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.
1970 Ford Torino King Cobra Sideview
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.
1970 Ford Torino King Cobra Interior
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 were relegated to use as Dearborn “gofer” cars.
1970 Ford Torino King Cobra Rear
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 $1200 (!). One car, dressed in bright yellow, was parked at his shop. The other, blue at the time, had a damaged nose which he replaced with regular Torino sheet metal and eventually sold to a police officer. As far as we know, the car became a daily driver….. Read more on: ebay