Muscle Car: 1969 Ford Talladega; Carl Sharp
Presidential Blue 1969 Ford Talladega
The following text was provided by the owner of this beautiful Presidential Blue Ford Talladega. These cars are extremely rare and highly sought after. I haven’t seen one yet that didn’t have a story of its history that wasn’t just as unique.
Here is Carl’s Talladega at the Monster Mopar Weekend 2008.
I purchased my Talladega in late 2001. The previous owner had been using it for a parts car for a Mustang before he abandoned it in the woods. It had even been hit by a barn – that’s right, the barn hit it, not the other way around. Fortunately, my Talladega still has its original 428 CJ block and the special C-6 transmission that Ford installed in all 743 production Talladegas. That’s right, Ford only built 743 production models, plus a hand full of prototypes and pilot models for a total of 754. Of these, only 199 were built in Presidential Blue – my car is one of those 199. From 2001 until June of 2007, my car went through a complete restoration. Unfortunately, during my restoration efforts, parts were few to non-existent for this car. Some of the pieces were common to the 68/69 Torino/Fairlane fastback (aka Sportsroof) models. However, the front end sheet metal was all unique to the Talladega, as it had been sourced from the Holman-Moody race shop during the initial production of these cars. Likewise, the cloth for the seats was only available from one source – and they knew it!
Gateway International Raceway, getting ready to take some laps.
The story behind the acquisition: In late 2001, I was having some work done at a local Ford dealership on one of my other cars, when I noticed a calendar hanging on the wall behind the service manager’s desk. I offered to trade the young man at the desk for a brand new calendar, if I could have his old one. (The old calendar had a picture of a 1969 Torino fastback on it, and I wanted it for my older son, who has a 1969 Torino standard roof car.) The young man behind the calendar proudly informed me that a friend of his had a car that looked “almost exactly like the one in the calendar.” Needless to say, the word “almost” resonated in my head like the recoil from a Howitzer. There was only one car in the world that looked “almost” like a 1969 Torino Sportsroof car – the car that dominated NASCAR in 1969, a showroom race car – the famed, but extremely rare, Talladega.
I had heard rumors of the actual existence of Ford Talladegas, and I had even seen artist renditions, but I had never seen a real one. Well, I’ve been on many wild goose chases over the years, searching for those mythical $500 1965 Mustangs, so, I thought, what’s one more wild goose chase. However, when I got to the friend’s house (way back in the woods), I couldn’t believe it. It was a real Talladega. It was in terrible condition, but, it was the real deal. My son convinced me to buy the car (even though every bit of logic told me that it was a lost cause).
I went back with a pickup, a trailer, and an SUV to haul it all home… Yes, I got it all in one trip, but, not on the same load. It took the better part of six years to research and restore it, (plus a couple of parts cars to donate sheet metal, brackets, etc.). Many of the parts were difficult to locate. Some had to be re-manufactured by local machinists and “metal magicians” who had to work from original parts that were so rusty that you could actually see through them.
The first time I fired up that 428, it was like having a drowning victim take their first breath following extensive CPR – it was very exciting. By the end of June in 2007, it was nearing completion. Several friends and I rushed the final reassembly process in order to have it at the Fairlane Nationals – we bolted on the front bumper at about 9:00pm the night before the show!
I have done my best to have my car restored to its original condition. If you don’t know what a Talladega is, you are not alone. Most people have never heard of one, let alone seen one (at least not that they were aware of). However, in 1969, anyone who followed NASCAR saw them in the winner’s circle nearly every week. They just didn’t necessarily realize what they were looking at. Ford built this handful of special cars as part of their Total Performance Program in 1969 in order to dominate stock car racing, specifically: NASCAR. Their strategy worked. In 1969 the Talladega brought home the manufacturers championship to Ford in NASCAR and it was also the car that won the driver’s championship for David Pearson. In 1969, a Talladega won at Daytona, (and a Daytona won at Talladega at that track’s inaugural race, when it was boycotted by the Professional Drivers Association). It was even the only Ford that Richard Petty ever drove in competition. In 1969, Richard Petty jumped ship from his factory ride at Plymouth to drive the new slippery Talladega from Ford. It was the car that he won his 100th race in, and he even had one for his personal car as well.
I really enjoy being able to drive my little piece of automotive history to local (and, occasionally, national) car shows and see people scratch their heads about what it is. The Ford Talladega may be one of the most forgotten, yet most important limited production muscle cars to come out of the 60s. It ushered in the aero wars in NASCAR in 1969, and it represented the pinnacle of Ford’s stock car racing program during the height of the muscle car years of the late 60s and early 70s.
This picture was taken at the Raceway while “chasing” Carl and his wife around the track just like the big boys did in 1969!
One of the highlights of my ownership of this car came in late 2007, when I was contacted by Bill Holder, a reporter/writer with Muscle Car Review. He had spotted my car at a local indoor car show, and he wanted to write an article about my car. The resulting article appeared in the March 2008 edition of that magazine. Mr. Holder did an outstanding job on the article, and his photographer, Phil Kunz, did an outstanding job of capturing the lines that helped to define the racing heritage behind these cars. Most recently, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the 2008 Aerowarrier Reunion that was held in conjunction with the Monster Mopar weekend at the Gateway International Raceway Park, just east of St. Louis. It was certainly an odd feeling to have one of only 9 Fords at this event, and yet still be made to feel so welcome. I can hardly wait until next year’s visit to the 40th anniversary of the Talladega facility in order to celebrate the 40th anniversary of that track, for which my car was named, and my car. I will see you there!
Carl & Patti Sharp
If you want to see and learn more about Talladegas Click Here.