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Jerry Lester has owned this stunningly restored 1972 Ford Gran Torino since new. His story starts while he was in Viet Nam and continues to this day -- This is his story of "An Old Friend"

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1972 Ford Gran Torino - Jerry & Sue Lesters' Ford is "An Old Friend"
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By Society Staff – reprint with permission only

Like all others who returned from Viet Nam, I have stories I can tell. But this isn’t about the war or survival, it is about the beginning of a longtime friendship. Most people call friendship a relationship between two or more people. This story is different because it is between me and this 1972 Gran Torino.

Most troops elected to take R&R to see the world. I elected to come home to see my new son in December 1971. While at home, I took time to shop both Ford and Chrysler dealers for a new car. The Hemi ‘Cuda looked and sounded great, but then it came time for the actual choosing. My first car was a 62 Ford Galaxie. Before that, my family had a ’57 and ’60 Fords. So Ford was, as they say, in my blood.

After returning to Da Nang, I made a trip to the PX, and with the numbers and ideas I had with me, placed an order for this new 1972 Gran Torino. That was February 10, 1972. I returned to the States in February and on February 25th, 1972 I received my new “friend” from Don McMillian Ford in Houston TX. Being stationed at Fort Hood (Texas) for a year, I started drag racing the Torino in NHRA L/SA at West Fort Hood. The car was very competitive – running 15.9 on a 15.1 national record.

Thirteen hard years later with 74,000 miles on him; four wrecks; and a divorce, the car was parked. My “friend” was nine years in the purgatory of the garage before my new wife and I decided that “our Friend” needed a better life. It would take another four years of countless miles a-drivin’, acres of salvage yards a-walkin’, numerous catalogs a-readin’ and buckets full of dollars a-pourin’ before we had a car we both were very proud of.

As with so many projects, what started as a redo make-over to have a car to drive around quickly turned into a total frame-off restoration. Not wanting a concurs stock car, we elected to personalize him to compete as a late-conservative hardtop.

Randy and Bruce worked their magic on a very sick patient while Sue and I became the legs of the project. Any parts that were needed – we found them. And with this car being a one-year only style (as far as the front end sheet metal goes) parts were not on every street corner. But with the help from Fairlane Club members and other connections, we were able to do our part of the job.

In addition, I did the frame job in our garage. All the lines were replaced with stainless steel. New bushings and other suspension items were added – powder coated or painted. The brake system was ably handled by N.W. Diesel.

With the body painted and back on the frame, attention went to the interior. A good friend – Mike Blanchette, owner of Blanchette Auto Trim – did the seats, door inserts and package tray using gray tweed / w black vinyl both for creature comfort and keeping the original design right down to the buttons. I reassembled all the parts.

For power, Conrad Racing did a great job. Eddie rebuilt the original 351 Cobra Jet engine using Keith Black dome pistons, Crane cam and valve train; Edelbrock intake; Holley carb; Pertronix distributor; MSD ignition; ceramic-coated Hooker headers; and the original NASCAR heads. The assembled blueprinted and balanced engine with 10.5:1 compression produced 370 horsepower. The original C-6 automatic transmission was rebuilt by Circle D Transmissions with the housing clear coasted for show. The stock Ford 9 inch Posi rear was rebuilt by Conrad as well with 3.50:1 gears.

We have won lots of ISCA and local shows. Although a lot of expense and hard work went into “Our Friend”, it was worth it for the fun we have had. We’ve met lots of people that share our interest and either remember or have owned a 1972 Gran Torino.

Thanks to all the people who have worked on the car and all who helped getting parts we needed. But most of all, I would like to thank my wife Sue. Without her love and support, our dreams of the rebirth of “An Old Friend” would never have happened.

Here is my "Old Friend" the 72 Gran Torino

The original 351 C Cobra Jet engine

Stock interior was completely redone -- comfort and beauty

The original 351 Cobra Jet engine was completely rebuilt and modified

Hooker headers let the power out

The Ford 9" posi rear with 3.50: 1 gears