Since I decided against buying my friend's '65 Falcon Wagon in my first Personal Project Hell Dilemma, I've had to keep my eyes open for a project suitably cool/hellish enough. Fellow Jalop Ben Wojdyla went ahead and solved his personal dilemma- well, at least the initial part- by buying the '64 Continental of his dreams, Bumbeck has a project Starion and Starlet, and I'm still driving the ol' '97 Crown Vic and '92 Civic hatch. The peer pressure builds. Something must be done! But now my dilemma gets all the more tantalizing, because I have been offered a numbers-matching 428 Cobra Jet '68 Torino GT... for free! Thing is, it's a little far away, and it needs some work...

The first, and biggest, problem is that the car is in Wyoming. Not just Wyoming, but northern Wyoming, 1100 miles and two snow-covered, tow-vehicle-killin' mountain ranges away from Alameda.

Naturally, the 428 is in a billion pieces in the trunk, the heads are incorrect (off a 2V 390, meaning I'd need to spring for some real-deal CJ units), and the main caps are missing so it'll need line boring. On the plus side, the crank has been machined and the rods rebuilt, plus there's a set of new TRW forged pistons.


This car is actually something of a family heirloom, with a long and complicated story. Short version: my late uncle, Dirty Duck (the old-time biker, British-car mechanic, and storyteller who gave us The Legend of Hoot's Panhead) bought this car just before he died in 1989. His then-16-year-old son, my cousin Sam (aka Sammy Rockstar), inherited the car and proceeded to do what any self-respecting teenaged Harley-ridin', wrench-twistin' kid in small-town Wyoming would do: hoon the living piss out of it.

While the ghost of Dirty Duck no doubt approved of the gigantic clouds of burning rubber smoke, parking-lot-donuts, and 13-second quarter-mile passes performed by his son in the ol' Torino, eventually the drivetrain had had enough hoonage.


At that point, Sam (being a highly competent wrench) figured a complete rebuild of engine, transmission, and rear was in order, so he took everything apart and started the process of getting stuff out to machine shops, ordering new parts, etc.

But then, in a process I'm sure all of us who have lived in Project Car Hell can relate to, other projects and priorities intervened. Sam got a high-paying job as a roughneck in the Wyoming oil fields and was promoted to foreman after proving that he still had all ten fingers after a couple years on the job. There was just no time for the Torino project, which languished on a friend's land. Waiting. Then one thing led to another and The Rockstar ended up in Minnesota, always meaning to go back and finish the project, but always with another car, truck, or Harley right there in front of him, demanding his time and money.

Oh yeah, the engine isn't the only thing in pieces. You're looking at a bucket containing some of the innards of the 9" differential; Sam tells me there's a rebuildable Traction-Lok in the car somewhere.

As Dirty Duck would say, time goes by, y'know? The Ford has been sitting in a field for more than a decade, and a few of the parts have been misplaced over the years. We want the car to stay in the family, but Sam has several Hell Projects and I have none (well, if you don't count my Project House Hell, that is). And, damn, it would be sweet having a clean restored Cobra Jet Torino, especially one of the not-so-common coupes. But I've had several late-60s midsized Fords and, frankly, I fear that front suspension (not to mention the no-new-ground-broken aspect, though I've never owned a Detroit musclecar that wasn't all primer and junkyard parts). Then, of course, there would be the problem of originality; I'd be itchin' to do all kinds of hairy-ass modifications to the engine, not to mention stuff a Toploader behind the engine in place of the original C6... but this thing is so rare that even I cringe at the thought of deviating too far from the factory setup. What would I do with it, take it to car shows and sit on an ice chest debating the merits of hose-clamp date codes with other vintage Ford owners? Yet it's so damn cool! 'Tis truly a Project Car Hell Personal Dilemma!

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