There are few things more special than an all-original classic that’s been in the same family since the day it left the showroom floor. This rare 1968 Ford Torino GT Pace Car Edition has spent its entire sheltered life in the Oregon wine country, but is now up for auction on Bring a Trailer.
Jim Nightengale bought his Torino GT convertible on Halloween of 1968. The car was a promotional job, one of 709 built to commemorate the Torino’s role as the Indianapolis pace car in May of that year. Mrs. Nightengale was unwilling to live with the graphics, however, saying, “There is no way I am going to drive in that car with all that crazy writing on the sides!” The couple had the dealership, Phillipi Ford of Stayton, Oregon, take off the lettering.
The Nightengales drove the stylish convertible around their home in the Willamette Valley for years, and passed it down to their daughter Nancy in the mid-1980s. Because the Torino was almost a member of the family by that time, Nancy kept it parked at her parents’ house. It continued to get regular care and maintenance, and miraculously remained completely original until the top was replaced in 2008.
Nancy last drove the car in 2010. The Torino slept warm and dry in the garage, protected from the rainy Oregon winters.
Sadly, Jim passed away and Nancy decided it was time to let the family convertible go. Just up the road from the Nightengale house is Denwerks Survivor Cars. Nancy called up the owner, Jason Anderson, and told him about the Torino. “As soon as I heard what it was,” recalled Anderson, “I was an owner.”
Anderson’s first sight of the Torino was in the Nightengale garage. When the door opened, the car sat as it was parked eight years before, with a sign on it that Jim had made for its appearance in a local car show. “I was able to drive it home, which was a treat” said Anderson.
Back at Denwerks, Anderson’s love of pace cars drove his refresh. “I wanted to make it look just like it did back in the day,” he said, and that’s exactly what he did. The car was made mechanically and cosmetically sound, chips and all, except for one thing: the decals celebrating the car’s Indy heritage were restored.
There were just 709 Indy Torino GT convertibles made for 1968, and all were Wimbledon White with a blue interior and top. 159 of those were purpose-built for duties at the 1968 Indianapolis 500 itself, and three were prepared to be actual pace cars. The other 550 cars were sent to dealers.
A Marti report confirms that the Nightengale Torino is as delivered from the factory. In addition to being shockingly original, the car also has the desirable 390-cid big block V8 and bucket seats. The power top, power steering, and deluxe seat belts are other rare and noted options.
Valuing such a unique vehicle can be difficult. According to Hagerty classic car insurers, an average price for normal Torino GT convertibles is in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, depending on equipment, but there is no information on models with a 390-cid engine, nor on special editions.
Regardless of the final price when the hammer goes down this Friday, the new owner will undoubtedly value the car as much as the Nightengale family did. There are fewer and fewer original classic cars these days, and documented survivors are rarer still. Hopefully this unique bit of history will find another warm, dry garage to spend the next fifty winters in.