Ask any designer and he'll tell you that fastback styling-where the roofline drops aggressively down into the deck panel-works best on small cars with really short wheelbases. Adding a fastback roof to a big car can go wrong quickly and deliver the look of a melted station wagon. That's what the experts say. But when it comes to the '68 to '69 Torino fastback, Ford stylists got it right when they embellished the Fairlane with that huge sloping lid and big glass window. Sure, the minuscule trunk opening was best suited to mailing letters, but as add-on fastbacks go, it's a winner. Here's a sweet original-paint '69 Torino GT we found at Desert Valley Auto Parts (dvap.com; 800/905-8024). Wait till you look inside-there's a surprise on the tree.
The original blue paint and GT-spec side stripe are killing us. Could this be a 428 Cobra Jet car? The short answer is no. That's because the biggest engine available with the '69 Torino's sexy GT package was the 320hp, S-code, 390 four-barrel. To get into Cobra Jet territory, you had to step up to the Torino Cobra model-which didn't receive the GT's cool C-stripe. The M-code in the fifth spot of this one's VIN signifies the new-for-'69 351 Windsor four-barrel mill with 290 hp and 385 lb-ft. This was the hottest Torino small-block available in '69.
Eyes widen and ears perk up at the sight of a clutch pedal under the dash. We can imagine the light whine from the gears of the Top Loader four-speed as this 351 Torino stealthily rolls through dimly lit parking lots searching for prey.
One look at the steering column and reality sets in. The empty shift handle nub tells us this thing originally had three on the tree. A second look at the transmission tunnel backs it all up. The nonfactory shifter hole looks like it was made with a rotary axe. There's no better way to squander a high-revving small-block than with a balky, column-shifted, three-speed stick. No wonder this one was converted to a floor shifter. It was probably a Hurst Indy or JCPenney setup.
Just as we puzzled whether this rare 351 4V, three-on-the-tree Torino GT should be restored or upgraded to a T5, we caught this horrifying sight. With its trunk-truncated-there's little hope of saving this oddball.
* Back around 1982, we saw a '68 or '69 Torino with a factory-installed, Y-code, 390 two-barrel and three on the tree. Yep, it also had a crude floor shift conversion. Its owner eventually stuffed it into a tree in Ware, Massachusetts. Bobby O'Brien, where you at?
* 428 Cobra Jets only came in Torino Cobras in 1969. To confirm, check the third and fourth digits of the VIN for the body-series code. Torino Cobras read 45 (formal hardtop) or 46 (fastback). Lower-powered Torino GTs read 44 (formal hardtop), 43 (convertible), or 42 (fastback).