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1969 Ford Torino Talladega

The 1969 Ford Torino Talladega gets top honors in this edition of Muscle Car Milestones. Named after the famous 2.66-mile Alabama race track that opened in 1969, the Torino Talladega was Ford’s entry into the fiercely competitive aero car war that fueled NASCAR in the late 1960s. The 1969 Torino Talladega was also created at a time when stock car racing was done with true stock cars. No cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all race car like today’s NASCAR racers.

Travel back to 1969. The battle between Ford and Chrysler was as intense as ever. Not only was there competition on the race track, the dealer showroom was also a sales race. The “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” philosophy spilled over to the showroom as Ford and Chrysler competed for sales between the Torino Talladega and its rival, the Dodge Charger 500. Let’s look back and see what makes the 1969 Ford Torino Talladega a muscle car legend.

There was a time when NASCAR imposed homologation rules which specified that at least 500 cars had to be built for the public in order for it to be raced on the track. To meet that requirement, Ford built approximately 750 Torino Talladegas in January and February of 1969 during off-hours at the Atlanta Ford plant. Color choices were limited to Royal Maroon, Presidential Blue, and Wimbledon White with a non-gloss black hood and lower rear panel deck panel. The interior was strictly business dressed in all-black with a bench seat, column shifter, nylon/rayon carpeting, and an AM radio. Talladega badging is quite minimum with only a “T” badge just above the door handles and a faux gas cap with a “T” on the rear. Inside, a “Talladega” plate adorns the upper door panels.

If you think the Torino Talladega looks different from a “regular” Torino, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. In order to create the Talladega, an extensive amount of work was done by Holman-Moody to the front end to make the car more aerodynamic. For starters, the front fenders were spliced in front of the front tires and a new nose was attached with a 30-degree slope that added six inches to the front of the car. This alteration created a snooped nose that forced wind over the car, not under where it would cause front-end lift. Also, the grille was flush-mounted with the front end and the small opening between the grille and the sheet metal is lined with a rubber gasket to keep out air and aid with aerodynamics. Another unique feature of the Torino Talladega is the front bumper. Holman-Moody took the rear bumper from the Fairlane, narrowed it, reshaped it into a “V”, and filled in the tops of the bumper to even out airflow. These unusual modifications acted as a spoiler for the car’s front end. In addition, the Torino Talladega’s rocker panels were modified to ride one inch closer to the track. This trick gave the Torino Talladega an advantage by cutting down on wind resistance and giving the car a lower center of gravity.

The sole engine in the Torino Talladega is a 428 Cobra Jet rated at 335 horsepower and 440 lb.-ft. of torque. Some in the know say Ford grossly understated this horsepower figure. It was mated to a column-shifted C6 Cruise-O-Matic three-speed automatic transmission. Other performance equipment includes a 3.25:1 9-inch non-locking rear axle, power steering and oil cooler, and staggered rear shocks. Power front disc brakes, F70 x 14 fiberglass tires, ultra-heavy-duty front and rear springs, and an extra-heavy-duty stabilizer bar round out just some of the performance features of the Torino Talladega.

The Torino Talladega impressed Richard Petty so much that he left Plymouth during the 1969 NASCAR season to drive for Ford. Petty knew the Torino Talladega was going to be a tough competitor that year, and when he was denied a Dodge Daytona by Chrysler, he did the unthinkable and switched to Ford. The about-face paid off. Petty won 10 races that year and came in second in the points standing. However, the love affair with Ford would be short-lived. Chrysler, in order to win Petty back, created the Plymouth Superbird and Petty returned to Plymouth for the 1970 racing season.

And just like that, the Aero Car War was over. After the 1970 NASCAR season, Bill France mandated new rules that practically crippled the mighty aero car. To level the playing field, he stated engine size for aero cars could be no larger than 305 cubic inches. Losing so much displacement put the aero cars at a disadvantage and they disappeared shortly afterward. The 1969 Ford Torino Talladega may have only been produced for one model year, but this legendary track star’s legacy will live on forever.

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