In town to pick up a few Mustangs for the 1971 Trans-Am season, Bud Moore couldn’t help but ask about a couple of pointy-nosed Torinos just hanging around Ford’s Dearborn headquarters, one of them damaged, the other looking about as plain as such an exotic car could be. “Take ’em,” his contact at Ford told him, and Moore thus found himself in possession of what would become two of the most significant Torinos built, one of which will head to auction this coming January.
The two cars, of course, proved to be a pair of Torino King Cobras, aero cars intended to take on Dodge’s Charger Daytona and Plymouth’s Superbird in NASCAR’s Grand National division. The unique front sheetmetal applied to the King Cobras showed some promise, but the King Cobra’s overall aerodynamics still required development at a time of internal turmoil at Ford – King Cobra backer and Ford president Bunkie Knudsen and King Cobra designer Larry Shinoda both got the axe in 1970 – and at a time of changing NASCAR homologation rules. With Knudsen and Shinoda out and with the prospect of suddenly having to build 2,000 unproven King Cobras rather than 500, Ford brass canceled the project.
How many King Cobras Ford ultimately built, nobody seems to know. Some made it into the hands of Ford’s racing partners, either whole or just the front-end parts; Holman Moody and Richard Petty worked with King Cobras for developmental purposes. Two wound up in Dearborn with uncertain futures thanks to their association with two deposed leaders at Ford: a blue one with a damaged steel beak, and a yellow one with just a few hundred miles on it. Moore bought them for $600 apiece.
The blue one he repaired, repainted, and sold off to a local in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It later ended up in a junkyard, where a couple Ford enthusiasts found it and bought it before they documented it and restored it. The yellow one, however (VIN 0H38C108527), Moore held on to. Originally built in August 1969 as a regular Lorain assembly line Torino Cobra equipped with the C-code 370hp Cobra Jet 429 and Cruise-O-Matic C6 automatic transmission, it oddly didn’t feature Shinoda’s signature stripes or the blackout hood that decorated other King Cobras. Nor did it wear the typical King Cobra Magnum 500 wheels, instead making do with Cyclone GT wheels with double white stripe G78 tires.
Still, with about 500 miles on it, the King Cobra was still essentially a new car, one that Moore drove around town, though sparingly, for a few decades. He eventually sold it to collector Jacky Jones of Hayesville, North Carolina, who in turn sold it to Las Vegas real estate developer and muscle car collector Brett Torino. Sixteen cars formerly of the Brett Torino collection, including the King Cobra, have been consigned for Mecum’s Kissimmee auction in January. These days it shows just 831 miles and remains unrestored.
Only two other King Cobras are known to exist today: Steve Honnell’s yellow example, which he bought in 1970 off Holman Moody; and the other Bud Moore King Cobra, which bid up to $350,000 but didn’t sell at Mecum’s 2013 Indianapolis auction, and which is currently for sale with an asking price of $459,900. No pre-auction estimate has been released for the stripeless yellow King Cobra.
Mecum’s Kissimmee auction will take place January 15-24. For more information, visit Mecum.com.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Daniel Strohl.