueled robbery, it seems, was a blessing in disguise, as Thao’s mother makes him work for Walt as penance – an unapologetic racist and an Asian kid, indeed. Oddly enough, the two forms an unlikely bond based on mutual respect. Walt ends up mentoring Thao, giving him dating advice, showing him how to talk like a man, and even helping him get a construction job – all because of the Ford Gran Torino midsize muscle car.

Unfortunately, the gang wouldn’t leave Thao alone, raping his sister and trying to kill him in a drive-by shooting. In response, Walt made the ultimate sacrifice with his own life and got the whole gang arrested and jailed. Perhaps, more surprising than leaving his house to the church and his cherished Gran Torino to Thao is the members of the Hmong community that thronged his funeral.

Clint Eastwood: Why Does Everyone Want My Gran Torino?

Clint Eastwood Gran Torino

Unlike Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino, the activities of the Hmong gang are central to the story. And yet, Gran Torino is neither about the gangs nor about what was wrong with the Detroit Metro neighborhood. It’s about the unlikely relationship between a white racist and his Southeast Asian neighbor brought together by a car. Walt’s wordless reaction when he finally learned that the attempt to steal his car was actually Thao’s botched initiation wasn’t lost on us.

His face communicated a sense of pride towards his Gran Torino wanted by young people he didn’t even care for. But when his own friend also requested the car in exchange for his service, Walt couldn’t help asking why everyone has their eyes set on his Gran Torino. When Walt finally died, he passed the prized car to the Asian kid he used to call “Toad,” on the condition that Thao does not modify it in any way, not even the “freaking flame” graphics.

The Gran Torino Was Actually The 1972 Ford Torino

Clint Eastwood’s character’s prized car was actually a 1972 Ford Torino. The Gran Torino’s classic coke-bottle styling is unmistakably 1970s, the heydays of American muscle. The greatest muscle cars of that era include the Plymouth Hemi Superbird that got introduced just two years prior, the 1971 Plymouth ‘Cuda Convertible, and the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 455, introduced two years later.

Gran Torino got its name from the city of Turin, considered the “Italian Detroit.” Clint Eastwood’s production company found the one that got featured in the movie on eBay before Warner Bros bought and prepped the car for its role in the Gran Torino movie. Eastwood bought the car from WB after filming ended.

The 1972 model year launched the third generation of the Ford Torino. Ford produced the Torino as an intermediate-sized model specifically for the North American market, with production lasting from 1968 to 1976. It began life as a top-trim variant of the Ford Fairlane before evolving into a standalone, primary model, much like the Ford LTD and Ford Galaxie.

The most popular Torino models were the 2-door hardtop and 4-door sedans, including high-performance variants equipped with a 7.0-liter (428 cu-in) and 429 cu-in Cobra Jet mills. Fun fact: the “Torino” name got proposed for the Mustang while in production.

Clint Eastwood’s 1972 Ford Gran Torino featured a redesign that didn’t deviate significantly from the previous generation with the most significant update being the switch to body-on-frame from the previous model’s unibody construction. The base engine was the 4.1-liter (250 cu-in) straight-six in all models except the Gran Torino Squire station wagon and the Gran Torino Sport. The last two used the 302-2V small-block V8.