Sports

What Killed the Sportsroof?

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Why did Ford kill one of its best-looking models of the 1970s—the Ford Torino Sportsroof Fastback—after only two years? It’s amazing to envision all of the tooling and manufacturing complexity, the logistics of selling and marketing a special car, and then see it last only 24 months. With all of that effort comes an expectation for great rewards and a long shelf life. What forces dashed those plans? I have no inside info on why, but for the Torino Sportsroof, the era in which it was manufactured and the numbers suggest a pretty simple answer. First, though, the 1972 Ford Torinos were all new and inclusive, with a variety of handsome body styles that included two-door and four-door hardtops, and the fastback Sportsroof we are focusing on here, plus station wagons, and venerable Ranchero trucks. Total sales for its first year were more than 500,000. Wow! Of those, more than one-tenth were Sportsroofs.

Federal bumper regulations went into effect in 1973 for front ends, necessitating a restyle to accommodate the ugly locomotive bumpers we like to tuck and trim today. Sportsroofs dipped to 50,000 units that year in spite of the attractive facelift, with total 1973 Torino production dipping slightly to 481,442. With federal rear-bumper standards mandated for 1974, my guess is that 1) integrating an attractive 5-mph bumper for the rear of the Sportsroof was impossible, and 2) with the hardtop selling so well and Sportsroof sales slowing, Ford planners decided not to complicate production and marketing—and the extra parts needed at the dealer level—for a body style that would maybe see an additional 30 to 40,000 units.

As with most everything, it all comes down to the numbers. Today 1972 and 1973 Sportsroof prices tend to run on the high side for cars of that era for the obvious reasons that they have weathered the years well and are a surprisingly rare sight these days. While most Ford-natics gravitate to the Mustang, these lesser-seen Fords are every bit as cool and collectible—when you can find one. They also ran in NASCAR Grand National racing, with Bobby Isaac’s 351 Cleveland-powered Sportsroof the example seen here. And don’t forget Mercury had its own Montego Sportsroof models, which also raced the Grand National circuit, to make this pursuit even more interesting if you find yourself drawn to one of the better-looking Fomoco muscle cars of the era.

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