Derek Powell writes for a living, but he turned the notepad over to us for this story about his 1970 Torino, Harriet. Harriet is named for a friend, an 82-year-old firecracker of a lady who sold her Ford to Powell before she passed away in 2003. We’ll call them Harriet-the-car and Harriet-the-lady to avoid confusion. Harriet-the-car is one of only 5,552 Torino GT convertibles made by Ford over a two-year span from 1970-71. Derek met Harriet-the-lady through his mom. They were friends, and Derek’s mom thought he would enjoy talking cars with Harriet. Harriet-the-lady was a Ford fan. She owned several Torinos, including a canary-yellow model with a 300-horse 351 Cleveland, which she eventually traded in on the sky blue 302 V-8 Cruise-o-matic that we found ourselves riding shotgun in as the sun set over Malibu, California. Still robust-ish with 220 hp and 223 lb-ft of torque, the small block had plenty of power to move the 3644-pound unibody around the curves on Mulholland.
When Derek first got the Torino, it needed more than a little TLC. Derek isn’t against a great resto-mod, but he sees his role with Harriet-the-car as more caretaker and preserver. So, the stock C4 tranny was rebuilt to spec and everything he’s replaced on the 302, valve cover gaskets, distributer, points, plugs, plug wires and a rebuilt carb is a new old stock part or parts off another Torino. Harriet-the-lady was an original, and Powell thinks her car should be no different. Two of only a handful of upgrades he made to the car are the Magnaflow exhaust that produces Harriet’s sonorous, throaty engine note and 15-inch BF Goodrich tires.
Given the Torino’s Northern Italian connection—the car was named after the city of Turin, once considered the “Detroit of Italy”—we thought the best way to discuss her was over some authentic Piedmont cuisine. Gusto (pronounced Goo-stow) on West 3rd Street, in Los Angeles, seemed like the perfect destination. In English “gusto” means taste, which clearly Harriet had mountains of when she set her sights on the Torino. Gusto is a small, intimate place that seats about 40 people—a perfect, candle-lit date joint where we’re pretty certain we were the only people talking automotive carbs while we devoured the fattening kind.
After starting off with a spicy broccolini in chilies and lemon then meatballs al forno with tomatoes and ricotta, Powell gushed fondly about Harriet over potato gnocchi with procuitto, spinach, gorgonzola and walnuts. I opted for the house’s signature dish, black spaghetti with olives, tomatoes, anchovies & Calabrian chili, think a hearty puntanesca but with squid ink pasta. The rest of the menu is packed with other regional Northern Italian favorites, oxtail ragu, calamari and different varieties of mushrooms. (We sort of want to go back to try the bucatini carbonara, badly). We finished off with something sweet, just for Harriet, of course, a decadent coconut gelato pie that was a slice of heaven.
Prices are pretty decent, between $10-$17 for appetizers and $17-$23 for entrees, but you get a lot of incredible for your buck in this lively local spot. And we know we picked the perfect restaurant because the valet thought the Torino a worthy enough Italian to park right out front.
8432 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dinner: Sunday – Thursday 6pm-10pm, Friday + Saturday 6pm-11pm
Got a restaurant we should try and a car we should drive there? Let us know in the comments.