Banjo Matthews Ford Talladega Prototype

Banjo Matthews Prototype Talladega
By: Jason Thompson Edited By: Richard Fleener

This is the only know photo of the car. Can you help us find more?

When this article was written in early 2010, Jason Thompson had only owned the Banjo Matthews prototype Talladega for approximately six months. There have been a number of individuals who have played a vital part in the gathering of information on the car but Jason would like to especially thank and acknowledge Rick Ochs and Ron Mc Cloud for all the knowledge on the Talladega they have accumulated and willing shared with the Talladega family over the years.

Jason is still looking for additional information and documentation on this car. Of particular interest are photos and other details about the car when it was in Ford’s hands from 1968 until 1971.

The Car:

The first assembly line production Talladega was built on January 22, 1969. This prototype was ordered as a special purpose vehicle by Ford Motor Company Administrative Services. It was built in the Lorain Ohio Plant (regular production Talladegas were built in the Atlanta Plant, but the Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II cars were built in Lorain). The order was received on August 23, 1968. The car was scheduled to be built September 9, 1968 but was not actually built until September 25, 1968. The car was released to Ford Motor Company Administrative Services in Dearborn Michigan September 28, 1968, four months prior to the first production Talladega ever being built.

All production Talladegas were built the same but this prototype was built as a 428 CJ Ram Air Torino GT with the following options:
-428-4V CJ Ram Air Engine
-C6 Cruise-O-Matic Transmission
-3.00 Traction-Lok Differential
-Electric Clock
-Visibility Group
-F70x14 Wide Oval Belted Tires
-White Sidewall Tires
-Rim Blow Deluxe Steering Wheel
-Power Front Disc Brakes
-Power Steering
-Air Conditioner-Selectaire
-AM/Fm Stereo Radio
-Rear Seat Speaker(s)
-Tinted Glass-complete
-Deluxe Belts/Warning Light
-Dark Red Vinyl Bucket Seats
-Candyapple Red Paint, Ford #2008-A

Compare that list with the first regular production Talladega as listed below:
-428-4V CJ Non-Ram Air Engine
-Talladega Package:
-C-6 Cruise-O-Matic Transmission
-3.25 Standard Axle Ratio
-F70x14 Wide Oval Belted Tires
-White Sidewall Tires
-Power Front Disc Brakes
-Power Steering
-AM Radio
-Color Keyed Racing Mirrors
-Argent Styled Steel Wheels
-Wimbledon White Paint, Ford #1619-A

Once at Ford Motor Company Administrative Services the transformation from Torino GT into Talladega began. This is where the story gets interesting. The rocker panels were cut just above the spot welds and again higher on the outside of the rocker. That section was then removed and discarded. The engineers then took a new rocker panel and butted the bottom of the new lip against the top of the old lip where they had previously cut the old panel off. They then lapped the top over the original rocker panel skin. This gave them the raised rocker panel. (The reason for this process was to enable the NASCAR race teams to legally lower the car on the race track.)

The rocker panel was pop riveted in place and then tack welded. To hide all this crude work they simply covered the rocker panels with rocker moldings.

The front fenders are shorter than the production Talladega front ends. The fenders were fitted with hand made and butt welded fender extensions. They then ground all the welds smooth making them appear to be one piece fenders. All of the front braces that hold the Cobra grill in place were hand made and are completely different from the production Talladegas. The parking lights were mounted in a horizontal position rather than the vertical position found on the production Talladegas.

The hood latch also differed from the production cars. They completely removed the hood latching mechanism and installed hood pins to hold the hood shut. Remember, with the new nose extension it was now impossible to reach in through the grill and unlatch the hood. The production Talladega has a “modified” factory latch and cable inside hood release.

The Banjo Matthews Talladega is an “R” Code car so it has the Ram Air Breather that seals to the bottom of the hood, and pulls air through the hood scoop. The hood was also modified to let more air into the engine by cutting out some of the metal.

The exterior of the prototype also differs from production Talladegas. The assembly line production cars were Wimbledon White, Royal Maroon or Presidential Blue. This car was Candyapple Red with white “C” stripes. This too was modified from the standard Torino. It was necessary to modify it in front due to the longer fenders. In the rear a piece of stripe was added to cover the holes in the quarter panels where the Torino emblem used to be.

The Ford “T” plate found on the door of production cars is also differs from the prototype in that the material it is made from and its placement on the doors.

The taillight panel was painted black but still has the “GT” lower trim molding.

The hood, hood scope and wiper panel were all painted flat black (not egg shell as on production cars).

When all of these modifications were completed the car was fitted with chrome styled steel wheels, Good Year white letter (no size) tires with GT caps.

The car was used in some photo shoots and was seen in stock car racing magazines in April of 1969 well after production Talladega were on the track and on the street. Records have not been found as to what happened to the car next or how it might have been used by Ford.

The general consensus is that most of the Talladegas that were ordered by Ford Motor Company Administrative Services were sent to Kar Kraft for modifications. It would be appreciated if anyone can provide additional information and documentation on this.

It is known that Ford Motor Company did not title this prototype until April of 1970 and it was registered to Ford Motor Company in Dearborn (Jason has a copy of the original title). The car was then sold to Edwin Keith Matthews (Banjo Matthews) in March of 1971 for $1,200. (He also took possession of a white prototype Talladega at the same time. More on this car at another time.)

From what has been told to Jason, Banjo loaned the car to his sister. Shortly after she took possession she ran the car into a guard rail. Banjo took the car back home and parked it. He began gathering all the NOS parts to repair the car but never got around to fixing it. The car sat until September of 2009 when Jason located and purchased it.

The history of the car is still in the research phase, however he is currently restoring the car. From data collected to date it appears that this is likely the earliest prototype Talladega known.

The photo below is the recently restored Banjo Matthews Prototype!

This car made its debut at The Talladega Family Reunion as part of Tim Lopata’s “The Forge” Muscle Car show on October 1 and 2, 2010 in Kingsport, Tennessee.

For more photos and a video on the Banjo Matthews Prototype Talladega, Click Here.

One Comment

  1. Thanks for showing me the car guys, I’m sure it will be the highlight of the show. Great job on the restore. You all are why I love my job, I get to meet good people, enjoyed the visit.

    Bruce(computer guy)

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