Clint Eastwood’s ‘Gran Torino’: How a Car Owner Realized His Old Vehicle Was in the Movie

by Emily Morgan
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The story behind the car from Gran Tornio is so good you could make a movie after it. In the film, legendary actor Clint Eastwood plays Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski who forms a bond with his neighbors, the Hmong family, and one of the teenagers, Thao. Even though the film is named after a muscle car, the movie is a must-see for everyone if you don’t consider yourself a car person.

If you’re interested in the film’s car and what happened to it after its appearance— buckle up, we’ve got all the details. 

In 1972, Ford redesigned the Tornio to have three trims: Torino, Gran Torino, and Gran Torino Sport. In the movie, Eastwood gets behind the wheel of a 1972 Gran Torino Sport. With its dark, metallic green paint job, and 300-horsepower output, the Gran Torino Sport blasted from 0-60 mph in under seven seconds. 

Unlike most films where the car is often a replica from the inside, Eastwood’s ride was the real deal. Before shooting, production found the classic car on eBay listed by a dealer named Jim Craig. Unbeknownst to Craig, the car was about to become world-famous. Before Warner Bros. bought the whip, Craig sold it to a classic car dealer in Utah. 

After the production company bought the car, the studio re-chromed the bumpers before making its movie debut. Eastwood purchased the car after shooting, and now it sits in the Warner Bros Studios Picture Car Museum in California.

Missouri Man Goes on Wild Ride After Spotting Former Car in Gran Torino

This is where the story takes a turn. When Missouri native Dave Beckett decided to see the film in 2008 after realizing it included a Gran Torino— his favorite car, he noticed something odd. He soon realized that the vehicle he was watching on the big screen was his old Tornio. 

When Beckett read an article about Craig and how he owned the car before Warner Bros bought it, Beckett called Craig, who confirmed that this car was the same one he drove off the lot back in 1972. When he bought the car, it donned a dark green vinyl top instead of the black one depicted in the film. For two years, Beckett had the car before he traded it for a 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. 

The Gran Torino was passed between several other owners, including Paul Norvell and then by Ray Dotson, both from Missouri, before Craig bought it in 2000. When Beckett contacted the car museum, he visited the museum to sit in his old ride after decades after selling it— he even had the original key. 

Outsider.com