Reed Johnston's 1969 Ford Talladega (from Volume 12, Issue 126)

When you hear the word “Talladega”, what do you think of? Obviously for fans of NASCAR the track in Alabama comes to mind. But for those that remember a certain factory modified 1969 Ford Torino, who’s design drew its inspiration from NASCAR competition, Talladega is also a rare car that brings back fond memories of areo-wars being waged on the race tracks.

In retaliation to the success of the 1968 Ford Fairlane fastback body style, the Dodge guys were looking for a way to make their ‘68 Charger a little more aerodynamic, and as a result released the limited production Dodge Charger 500 in 1969. With a flush mounted grill and reworked rear window it had less aero drag, which is a huge benefit on the super speedways. Not to be outdone, hearing what the Dodge guys were up to, Ford went back to the drawing boards with its 1969 Torino fastback....bringing in the help of the factory backed race shop Holman and Moody, to find a more aerodynamic front end for the Torino.

The specially built 1969 Ford Talladega was the result, and among the changes, the most obvious included the longer front fenders that extended the snout, and had an angled front that connected the now flush mounted grill opening back into the hood area, with special bracing to support the now “drooped” nose. Holman and Moody also took 1969 Fairlane/Torino rear bumpers, and by sectioning them in the middle, made them tuck in closer to the body to catch less passing air.

Another change, that often goes unnoticed to the casual observer but likely had just as much of a hand in making the car successful on the race track, were the changes made to the rocker panels. They were re-rolled to end higher on the car, and since NASCAR measured the rocker panels from the bottom edge, it meant the car could now sit about one inch closer to the ground and be within the rules. This gave the car a lower center of gravity that aided in better cornering, and at the same time aided in the aerodynamic department as well by making the overall car closer to the ground and have less frontal area.

In order to comply with NASCAR rules, a minimum of 500 of these specially modified Torinos, now wearing the Talladega name, had to be produced and available to the general public through their dealership network. So in January and February of 1969 Ford used its Atlanta plant to produce them, with total production reaching a little over 740. They were available in three colors; Royal Maroon, Wimbledon White and Presidential Blue. Maroon and blue cars received white pinstripes that ran along the tops of the fenders, doors and quarter panels, while the white cars received a black stripe. The interiors were all black vinyl, with cloth bench seats, no tach or clock, and just an AM radio. Talladegas were given special “T” plates on the doors just above the handles, a “T” in a circle on the rear, and “Talladega” nameplates inside on the door panels.

Ford didn’t skimp on the power for these cars, as they received the 428 cubic inch Cobra Jet with a 10.5:1 compression ratio rated at 335hp, backed by a C6 automatic transmission. Staggered rear shocks were also used, along with a non-posi 3.25:1 rear end.

The mission was accomplished, as Ford won the Manufactures Cup in 1969, and David Pearson won the season championship driving a Talladega in 1969. Also interesting is that Richard Petty won his 100th race behind the wheel of his blue Talladega, in the only year that he split with Plymouth due to his dissatisfaction with their pursuit of better aerodynamics (however, he would return to Plymouth in 1970 with the release of the Super Bird winged wonder.....but that is another story).

All of this brings us to the 1969 Talladega you see here, which belongs to Reed Johnston of Sarasota, Florida. It was restored with 29,000 original miles on the odometer, and has since seen 1,600 more miles roll over since the restoration. An interesting fact is that this particular car was ordered with a radio, but during assembly the radio was forgotten, so instead it was put in a box in the back seat when delivered new to West Valley Motor Sales in Santa Clara, California - and to this day it still sits in the factory box behind the driver’s seat.

Reed has owned many great cars over the years, and his current stable also includes a pro-street 1941 Willys, triple black 1969 Chevelle convertible with the 396 / 375hp engine, 1994 Dodge Viper, and a 2003 twin turbo Porsche. Obviously Reed is an enthusiasts that can appreciate performance in many different forms, and we’re glad he shared his Talladega with us. It is a rare glimpse into the aero-wars ear of NASCAR, that saw some real innovations by the factories in an effort to gain an edge and win races, rather than arguing over body templates and “unfair” advantages. CN