One of only two prototypes ever built, the Torino King Cobra was meant to be Ford’s answer to the Dodge Charger Daytona in NASCAR.
With the mid-1969 entry of the Dodge Charger Daytona into NASCAR’s Grand National series, Ford needed something serious to maintain its years-long dominance of the series. Its 1969 entrant, the Torino Talladega, wouldn’t cut it, so Ford set to work developing a new homologation special for the 1970 season. That car, the Torino King Cobra, never made it to the track, but thankfully two prototypes survived. And now one of them can be yours.
The King Cobra prototype seen here just turned up for sale on eBay Motors with an asking price of $459,000. As NASCAR-related relics go, it doesn’t get much more rare than this.
This Torino King Cobra, a prototype meant to indicate what a production street version of the homologation special would look like, is equipped with a hot Boss 429 engine hooked up to a four-speed manual toploader transmission. In race spec, Ford intended to tune the King Cobra’s 429-cubic-inch V8 to produce a heady 700 horsepower, but it’s unclear how much power this particular car makes. The 429 isn’t this prototype’s original engine, either—Ford initially tested this car with a 460-cubic-inch V8.
Ford cancelled the Torino King Cobra project before the 1970 NASCAR season began, the same year that political infighting within the automaker led to president Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen’s firing and a steep drop in Ford’s motorsports budget. NASCAR itself didn’t help matters either, regulating the so-called “aero cars” out of eligibility for the 1971 season.
After the Torino King Cobra project was cancelled, NASCAR team owner Bud Moore bought both working street car prototypes from Ford for $1200 total. Moore didn’t do much with them—this particular example spent years abandoned in a South Carolina field. Two Ford fans found the car and restored it to its former glory, which was a huge challenge, since many of its aerodynamic body parts were made from scratch.
It’s remarkable that this car still exists, let alone in such nice condition. This will undoubtedly be the crown jewel of some lucky collector’s fleet.