1970 Ford Torino King Cobra Prototype

Ford Motor Company has been synonymous with racing ever since the early days for the Model T, but no era brought as much success as the 1960s. By 1969, Ford already had four consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans wins with the GT40, while the Mustang was putting up a good fight in the Trans-Am series. The Blue Oval also dominated the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as the almighty Torino Talladega had won the championship in both 1968 and 1969.

However, with Dodge and its Charger Daytona growing increasingly stronger throughout 1969, Ford planned to bring its very own "aero warrior" to the party in the form of a modified, much more aerodynamic Torino. Thus the King Cobra was born, a prototype motivated by the famous Boss 429 engine and capable of delivering enormous amounts of downforce on the oval track. Unfortunately, as NASCAR increased the minimum number of cars produced for the public from 500 to 3,000 for a vehicle to qualify for the Sprint Cup, Ford abandoned the project and left Dodge and Plymouth to dominate the series for the next three years.

44 years later (as of 7/7/2014), the Torino King Cobra prototype resurfaced to regain its glory as a near-mint, classic collectible with an intriguing story attached to its name.

Click past the jump to read more about the 1970 Ford Torino King Cobra.

Exterior

Ford Torino King Cobra Prototype
Ford Torino King Cobra Prototype
Ford Torino King Cobra Prototype

The familiar headlamp and grille design with the wraparound bumper were dropped in favor of a sharp nose fascia with dual headlights located in the fenders.

The King Cobra project added numerous visual modifications to the Ford Torino. The front fascia and the front fenders received major overhauls, as Ford Ford looked to improve the car’s aerodynamics and downforce. The familiar headlamp and grille design with the wraparound bumper were dropped in favor of a sharp nose fascia with dual headlights located in the fenders. The breather was moved in the lower fascia, beneath chromed bumper, while the turn signals were relocated between the Datsun 240Z -like headlamps. Longer and sloped toward the nose, the reworked hood had a blacked-out center portion and the usual scoop was removed.

Big changes occurred around back as well. The regular bumper that covered most of the apron was replaced by a narrower unit that left the exhaust pipes in sight. Gone were the vertical taillights too, as well as the stripe and the Ford emblem residing between them. A set of horizontal taillights, "King Cobra" graphics and a spoiler with black inserts highlighted the revised rear end. When viewed from the side, the King Cobra’s longer overhangs become more obvious, while the Torino GT-like stripes enhance its sleek, fast appearance.

Interior

Ford Torino King Cobra Prototype
Ford Torino King Cobra Prototype
Ford Torino King Cobra Prototype

Unlike the exterior, the King Cobra's interior was pretty much standard Torino, albeit not without the bells and whistles found in any 1970s muscle car.

Unlike the exterior, the King Cobra’s interior was pretty much standard Torino, albeit not without the bells and whistles found in any 1970s muscle car. The cabin came with vinyl-wrapped bench seats, polished door sills, stainless-trimmed pedals and an early 1970s-specific, three-spoke steering wheel. The chrome pull switches, the slider controls for the heater and radio, and the horizontal speedometer seen in most Ford of the era were present in the Torino King Cobra as well. Like most top-level muscle cars, the prototype has a Hurst T-handle shifter mounted on the black carpet covering the floor.

Drivetrain

Ford Torino King Cobra Prototype

This specific prototype was fitted with Ford’s almighty Boss 429 engine, a powerplant available only in the Boss 429 Mustang. The 7.0-liter, Semi-Hemi V-8 unit was tuned to deliver no less than 700 horsepower, which accounted for an improvement of over 200 ponies when compared to the Mustang Boss 429. Just like in the road-going muscle car, the engine mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. The rest of the drivetrain and underpinnings are pretty much stock Torino, save for the custom, long-tube headers, the IMCO mufflers, and 3.50 gearing.

Engine TypeGasoline
Engine Size429 V8
Engine NumberC9AE 6015A
Headsn/a
Fuel SpecificationRacing Fuel
Fuel Delivery System TypeSingle 4 Barrel
Transmission Type4 Speed Manual
Transmission SpecToploader

Suspension

Ford Torino King Cobra Prototype

Fitted with NASCAR-spec suspension front and rear, the Torino King Cobra took the test track with a pair of heavy-duty leaf springs and Monro-Matic shocks at the rear end. Up front, the standard double A-arm configuration came with NASCAR-spec springs for lowered ride height. Braking power was delivered by power-assisted front disc and rear drum brakes, while a set of Magnum Magnum 500 wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle tires were in charge with pushing the 700-horsepower Torino around oval tracks.

Prices

This specific example, one of the only two original prototypes built by Ford, is for sale at RK Motors Charlotte for $549,900. Previously owned by Bud Moore, a former NASCAR car owner, this Torino King Cobra comes with only 43,325 miles on its odometer and an original invoice from Ford.

Competition

Dodge Charger Daytona

Dodge Charger Daytona

The Charger Daytona was the main reason behind Ford’s decision to develop an aerodynamic Torino racer. Introduced for the 1969 season, the Charger Daytona featured special bodywork that included a bespoke nose cone that covered the car’s traditional front end and a 23-inch-tall rear wing, among other modifications. The Charger Daytona won 22 NASCAR races over the 1969 and 1970 seasons before being replaced by the Plymouth Superbird.

Chrysler built 500 Daytonas to comply with NASCAR’s homologation rules and sold them with two different engine. Most Daytonas were fitted with 7.2-liter, Magnum V-8 engines, while about 70 examples were sold with the more powerful 7.0-liter, HEMI V-8 powerplant. Transmission options included a four-speed manual and a three-speed Torqueflite 727 automatic. The Dodge Daytona is a prized collectible nowadays, with several HEMI-equipped examples fetching more than $300,000 at auctions.

Conclusion

Ford Torino King Cobra Prototype

The fact that this prototype is alive and kicking after 44 years is essentially a miracle, as most prototypes and test mules are either crushed or dismantled once their builders are done with them. Sure, it doesn’t make up for the fact that the King Cobra never became a true NASCAR racer, but this orange Torino remains an important part of Ford’s racing history and a sought-after vehicle among collectors. Part of a batch of two original prototypes built by the Blue Oval, this specific Torino King Cobra is actually a unique piece, being the only one fitted with a Boss 429 engine. Is this enough to justify the price tag? Probably not to those who would rather purchase a brand-new Ferrari, but we definitely see a market among NASCAR and racing aficionados.

LOVE IT
  • Unique and well-documented
  • Fully functional prototype
  • Still has its original parts
  • Builds on Torino Talladega NASCAR glory
  • Iconic engine with enormous horsepower
LEAVE IT
  • Never became a true race car
  • Expensive
  • It won’t win any beauty contests

What is your take?

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