Be it style, motorsport heritage, or a desire to live out the cop fantasy full of flared trousers and lapels (or perhaps a troubled, elderly war veteran in a bad neighbourhood), the Ford Torino offers many compelling reasons for classic car ownership consideration.
Starting its life as a top-spec derivative of the Fairline, the Torino soon developed into its own distinct model. Offered in a range of six body styles from launch, buyers could choose from an endless selection of engines and trim levels. Gearbox choices consisted of an optional syncro ‘four on the floor’, while a three-speed manual and three-speed auto were more commonly used.
The Torino was well-received in period thanks to impressive handling - a quality which helped Ford achieve great success on the track. It went on to scoop 29 Nascar victories in 1969 and 1970, wrapping up both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles in the process.
Over the years, the Torino gradually became slower and heavier - a result of tightening emissions and crash safety regulations. The range was gradually slimmed down until its eventual demise in 1976.
Which one to buy?
The Torino underwent wide-ranging and numerous revisions during its life. Released in 1968, buyers could choose from a range of five engines, from a 3.3-litre inline-six to a 7.0-litre (428cu.in) V8. Two trim levels, Torino and Torino GT, came in different body styles; the former as a four-door sedan, station wagon and 2 door hardtop, the GT as a two-door hardtop, a fastback (dubbed SportsRoof) and a convertible. Braking was by drums all round, though front discs were optional.
The most desirable Torinos are those dated between 1969-1971. The ‘69 was the last of the Fairline-based models, and was, for the first time, offered with the Super Cobra Jet V8. Displacing 7.0 litres and developing approximately 375bhp, it was the most potent model in the range.
1970 cars featured all-new styling. Lower, longer and wider than before, a more sloping roof and ‘coke bottle’ hips lent the new model a sleeker appearance. The long bonnet/short hood style was accentuated by a more pointed front end. Inside, a linear speedometer replaced the four recessed binnacles of earlier cars, and bucket seats became optionally available for all two-door models. The Brougham edition included extra sound deadening, higher-rate interior materials and unique badging.
Among the most sought-after models from ‘70 are those fitted with the Drag Pack. Powered by the Super Cobra Jet V8, it gained a stronger bottom end, forged pistons and shorter gearing. Torinos from 1971 were largely similar, though produced slightly less power.
The styling underwent major revisions in 1972. The new front end still featured four headlights, but now separate from a taller, narrower front grille. Flared wheel arches altered the looks along the flanks, as did a more steeply-raked windscreen.
The changes continued under the skin, too. The Torino reverted to body-on-frame construction (compared to the unibody design of previous models) with the intention of offering a more compliant and refined ride quality. Engines again saw a decrease in power. Though the 429 units were still used, they were more torquey and lazy than before.
Cars from 1973 onward had styling dictated by 5mph impact bumpers, resulting in a less cohesive appearance and added weight. As the range aged, a greater emphasis was placed on luxury, with equipment like an electric sunroof and leather steering wheel fitted as standard.
Though not the most desirable in terms of specification, run-out models from 1976 remain popular due to the car’s starring role in Starsky and Hutch. Likewise, ‘72 Torinos have taken an upturn in popularity since 2008 after featuring alongside Clint Eastwood in the movie ‘Gran Torino’.
Among the rarest and most desirable today are the NASCAR homologation specials. The Talladega was sold exclusively in 1969 and received a raft of performance tweaks. Based on the SportsRoof body style and powered by the 428cu in Cobra Jet V8, the Talladega can be distinguished from other Torinos by a revised front end - it stretches out 125mm further forward than normal, and sports a more flush front grille and bumper. Other changes included an open rear differential and a unique rear shock design. Approximately 750 Talladegas were produced.
The rarest of all is the King Cobra. Taking the low drag principles further, it featured a sloping front end not dissimilar to that of a Datsun 240Z. Only three were built: one with a Super Cobra Jet V8, the other two with Boss motors - one of which was tuned to around 700bhp.
Performance and spec
Engine 7022cc V8
Power 375bhp @ 5400rpm
Torque 450lb ft @ 3400rpm
Top speed approx 130mph
Fuel consumption approx 15mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
● Body and chassis corrosion are fairly frequent occurrences, though many of the worst examples have likely rotted away by now
● A particular place to look out for rust is on the floor pans. However, the midsection of the floor can be replaced by a Mustang panel with only minor adjustment. That makes them both easy to source and cheap (as little as $60 for one side section)
● Rust issues were compounded in period by poor paint jobs, particularly from 69-73. Many cars will likely have been resprayed as a result
● Torinos are fairly solid from a mechanical point of view, though cooling issues can be a problem. Though not as likely in the UK, the radiator isn’t always up to the task, while fans can seize if not cared for properly
1968: Ford Torino introduced as sub series to Fairline
1969: Latest model features minimal cosmetic changes. Talladega homologation special sold in limited numbers.
1970: Torino becomes its own standalone model, with Fairline badge becoming a trim level. All new styling for longer, lower and wider body. Two King Cobra prototypes built.
1971: Fairline name dropped from range altogether. Revised front grille for volume models (not Cobra), emissions controls cause reduced power outputs
1972: Torino completely revised for 1972. New styling, body-on-frame construction. Top-spec models now dubbed ‘Gran Torino’. Convertible discontinued.
1973: Crash safety regulations force the introduction of a redesigned front end featuring 5mph impact bumpers.
1974: 5mph impact bumpers fitted to rear. Revised front grille and new 7.5-litre V8 replaces previous top spec seven-litre. SportsRoof discontinued.
1975: Power steering and brakes now standard, mandatory catalytic converters reduce power output. Automatic gearbox only transmission option.
1976: Lineup remains the same until production ceases towards the end of the year.
Key clubs and websites
● www.andysautosport.com - US-based parts supplier who ship worldwide
● grantorinosport.org - includes resources for all Torino years plus an online forum
● www.starskytorino.com - the site to fisit for Starsky and Hutch Torino fans
Summary and prices
The aforementioned issues with corrosion have kept values relatively low compared to many of the Torino’s contemporaries, so ownership for more common models is fairly accessible. The most desirable are dated from 1969-71, especially the Talladega and King Cobra NASCAR specials.
Expect to pay around £12,000 for a reasonably tidy ‘71 Torino SportsRoof, and closer to £25,000-£30,000 for clean ‘69/’70 versions. Models equipped with the Drag Pack are worth around 20-25 per cent more, while cars fitted with air conditioning and electric windows are also a little more valuable than those without. The best Gran Torinos from 1972 tend to be priced at around £30,000.
Since 2008, Talladegas have sold from anywhere between £35-£90,000, depending on originality and condition. A King Cobra last became available for sale on 2014, priced at just under £400,000. Another, an unrestored Boss-powered example with 831 miles on the clock, is due to go under the hammer at the Kissimmee auction in January 2016.
Words: Alex Ingram