Unearthed: Ultra-Rare 1971 Ford Torino Cobra 429 Cobra Jet

06/10/2022

Unearthed: Ultra-Rare 1971 Ford Torino Cobra 429 Cobra Jet

06/10/2022

If you want to play with snakes, someday you’re going to get bit. And as far as George Gudat is concerned, that’s exactly how his obsession with the 1971 Ford Torino Cobra began.


“From my earliest years, I was always fascinated by cars. My love of everything automotive was passed down to me from my father and grandfather who were both car-crazy hotrodders. You could say I never had a chance to be anything else but a car guy, it is literally in my DNA,” states Gudat. At nine years old, the young car aficionado in training was already hanging out in his dad’s auto body shop and learning the tricks of the trade: sanding fenders, fixing dents, and prepping cars for paint.


Snakebite Torino overall

Production numbers were low on these rides, with only 3054 Cobras built for the ‘71 model year. Of that, only 313 came equipped with the 429 CJ Ram Air engine and four-speed transmission. Add in the sparsely chosen stripes, the wheels and backlite louvers, and well, you got yourself one rare ride.


By the time he was thirteen, he was ready for his first project ride. “Though I was three or four years from legally driving in New Jersey, I had saved up enough money to buy a car of my very own. I didn't really care what make or model I was going to buy, so long as it was a real muscle car like the ones I lusted after in all the car magazines,” he says.

Cobra Bitten

His dad was a diehard Blue Oval guy, so he thwarted any of his son’s attempts on purchasing GM and Mopar muscle. And then it happened: “On a cold winter day my dad took me to see a Grabber Blue 1971 Ford Torino Cobra that was advertised in a local magazine. I didn't even know what a Torino Cobra was, but once I saw the 429 Cobra Jet under the hood and its four-speed transmission, it was love at first sight. I've been hooked on that long, sleek fastback Ford body ever since”.


Gudat held on to that first Cobra for quite a few years, but somehow let it slip away and out of his possession later on in life. However, that passion for the big Ford stayed with him and while other muscle cars came and went, that Cobra was always in the back of his mind. “That continued lust for a ’71 led me to the car you see here,” states Gudat.


Snakebite Torino side profile

Sporting the classic “coke-bottle” design and wearing that racy “SportsRoof” fastback up top, this 1971 Ford Torino Cobra seems to be “speeding while standing still”.


Cobra Hisstory

The Ford Torino name first saw action in 1968 as an upscale version of the Ford Fairlane, which was then the standard intermediate sized car offering. You could build up your Torino’s powerbase anyway you wanted it, from the basic straight six, to the 427 and 428 cubic inch FE big block muscle mills. By 1971 the Torino name replaced the Fairlane altogether.


The Cobra nameplate was hatched on 1969 models, and these powered-up Fords did not disappoint. The Cobras came standard with the potent 428-4v Cobra Jet engine, with or without Ram Air. However, the big dog this model year was the race-ready Super Cobra Jet engine, which came standard when you checked-off the Drag Pack option package.

In 1970 the Torino got a complete makeover. Gone was the boxy styling that permeated the Ford intermediate line through the 1960s. Now the Cobra took on a more “coke-bottle” shape, which was all the rage during the heyday of muscle. The Cobra was offered in the SportsRoof version only, which had a flat, fastback roofline which gave it a “speeding while standing still” look. Engine choices were now the 429-4v in three different versions; the 360hp Thunder Jet, the 370hp Cobra Jet (with or without Ram Air), and the 375hp Super Cobra Jet, which was still standard with the Drag pack option.


There were not many changes for the ’71 model year aesthetically, with the car sporting just a few minor grille and trim revisions. However, now the standard engine on the Cobra was the 351-4V. The CJ and SCJ powerplants were still the top dogs, and all engines could be had with Ram Air. This would be the last hurrah for the Torino Cobra as the model was dropped with the restyling for the ’72 model year.


Snakebite Torino engine bay

The 429 Cobra Jet Ram Air engine was factory rated at 370 horsepower and 450 ft/lbs of torque in stock form; plenty enough beef to fry the back tires clean off the rear wheels. The Torino’s engine bay looks complete, with the original shaker set-up and finned valve covers still in place.


Coiled And Ready

This particular Dark Green Metallic 1971 Torino Cobra came to Gudat through a social media marketplace. “It’s one of only 3,054 total cars built in 1971. They are a rare sight and highly sought after. I was drawn to this unrestored example, at first because of its rarity, but mainly because it's completely original and intact. Also, this Cobra has several highly coveted options making it even more desirable among collectors”, states Gudat.


The Cobra had seen its share of use, and with that, it has a good dose of East Coast rust and corrosion. The car will need some extensive sheet metal repair, but given its rarity and its originality, it’s still a candidate for a complete restoration.


Snakebite Torino in the garage

Up till recently, the Ford Torino Cobra was an often-overlooked, collector grade muscle ride. With the market heating up, many of these intermediate Fords are finding new life out on the streets and in big-time muscle car collections across the US.


Some of its born-with features are impressive. “I received the Marti Report with the complete option rundown. The J code in the vin denotes this car as a 429 Cobra Jet with Ram Air and a Shaker Hood. A 351 was also available on ’71 cars, with or without Ram Air”, says Gudat.


Other notable options on the Cobra’s Marti Report are rear window louvers (called Sport Slats in Ford brochure), 15-Inch plain steel wheels with hubcaps, side reflective Laser Stripes and a Sidewinder Tachometer in the dash. The original owner also optioned this car with vinyl knit bucket seats, a center console, tinted glass, 3.50 Traction-Lok rear axle and a manual four-speed transmission. “According to the Marti Report the car sold new in Kennebunk, Maine and was in the New England area before ending up in upstate New York, where previous owner and muscle car guru Chuck Fisher acquired it”, says Gudat.


As for its future, something else has come up that now occupies the space right next to this Torino and is now number-one in his heart. “Somehow I got lucky and found a ’71 Grabber Blue 429 Cobra that closely resembles my original Torino that I sold off. Because of that I’m going to let this particular car go to another hobbyist looking for a project ride”.


Snakebite Torino Cobra callout


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