21 October 2013

Ford Torino Cobra King still turns heads

Only three made

The Louisville Concours d’Elegance held at the famous Churchill Downs racecourse, the home of the Kentucky Derby, moved this year to the French Lick Resort in West Baden, Indiana.

If you’re considering a trip to this part of the U.S., I would highly recommend that you visit the architectural marvel and National Historic Landmark. Google "West Baden Springs Hotel" for more details.

This is one of the first concours events that I have judged that had a contingency plan if the weather turned, and it certainly did that with a fierce storm and flash flooding throughout the weekend. The event was moved into an indoor tennis court and the first level of the facility’s parking garage and turned out better than many expected it would.

Among the usual array of spectacular American classics and European sports cars a 1970 Ford Torino Cobra King caught my eye. Upon further investigation and speaking to the owner, Steve Hennell of Lewisburgh, Tennessee, I discovered this was one of only three prototypes built in an attempt to fend off the Mopar competition and to challenge the Daytonas and Superbirds in the NASCAR racing series.

With General Motors on a hiatus from racing the Ford and Mopar rivalry was fierce. There was a lot of excitement about the aerodynamic King Cobra, including an appearance on the front cover of Motor Trend magazine (October, 1969), but it was to be short-lived. Ford President Lee Iacocca cancelled 75 per cent of their 1970 racing budget, and pulled all of Fords factory support to racing in 1971.

To see a functional 43-year-old prototype is quite rare, and to see one of this significance was certainly a treat. It boasts a near perfect condition Torino body, with its unique sloping nose and recessed headlights that resemble those of a Datsun 240Z, and under the hood there’s the original 375-hp/429 cid, V8 engine that was rescued out of the Holman and Moody racing shop in North Carolina.

The car is completely original with the exception of a fresh paint job. One of the other examples, finished in red, is being offered for sale by a dealer in North Carolina for $599,000 US.

Anyone looking for a crown jewel to add to their Ford collection would be hard-pressed to find another one because the photographed yellow example is not for sale

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