Bob Leenstra’s 1970 Ford Torino Super Cobra Jet
What better way to get customers into your dealership showroom than having a highly optioned, powerful example of the latest offering from Ford? That was the thinking behind performance-based Hayward Motors in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1970, they decided on a scorching Calypso Coral version of the swoopy new Ford Torino, complete with Laser stripes, to lure would-be buyers in for a closer look.
Bright paint and flashy stripes alone weren’t going to be enough to make a deal, so they loaded up their display Torino GT with options and big power, including a 375hp Cobra Jet 429c.i. engine backed by a four-speed with a 4.30:1-geared Drag Pack rearend, which bumped the car up to Super Cobra Jet status. You can imagine some of the test rides that ensued! For two years the dealership used the Torino and you can just picture drivers gripping the stick and glancing between the 8,000rpm ribbon tachometer and shaker hood scoop. Eventually, with newer models coming in, the ’70 SCJ Torino was put up for sale.
Surprisingly, the buyer didn’t head right for the drag strip – instead he promptly welded on a trailer hitch to tow his twin-axle Airstream. That’s right, this muscle machine was destined to tow rig duty – and it wasn’t even towing a cool dragster! When you think about it, the 429 with an engine oil cooler, steep gears, a four-speed, power steering, and front disc brakes all add up to a pretty solid tow vehicle.
The car passed through several owners in the early-’80s and was eventually raced in Oregon, where it received an automatic trans at some point before making a cross-country journey to Georgia, then settling in New Jersey. In 2008, current owner Bob Leenstra found the Torino and understood this rare example needed to be saved.
Bob started searching for parts to restore the rare SCJ Torino to perfection. As a dealership showpiece, the Torino was loaded with options like hideaway headlights, deluxe seat belts, dual rear speakers for the AM radio, and white-letter F60x15 tires on Magnum 500 chrome wheels. After Bob had gathered a pile of NOS and correct date-coded parts, Jeff Estabrook began a restoration where everything was removed, cleaned, rebuilt and agonized over to the minute detail.
A correct date-coded 429 block, heads, aluminum intake, and Holley carb were sourced and assembled by Dennis Kerslake. Bob even located the factory California-required evaporated emission controls that were generally removed by power-hungry owners. The restoration took over three years, and we congratulate Bob on his commitment to restoring such a rare piece of muscle car history. Cobra Jet Torinos are rare to begin with, but a well-optioned Super Cobra Jet? Now that is truly super!
Photos by Steven Bunker