Street Rod Life

Talladega Transcendence

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George Poteet and Troy Trepanier’s Stylized Take on Ford’s NASCAR Aero Warrior Emphasizes Form and Function

Written by Barry Kluczyk/Photos by Todd Ryden 

The Talladega was Ford’s response to the short-lived NASCAR aero war of the 1969-70 seasons. Dodge fired the first salvo with the flush-nose Charger 500, and Ford responded in kind by adding a tapered nose to the Torino and its corporate cousin, the Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II.

Mopar then dropped the big one with the wild Charger Daytona and, for 1970, the Plymouth Superbird. Ford had penned the slightly less radical King Cobra in the design studio, along with a Mercury companion that featured a distinctive sloping nose, but by then, NASCAR had forced an arms treaty on the manufacturers.

Ford — through sub-contractor Holman Moody — built right around 750 production Torino Talladega models to make the body style legal on the super speedways, as well as 351 of the Mercury models. And while the Ford and Mercury cars shared the same grille, the front-end sheet metal was not shared between them. In fact, rather than simply tack on a nose cone to the front fenders, the cars’ front fenders were cut off just in front of the wheel opening, and the new noses were grafted on there.

The fastback styling was one of Ford’s better ideas, giving the Torino a naturally lean appearance.

The fastback styling was one of Ford’s better ideas, giving the Torino a naturally lean appearance.

George Poteet had long been a fan of Ford’s aero warriors and their history, but saw some proportional flaws in their respective designs. Mostly, he felt the noses were too long, at least perceptually. He shared his perspective with Troy Trepanier at the start of the project, and they agreed the build would honor the distinctive race styling, but would be optimized for aesthetics, not the high banks of Daytona.

George also preferred the smoother profile of the Cyclone Spoiler II’s nose, so before cutting, welding, and hammering on the Torino project car, Troy’s team took a million measurements of the Mercury aero car. That data influenced the build in ways that are virtually impossible to discern by the naked eye, but very apparent when compared with a production Talladega.

That’s a testament to Troy’s innate eye for proportion, because virtually every square inch of the car, apart from the doors, was stretched, cut down, or altered in some way. The car is about 5 inches wider at the fenders, giving the body a strong “Coke bottle” effect, while the front fenders were shortened about 3 inches. Even the wheelbase shrank by an inch.

That’s all just the basic proportional changes. There are also features such as the vents cut into the rear fenders, the front spoiler, the exhaust exits in the rear quarters, an integrated rear spoiler, custom front and rear bumpers, and the custom hood.

The grille and taillight panel are scratch-built, as well, though they stay true to the original Talladega and Spoiler II, but take the design to a higher level. There are even some aircraft-inspired elements, such as exposed rivets and lightening holes that look just as at home on the Salt Flats as they do on the super speedway.

The competition theme carries through to the interior, where riveted, body-color sheet metal adorns everything from the dashboard and floor panels to the transmission tunnel. “We wanted it to be bare bones inside and not overly done,” Troy explained. You can just imagine David Pearson sawing away at the racing-style steering wheel on the namesake track in Alabama.

The Torino was originally built with a unitized body and chassis, but Troy started with an Art Morrison frame to provide a solid foundation for the extra power, modern suspension, and improved ride. In fact, Rad Rides built the entire chassis, roll cage, and drivetrain, then put the body in place, just as race teams did in the late ’60s. An exercise that requires a lot more time and engineering, but Troy felt worthwhile.

Under the hood, a Boss 429-style engine (displacing 529c.i.) puts an ironic twist on the Torino’s powertrain. Back when the Talladega was originally conceived, NASCAR also demanded the manufacturers’ racing engines had to be based in some sort of production-based package. (That’s how we got the Street Hemi.) When it came to the Boss 429, which was intended to replace the tunnel- port 427 on the track, development delays pushed back its debut.

Doesn’t everyone have a CNC-machined billet aluminum fuel cell? The details astound, even in the trunk.

Doesn’t everyone have a CNC-machined billet aluminum fuel cell? The details astound, even in the trunk.

Rather than hold up the Talladega program, Ford pushed out the production models, built in January and February 1969, with the 428 engine rather than the Boss 429. The race cars hit the track at the beginning of the season with the “old” 427, but the Boss 429 showed up a little later in the season. The semi-hemi Boss’9 engine was, of course, shoehorned into the Mustang for homologation.

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The dashboard is filled with racing-spec gauges (with Holman Moody graphics).

The dashboard is filled with racing-spec gauges (with Holman Moody graphics).

In George’s custom creation, a fuel injection system helps the engine pump out more than 700 hp and about 650 lbft of torque. It’s backed by a Bowler-built TREMEC five-speed transmission. Naturally, every nut and bolt associated with the engine and transmission combination has been painstakingly detailed, but George really drives his hot rods, so this super-sanitary Shotgun engine goes as well as it shows.

In the years since GPT Special has been completed, it has unsurprisingly racked up its fair share of accolades and miles, including the Goodguys 2013 Street Machine of the Year award and the first Barrett-Jackson Cup.

“This car has been on Power Tours, a Goodguys Hall of Fame Tour, and was even raced at one of the Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenges,” Troy said. “In fact, I have a great picture of Danny Burrows with the car sideways and in the gravel at about 100 mph from the race in Pahrump, Nevada.”

In short, through the years, the car has been used.

On the track, the original Talladega proved its wind tunnel-shaped beak’s effectiveness. Ford even lured Richard Petty to drive one for a little while, during which he won at Riverside on his first outing. Overall, Ford drivers won 26 races in 1969, including an impressive 11 in a row. However, the comparatively sedate Talladega and Spoiler II never achieved cult status with enthusiasts or collectors.

The only soft material on the racing-inspired interior are the leather-trimmed seats, which were inspired by the seats of the original Ford GT40. The wrapped steering wheel and exposed pedal mechanicals evoke the purposeful style of early NASCAR racers.

The only soft material on the racing-inspired interior are the leather-trimmed seats, which were inspired by the seats of the original Ford GT40. The wrapped steering wheel and exposed pedal mechanicals evoke the purposeful style of early NASCAR racers.

Their comparative rarity makes George’s vision even more unique. At a glance, it’s difficult to tell it’s not based on an authentic, one-of-750 production car, but the more you examine all of its unique elements, the more they astound. That’s always been the reward of a Rad Rides-built creation.

“We try to build our cars to be timeless, and I think George’s Talladega works today as well

Billet Specialties cut the 20-inch wheels that were inspired by the original GT40 wheels.s

Billet Specialties cut the 20-inch wheels that were inspired by the original GT40 wheels.

 

as it did five years ago,” Troy explained. “The colors were based on ’60s cars, the wheels were influenced by the original GT40, and the interior was kept bare bones. I don’t think you can tell that the car is five years old already.”

And we have to agree. This is one of our favorite Rad Rides and Poteet collaborations. When those two get together, the result is nothing short of masterful.