Larry Peterson got his driver’s license in 1969, the same year that David Pearson won the NASCAR championship in a 1969 Ford Talladega. It’s no wonder that Peterson, upon finding a Talladega sitting in the garage of a 92-year-old Fairway woman 13 years ago, knew he had to have it.
By TOM STRONGMAN
The woman’s son, who had moved out of town, owned the car, and it spent 22 years in the garage.
Peterson, of Overland Park, works in the parts department of Bob Allen Ford. He brought the car home, but it would be more than three years before he tackled its restoration that he completed in 2004.
“If it had a bolt and came apart, I took it apart,” he said. He did almost all of the work in his garage.
The ’69 Talladega, named after the speedway in Alabama, is based upon the Fairlane Cobra SportsRoof. It was modified to compete on the high-banked super speedways like Daytona and Talladega at a time when stock cars were very close to the cars you could buy in your local dealership.
The main change to the Talladega is up front, where the nose was dropped and lengthened about eight inches. The grille was pushed out flush and a modified rear bumper with a slight V-shape was attached. The rocker panels were rolled under so the car could sit one inch lower and still meet NASCAR’s ride height restrictions. The changes resulted in improved high-speed aerodynamics, and it left other stock cars in the dust.
About 750 were built in January and February of 1969 at Ford’s Atlanta plant. At least 500 street versions had to be made for the car to be approved by NASCAR as a production vehicle. The production engine was a 428-cubic-inch V-8, but the race cars used a 427 early in 1969 and a Boss 429 later in the season. The interior was black vinyl with a cloth bench seat.
The Talladega was impressive on the track. In 1969 LeeRoy Yarbrough won the Daytona 500 in one. Ford won the Manufacturer’s Championship and Pearson the Driver’s Championship. In 1969 and 1970, it won 29 Grand National races. Its success spawned the famous Dodge Charger Daytona and the Plymouth Superbird with their pointed noses and tall rear wing. Mercury also produced a similar model, called the Cyclone Spoiler II.
Peterson’s restoration is pristine. Craig Reding of Leavenworth did the body work, Frank Carvenes from Belton did the top paint and buffing and Mike York of Overland Park rebuilt the engine that had been sitting for 22 years. Peterson said his son, Brandon, who was a student at Kansas State University, spent many weekends helping during the summer of 2004.
The culmination of their work came in 2004 when Peterson and his son took the car to the Aero Warrior Reunion in Alabama for a parade lap around the Talladega speedway.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail address is email@example.com. To read other Gallery stories, go to tomstrongman.com.