In 1970, a Poorly-Advertised Option Gave the Ford Torino Cobra Superpowers

During the last great year of the original muscle car era, the American automotive industry was pushing out a wide range of outstanding muscle cars. One of the coolest yet underappreciated models was a venomous tire-shredder called Ford Torino Cobra, which was available with a spectacular engine option that few knew existed.
Ford Torino 429 Super Cobra Jet 12 photos
Photo: Speed55/Bring a Trailer
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For 1970, the Torino became Ford’s primary mid-size offering, and its Fairlane sibling morphed into a sub-series. In addition, the carmaker moved away from the boxy lines of the full-size models employing a completely new design that was influenced by coke bottle styling.

One thing that didn’t change was the availability of the performance-oriented Cobra option. That year, the Torino Cobra – priced at $3,270 ($24,183 today) – came with a standard 429-ci (7.0-liter), 360-hp, four-barrel Thunder Jet V8 (code N) mated to a Toploader four-speed with a floor-mounted Hurst shifter. The muscle car also boasted a competition suspension as well as numerous appearance upgrades such as a blacked-out hood and grille, 14 x 7-inch wheels wrapped in white-letter tires, a blacked-out hood equipped with pins and, a matching black grille. It was a basic yet thrilling vehicle that didn’t stand out in any way from rival models.

The performance Torino became more deadly in 429 Cobra guise. For an additional $164, owners would get all the goodies mentioned above, plus the 429 Cobra Jet (code C) engine that featured new cylinder heads, enlarged intake and exhaust valves, a higher compression ratio, and a 700-cfm Rochester Quadrajet four-barrel carb bolted atop a redesigned intake. On paper, these modifications increased the output by 10 hp, but on the dyno, the engine could produce close to 400 horses. There was also a code J version of this engine that came with a cold-air intake scoop that protruded through a dedicated hood. This was attainable via the $229 Ram Air option, which was weirdly expensive considering that it brought no significant performance gains.

Ford Torino 429 Super Cobra Jet
Photo: Speed55/Bring a Trailer
Things got even weirder with the top option. Although it turned the Torino 429 Cobra into a veritable supercar killer, the Drag Pack was briefly mentioned at the bottom of the 18th page in Ford’s brochure, referencing only a drag friendly 3.91:1 ring-and-pinion setup and a limited-slip differential. It was very easy to miss, and only a few die-hard enthusiasts knew what it really had to offer.

Apart from the upgrades mentioned in the brochure, this $155 option ($74 cheaper than the Ram Air) beefed up the already-muscular 429 Cobra Jet engine with high-performance components like four-bolt main caps on the middle bearings, forged aluminum pistons with stronger connecting rods, a new cam with a far more aggressive profile and solid lifters that replaced the hydraulic variants of the code C 429, an oil cooler, higher-flow exhaust manifolds, or a 780-cfm Holley 4150 carb mounted on a high-riser intake that could deliver 12% more air.

All these high-performance hardware turned the regular Cobra Jet eight-cylinder into what was basically a new engine dubbed Super Cobra Jet. The venomous powerplant was far more durable, and the aforementioned components enabled it to unleash a lot more than the 375 horses it was advertised with. It proved to be a very tuner-friendly platform that could easily produce over 500 hp with just minor modifications.

Ford Torino 429 Super Cobra Jet
Photo: Speed55/Bring a Trailer
In February 1970, Motor Trend magazine took a stock Super Cobra Jet-powered Torino to the strip where the staff recorded a 0 - 60 mph (97 kph) time of 5.8 seconds as well as a quarter-mile time of 13.99 seconds at 101 mph (162.5 kph).

Even if it was larger and heavier, this outstanding car was often capable of beating a Camaro SS in a drag race, as you can see in the video below posted on YouTube by Cars and Zebras.

In stock form, the Super Cobra Jet might not have been a huge upgrade over the conventional Cobra Jet, but the host of performance upgrades it came with for only $155 made it an incredible bargain.

Ford Torino 429 Super Cobra Jet
Photo: Speed55/Bring a Trailer
Unfortunately, this option came several years too late, as stricter emission regulations and the 1973 oil crisis put an end to the golden age of the muscle car era and prevented many owners from harnessing the full potential of the beastly motor.

Because of the poor advertising, Ford only sold a little over 1,400 Super Cobra Jet-powered Torinos, as opposed to around 7,600 regular Cobras.

Today, this rare and underappreciated muscle car is hard to find, and on rare occasions when one goes under the hammer, it demands north of $80,000. One example is the Super Cobra featured in this article that was put up for sale on the Bring a Trailer platform last year for $85,000.

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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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