The following is an article by Team Member Carl Sharp on his beautiful Blue Talladega.
In late 2001 I was having some service work done on my one-owner, 1986 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe (yes, I still have it, too) at a local Ford dealership. While I talking to the young man behind the service desk, I noticed he had a muscle car calendar hanging on the wall behind his desk with a picture of a 1969 Torino SportsRoof (aka: Fastback). Since, I had recently acquired a 1969 Formal Roof Torino for my older son, Joe, I thought it would be nice to have that page from his calendar to go with it.
I mentioned that I would gladly trade the young man behind the service desk a brand new 2002 calendar, if I could have his old one. The young man asked me if I knew what kind of car that was in the photo. I quickly responded that not only did I know what kind of car was in the photo, I had recently purchased a formal roof version of that same car for my son. He then began to tell me the story of his friend’s car… He said, “I’ve got a friend with a car that looks almost like that one; it’s a different color, but it’s almost like that one.”
I asked, “What do you mean by, “almost”?”
He responded, “Well the front end looks just a little different…” I think I probably stopped listening (and breathing) for a moment, at that point. The term “almost” was still resonating in my ears, when I talked him into giving me his friend’s name and telephone number.
I immediately contacted his friend, Randy, and made an appointment to go see the car that looked “almost” like a 69 Torino Fastback.
When I got to the friend’s house (way back in the woods, at the end of a dead end road), I couldn’t believe it; I was looking at a real Talladega. It was the first one that I had ever seen. I had seen a few pictures, and I had certainly seen them in the winners’ circle on TV nearly every Sunday in 1969, but, never had I seen a real one. At this point, I feel I need to explain that this was a dirt road, and it had been raining for a couple of days. (It was muddy, and miserable in late November.)
About then, reality began to set in, as I was looking at the horrible condition of this car. The car was sitting out in the woods, along a muddy lane, full of leaves – due to the driver’s window having been left down for a very long time. Not only had this rare car been left out in the elements, the owner had actually been using it for a parts car for a Mustang. When I took a second look at the Talladega, I couldn’t help but notice that there was rust everywhere, and dents in most of the sheet metal. The front bumper looked a lot like a pretzel. One front fender had been crumpled, the hood had rusted off, the springs were actually coming through the trunk, and the trunk lid was virtually gone with rust at the rear. When I got to the passenger side, it looked a little better, except for one long crease that ran from one end of the car to the other. When I questioned the friend (Randy), he told me that he had purchased a storage barn, and when the semi driver was delivering it, he got over too far, side swiping the car with the barn. Yep. My car had actually been hit by a barn. We’ve all heard the joke about hitting a barn with a car, but, you virtually never hear the story about a car being hit by a barn!
Further investigation revealed that the rocker panels were sitting about an inch, or so, above the dirt, and the engine bay still contained the original 428 CJ block, but, it had been stripped of virtually everything. (At least the original C-6 Automatic appeared to still be present, and it looked pretty good…)
At this point, I began to think that maybe Randy might have been right about this one being too far gone to restore. But, then my son, Joe, who was standing ankle deep in mud, in the pouring rain beside me, spoke up, and said, “Dad, we’ve got to save it – you know what it is!”
Fortunately, with the original block and transmission, I felt the car might have some redeeming qualities left in it. Randy even had a set of restored, correct date coded 428 CJ heads, correct cast iron intake, an original set of exhaust manifolds, a replacement OEM trunk lid, etc. (I think I may have spent more on car parts that day with Randy, than I gave him for the car.)
However, as I was making out a check to Randy for the car, all I could think of is, “I’ve just wasted $1,500 that I don’t really have to spare, on some rusty scrap metal… What am I going to tell my wife, when I get it home?” I did get it all in one trip; but, I did not get it all in one load. It took a trailer, a pickup, and an SUV to haul it all home that day.
To my great surprise, my wife, Patti, was not angry with me. In fact she has been very supportive of the whole project. It took nearly six years to research the car, locate missing parts, repair damaged parts, and reproduce parts that no longer existed in its restoration.
A friend and I actually bolted the front bumper on my Talladega at about 9:00 pm, the night before the Fairlane Nationals in June of 2007. When we got to the show in Mason, OH (Cincinnati to most people), I noticed that my Talladega looked just a little different than the two parked next to mine. When I questioned Larry Peterson and Jim Wells about why my car appeared to have a small chin spoiler, when their cars did not, they quickly pointed out that in our haste to complete the car for the Nationals, we had bolted the pan between the front bumper and the radiator core support on upside down. Oops…
Since that time, I have been able to display my Talladega at several car shows, and whenever Randy shows up, I usually find him crawling under, over, and every other direction, looking at my Talladega. He still can’t believe I was able to restore it. However, it’s amazing what you can do with enough help from your friends (especially those with talent), and enough time and money. After my cousin, Doug, and I spent several months doing the initial work, I turned most of the bodywork, and all of the painting and mechanical restoration efforts over to a friend, Gary. Gary then spent a lot of time “fixing” the things that Doug and I had done. Gary said “it only cost me a little for us to have helped.” (It kind of reminded me of a sign that hangs at one of our local garages: “Labor Rates: $50 per hour, or $65 per hour, if you watch, and $100 per hour, if you help.”)
However, even though my car is not the last Talladega built, nor is it the first (and it is certainly not the one before the first one); it is mine, and it has its own unique story behind it. Not only was it “restored from the grave” after having been used as a parts car for a Mustang and then abandoned in the woods, I suspect that my car may very well be the only Talladega in the world that was ever “hit by a barn.”