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Dealership Specials by Parnelli Jones

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.

You are looking at the inside of the rear roof. It has been cut out and padded around the edges, is this for parades? Viewing races? Have you ever seen anything like this before? The opening is covered with a removable vinyl covering.

Here is the inside of the Bronco, note the roll bar in the rear. Is this similar to anything else you have seen?

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Richard

I grew up and lived in Iowa for a good portion of my life before moving to Southern California. After 20+ years we now live outside Nashville Tennessee. I have been into cars since I was old enough to remember. I don't have a brand loyalty although I do prefer American Muscle especially the 1969/1970 NASCAR Aero Cars. (Check out our other web site at www.TalladegaSpoilerRegistry.com site) As long as it has four wheels and an engine I get excited. Few men are lucky enough to be able to share their passion for cars with the woman they love. Fortunately, my wife, Katriana, is also a gear head and many of our activities revolve around the cars. We have a small collection that includes at least one car from each of the Big Three. It includes a Best of Show winner, a survivor, a driver with lots of patina and several others. Katrina prefers all original cars while I like to modify them so we have a few of each. When we aren't playing with cars we are out working with or showing our miniature donkeys. You can see more about that part of our lives at http://www.LegendaryFarms.com.

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