Listen carefully, and you might hear something peculiar as this '72 Torino rolls by. Yes, there's that wonderful cacophony of overlap-enhanced combustion you'd expect from a lumpity-lump big-block. However, if you knew that Brian Zoeller calls his car Roxanne, you'd swear that there's a strident yet strangely pleasing falsetto voice encoded between the exhaust pulses, belting out a familiar '70s tune in a British accent. After you get the obligatory giggles out of your system, the name Roxanne just seems so right. Not that the Torino has led an illicit and promiscuous lifestyle, but because getting involved with a beast that's so big, so underappreciated, so non-mainstream, so shunned by the average enthusiast, seems so forbidden. But hey, big girls need lovin' too, and there's lots to love about this Torino.
Although it's very much a work in progress, frugal spending and a comprehensive long-term battle plan have yielded a car that's 100 percent cool and functional just 75 percent of the way into the build. The Torino packs a mildly worked-over 460, a fortified 9-inch rearend, frat boy straight-body panels, sweet paint, and a killer stance all for under $20,000. Sure, Brian dreams of someday building a monster stroker motor, throwing on a power adder, and tightening up the suspension, but prioritizing the big-ticket items has enabled him to enjoy his car while the final 25 percent of the project is still being ironed out. Hot rodders rarely exercise the discipline necessary to emulate a similar approach, but it sure beats trying to be a hero by tackling everything at once, only to end up with an incomplete jalopy surrounded by an expensive pile of depreciating parts. For Brian, going fullsize isn't just a fetish. His favorite pastime is loading all five of his kids inside the Torino's capacious cocoon, and hitting up cruise night.
Surrounded by drag racers as a kid, Brian has owned an impressive list of muscle machines through the year including a '70 Mach 1, a '72 Cutlass, and a 429-powered '72 Torino. He's done the late-model thing, too, having built and raced several third-gen Camaros and 5L Mustangs. One of those late models was a 700hp '94 Mustang Cobra that routinely terrorized the streets of Indianapolis. Unfortunately, when some unexpected medical expenses started stacking up, the car had to go. "I tried my best to keep it, but something had to give, so I put the Mustang on eBay and sold it for $18,000. All my friends knew how much I loved that car and how hard it was for me to part with it, but my family's needs and finances needed to be my top priority at the time," Brian says.
A year later, the bills were under control, but Brian was experiencing a bad case of post-hot rodding depression. Money was still tight, so staying on a strict budget was imperative. Out of all the cars he owned in the past, Brian's first '72 Torino stood out the most, so the search for a second one was on. "I really loved that car, but had to sell it in order to buy a house," he says. "I then saw an article in PHR (October 2005) titled '9 Cars You Need to Build' that showed how cool Torinos could be if given the Pro Touring treatment. That really inspired the direction of my build, and gave me a clear vision of what I wanted to accomplish."
The dollar-stretching engine...
The dollar-stretching engine combo is essentially a stock 460 short-block that's been freshened up with new rings and bearings, and topped off with an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold and cylinder heads. A COMP 233/241-at-.050 hydraulic roller bumps the valves, and output is estimated at 550 to 600 hp. Brian plans on either building a 545ci naturally aspirated mill in the future, or bolting on a blower or nitrous to the current setup.
When it comes to fullsize...
When it comes to fullsize muscle cars, everything's big. The 295/45R18 Nittos fit inside the wheelwells with plenty of room to spare.
That cool-looking dual-nostril...
That cool-looking dual-nostril hood is actually a stock piece. Its functional openings feed fresh air into the carb.
The supply of '72 Torinos in the local Indianapolis market proved slim, but Brian found a good candidate listed on eBay for $3,000 in Colorado. "I bought it sight unseen, and the seller had very little feedback, so I took a bit of a gamble. Fortunately, when the car arrived it was very straight with virtually no rust damage, and the former owner had already swapped in a 460 big-block and a C6 transmission," Brian says. That was the good part, but the interior was in shambles. "The car was used as a roundy-round dirt track car, so it was pretty much gutted to save weight. It even had a dinky two-barrel carb on it, which I assume was required by the rulebook. There was also a giant 50-gallon fuel cell in the trunk, and the former owner cut a hole in the bottom of the trunk to get it to fit. I'd never even seen a cell that big before."
What used to be a gutted cabin...
What used to be a gutted cabin has been outfitted with Scat bucket seats, a Grant GT steering wheel, a Classic Air A/C system, and an Eclipse stereo with an eight-disc CD changer. The left and right kick panels were modified to house the front speakers. A cupholder out of an Infiniti G35 has been retrofitted into the stock center console.
With the help of his friend, Marc Beaman, Brian extracted the circle track fuel cell, patched up the trunk, and installed a 20-gallon unit in its place. Piecing together the interior, however, proved to be a much bigger challenge. "Finding interior and trim parts for cars like this can be a real challenge. I found most of the parts on Torino message boards and on eBay," he says. "Since I wanted to install bucket seats, I had to track down a center console, which was nearly impossible to find. If that wasn't bad enough, it was even harder to find the mounting brackets for it. If it wasn't for a guy who I found online who was willing to dig them up out of his barn, I probably wouldn't have figured out how to mount the thing." Despite the frustrations, the interior went together piece by piece, and Brian finished it off with an Eclipse stereo and a Classic Auto A/C system.