In this edition of the Muscle Car Showcase, we’ll explore the 1968-1969 Ford Torino. The Torino was all-new for 1968 and dubbed as “Ford’s newest bright idea”. Born from the Fairlane, this intermediate muscle machine came in a variety of body styles and with enough engine choices to satisfy just about any buyer. If you wanted an alternative to the GTO and Road Runner, the Torino was the car to check out.
“By taking generous portions of proven fastback styling and combining them with a 390 inch package of V8 performance, Ford has come up with a multi-purpose winner. Then by adding a “tunnel-port” 428 you really get with the program!” Car Craft Magazine, March 1968
Ford chose not to take a “take it or leave it” attitude when it came to styling for the Torino GT. Ford gave buyers the option to choose between a classic 2-door hardtop, a racy fastback, or a classy convertible. All body styles came standard with GT stripes, black grille, and steel wheels with GT covers. Wide-oval tires and ventless side glass were some other standard features on the GT. Fastbacks featured distinctive styling that included a sloping roof line that stretched to the edge of the trunk lid and a slightly concaved rear taillight panel. This body style was favored among NASCAR drivers who drove Blue Ovals.
Interiors came standard with luxury-minded features such as deep-pleated bucket seats, wall-to-wall carpeting, and simulated wood grain on the instrument panel. A host of other goodies such as a 6,000 rpm tachometer, Comfort-Stream Ventilation, and floor console were optional. Headrests, AM/FM stereo with dual speakers, and power windows were some other extra charge features buyers could select for their GT.
A wide range of powerplants was available for the 1968 Torino GT. According to the 1968 brochure, the standard engine was the 302 cubic-inch V8. However, due to a UAW strike, Ford had to adjust and some GTs came standard with a 195 horsepower 289 V8. This adjustment was never reflected in the 1968 brochure and other reference material. Customers could still get the 302 as an option. If drivers wanted extra horsepower, a 265 horsepower 2-barrel 390 and a 325 horsepower 4-barrel 390 V8 were on the option sheet as well. An item of interest was the supposed availability of a 427 cubic-inch V8. This engine was stated as optional in the 1968 brochure. The brochure even had a photo of a red coupe pictured with 427 badging on the front fender. However, it appears that none were ever produced with the 427. Late in the model year, Ford made the 428 Cobra Jet available for the Torino GT. This engine was conservatively rated at 335 horsepower and gave the Torino GT the extra kick it needed to be a contender with the GTO and Road Runner.
In their March 1968 issue, Car Life took a Torino GT fastback and put it through its paces. The car was equipped with the 390 cubic-inch V8, Cruise-O-Matic 3-speed automatic, and 3.25:1 rear axle ratio. 0 to 60 was reached in 7.7 seconds and the Torino GT ran the quarter mile in 15.8 seconds at 90 mph. Car Craft also tested a similar GT and clocked a 14.85 second quarter mile at 99.50 mph.
The Torino GT returned in 1969 with only a few minor tweaks to the exterior styling. The grille featured a center dividing bar and the taillights were a little more squared off. When it came to styling, Ford seem to believe that if it ain’t broke, why fix it? However, under the hood is where a lot of change took place. Gone was the 289 from 1968. The 220 horsepower 302 cubic-inch V8 was the standard engine once again. Drivers that preferred something with a little more bite could opt for the 351 Windsor with either a two or four-barrel carburetor. These engines produced 250 and 290 horsepower respectively. If that wasn’t potent enough, the 320 horsepower 390 was available to check off on the options list as well.
Coiled…and ready to strike. That’s one way to describe the Cobra. For drivers that craved the absolute in performance, there was the 428 Cobra. This snake came standard with all the goodies you would expect in a high performance car of this caliber. Four-speed manual transmission, performance suspension, and high rate front and rear springs…check. A large diameter front stabilizer bar, high damping shocks, and F70-14 white sidewall wide-oval belted also came as standard equipment on this snake. Optional equipment for this snake includes a functional ram air system, power disc brakes, and Traction-Lok differential. The hard choice was deciding between the hardtop or SportsRoof model.
Car and Driver flogged the 428 Cobra and several other budget muscle cars for their January 1969 issue. The Cobra went from 0 to 60 in 5.6 seconds and sprinted the quarter mile in 14.04 seconds at a speed of 100.61 mph. That’s quite fast for a car weighing almost 4,000 pounds. For the record, the Cobra placed third in Car and Driver’s overall testing primarily because of its strong performance in acceleration and braking. In case you’re wondering, the Plymouth Hemi Road Runner and the Mercury Cyclone CJ 428 came in first and second respectively. The Road Runner was half a second faster from 0 to 60 and the Cyclone was only 0.1 seconds faster than the Cobra.
The Torino GT and Cobra proved that Ford had what it took to compete in the intermediate muscle car market. These cars didn’t need gimmicks or a lot of hoopla to get their message across. They came with plenty firepower under the hood but with a price that didn’t wreak havoc on the buyer’s wallet. A car that appealed to the budget-minded, didn’t feel cheap, and came with a long list of options to suit a buyer’s individual taste. No wonder the Torino GT and Cobra are some of our favorite muscle cars.
1968 Ford Torino GT Fastback Specifications (Car Life Magazine, March 1968)
Body & Frame
Powerplant: ohv 90 degree V8
Displacement: 389.568 cubic-inches
Rated horsepower (bhp): 315 @ 4,600 rpm
Rated torque: 427 @ 2,800
Fuel requirement: premium
Oil capacity: 4 quarts
Valvetrain: hydraulic lifters, pushrods, and overhead rocker arms
Bore x stroke: 4.05 x 3.78 inches
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Carburetion: Holley 4-barrel
Exhaust: dual, reverse-flow mufflers and resonators
Type: 3-speed automatic with torque converter
Type: recirculating ball gear, parallelogram linkage behind front wheels
Overall ratio: 29.4:1
Turning diameter: 41.5 feet
Turns lock-to-lock: 5.25
Type: duo-servo cast iron drum, front and rear
Front: independent by s.l.a., drag struts, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers
Rear: Hotchkiss live axle, multileaf springs, telescopic shock absorbers
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: 14 x 5.5JK
Tires (new): Firestone Super Sport
Wheelbase: 116.0 inches
Length/Width/Height: 201/74.6/53.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,760 pounds
Test weight: 4,150 pounds
Front track: 58.8 inches
Rear track: 58.5 inches
Fuel tank capacity: 20 gallons
Head room: 37.4 inches
Shoulder room: 57.4 inches
0–60 mph: 7.7 seconds
Quarter mile: 15.8 seconds @ 90 mph
Top speed: 111 mph