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Is it Real? Parnelli Jones Special

Torino and Bronco Discovered

These may not be the cars featured on this site but they do fall in line as some very rare and different Specials. There is so little documentation we know virtually nothing about them. We do know the Torino is real, but we don’t know is one was built or several. As for the Bronco, we are not sure it was even built by Parnelli Jones. As for one last question, is there a Mustang version out there? That would seem to be the most logical but I am just wishing for one at this point. Read on and tell us if you have more information on these.

It was 1968 and racing was big. One of its biggest stars was Parnelli Jones. He was active in Indy Cars, Baja 1000, stock cars, srint cars and sports cars. He also extended his racing career as a car owner with equal sucesses. In addition he owned and operated several successful businesses. Which included Parnelli Jones Inc., that operated 47 retail Parnelli Jones Tire Centers in four states. Parnelli Jones Enterprises was a chain of Firestone Racing Tires in 14 Western United States. Parnelli Jones Wholesale was a reseller which sold and distributed shock absorbers, passenger car tires, and other automotive products to retail tire dealers. In addition, Parnelli Jones has several wheel manufacturers companies since the beginning of the 70s, z.b. Rebel Wheel co, US Mags and American Racing Equipment. He was also part owner in Vel’s Parnelli Jones Ford Dealership in Torrance, CA

We recently learned about this 1968 Parnelli Jones Torino. It IS NOT a factory produced vehicle; it is a dealership special. It was built at the Parnelli dealership. Is it valuable? How many were built? We have all heard of COPO cars from Chevy and other dealership specials such as Yenkos and we also know those cars bring huge dollars. But, they all were performance upgrades. What about image upgrades? We know of the California Special and Colorado/High Country Special Mustangs and GT 500 Mercury Cyclones that each have varing degrees of additional value, some great others nonimal.

It appears that in 1968 famous racer Parnelli Jones was in partnership on a Ford dealership in Southern California. He and his partner wanted to do something special and thus was built the Parnelli Jones Torino.

1968 Parnelli Jones Torino
1968 Parnelli Jones Torino

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The white vinyl top is a dealer installed part of the PJ package.
The white vinyl top is a dealer installed part of the PJ package. The factory stock wheels shown in this photo are different from the sales article shown above. I prefer the American Torq Thrust style wheels on this car myself.

This car was found on eBay and its seller does not mention any performance modifications, only cosmetic. Since the selling price for this Special Edition was the same as a regular Torino without these modifications it is highly unlikely that any performance upgrades were included. On the other hand, Parnelli was well known for his racing so performance options would certainly have been expected. Were there more options or different versions that might have included performance upgrades? Ford has done some Parnelli Jones tribute specials over the years but they were all Mustangs as I recall.

rear
Have you ever seen a “vinyl trunk”? What about the trim on the trunk for the vinyl, how easy is that to find?

One thing I find especially interesting is the vinyl roof. First off, it is the first time I have ever seen a vinyl trunk! Usually when we see a fastback with a vinyl treatment it stops at the leading edge of the trunk. What I like about this car is it pays tribute to the race car paint schemes used on the Fords and Mercurys. This Presidential Blue with white vinyl top must have really stood out from the crowd on the street back in the day.

The top on the Parnelli Jones Torino from a different angle.
The top on the Parnelli Jones Torino from a different angle.

Does anyone have more information or insight on these cars? How many did the dealership build? Were there any 428 CJ cars? Did they come in other colors? Who has actually seen one of these and do you have photos? I would love to know more about these. Since Parnelli is still alive and active could he have any more info for us? If you have any information please contact us at rfleener@comcast.net.

Have you ever seen one of these hoods before? This had to be an expensive swap. Note the hood pins.
Have you ever seen one of these hoods before? This had to be an expensive swap. Note the hood pins.

There are a number of items on the car that seem like they would have added a significant cost to the car. How about this hood. I don’t ever recall seeing anything like this on any Fords. Was this a custom piece just for this car or was it an over the counter hot rod piece from some aftermarket firm? Was it a complete hood or just a big scoop molded onto the factory hood?

Parnelli Jones Torino interior, where they all bucket seat cars? Any other color of interior?
Parnelli Jones Torino interior, where they all bucket seat cars? Any other color of interior?

The interior in this version has the bucket seats. Did others have a console or bench seat? Was there ever a convertible version. There are a lot of questions but a very cool car.

Here is another angle of the hood and note how high it is. I wonder if it was a functional ram air?
Here is another angle of the hood and note how high it is. I wonder if it was a functional ram air?
Parnelli Jones script on the side of the rear quarters.
Parnelli Jones script on the side of the rear quarters.

Just recently we became aware of what may be another Parnelli Jones Special. Arguably, Parnelli is best known for his off-road racing, and his Baja 1000 wins. Here is a photo we received showing another Special. It is a 1968 Bronco. Is it real or an owner-builder? The current owner states it is original paint and was purchased new as shown here. One story has the cut out rear roof section was to accommodate Parnelli for parades. It has a hood scoop similar to the Torino and the same “Parnelli Jones Special” emblem on the front fender. The red white and blue paint scheme is the same as his Baja race Broncos of the time. We have been unable to come up with any documentation supporting this theory or support for it being an authentic Parnelli Jones build. If you have any information on this car or any others that may have been built in Parnelli’s dealership please contact us at rfleener@comcast.net.

Note the chrome trim around the grill but not on the hood. The hood and scoop are the attention items here.

What you are looking at is the rear interior ceiling. The red is the padding around the cut out in the roof covered with a removable snap on vinyl top. Have you ever seen anything like this before? Seems good for a parade car or possibly viewing races from?

You Bronco guys out there, have you seen a roll bar like this before?

Richard

Some of my first and strongest memories from my childhood relate to cars. I still remember when things happened based on what car I was driving at the time. I grew up and lived in Iowa for nearly 40 years before moving to Southern California and now live in Tennessee. I was a Corvette fanatic for years but then re-discovered vintage American Muscle. My wife, Katrina, and I decided we wanted to focus on unique and rare muscle cars. After a lot of research we fell in love with the Ford Blue Oval Aero Cars. These were only built in 1969 and and aerodynamics became an important part of winning races. The only purpose of these limited production cars was to win NASCAR races using the Boss 429 and 427 power plants complimented with a special, wind cheating, aerodynamic body. The Ford Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II are terrific and historic cars. This site is devoted to these car and their owners past and present. We provide an Online Registry for recording the long term history and ownership of every remaining Talladega, Spoiler and Spoiler II.

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