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When Doug Carr wanted to find out what happened to his grandfather’s long lost 1968 Ford Torino, he assumed the internet would be the answer. “I was thinking computers and online,” said the 40-year-old Ohio man.

But months of online sleuthing and inquiries to vintage car groups failed to turn up anything. “It was a needle in a haystack,” Carr said, “and I was a little discouraged.”

That’s when his father-in-law, Mike Legg, suggested an old-school tool: the venerable newspaper want ad. Carr believed his grandfather sold his Torino around 13 years ago to someone from Minnesota. So last summer, Legg started running ads in the Star Tribune’s classified section that read, “Grandson seeking to find grandfather’s blue 1968 Ford Torino sold from Oceanside, CA to MN around 2006.”

The Torino was the pride and joy of Carr’s grandfather, Thomas Carr, a bus driver from Pittsburgh who moved to California after he retired.

The Torino GT with a 200-horsepower V-8 was purchased new by Thomas Carr’s sister, who sold it to her brother in the 1990s when she got too old to operate the four-speed manual transmission. Thomas Carr restored it and sent pictures of the car to his grandson. When Doug came to visit, they would wax the car and take rides together.

“This was a great source of pride for him,” he said. “It kind of defined him.”

Thomas Carr sold the Torino shortly before he died of cancer. About three years ago, Doug Carr started wondering about the car, whether he could find it and see it once again.

“It would remind me of my grandfather. He had an influence on my life,” he said. “My main thing was just to try to see it.”

The ad Legg placed resulted in a handful of calls from people in Minnesota who had an old Torino, but none was the one that Carr’s grandfather had owned. So Legg decided to run the ads in smaller newspapers in outstate Minnesota.

“I ran an ad every week from probably last June until January,” he said.

Finally, in January, he got a call from a Milaca man who had a 1968 Torino that he bought from a man in California. The VIN number matched the one Carr had traced by using the license plate number in an old photo. The car in Milaca was his grandpa’s car.

A sentimental journey

Lynn Klinghagen knows what it’s like to search for a car for sentimental reasons.

About 17 years ago, he began looking online for a blue 1968 Ford Torino. That was the kind of car he had when he got out of the Army in 1979 and came back to Milaca, his hometown.

Klinghagen, 62, was driving his Torino when he met his wife, Mary. The marriage is still going strong after 37 years, but the Torino was totaled in an accident in 1981.

Around 2002, he started looking for a car like the one he drove when he was courting Mary. He spent a couple of years bidding unsuccessfully on Torinos online until he found one for sale by a Thomas Carr in California.

In 2005, the Klinghagens flew out to take a look at it. As soon as he saw the beautifully maintained vehicle, he told his wife, “Yeah, we’re going home with it no matter what.”

They struck a deal, and the couple drove the Torino 2,650 miles home. Lynn Klinghagen put only another 500 miles on the car since then, using it for trips to a nearby car show and to take the grandkids for a Sunday spin.

His brother spotted Legg’s classified ad in the Town & Country Shopper, a free weekly paper distributed in the Milaca area.

“I went back and dug it out of the garbage and read the ad,” Klinghagen said. “I thought it was kind of neat.”

He called Legg in January. But because the car was sealed in a rodent-proof storage container for the winter, Legg and Carr waited until Memorial Day weekend to drive from Ohio to Minnesota to see it.

Carr told Klinghagen about his grandfather and his love of the Torino. They took pictures. And of course, they went for a ride. Carr even got a turn behind the wheel.

“It gave me chills to be able to sit in it and drive it,” he said.

‘A passion for the car’

The car, which had only about 39,700 miles on it, was still in great shape.

“It’s obvious that Lynn took spectacular care of it,” Carr said. “You hear about Minnesota winters and you’re a little worried. Obviously, he had a passion for the car.”

And even though he figured they wouldn’t want to sell it, Carr asked the Klinghagens for the opportunity to buy the car if and when they were ever ready to sell.

It turned out they had been talking about selling since Carr and Legg contacted them.

“You wouldn’t believe the discussions we had deciding whether to sell it,” said Klinghagen, who planned to give the car to his son when he died.

In the end, he decided to sell Carr the Torino for $14,000 — the price he had paid Thomas Carr, plus the amount Klinghagen spent replacing the suspension.

“This car was not for sale to anybody but him,” Klinghagen said. “I understand him wanting his grandpa’s car, how important that is.”

Last Saturday, Carr and Legg flew to Minnesota again. The Klinghagens drove down to the Twin Cities with the Torino.

“Driving down here, I really had second thoughts,” Lynn Klinghagen admitted.

Still, he and Mary met Carr and Legg at an IHOP in Bloomington, ate eggs and hash browns and exchanged a check for a set of car keys. Klinghagen also handed over the paperwork and repair receipts that Thomas Carr had given him. Then they went to the far corner of the restaurant parking lot, where Klinghagen had carefully parked the Torino in the shade.

A teary-eyed Klinghagen gave Carr some tips on how to get the hubcaps off without scratching the paint and bid the beloved Torino goodbye.

Then Carr and his father-in-law got in, fired up the engine with a rumble, and started their 13-hour drive back home.

Richard Chin • 612-673-1775