1970 King Cobra and Spoiler II

The following is a brief history of the 1970 Ford King Cobra and Mercury Spoiler II Prototypes. Portions of this article were originally published on the Lowe’s Motor Speedway web site, other information was obtained during an interview with owner Steve Honnell.

Rare NASCAR Prototypes on Display at Lowe’s Motor Speedway

1970 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II (Photo: Courtesy of Steve Honnell)

1970 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II (Photo: Courtesy of Steve Honnell)

1970 Ford Torino King Cobra (Photo: Courtesy of Steve Honnell)

These cars were built as the prototypes of what was to come in 1970 to compete with the Dodge Daytonas and Plymouth Superbirds on the NASCAR circuit. The 1969 models, Ford Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II, had been very successful in 1969 on the NASCAR tracks. The Ford Talladega won the 1969 NASCAR Championship with driver David Pearson. However, in the midst of government pressure on fuel mileage standards, ever increasing insurance rates for muscle cars Ford suddenly pulled out of all racing and never mass produced these cars.”

Couple those facts with a new NASCAR rule that raised the minimum production number for homologation from 500 vehicles to 3,000, and even the prototypes became scarce.

According to owner Steve Honnell, there is only one Cyclone Spoiler II. There were two of them built but this is the only one that survived. There were four King Cobras but only three of those are known to still exist.”

These rare examples of Detroit muscle are owned by Steve Honnell a former Ford representative and former drag racer from Belfast, Tenn. Honnell has owned the King Cobra since purchasing it from Holman-Moody in 1970 after Ford suspended its factory support of stock car racing. The Cyclone Spoiler II was rescued from a muddy chicken coop in Indiana after the late Larry Shinoda, best known for designing the Corvette Stingray, gave it away as a gift once Mercury abandoned the project.

“Shinoda didn’t want these cars destroyed,” Honnell said. “He kept telling me there was a Mercury out there like the King Cobra. He helped me track it down in 1997 because he was so happy I saved the King Cobra.”

As a result of being stored in a chicken coop (actually was found UNDER the chicken coop), the body and interior of the Cyclone Spoiler II were in desperate need of repair and Honnell spent several years restoring the car.

Each of the three surviving King Cobras were built with a different engine. Honnell’s came with a 429 Super Cobra Jet powerplant that he later replaced with a 494-cubic-inch V-8. Other than the engine change, the car is still in its original condition.

“The King Cobra has never been restored,” Honnell noted. “It’s pretty much the same as the day I got it and I still have the old Super Cobra Jet engine in a crate at home.”

From the firewall back, the King Cobra is a stock Ford Torino. What makes the King Cobra special, besides its powerful engine, is a wind-cheating design which features a rounded nose that slopes aggressively to the front bumper. Unlike the stock Torino, the King Cobra has no front grille and was designed to maximize downforce at high speeds.

The Cyclone Spoiler II features a similar design with the front end being the major difference between it and the stock Mercury Cyclone. In an attempt to meet NASCAR’s minimum of 3,000 units, Mercury planned to simply switch the nose of the car based on customer’s wishes.

However, the Cyclone Spoiler II could not escape the same outside factors that killed the King Cobra and only two were built and tested.

Due to the difficulties of traveling with two vehicles, Honnell and his cars have stayed close to home recently but he did take them to Dearborn, Mich., for Ford Motor Company’s 100th birthday celebration in 2004.

“I think the most fun I’ve ever had with them was when I went to Dearborn for Ford’s 100 year celebration,” Honnell said. “I unloaded my cars in the parking lot and was ready for the show. Someone came up to me and said, ‘You can’t park those there,’ which made me wonder what I did wrong.

Then he told me, ‘”They (the event organizers) saw the cars and they want them up front.’ So they moved me up to the rotunda where the honored guests were and I got to meet Edsel Ford while he was admiring my cars.”

“Ford thought these cars had been destroyed. One of the greatest things about it was that Ford took notice. They were tickled to see that I had saved them.”

Comments (3)

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  1. John P. says:

    Saw this site in the article you reference (Hemming’s Muscle Machines)-was blown away!

    Never knew Ford had anything like this in mind at the time. Sure wish they went through with it!

    I currently own a ’71 Torino (Brougham),second owner,car’s a survivor. Almost want to get busy with some fiber glass…..

    Curious, were the noses one piece ,a flip open?

  2. Terry Butler says:

    I’d sure like to see some “chicken coop” photos, and/or pre-restoration photos of this Spoiler II. How about it?

  3. Robert says:

    I have what appears to be one of one NASCAR 429CJ/SCJ single plane Spider Intakes. I’ve owned it for decades and never been able to find another, the closest I’ve found to it is the one on Steve’s King Cobra though unlike his mine is flanged for a Holley Dominator. The part number of the intake in the casting is SK-50282. I’d like to get this re-united with the car it was made for someday. It really is a cool piece and it has manifold plenum and runner features that were decades ahead of its time.

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