Daniel Mahn had a really nice Ford Torino that he liked a lot.
When he had the opportunity swap the car even-up for Torino he liked better, though, he just couldn’t say no.
About 20 years ago, the South Milwaukee, Wis., resident came to the Iola Car Show with the idea of maybe shopping for a new Torino. Not only did he find one, but the guy who had it was willing to make a trade — saving Mahn the trouble of having to sell his own car.
“I always wanted to have a big-block convertible. I had a 69 Torino with the formal roof. It was red with black and it was all restored and everything,” Mahn says. “So I was at Iola with a buddy of mine and he was out in the car corral and he knew what I was looking for. He said, ‘Hey, there’s two of them out there.’ So I walked out there and found his one and talked to the guy who had it. He didn’t really want to do the deal, but later that night we went back to our hotel room and he was staying in the same hotel and he got to see my car, and he decided he wanted to do the deal. He wanted to do a trade.”
“He was a dealer out of Minnesota, and my car being red with the black, it was ‘resale red’ as they say, and he probably thought it was easier to sell. So he was more interested in that. I don’t think he really knew what he had with this car.”
On the return trip home, Mahn found himself behind the wheel of a nice 1968 Torino GT convertible. Not only did he get the big-block that he was after, but he also got a much rarer car. Of the 100,384 Torino GTs built for the 1968 model year, only 5,310 were ragtops. And a ragtop with a big-block 390 was an especially good catch, as far as Mahn was concerned. And it was a convertible with air-conditioning!
“It was a very solid car. It needed a paint job from being out in the sun and the interior was kind of baked from the sun,” Mahn noted. “We tore it apart that fall and over the winter we restored it and as we were tearing it apart we found out it was a numbers-matching engine and transmission. And everything was there for it. We had the interior out of it and found the original build sheet and found the codes and everything was correct for the car and everything was all original. Even the air-conditioning was original.”
Mahn says he has yet to see another car in the flesh that resembles his Torino GT — a Diamond Blue exterior, white top, two-tone blue interior and black GT striping. It’s doubtful he will.
“I bump into one or two [’68 Torino GT convertibles] in the Milwaukee area where I live, but only a couple and they are modified. This is original, so it’s rare.”
FORD’S ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Quiz a Ford fan sometime and see if they can name all the models FoMoCo offered in 1968. There were quite a few: Fairlane, Falcon, Falcon Futura, Galaxie 500, Mustang, Mustang/Mustang GT/Mach1, Thunderbird, and new-for-1968 Torino/Torino GT (bonus points if they remember the entire truck line: Ranchero, Bronco, Custom, F-100, and Econoline Club Wagon and Van).
The 1968 Ford Torino GT was the sporty version of the Fairlane 500 and was based on that model. The Torino GT actually came in three versions. Model 65D was the two-door hardtop, which sold for $2,768.17, weighed 3,194 lbs. and had a production run of 23,939 units. The convertible—Model 76D—was much rarer. Prices for the ragtop began at $3,020.40 and it tipped the scales at 3,352 lbs. in showroom stock condition. The real image car was the Model 63D two-door fastback, with its $2,742.84 window sticker, 3,208-lb. curb weight and 74,135 units produced. Dubbed the “SportsRoof” by Ford, the hardtop car had lots of buyer appeal in its era.
Fairlane standard equipment included government-mandated safety equipment, a 200-cid six or a 302-cid V-8 and 7.35-14 tires. The standard Torino models (sports coupe, sedan or wagon) added wheel covers and an electric clock. The sporty Fairlane GT included all this plus a vinyl bench seat, a GT handling suspension, argent silver styled wheels with chrome trim rings, F70 x 14 wide oval tires, GT body stripes, a gray GT grille, GT nameplates and a 302-cid/210-hp V-8. Power brakes were required if the optional 390-cid big-block V-8 was ordered.
The 390-cid engine came in two versions. The 265-hp edition with a single two-barrel carburetor added just $78.25 to the price of a Torino V-8. The 325-hp four-barrel version was $158.08 extra and also required an extra-cost transmission (either the heavy-duty three-speed at $79.20, a four-speed manual at $184.02 or Ford’s Select Shift Cruise-O-Matic at $233.17).
Real muscle car lovers were probably more interested in getting a Torino GT with a 427-cid/390-hp V-8. It was a $622.97 option for all Fairlane two-door hardtops and you could not get it with Select Aire air conditioning, power steering, a 55-amp generator, a heavy-duty suspension or optional tires as extras either because it didn’t make sense or these options were already required.
Motor Trend (December 1967) tested a 1968 Torino GT SportsRoof and liked most things about it, except the vision to the rear with the radical fastback styling. Other minor criticisms were made, but the overall impression was positive. “The new breed of super car from Ford is a full step ahead of its ’67 counterpart,” the magazine concluded.
The test car had the 390-cid four-barrel engine, which made 335 hp at 4800 rpm and 427 lbs.-ft. of torque at 3200 rpm. It had a 10.5:1 compression ratio, three-speed manual attachment and 3.25:1 rear axle. Motor Trend reported 7.2 seconds for 0-to-60 mph and 15.1 seconds at 91 mph for the quarter-mile. Ford products captured over 20 checkered flags in NASCAR stock car racing during 1968, with Ford driver David Pearson taking the overall championship. In USAC competition, Ford pilot A.J. Foyt was the top driver of the year. Benny Parsons and Cale Yarborough also made Ford racing history this year, driving Fairlanes and Torinos in ARCA contests. A specially trimmed Torino convertible paced the 52nd Indianapolis 500.
A STELLAR SURVIVOR
Mahn was tickled to find a big-block ’68 convertible, and even more thrilled that it was an original, unmolested car. It needed some work to look its best again, but for a car he believes had been driven more than 100,000 miles, he said the Torino GT was in remarkable shape.
“I believe it was an Oklahoma car originally, and it ended up in Minnesota. And then the guy from Minnesota brought it to Iola to sell it, and it’s been to Iola the past 20 years now,” Mahn says proudly. “It was over 100,000, but I didn’t have the exact mileage. The engine was still strong. We only had to freshen up the heads and timing chain and gears in it. That was about it.”
“It’s got the air-conditioning; the courtesy package, which has the different lights for the seat belts and some other lights… It’s a bucket [seats] car; console; automatic; C-6 390 GT…. It’s got the power top with the glass window in back. It was originally a two-barrel car. I did change that over to a four-barrel just to get better performance. That’s the only thing I really changed… The rims on it now are from the ’68 Torino Pace Car. I found a set of those Kelsey-Hayes rims and put those on there. I still have the original rims.”
One of the reasons Mahn says he heads back to the Iola Car Show every year is just to give himself a reason to road trip in the beautiful Ford convertible. And when he gets to the show each July he gets to celebrate another year of ownership.
“I love driving it. The thing is a great cruiser. You can take this thing down the road all day no problem, and it’s just fun because it’s a convertible. With the top down you can enjoy the summer,” he says. “This is definitely just a ‘one-hander.’ I’ve never had a car that was just so smooth and drove so straight and everything. It’s just a fantastic driving car.”
Mahn laughs off the idea of ever making another Torino-for-Torino swap. He doesn’t ever expect lighting to strike twice, and he says he’d have a very hard time finding a Torino that he likes as much as the one he already has.
“I couldn’t find anything to replace it. It’s a rare car and you don’t see ’em. You see the formal roofs and the fastbacks, but you just don’t see the convertibles. I have a 23-year-old son who says this is his car. I have a ’66 Mustang also, and he’s actually driving that now. But he says if anything happens to Dad, this is his car [laughs].”
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