Q: I remember watching a show on television (SPEED I think) about the 1969 Ford Talladega, and the fact that Ford didn't actually produce enough of them to be accepted by NASCAR as an official racecar. If this is true, then NASCAR should not have allowed those Fords to run. Chevy and MOPAR (Dodge/Plymouth) played by the rules. Charles L., Maryland.
A: Charles, Ford did produce enough 1969 Talladega fastbacks, 758 to be exact, to be considered legal under NASCAR rules. However, I believe you are referring to the actual engine in the 1969 Torino Talladega racecar, specifically the Boss 429, which I’ll admit didn’t power many of the cars sold to the public at the dealerships.
The Talladega was pretty much only available to the top NASCAR teams in 1969 and came with a Boss 429 engine. If you did walk into your Ford dealer and wanted a Ford Talladega, the salesman gently steered you to a similar Talladega fastback model with a 428 Cobra Jet engine and not the Boss 429 that powered this car to the overall championship in 1969 (with David Pearson behind the wheel).
However, similar to other race engines, like an L88 Corvette engine available in 1967-1969, few if any customers ordered one unless they knew of the proper code and pushed for an order, which both Ford and Chevy were required to do. If you did end up with a Talladega or an L88 Corvette, both did not run well on the street and ate spark plugs while idling at red lights regularly.
However, in Ford's defense, let’s look at how Chevy maneuvered ‘legality’ for its own benefit. Chevy’s “Mystery” 427 Chevy engine that ran at Daytona in 1963 is a prime example of introducing a special race engine and then taking advantage of rules by fooling NASCAR inspectors. This engine, horsepower wise, was far beyond the competition and could have won had it not been for head gasket and other little mechanical woes. In this case of legality, NASCAR demanded that at least 50 of this “Mystery” Chevy engine be produced to be accepted as an official production available engine. In reality, although Chevy indeed said more than 50 were produced, only 26 were ever accounted for, with one being sold to Holman-Moody’s Ford team to prove the engine was available. Both Smokey Yunick and Rex White, who campaigned Mystery 427s, agree the number of engines available totaled “way less” than 50. Smokey told me they would re-paint the same engine and ship it over to the next Chevy shop ahead of the NASCAR inspectors.
This Mystery 427 won both qualifying races in 1963 (Junior Johnson and Johnny Rutherford), and Johnson also won the pole. Ford, however, swept the first five places led by Tiny Lund in a Wood Brothers Ford.
Finally, let’s look at MOPAR. The winged Plymouth Superbird and Dodge Daytona were other cars that did make NASCAR production figures and were built solely for racing benefits. You also could walk in to a Plymouth or Dodge dealer and actually buy one powered by the powerful 426 Hemi engine, which was similar to the one used on the race track.
Thus, the Superbird and Daytona are probably still the only real "showroom legal" cars that competed on the track from the group of “NASCAR approved and production available” racecars. Three cheers for MOPAR, but the Chevy Mystery engine and Ford Talladega stories are much more fun to tell.