The 1969 Ford Cobra and Talladega: One for the street and one for the street by way of the track. That's one way to describe and differentiate the two special Fairlane/Torino-based coupes that blasted onto the Ford scene for 1969, enjoying a brief but inspiring stay.
Cobra was Ford's budget-price, minimal-trim supercar, named for Carroll Shelby's Ford-powered sports cars. Produced in SportsRoof (fastback) and notchback body styles, Cobras all carried a 428-cid V-8, "conservatively" rated at 335 bhp (according to Ford), first used in the Mercury Cyclone.
Ram-Air induction, at $133 extra, consisted of a fiberglass hood scoop with special air cleaner assembly. At nearly full throttle, cold air stormed directly into the carburetor's throat, bypassing the filter element. With that brand of power, Ford insisted, a "Cobra Jet belts out enough torque to leave two black lines right to the horizon."
Standard fittings included a four-speed manual gearbox, Wide-Oval F70 x 14 tires, black grille, and exposed competition-style hood tie-down pins. A beefed-up suspension consisting of stiffened springs, large-diameter front stabilizer bar, and high-damping shocks was aimed at providing minimum body roll and maximum directional stability.
Cobra's long fastback profile, with upswept quarter windows and severely slanted backlight, was accented by three trim strips at the vast rear pillar. Split square taillamps brought up the rear, with dual exhausts exiting below the bumper.
Interiors were no less austere than the bodies, containing a plain bench seat and four-dial dashboard. Priced only a few dollars higher than a Torino Squire station wagon, a Cobra hardtop started at $3,164; the fastback, $25 more. Options included power front-disc brakes at $65, a 6,000-rpm tachometer for $48, and SelectShift Cruise-O-Matic at $37. Even bucket seats and a console cost extra ($121 and $54, respectively).
"Power to spare, yet well-behaved in city traffic," declared the Ford brochure, a Cobra "uncoils for action on command." Maybe so, though one magazine was "disappointed" by a Cobra's 7.2-second 0-60 time, and 15-second (98.3 mph) quarter-mile. However, most thought it the tightest, best built, and quietest running of that year's supercar crop.
Other trials yielded quicker times. Car and Driver sent its Cobra to 60 in a mere 5.6 seconds, and cracked the quarter in 14 at 100.6 mph. Car Life, on the other hand, took 7.3 seconds to hit 60 mph, and 14.9 for the quarter (topping 95 mph).
Motor Trend hit 60 in 6.3 seconds with a Cobra four-speed, running the quarter in 14.5 (at 100 mph). "When the Ram Air cuts in," they exclaimed, "the car really puts you back in the seat." On the down side, the Cobra's suspension "can be hairy in hard corners" and gas mileage worked out to nine mpg or less.
Ford pushed Cobras "for folks who don't want anyone stepping on their tails." While "great in competition" and "recommended to cure dull driving," a Cobra was nonetheless described as "gentle on a Sunday drive."
Learn more about the car Ford made for the street by way of the track, the Talladega, on the next page.