Money No Object: 1973 Ford Torino IMSA – The Loud American That Was Meant To Take On LeMans

Money No Object: 1973 Ford Torino IMSA – The Loud American That Was Meant To Take On LeMans

At first blush, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you are actually looking at a NASCAR racer from back in the day. There, you aren’t exactly wrong. This looks like a 1973 Ford Torino stock car, that was the goal. Everything about the machine was built to Grand National specifications…more or less…and to the standard onlooker, this car should’ve been chasing around Richard Petty’s Dodge at ovals across America. Except this Torino didn’t. This Ford has an strange and unique story to it, one only shared with a few other cars of the period like the Olympia Charger: it was meant to go to France and to compete at the 24 Hours of LeMans.

Bill France wanted NASCAR to become a worldwide icon, not just a racing series in the American Southeast, and he made efforts to make that happen, including approaching IMSA and the FIA about a NASCAR-spec class for the 1976 racing year. Oddly enough, both series agreed to the idea and a class called Grand International was born for LeMans. If you know your history, you will know that two stock cars did make their way over to France: The Olympia Charger, which was brought by Herschel McGriff and his son Doug; and Junie Donlavey would pair with Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson in a 1975-ish Ford Torino stocker. Both wowed crowds, neither did well (the Charger ate engines, the Torino ate transmissions too.)

So…what about this car? IMSA’s involvement didn’t just extend to the LeMans effort…the 24 Hours of Daytona was in the cards as well, and that’s where this Torino shined. Campaigned by David Pearson, his son Larry, and Jim and Gary Bowsher, the #21 Torino, with a body that was a bit more massaged that even NASCAR would have allowed, rolled out onto Daytona’s surface and would end up taking the win in the NASCAR class and sixteenth overall 24 hours later…and that did involve three hours’ worth of downtime thanks to a dead engine. The Torino was supposed to go to LeMans, but when John Holman passed on from a heart attack, that ended the racing career of the car.

The machine itself is 1970s NASCAR badass done right: a Boss 429 with semi-hemi heads worked over by Holman-Moody cranks out the grunt of legends, which is pushed through a four-speed and out to the back. The chassis itself is Grand National circa 1974-75, with a front suspension design based on a Ford Galaxie and a rear suspension that had more in common with a 1968 Chevrolet pickup than anything else. And it’s unrestored…you are seeing it just as it left Daytona in 1976.

The Torino is up for sale. If you have to ask how much, don’t bother. That’s the beauty of “money no object” looking…that one day the Lotto ticket is your friend, you won’t have to worry about the cost anymore!

Canepa Link: 1973 Ford Torino-bodied 1975 Holman-Moody IMSA-spec racer

(Thanks to Scott Liggett for the tip!)

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