(first posted 7/23/2013) Spotted outside a Conroe, Texas transmission shop, here’s a relic of those days when it seemed as though almost every domestic vehicle line featured one or more muscle-car versions. Not to mention a time when ‘Torino’ stood for something other than a synonym for brougham-y excess.
Throughout much of the ‘60s, Ford’s intermediate Fairlane series, although popular, came off as rather staid when compared with the contemporary offerings of GM and Chrysler. An extensive restyling job, in the longer-lower-wider idiom, was intended to rectify that for 1968. This update would also include a split in model designations: “Fairlane” and “Fairlane 500” would designate lower versions, and upscale models would henceforth be Torinos.
The Torino GT was promoted as a premium ‘sport’ model, although most of its drivetrain hardware was available in lesser versions. Four body styles were available in GT trim: notchback two-door, convertible, Ranchero and, as you see here, a heavily-raked fastback, dubbed ‘SportsRoof’ in sales literature. But that’s not all–the latter body style was perhaps best known in the form of some fairly successful NASCAR racers, of which street versions were sold under the Cobra and (with a modified, more aerodynamic front end) Talladega nameplates for 1969. And then, there was the Montego-based Mercury Cyclone, which made something of a splash as well; however, we’ll limit today’s discussion to the Torino GT.
Definitely pushing the Cobra, hereThe ’68 refresh produced decent sales and carried over, with some powertrain and trim changes, for the ’69 model year. All engine choices for ’69 Torino GTs were V8s, starting with a standard 302 two-barrel and continuing through two-and four-barrel 351s (now newly available for Fairlane variants), the long-serving 390 and, at the top of the line, the 428 Cobra Jet.
The subject car is pretty much in the middle, equipment-wise. Assuming it retains its original drivetrain, the emblems on its fender flanks signal 351 Windsor power, and dual exhausts mark it as the four-barrel version, rated at 290 HP.
These were fairly popular vehicles in their day; of over 350,000 Fairlane/Torinos of all types built for 1969, more than 81,000 were Torino GTs. Nevertheless, it was the last gasp of the era before emissions controls and crashworthiness regulations sapped all the energy of the domestic industry, and competition was fierce. Thus did this particular body shell last only two years before its replacement in 1970 by a much more curvaceous shape atop essentially the same platform. While the 428 Cobra Jet-equipped versions of 1968-69 seem to have quite a following, lesser-motored examples seem to have pretty much gone the way of the dodo.
Back to the featured car. Judging from the windshield stickers…
… this one hasn’t been on the road for some time. However, it appears to be solid, the paint and striping look original, and it’s likely to have been garaged most of its life.
In my view there are no really bad angles on this car, but still the front aspect is probably the least interesting, featuring a rather nondescript, Oldsmobile-like grill flanked by modest fender extensions housing the parking lights. Apparently, standard GTs sported a non-functional hood scoop which could be deleted for credit, which is probably the case here. The hood pins might be aftermarket, apparently being standard on Cobra versions but not on GTs.
To me, the front ¾-view is the best one for this particular body style. I like the contrast between the top front and bottom rear curves of the side windows, the chrome ‘gills’ and the hunched rear fenders.
The tail’s not bad either. The concave rear panel is set off by lashings of shiny metal trim, the better to blind following drivers–and I can’t imagine being able to see much out through that backlight.
Sorry for the poor quality of the interior photo, but at least one can see that the original owner, perhaps wanting to save a few bucks or just make it easier to keep their Significant Other close during a Friday night cruise, opted for the standard front bench seat. This one looks to be an automatic–I was unable to determine whether this particular setup was a factory installation, but normally the floor-mounted shifter came with the optional front buckets and center console. The telltale presence of a panel atop the steering column suggests it may have started out with a column-mounted shifter.
Previous CC comments on these cars indicate that more folks seem to prefer the notchback two-door; while they are handsome indeed, I’m drawn to the SportsRoof just for its pure extravagance of line. Unfortunately, by all reports they were relatively clumsy handlers in either form. Some of this may be due to the almost absurd forward weight bias (I’ve seen 70% quoted) of the big-block machines. Maybe the 351 installation results in a better-balanced car, or maybe not. As with so many cars of its era, drum brakes were standard all around, but I would hope this one has the optional front discs.
Bottom line: I’m a sucker for ’60s ultra-fastbacks–and this one, I like.