Jim Smart
February 1, 2006

Just what is it about a classic time-capsule ride? You know, those low-mileage originals that still smell like a new car inside, sporting the original factory enamel finish, with an engine and driveline that haven't been cracked open since Ford screwed them together 35-plus years ago. These well-preserved originals are always a story of sacrifice. Someone laid down four grand when minimum wage was a buck-sixty an hour, took the depreciation, and drove it rarely to keep it as produced nearly four decades ago. Occasionally, these folks gave in to the temptation of the steel and cubes and drove it, hence the mileage.

Bill Kulenkamp understands what it's like to appreciate a factory original. When he purchased this 429 Cobra Jet Torino Brougham hardtop from the second owner, all it needed was a dusting and a coat of wax. He was stunned at how untouched the car was. When he took his place behind the wheel, he smelled fresh vinyl and crisp plastic. And when he spun the starter and slipped the big-shaft Top Loader into First gear, there was the solid feel of a factory-original powertrain with very little wear.

This is something that can't be faked. You can't fake a factory original under the guise of a bumper-to-bumper restoration. It takes more than rolling back an odometer and restoring a tired, old classic. That's because even the best world-class restorations are performed on well-worn bodies and chassis. Despite the best techniques and the greatest talent, mating surfaces worn from vibration and exposure to the elements go together differently than when they were new. So there's a specific feel, smell, and sound to a low-mileage factory original. It's a dynamic any seasoned car buff recognizes instinctively upon approach. It's something we recognized the minute we spotted Bill's Torino. Low-mileage originals are in a class all by themselves.

The 429 Cobra Jet started out as an all-new Ford passenger car big-block in 1968. At first glance, it looks like a small-block Ford on steroids, with the same skirtless block, bolt-on belongs, and big poly-angle valve heads like we see with the 351 Cleveland and Boss 302. It is a monster mash big-block bent on performance.

Die-hard Ford buffs are startled by the Rochester Quadrajet carburetor when the air cleaner comes off. Why a GM carburetor atop a Ford big-block, especially when Holley and Autolite had an assortment of deep-breathing atomizers? First, the Autolite 4300 wasn't large enough for the 429. Ford also needed the 429 to be more emissions-friendly in a new atmosphere of tougher federal air pollution standards during the early '70s. If you believe you can just yank a Q-jet off the top of an Olds 455 or Chevy 396 and place it on top of a Ford 429, you are mistaken. Rochester engineered and built the Ford Quadrajet specifically for the 429. Anything else does not interchange. That makes these GM-inspired Ford cores a challenge to find for restorers who want original equipment.

The 429 Cobra Jet makes 370 hp at 5,400 rpm. That makes it a powerhouse with a broad torque curve only a big-block can muster. We're talking 450 lb-ft of torque at just 3,400 rpm, right where we need it to happen. These engines are silent giants. They idle quietly and they come on strong as the Quadrajet's secondary butterflies open for business. The Q-jet delivers excellent low-end torque via its modest primary bores-lots of velocity going on there. Huge mechanical secondaries, helped by a butterfly on top to smooth the transition, allow the 429 to take on plenty of air and fuel at wide-open throttle without a stumble. This particular 429 has the benefit of a vacuum-actuated Shaker hoodscoop specific to the Torino for plenty of air-grabbing performance at speed.

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We like these slippery, NASCAR-inspired coke-bottle-bodied Torinos for their styling. They slip through the air at highway speeds with a healthy coefficient of drag for their time. This enabled Ford contenders to do quite well in stock car racing at the dawning of the '70s. These guys had the aero advantage along with the brute power of a high-revving Boss 429 hemi.

The Torino story dates back to Ford's development of the Mustang during the early '60s. Torino was the name chosen for the Mustang, but at the eleventh hour Ford's marketing people elected to change Torino to Mustang. Torino was used in 1968 in an effort to pick up the Fairlane's utilitarian image in the marketplace. It was an exciting name and certainly appropriate for the redesigned Ford intermediate.

Ford's all-new Torino only got better with time. It became slippery and more aerodynamic, again inspired by Ford's desire to win on the NASCAR circuit. The Torino's winning lines helped it win on the showroom floor as well against all of the intermediates of the era. People were drawn to the Torino for its compelling styling, comfortable ride, and powerful engines.

The Torino Brougham is on par with the Mustang Grande' and Mercury Cougar XR7: a dressy competitor to the Chevelle SS for people who wanted both luxury and the pinch of a brute big-block. The Torino's elegance offered more style and less brawn-the proverbial fist in a velvet glove. For Bill Kulenkamp, the Torino Brougham offers a fluid-smooth time capsule ride into the past, where he can relive his youth, feel the power and luxury, and take on the rich smell of an era of greatness we'll not see again.