Ford Torino GT
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
Ford made it hard for the competition with their formidable line-up of the ‘60s. Much is said about the Mustang
, but there was another in the stable that was utterly brilliant. A true muscle car in every sense of the word, the 1968
Torino took the fight up to just about everything. As delivered from the factory, the Torino was a quality vehicle – well built and securely bolted together. And when you have a car capable of the top end speeds that the Torino could put in, that was a good thing.
The New Intermediate Body
Torino featured Fords new intermediate body styling, which was drastically changed from the 1967
models. The intermediate had grown in size and weight, and a new fastback model was added. The front fascia featured a full width recessed grille, with horizontal quad headlights placed at the outer edges. Horizontal dividing bars were featured in the grille, depending on the model. Parking lights were placed at the outer edge of the front fenders and wrapped around the corner to also act as side marker lights (a new requirement in 1968
The body sides were smooth with one horizontal body crease running just below the belt-line from front to back. The taillights were rectangular in shape and vertically situated in the rear panel above the rear bumper. Reverse lights were located in the middle of the taillights, and small side marker lights were located on the rear edge of the quarter panel. Fastback models, which Ford called "SportsRoof," featured a slightly concave rear taillight panel unique to that body style.
The new SportsRoof body style featured a gently sloped long roof line that extended to the edge of the trunk lid. This new fastback body style gave the Fairlane and the Torino excellent aerodynamics
that would later prove to be advantageous on the race track. Ford had 14 different models for its intermediate line for 1968
. The base model was the "Fairlane", which was available in a 2-door hardtop, a 4-door sedan, and a 4-door station wagon. Next was the mid level "Fairlane 500", which was available as a 2-door hardtop, 2-door fastback called SportsRoof, convertible, and a 4-door sedan and station wagon.
The Torino V8 Lineup
A new front end accessory drive was used on the 390 CT for '68, which lessened engine noise, particularly at idle. Also new for '68 were high-performance valve springs and dampers that lasted longer and allowed greater engine speeds. The standard power-plant for the Torino GT was a 302-cu.in. V8. rated at 210 hp. A 2-bbl. Carburettor was used, and only regular fuel was needed. The first option engine for the GT was a 390-cu.-in. 2-bbl V8 developing 265 hp. and it was also designed for regular fuel. Both the 390 and 302 2-bbl engines came with 3-speed manual transmission
in standard form - and can be optionally hooked to either a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic.
Next in the engine line-up was the very powerful 390-cu.-in. 4-bbl. V8 rated at 335 hp. Only a 4-speed manual or a 3-speed Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission
was available for this engine, and both were extra-cost options. Standard rear axle ratio for either transmission
was a 3.25:1, and a 3.00:1 was optional. Either gear performed well for all-round use, but a much lower (higher numerically) ratio was recommended for serious acceleration work. Owners had to visit Ford parts counters for the low cog, though, as nothing suitable for this type action was offered from the 1968 assembly line. The 390ci engine used Ford's Thermactor air-injection emission control device, which was mounted outside. It did the job, but added confusion to the engine compartment, making plug changing a longer duration task than on cars without this system.
Hooked to the crisp shifting Cruise-O-Matic transmission
, the 390 CT V8 would run beautifully in traffic, and blow away most at the lights. You could put in sub 15 second quarter-mile times by manually shifting of the selector, but not if you left it in the "D" position, where the transmission
would shift short of optimum rpm. Ideally, for best performance you would make your shifts at around 5000 rpm, with left a little more in the engine, and in doing so you would cross the quarter-mile marker at 3800 rpm. A giant among American muscle cars was the optional 427-cu.-in. V8 which put out a whopping 390 hp, using only a single 4-bbl. carby and hydraulic lifters. The same motor was also optional on the Mustang and on all Fairlane 2-doors.
We have been told that the very first Torino’s to roll off the production line were not fitted with this engine, as it was in such short supply due to popularity and a strike at the engine factory – so if you own one of the very first cars and it has this engine, we think it likely it was fitted as a replacement engine. The 427 was only offered with a Cruise-O-Matic transmission
, and a 3.25:1 rear axle ratio. A visit to the FoMoCo parts counter helped with the axle ratio, and got this engine storming through the quarter-mile at neck snapping speed. The 427 was "high-performance" all the way, having chromed and hardened exhaust valves
, high-performance valve springs and dampers and cross-bolted main bearing caps.
On the Road
Despite the performance on offer, the Torino was one of the better handling
muscle cars from the era. It would understeer, and the rear end did have a tendency to break traction in a hard turn, but no more than any other muscle car, and it was highly predictable. Unlike many others that claimed to be good in the handling
department, the Torino didn’t hang on until a given moment, and then just completely lose itself. You could feel any loss of traction long before it would get you into trouble, so that you could adjust your driving to suit. Simply put, if you were going to suffer rear wheel traction loss, you would feel it coming enough in advance not to endanger you or the car. The Torino would stay relatively flat, and the F70 x 14 tyres
were amoung the quietest then being fitted to an American car. It was a delight to punt hard through twisty roads, and with a little practice it would make an average driver look good. Not that it was a car for sissies. No – the Torino had big hairy balls – but they were predictable big hairy balls.
The '68 Torino was also one of the few muscle car models from the 1960s that, when equipped with manual steering
, didn’t require a weight lifter's arm measurements as a part of the driver's qualifications. Obviously that made it a bit of a pain in the supermarket car part, but once you had just a little speed it would become fairly light and you would became accustomed to the slow movement per wheel turn. The power steering
was much better of course, but as we said, on the Torino the manual steering
was something you could live with pretty easily. The front suspension effectively dampened road shocks and vibrations from transfer through the steering
, and after a long spell behind the wheel, your hands wouldn’t feel like they had been subjected to a vibrating machine. A heavy-duty suspension option was available.
Standard kit was non-power assisted drum brakes. That meant you had to use a little strength to get the best out of them. That made it a pain in the ass on cold mornings, as when the idle was up, as it was when the automatic choke was warming the engine, heavy effort was needed to hold the car at rest while in gear. But the car did stop with non-assisted drums. We have read road tests that claim it possible to pull it up in 174 feet from 60-mph, and this was without any directional deviation. Not bad – but as we all know drums fade easily though when high-speed stops are repeated in short order, so any sensible owner would have ticked the front disc/ rear drum power option box. If we could only have the one option, this would have been it – even if it meant sticking with the “Arm-strong”steering
Behind the Wheel
Unlike the Plymouth Road Runner, that took utilitarian to a whole new level, the Torino GT was stacked with kit. You would never grow tired of driving the car, primarily because of good driver position and seating. The buckets were built like a fine mattress, not too soft nor too hard, but just right. Padding was in all the right spots, with legs and back receiving just the right support. Adjustment was capable of handling
tall or short persons with the same degree of comfort. The wheel position was nearly perfect, and this without aid of tilting mechanism. The four instrument pods recessed into the dash were easy to view. Back seat passengers had it almost as good, but tall ones probably bumped their head on the angled roof – if our experience is anything to go by. Getting into the back seat was a snap, and the locking seatback release was a side-mounted toggle placed high enough not to require bending to reach.
The new dashboard featured four equally sized round pods centred around the steering
wheel. However, the pods did not contain a full set of gauges; rather an assortment of warning lights along with the speedometer
and fuel gauge. The fuel gauge and temperature warning lights were in the first pod, a 120 mph (190 km/h) speedometer
was located in the second pod from the left, alternator and oil pressure warning lights were in the third pod from the left and the fourth pod was blank. An optional tachometer
was available, which would be located in the third pod, and an optional clock occupied the fourth pod. Ford offered many upholstery options, including a knitted vinyl option, called "comfortweave." This unique option allowed the vinyl to "breathe" unlike conventional vinyl, offering more comfort in hot weather.
Nearly every control and instrument was easily reached from the driver's seat. Even the glove compartment was easy. The optional centre console's glovebox - or bin - was neatly divided at its halfway point, keeping small objects from rolling around. The long roof line fastback had a huge boot measuring 16.2 cubic feet, but access was limited. The small opening deck lid restricted the size of the load, and the placement of the spare, just inside the lid on the floor, restricted the depth of loaded articles. Ride qualities of the Torino were simply great. Road shock and bounce were absorbed before they had a chance to penetrate the interior. The stiff suspension provided control at all times, and took more load than the conventional type. There was no noticeable acceleration or deceleration dive, which previous intermediate Fords had suffered. Road testers were loathe to admit it, but we have read plenty where they claim the Torino rode better than the GTO and GS Buick, and these were supposed to be the class leaders.
One thing that was really cool for the time was the ability to start in 2nd gear with the Cruise-O-Matic. Only Ford and AM had this feature on their automatics, and it was definitely worthwhile. Being able to hold the car in 2nd was good, but there was usually more reason to start it in 2nd and keep it there, especially on a slick surface. Styling wise, there was no getting around the fact that the good-looking roof line made visibility to the rear extremely poor. If you were used to driving around in a stock 4 door sedan, it would have taken quite a bit of time to adjust to the poor visibility. Besides looking good, the ventless side windows threw less air in when down than previous vent designs. The leverage on the crank mechanism was well-geared, making roll-up and down very easy. The small rib of metal on the brake pedal was useless for anything but helping your foot slide off the pedal. It's small, but when contacted correctly, it was slick as a banana peel.
Sound deadening technology improved in leaps and bounds during the 1960s, and that applied to the big Fords including the Fairlane. The Torino was as quiet as an LTD – well, nearly as quiet. There was only very minor wind noise heard with the windows up. The somewhat safety-oriented dash was also very appealing. The recessed instruments and flat surface blended in with the overall car design, making one of the safest designs then going. All this was accomplished without sacrifice in function or utility.