The fate of prototypes and test mules is often pretty grim. After countless miles of flogging, tuning, and more flogging yet, they're usually either banished to a dusty corner of the basement or crushed and forgotten entirely. To see a functional 43-year-old prototype is rare but to see one of this significance is truly special. The car is a 1970 Ford Torino King Cobra and it's one of just two original test cars known to exist. The product of a stillborn racing development program, the car features one-of-a-kind aerodynamic upgrades and a hot Boss 429 backed by a Toploader 4-speed. With links to legends like Holman & Moody and Bud Moore Engineering, the King Cobra is well known among Ford royalty and documented across many printed and online publications. If you're looking for the crown jewel for your Ford collection, this is the ultimate.
To put the car into context, you have to travel back to the infamous NASCAR "Aero Wars" that took place during the 1969 and 1970 Grand National seasons. With GM on hiatus from racing, the competition between Ford and Chrysler grew to unprecedented levels. With the understanding that winning races equated to sales, both camps turned exotic experimentations in speed and aerodynamics. While Dodge fired the first shot with its Charger 500, Holman & Moody responded on Ford's behalf with the Torino Talladega – a car that claimed the 1969 Daytona 500. By the next time the series visited Atlanta Motor Speedway, Mercury had rolled out its own version of the Talladega which they called the Cyclone Spoiler II. The new Ford designs certainly intensified the rivalry but it was the introduction of the Boss 429 that really forced the Mopar camp to step up. Their response? A mid-season knockout known as the Dodge Charger Daytona.
Despite an impressive Mopar showing, David Pearson managed to lock up a second consecutive Grand National Championship, keeping Ford on top for the time being. Meanwhile, back in Dearborn, Larry Shinoda and company were busy designing an all-new aero warrior for the 1970 season. This one followed Mopar's sloped-nose vision but applied it to the new longer, wider, and sleeker Fairlane which, in turn, became the King Cobra. Powered by a 700hp variant of the Boss 429, the car showed promise during testing and, by all accounts, was poised to be a serious threat on the track. Unfortunately, the King Cobra's demise was already on the horizon. The car's main supporter, former Ford president Bunkie Knudsen, was fired and replaced by Lee Iacocca who wasted no time in slashing Ford's racing budget by 75 percent. Whatever remaining chance of survival the King Cobra had was reduced to zero by new NASCAR regulation designed to minimize the aero cars and even the overall playing field.
If it weren't for NASCAR car owner Bud Moore, there's a good chance that neither this car nor its sibling would be around for us to admire today. The car's design studio clays were destroyed, fiberglass mock-ups of the nose were tucked away at Holman & Moody's shop, and the two running street prototypes (it's rumored that there are actually three cars) were relegated to use as Dearborn "gofer" cars. Moore spotted the King Cobras in 1971 while picking up several Mustangs for the upcoming SCCA season and, being a long-time Ford racer, used his influence to strike a deal on both cars. According to the original receipt, the pair set him back a mere $1,200!. One car was parked at his shop and the other had a damaged nose. And as the story goes, he replaced it with regular Torino sheet metal and eventually sold it to a police officer. As far as we know, the car became a daily driver. After a bit of online research, we did manage to locate the Yellow Torino at Floyd Garrett's Muscle Car Museum, located in Sevierville, TN. The car seems to be in good health and hopefully many visitors of the museum will enjoy its NASCAR roots and heritage as much as we do.
They say that legends don't die and, in the case of the blue King Cobra, that statement holds true. Some years later, Ford fanatics Steve Danielle and Dennis Roy were informed of an unusual Torino hull sitting in a South Carolina field. The car was reported to carry a '69-style data plate stamped X0-429-0058-3 as well as prototype stickers and Boss 429 shock towers. The combination was too interesting to pass up so the pair struck a deal and brought the Torino home. Restoration proved to be doubly difficult as they had to first figure out what exactly the car was and then find the ultra-rare pieces needed to complete it. Contacts in the Ford NASCAR world confirmed the car was formerly a King Cobra while other connections guided them towards to the original nose. Once the puzzle pieces were in place, efforts focused on the body. Sanding revealed a Vermillion base coat buried underneath several layers of paint, so the car was re-shot with that high-profile hue. Though the restoration has some age on it, the paint and body still show with confidence – a true testament to the level at which the car was restored.
Even in a showroom full of unique and amazing vehicles, the King Cobra stands out with ease. At least part of that can be accredited to its 17.5-ft length. Like its Mopar competitors, there is nothing small about the car. The sloped nose features two detachable panels that hide a pair of round headlights in a scooped configuration reminiscent of a Datsun 280Z. A slender chrome bumper fills the space between the nose and a lower grille section while two square turn signals and right-justified Ford lettering round out the hand-crafted front end. Despite that Datsun headlight comparison, there is no question that this bruiser is all Torino from the A-pillars back. The one unique addition to the package is the aforementioned convex rear glass found between those sloped C-pillars. Tests showed that, at high speeds, the stock concave piece caused unpredictable handling so the glass was shaped to help overall stability. Both the front and rear sport Carlite-stamped glass which reads "Prototype development tooling not to specification".
As a prototype, this car was a rolling test bed for Ford products. While the car was delivered to Bud Moore's shop with a hot 460, that engine was neither the first nor last to be fitted into the car. By the time Danielle and Roy got to the car, that motor was long gone anyway. With the Boss 429 shock towers in place, the bay was practically begging for Shotgun power so that's exactly what you'll find in place today. The block carries a clean coat of blue paint and a C9AE-6015A casting number which designates it as a high performance 429. The foundation is topped with aluminum heads which frame the combination of C9AE 9425-D aluminum dual plane intake and a single Holley four barrel. Dress is provided by a blue single snorkel air cleaner assembly with a chrome lid while black Boss 429 valve covers carry the famous Holman & Moody logo. From the power steering pump and power brake assembly to the windshield wiper motor on the firewall, all the makings of a comfortable driver are present and period correct. Details like the Autolite voltage regulator, correct hoses, and an Autolite Sta-Ful battery further that authentic presentation. Turn the key and the Boss roars to life without hesitation, settling into an intimidating idle.
Despite all the impressive hardware up top, the car is all Torino underneath. The floors are coated in satin black and, while there are some hardware upgrades visible, nothing strays to far from the factory work. The most notable difference is the addition of custom long tube headers that connect to a massive dual exhaust ...for more information please contact the seller.