Kent Krueger learned many things during high school. Apart from the wide world of academia, the Barrington resident was taught a lesson in classic American muscle.
It was one he never forgot.
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Krueger graduated in 1972, allowing him to spend his teenage years during the heyday of V-8 nirvana.
"I went to Fremd High School (in Palatine) and remember two older students. One drove a yellow '70 Torino and the other a blue '70 Cougar. I always considered them some of the coolest guys."
Decades later, Krueger applied those parking lot lessons when purchasing a 1970 Mercury Cougar in 2001. The Detroit-born steed was even painted in the same Eliminator Blue as his schoolmate's ride.
While the Merc was an A+ for the enthusiast, a unique opportunity arose in 2004. "A friend offered to trade for his '70 Torino," Krueger said. "The (Torino) fastback was too long to fit in his garage. He was ready to part with it."
The 17-foot-long Ford Torino 429 Cobra Jet fastback had been sold new in Colorado and spent most of its years in Ohio. "It was bronze, had low miles and was totally stock."
Over the years, Krueger had studied up on the Torino. One interesting fact he gleaned is the polar reactions it generates. "It's such a long, low and wide car. People either love it or hate it," he said.
Krueger falls into the former category and was thrilled with his new acquisition. The "aero-inspired" styling of the Torino may not be for everyone but was born out of a racing heritage. Ford wanted the model to compete and more importantly win. The distinct figure allowed just that.
Krueger had no problem with the shape of the Torino's sheet metal but did have an issue with what was covering it. "I was never in love with the color. I tolerated it but was planning a change from Day One."
The overhaul commenced in 2008. Krueger settled on an eye-searing but still factory color, Grabber Yellow. "It's such a bright color. It's a real head-turner."
Only one other modification was made and it was another that Krueger felt was essential.
"A Torino isn't a true Torino without (rear) window louvers. As a 17-year-old I remember when the model came out. I've got the sales brochures and all the ones I saw had them. I can remember going to the Chicago Auto Show and seeing them on the cars there. They add a really nice touch."
New door handles and rechromed bumpers also dress up the exterior. This Ford came equipped with options like power steering and brakes, a bench seat and a Hurst 4-speed manual transmission.
Power comes by way of a 429-cubic-inch Cobra Jet V-8. In case Krueger needs a reminder of the underrated 370-horsepower engine's capability, a simple tap of the right pedal reassures him.
"A blip of the throttle and the shaker hood vibrates. It's a great thing to look out over while driving."
It's experiences like this that remind Krueger of what stirred his love for these muscle machines in the first place.
"Just to feel the rumble of the engine, hear the dual exhaust and get a whiff of the race fuel, it sends you back. Immediately I'm back in the high school parking lot."
And just like lessons learned in the classroom, he's found the simpler his ride is, the better.
"Cars like this are all about sheer carburetted horsepower -- no computers, electronics or sensors to get in the way. It's the best way to enjoy them and it's the way it should be."