David Starsky and Kenneth Hutchinson, the famed US cop duo of the 1970s better known as Starsky and Hutch, are probably best known for their use of a bright red Ford Gran Torino with a large white stripe on both sides.
The Torino belonged to Starsky and was nicknamed the "Striped Tomato" by Hutch in the episode "Snowstorm", and fans have subsequently referred to the car by that nickname ever since. In characteristic contrast, Hutch's vehicle was a battered 1973 Ford Galaxie 500 in brown. It occasionally appeared when the duo needed separate vehicles or for undercover work.
Originally, Starsky was to drive a Chevrolet Camaro convertible, however, when production started on the pilot episode, Ford Motor Company's Studio-TV Car Loan Program was the lease supplier for Spelling-Goldberg (the show's production company). They looked at lease stock and chose two 1975 V8 2-door Gran Torinos. Both cars had a role in the pilot, one being "Starsky's" car, and the other being a similar car which is mistaken for Starsky's car by the show's villains.
The cars were custom painted (on top of the factory red paint colour) with the distinctive white stripe designed by Spelling-Goldberg's transportation coordinator George Grenier. The rear ends were lifted by air shocks, and had "U.S." brand 5-slot mag wheels added with larger rear tires.
New high performance engine sounds were dubbed over scenes during the show because California law forbade mechanically modifying the engines of new cars. When the pilot was successful, Spelling-Goldberg ordered two new 1975 red Gran Torinos for the first season. These cars were powered by 400 V8s because extra power was going to be needed for additional stunt driving scenes.
The aggressive stunt driving required of the show resulted in many accidents for the Torinos. The time demands of a weekly production mandated quick body and paint repairs so the cars could get back to work as soon as possible, and many of the quick, low quality repairs are quite evident to eagle-eyed viewers of the show.
Due to the success of Starsky and Hutch, in 1976 (the Torino's final year) Ford released a limited edition (only 1,305 units total, plus three pilot production cars) Starsky and Hutch replica Gran Torino.
During the final season of Starsky and Hutch, The Dukes of Hazzard premiered on CBS, and one of the factory replicas was used in the first episode, "One Armed Bandits", seen to be driven by regular character Cooter Davenport (Ben L. Jones). This was the only appearance of the Torino in the series, and many fans have speculated over its strange one-off appearance. One theory is that it was merely an in-joke, with the Torino's former iconic car status now being taken over by the Dukes' car "The General Lee".