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Mercury Cyclone GT 500 Delivered at Atlanta 500

The 1968 Mercury Cyclone GT 500 can be recognized by the 500 emblem and checkered flag next to the Cyclone emblem on the rear quarters. They can also be identified by having a Marti Report run for the car.

It was February of 1968 at the Daytona 500 and Cale Yarborough won the race and Ford team mate Lee Roy Yarbrough (no relation) took second. Both were driving the new for 68 Mercury Cyclone fastback. Its new aerodynamic roof line greatly increased its top speed on the high banked Superspeedway. If you were Mercury how would you have celebrated? How about a special sales promotion and a special model to commemorate the feat? The Atlanta 500 Driveaway Program was born.

That is just what Mercury did with the 1968 Mercury Cyclone GT 500. We have previously provided bits and pieces of information on this rare car as we have uncovered it but recently, with the assistance of Wes Eisenschenk wese@cartechbooks.com, we have learned more. Cartech publishing has a book out on Taska Ford and is currently doing research for a couple of new books. One will look at the history of Kar Kraft while the other deals with all the Cobra Jet cars. Although we had a pretty complete account of what the promotion was all about, Wes provided an article from the April 15, 1968 Automotive News that filled in a lot of the blanks.

The special sales promotion was limited to the Southeast, the Atlanta sales region to be specific which included parts of 5 states. Those dealers offered a 1968 Mercury Cyclone GT 500 in either Wimbledon White or Calypso Coral with special badges. If you purchased one of these specials you received two tickets to the Atlanta 500 on March 31, 1968. The selling dealer drove the lucky buyers to the track where they would take delivery of their new car.

There were 160 GT 500s delivered that day! When race fans began to arrive at the track and take their seats they were welcomed by all of these brand new Cyclones sitting on the track. The first cars arrived around 6 AM and sat there for five hours! Once at the track the new owners were treated to breakfast under a big tent. Photo opps with Cale, Lee Roy and Tiny Lund were provided. To look the part, each owner was given a Mercury race jacket and hat. The new owners took delivery on the track in front of the 80,000 race fans and then took two laps around the Atlanta race track with Cale Yarborough leading them! By the way, Cale went on to win this race in his Cyclone!

It is believed that the base GT 500 would have a 302 but any engine or option available at the time could be ordered with the car.

All of these rare GT 500s were built at the Loraine Ohio factory where they were also dealer prepped prior to being shipped to the Speedway. Before the race track delivery each of the 160 Cyclones had to be washed of their transporter road grime for their appearance before the new owners. As reported, Mercury executives and dealer salesmen were all busy washing the cars early that morning. Due to lack of wash bays at the track the use of a large water tank truck and lots of man power accomplished the task.

The program proved to be very successful and may have been repeated at other tracks and sales districts but we have never been able to come up with specifics. If you have any additional information we would greatly appreciate hearing from you. Please contact me at rfleener@comcast.net.

 

If you own a 1968 Mercury Cyclone GT 500 you should visit our other site, www.TalladegaSpoilerRegistry.com and register your car on that Registry. There is no cost and it will help all of us find these missing rare cars.

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Richard

I grew up and lived in Iowa for a good portion of my life before moving to Southern California. After 20+ years we now live outside Nashville Tennessee. I have been into cars since I was old enough to remember. I don't have a brand loyalty although I do prefer American Muscle especially the 1969/1970 NASCAR Aero Cars. (Check out our other web site at www.TalladegaSpoilerRegistry.com site) As long as it has four wheels and an engine I get excited. Few men are lucky enough to be able to share their passion for cars with the woman they love. Fortunately, my wife, Katriana, is also a gear head and many of our activities revolve around the cars. We have a small collection that includes at least one car from each of the Big Three. It includes a Best of Show winner, a survivor, a driver with lots of patina and several others. Katrina prefers all original cars while I like to modify them so we have a few of each. When we aren't playing with cars we are out working with or showing our miniature donkeys. You can see more about that part of our lives at http://www.LegendaryFarms.com.

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