1970 Ford Torino Cobra Has Had One Owner in 54 Years; the 429 CJ V8 Shakes Cool Feature

1970 Ford Torino Cobra 27 photos
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
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Ford dealt a heavy blow in 1969 when it won the NASCAR title with the help of its formidable fastback Torino racer, the Talladega. The publicity momentum gained on the track was enough to earn the Torino the Car of the Year award in 1970. To rise to the honor of the speedway hero, the street version of the hottest Torino (the Cobra) packed a 429 Cobra Jet Hemi-seeking missile that could put any Chevy in the rearview mirror.
The Torino Cobra was Ford's pure-blooded muscle car in 1970. It packed three different motors, all 429 cubic inches in size (seven liters). The entry variant was the Thunder-Jet V8, which laid down 360 hp with premium fuel, a four-barrel carburetor, and 10.5:1 compression. The middle-of-the-road option was the 429 Cobra V8 (the hot engine and the hot car shared the name, which might lead to some confusion).

Ford claimed that the increased compression of 11.3:1 added only ten ponies to the stud. Still, the 1970s were odd times when carmakers had to wrestle not only competition but also insurers. Horsepower was taxed heavily, and manufacturers understated their cars’ performances just to keep them within reach of buyers’ wallets.

Funny enough, adding ram air induction to the same Cobra V8 allegedly did nothing to improve performance - at least not on paper - as the Cobra Jet 428 V8 was rated at the same 370 hp in Ford’s literature. The top dog in the Torino Cobra’s arsenal was the 429 Boss V8.

1970 Ford Torino Cobra
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
That’s how the sales literature advertised the powerplant that officially offered 375 hp with contribution from a single four-venturi carburetor and 10.5:1 compression. Never did ‘Yeah, right!’ sound more appropriate than in this instance, but it tranquilized insurance premiums and got buyers happy.

All in all, Ford produced 7,675 Torino Cobra models in 1970 - 3,488 were equipped with the J-code Ram Air system, which consisted of a hole in the hood, an air-grabbing scoop on the air cleaner lid, and lots of fun. The Cobra Jet was a good choice for the dragstrip (or its real-life alternative, the Stoplight Eliminator Nationals). Ford dealers were aware of the car’s capabilities and aptitudes. They had one at the ready for a discerning prospect.

That last sentence might be a metaphor – not all Ford dealerships in the United States of Automobile had a stock of Cobras waiting for the right gearhead. However, at least one did – and it just so happened that Rick Heath drove by one Sunday and saw the rowdy muscle Torino sitting outside the showroom.

1970 Ford Torino Cobra
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
What do you mean, ‘Who’s Rick Heath?’ He’s the guy who bought the Ford Torino Cobra with the 429 Cobra Jet V8 in it right off the dealer’s lot the day after that Sunday. The story is nostalgic: his brother-in-law had a similar car and gave Rick a ride one weekend.

As they rode by their local Ford showroom – which had been closed since it was a Sunday – Rick gazed upon the Cobra, and that was it. On Monday morning, Mr. and Mrs. Heath were test-driving the Ford, and a little while later, they drove away in it. And that would be the end of the story and the beginning of a lifelong relationship between the two.

By two, I mean Rick Heath and his Ford Torino Cobra, which he still owns. The car outlasted the first marriage but experienced the exhaust-end roughness of a complicated divorce. Rick kept the Cobra alright, but at one point, he nearly lost all interest in it. Not because he grew cold on the trusty Ford but due to dreadful financial complications following the marital separation. The car was postponed until the skies got brighter.

1970 Ford Torino Cobra
Photo: YouTube/Lou Costabile
For some, that day never comes, and that’s how many classics end up in various states of decay following years or decades of abandonment. Rick’s Torino, however, saw the light at the end of the dark tunnel and entered a long restoration. ‘Years’ is Mr. Heath's metric when Lou Costabile asked about the project's duration.

Whatever the reasons for that prolonged renovation, the end result is speckless. The Cobra is showing off its hood in all its four-speed splendor, even though the odometer claims 81,488 miles. That’s 131,142 clicks for the respectable 429 V8 that is no stranger to quarter-mile stop-and-go driving situations.

Rick doesn’t say the rear gearing in his car, but those aftermarket oil pressure and water temperature gauges under the dash aren’t there for long highway cruises at 70 mph (110 kph if it matters). Also, the lack of air conditioning or power steering was a subtle hint at what this car was all about.

The absence of power-robbing auxiliaries means that all those 370 hp and 450 lb-ft (375 PS, 610 Nm) go exactly where they’re supposed to – the blacktop. Sometimes, when the driver gets too much lead in his right foot, the tires resurface the tarmac with a fresh coat of pitch-black rubber essence, rolling a white smoke barrel.

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About the author: Razvan Calin
Razvan Calin profile photo

After nearly two decades in news television, Răzvan turned to a different medium. He’s been a field journalist, a TV producer, and a seafarer but found that he feels right at home among petrolheads.
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