We get a lot of mail here asking, "How do you get your car into a magazine?" Generally we resist the urge to ask for fifty bucks in a plain brown envelope and instead just tell it like it is. The fact is that it comes down to being in the right place at the right time with the right car. The term "right car" doesn't mean you have to have some sort of big-dollar show car that looks like it just rolled off the Concourse at Pebble Beach. What it does mean is that it has to be cool in one way or another. Maybe it's a nut and bolt work of automotive art or it could just be a cool boulevard cruiser that has the right look. Maybe it is flogged around the local racetrack, and even the rock chips carry a mystique of coolness because they were earned while doing a buck-fifteen down the straight at Willow Springs. Martin Pond's '71 Torino GT falls into the last category.
Martin wanted a car that he could take open-tracking with his brother Randall. And while he wanted it to look nice, the function of the car was put way ahead of the form.
When we asked Martin why he chose a Torino he said, "I have always liked the '70-71 Torinos. My grandmother owned a '71 Torino 500 with a 429 CJ four-speed. The car was low on frills and big on power. While driving the car, my wife Julie and I were rear-ended by a drunk driver and the car was totaled. What a loss. The drivetrain survived the accident and is now installed in my '70 Ranchero. I don't fit well in Mustangs [Martin is 6-foot 4 inches] so I wanted to find a Torino since I enjoyed my Grandmother's so much." With this in mind, Martin set out to find a Torino and, in April of 2000, one was located for the reasonable sum of $6,000. The GT had a 351 Cleveland engine with a big mechanical lifter cam and open-chamber heads. Martin immediately headed down to Sears Point for the Wednesday night drags and proceeded to embarrass himself with high-16-second timeslips. Martin remembers the night, "All my friends were there at the track. I didn't live that down for months. It was then that I decided to redo all the suspension and brakes so that I could try an open-track event." As they say, the rest is history, as Martin became hooked on open-track racing.
Martin has a lot going on in his life. Between his company, Tidewater Tire, his wife, kids, and all the other necessities of living, he doesn't have tons of cash to pour into his hobby. Because of this, he has to be frugal with his spending and exercise ingenuity when it comes to upgrading his Calypso Coral Torino. The Torino came with a decent paint job, so that was a big cost savings. With the help of his friend, Skye DeMaria, the pair fabricated their own set of subframe connectors and reworked things like the front crossmember that had to be "adjusted" to clear the 9-quart Canton oil pan. KYB shocks were installed up front along with 720-pound springs. Out back you will find the same KYB shocks working with 5.5-inch reverse-eye leaf springs. Stopping the 3,800-pound Torino is left to the same brakes that Ford found appropriate in 1971. Normally we are skeptical of rear drum brakes, but since Martin seems to get the job done with them, then who are we to argue? Traction is as important for braking at it is for lateral-g's, so 16x8 Vintage 48 wheels were wrapped in Yokohama 255/50R16 A032R track tires up front and BFG Comp T/A VR4 tires in 275/50R16 out back. When we asked Martin why his tires didn't match and why the stickier tires were put up front, he told us that the car had a bit of understeer, and this combo helped to balance it out a bit and give the car a bit more oversteer, which he prefers. Once again, function beat the snot out of form and left it bleeding on the side of the road.
After a few laps, Martin found out that not only did his engine not have the grunt for drag racing, but that it was also pretty heavy for road work. It was then that a customer with a nice new 351W crate motor totaled his car. Martin traded the insurance company storage fees for the salvage on the car. The new Windsor crate motor was not only lighter than the old Cleveland motor, but it also put out a respectable 385 hp right out of the box. Besides a Holley Street Avenger carb, MSD 6AL ignition box and a good tune, not much was done to the potent crate motor. Hooker Super Comp headers feed into Dr. Gas 3-inch pipes fitted to a pair of Flowmaster mufflers. Power is sent back to a Ford top loader four-speed that was worked over by Gil Alfonso of Transmatic Transmissions in Oakland, California. It then spins through a Ford 9-inch rear end fitted out with a Gold Track posi, aluminum third member, Daytona pinion retainer and 3.55 gears. A Hurst shifter, and a Centerforce dual-friction clutch help ensure that Martin is in the right powerband when he is lining up to nail the next apex.
The interior was left mostly stock with the exception of some Corbeau seats to help keep him in place during laps and some Auto Meter gauges to help him keep track of his mill's vital signs. Since Martin rarely trailers his car and prefers to drive it to the many events he attends, he did spring for an Alpine head unit, amps, and a set of Boston Acoustics speakers. A fire extinguisher is there "just in case," and the rest is presentable, but far from flashy. Again, Martin chose to spend his limited resources on go-fast stuff over show-off stuff.
Martin figures he has about $12,000 out-of-pocket into the car as it sits. That counts the car and the super hot deals he worked out to get the motor and other parts. He has picked up a couple of awards and people are always curious to check out the uncommon Torino at the few car shows he has gone to. His real passion is hitting as many Shelby Club open-track events as possible. When we asked Martin if he was happy with how the car has come along so far he said, "I know this is not the best car to set up for this stuff, but I have as much fun as anyone else out at the track. Plus, I'm the only Torino there, and it will never get lost in the paddock!" There was also the time at Thunder Hill Raceway when a Ferrari owner cornered Martin in the pits and asked, "How come I can't keep up with you?" It seems people are pretty surprised at how fast this large car is. And what of the friends who razzed him so badly over his anemic drag-race timeslips? According to Martin, "My friends still bug me and they also say I should get a car more suited for open-track use, but then I would just blend in, and what would be the fun in that?"