- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2001

Ken Johnson was more interested in Big Wheels and bicycles when Ford produced the 1968 Torino GT convertible.
Years later, upon gaining maturity, he came to realize that many cars built during his childhood were worthwhile and deserved a look.
Opportunity came knocking in the summer of 1998 in the form of a 1968 Ford Torino GT convertible that was such a deep, dark green it was often mistaken for black.
One of the employees at Jerry's Ford on Little River Turnpike in Annandale saw a car donated for charity being driven into the Salvation Army parking lot across the street. It was the aforementioned Ford Torino.
Appearing to be a solid car, it went on the auction block and was sold to the gentleman at Jerry's Ford who first saw it.
The original plan was for a son-in-law to get the car. However, when that plan fell through, Mr. Johnson, a parts sales clerk at Jerry's Ford, stepped up and offered to buy the car.
He and his wife, Michelle, had been looking for a larger, older car to accommodate their growing family. The Torino a midsized car in 1968 perfectly fit the bill.
After getting the title to the 3,352-pound car, Mr. Johnson drove the convertible home to Woodbridge, Va., enjoying the ride afforded by the 116-inch wheelbase.
There he gave it a thorough once-over and discovered it had been repainted and had undergone a cosmetic restoration not done exactly according to Hoyle.
"It had been mechanically neglected," Mr. Johnson said.
The steel wheel rims were replaced with chrome ones shod with new tires.
"I spent many late nights working on it in the garage," Mr. Johnson said. A new radiator was located and installed. The incorrect carpeting and interior door panels also were corrected.
The instruments are in four separate pods, with the temperature and fuel gauges in the left pod with the 120 mph speedometer next door. In the third pod from the left are the alternator and oil pressure gauges, while a clock occupies the far right pod. Mr. Johnson tended to all the instruments to ensure their workability and also installed a new AM-FM radio.
With all the under-dash work being done, Mr. Johnson thought this an opportune time to paint the steering column.
The Johnsons had enjoyed their Torino for about a year and a half when suddenly the 289-cubic-inch V-8 was no longer producing 195 horsepower. "It had no power," Mr. Johnson recalls.
When he purchased the Ford, one of 5,310 such models manufactured, the odometer read 115,252 miles.
During his days off at Christmas, 1999 he pulled the engine and began to rebuild it. During this undertaking Mr. Johnson also rebuilt the automatic transmission. The floor-mounted shifter in the console indicates gears from front to rear:
Park.
Reverse.
Neutral.
Drive.
Second.
First.
A courtesy light at the rear of the console illuminates the floor in the rear seat.
Mr. Johnson attempted to head off any more down time by installing a stainless steel exhaust system. Expensive? Yes. But you only have to do it once.
The 16-foot, 9-inch-long car, which carried a base price when new of $3,001, wasn't large in 1968. But now in 2001, it delights Mr. Johnson, especially the B-I-G trunk. It's ideal for hauling all the gear needed for the children's sports activities.
Extra-cost options installed at the factory include power steering, power brakes and air conditioning.
Even though the Ford has now eclipsed 116,100 miles, it runs like the proverbial top and feels great whenever one of the Johnsons settles into the black bucket seats with the white inserts. There's an ashtray built into the back of the driver's seat, a symbol of days gone by.
From the GT emblem in the grille to the integrated backup lights in the taillights, Mr. Johnson is fond of his car that is rapidly becoming Mrs. Johnson's car.
"Still," he said, "I like looking across the hood and seeing the corners of the car."


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