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Rare Finds - Tennessee Torinos

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 8/26/2015

Kevin Guinn knew the brush hid a car. The hills of Tennessee can be dense in places. He says, "I could barely make out the front end of a Torino. I thought, Man alive, very few people get to see stuff like this."

This 1969 Torino Cobra escaped public view in the dense Tennessee brush, which was growing over the back of the car. Three of the factory slotted wheels were good, but the fourth was badly rusted. This 1969 Torino Cobra escaped public view in the dense Tennessee brush, which was growing over the back of the car. Three of the factory slotted wheels were good, but the fourth was badly rusted.

More than a Torino, the '69 proved to be a Cobra. Under the hood was more than a 428 Cobra Jet. The oil cooler hinted at a Drag Pack and thus a Super Cobra Jet 428. The axle code on the trim plate revealed a 3.91-geared Traction-Lok 9-inch rearend, mandatory with the SCJ. All Cobra Jets with the 3.91 axle are Super Cobra Jets.

The funny thing about this find is Kevin owns a '93 Mustang Cobra. He wasn't looking for a '69 Torino Cobra, but the car found him. He says, "I had located a '69 Mach 1, a real low-mile Cobra Jet. It was very well preserved, except they had blown the motor up."

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The 428 SCJ in the car in the thicket was not picked for parts. Gene brought the air cleaner and other parts out of the house and set them on the engine for this picture. The 428 SCJ in the car in the thicket was not picked for parts. Gene brought the air cleaner and other parts out of the house and set them on the engine for this picture.

Maybe Kevin would purchase this Ford muscle car if he could find a 428 Cobra Jet. He started looking and got a hot lead in the Johnson City/Jonesboro area. One man told him his neighbor "had one sitting out behind his house." The neighbor was a gentleman in his early 70s named Gene Lockner. "Come to find out some of his relatives lived up here close to where I am," says Kevin. "This was about three years ago last October."

At first, Gene was going to sell the motor. But the Mach 1 "got gone" before Kevin could find a Cobra Jet. Not needing a motor now, he stayed in touch with Gene. Common ground was a dirt track car that Gene raced at Sportsman's Speedway, which is close to where Kevin's grandparents lived in Johnson City. The two car enthusiasts became good friends.

The Cobra in the thicket needs new upholstery and carpet. The wasted air cleaner base on the front seat was from a small-block, not a big-block. The Cobra in the thicket needs new upholstery and carpet. The wasted air cleaner base on the front seat was from a small-block, not a big-block.

"I went down to his house and it was like time had just stopped," says Kevin.

He found the Torino Cobra in the dense undergrowth. First, he walked past a second Torino Cobra, also a '69, also equipped almost exactly the same way.

Both cars are Super Cobra Jet two-door hardtops with bench seats, ram air, 3.91 Traction-Lok 9-inch axles, and four-speed transmissions. The main difference was the Cobra in the thicket had a factory tachometer in the dash. Also, Gene had removed the second Torino's 428 SCJ for machine work years ago.

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The interior of the second Torino Cobra was virtually identical to the first, featuring black bench seats and a four-speed. This one didn't have an in-dash factory tachometer. The interior of the second Torino Cobra was virtually identical to the first, featuring black bench seats and a four-speed. This one didn't have an in-dash factory tachometer.

Kevin explains, "Apparently they got some grit or something in the bearings. Gene had a 427, four-bolt main block, and he just put all the Cobra Jet stuff over on the 427 block."

Gene bought the Cobra in the thicket brand-new from Towne Gate Ford in nearby Greeneville, Tennessee. The odometer showed 4,000 miles, meaning 104,000; it had obviously turned over.

Gene Lockner stands beside the 69 Torino Cobra he bought for $900 in the mid 70s. Gene Lockner stands beside the 69 Torino Cobra he bought for $900 in the mid 70s.

Gene bought the second Torino Cobra in the mid '70s from a professor at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. He didn't go looking for this car. The teacher came by his house and offered it to him for $900. He knew Gene had one just like it.

One day Gene told Kevin that he'd like for him to have the 427 Torino. Kevin surprised Gene when he said he would like to buy both Cobras. Gene hesitated. Apparently, another gentleman was interested in the Cobra in the thicket. However, he liked the idea of his two old Cobras going to one place and sold them to his friend at a reasonable price.

Kevin plans to restore the Super Cobra Jet in the thicket. The 427-powered Cobra runs. For now, Kevin is having fun driving this muscle car.

Instead of rebuilding the 428 SCJ in the second Torino, Gene fitted the Cobra Jet intake and air cleaner on the four-bolt 427 block. Instead of rebuilding the 428 SCJ in the second Torino, Gene fitted the Cobra Jet intake and air cleaner on the four-bolt 427 block.

Do you have a Rare Find story to share? Contact Jerry Heasley at jerryheasley@gmail.com or on Twitter @JerryHeasley.

Related: What's My 1969 Yenko Camaro Worth?

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