The recent discovery of a Talladega that no one even knew existed has sent many of us back to the history books and historical records in an effort to discover how the GAP Car(s) came about. There have been rumors since day one about how many Talladega and Spoiler II cars were actually built. Most of these rumors surround the thought that there were fewer cars actually built than the Ford and NASCAR records suggest. Now, we are faced with an ADDITIONAL Talladega that we never knew about. Is this car the result of Ford’s attempt to inflate production numbers of the Talladega and lost track of what they had built; is a simple clerical error or a typo in the original Registry list that showed 736 cars? Should that list now total 737? The Registry List of Prototype and Pilot cars list an additional 14 cars; thus 750. Should that number now be 751?
Is this GAP Car the only one or are there more? When anyone looks at our list of Talladega VINs it is immediately clear that there are a number of gaps of only one car in the string of Talladega VINs. Are these also GAP Cars? If one mistake can be made how many more might have occurred? If a Talladega VIN can be omitted in error why can’t one of the VINs in the list also be in error and actually be a Torino and not a Talladega? We have been assured that none of the NASCAR Talladega race cars were built from factory production Talladegas but how many short track/dirt track cars or dragsters were built from real Talladegas? These are all good questions and are the reasons why our attempt to register all Talladega and Spoiler/Spoiler II cars is so important.
We will likely never know the answers to all of these questions but that will not stop us from searching for answers. Our goal is to document every Talladega as a Talladega. However, there are different classes of Talladegas listed in the Registry. I often see eyes glaze over when the subject of Pilot cars and Prototype cars comes up. I must admit that when I first started to study the Ford Aero cars there were many mysteries, some of which I still do not completely understand. Today I want to start an open, positive and supportive discussion on what different types of Talladegas might exist. (This same discussion also applies to the Mercury Spoiler II.)
The general belief is that there were 750 plus or minus Talladegas built. Depending on who you talk to and what cars you count the number varies; now with the discovery of the GAP car the total number gets even more fuzzy.
Your input into this process is critical. I strongly urge each of you to continue this discussion in our Forum and help us all get a step closer to the answers to these questions.
One thing I believe is necessary before we dig too deep into Talladega production numbers is to come to some consensus and understanding as to what certain definitions are.
The definitions presented here are still up for discussion and interpretation. However, I believe that the terms bantered about regarding our cars may have caused some confusion over the years. I am as guilty of this as anyone. I believe it is important that we all agree on what these words mean before we can begin to apply them to our cars. Regardless of how a car is defined it remains a Talladega. I would like to present a series of definitions for use when discussing our cars to help put us all on the same page. If you have suggestions or recommendations on how to improve these definitions, by all means please suggest them. Once I believe we have sorted out all of the issues I will post them on the appropriate pages of this site to help new comers and the rest of us better understand our Ford Aero car world. If we find it necessary to amend the definitions in the future we will certainly do so.
For the purpose of these definitions and to be consistent with other data outside this Registry we will begin with the premise that 750 Talladegas were produced, as stated by Marti Reports. We will also start with the idea that only a Talladega documented as such by a Marti Report can be included in that 750 total. (Before everyone blows up at me, let me add that part of this exercise is to identify those rare cars that were built as Talladegas but may not have a Marti Report to verify them. These may be cars that are included in some of the definitions below. I believe that unless we make this conclusion there is no way to ultimately determine the total number of Talladegas. We may or may not conclude at the end of this process that 750 cars is an accurate number. The 750 may be dead on, too high or too low depending on what we count as being included as a Talladega. This is not intended to “de-Talladega” anyone’s’ car, just an attempt to accurately classify and count them. Remember, this is a starting point and not a conclusion!)
Once these definitions are agreed upon the next step will be to assign every Talladega/Spoiler II to a category within these definitions.
This may or may not have begun life as an actual production car. Its VIN and Data plate may or may not support its final configuration. A Concept Car starts as a sketch of “what might be” and then evolves into physical Concept Cars or parts. It is in this stage of development that different design approaches are tested and evaluated. A Concept Car may be built on a previous year of manufacture platform or may built out of clay. It may not even be a functioning, drivable vehicle. This is a styling exercise. Remember the aero cars were not put into production until mid-year. Today we would call these 1969 1/2 models. That being said, with the Talladega and Spoiler II some of the Concepts, Mules and Prototypes could have been built on 1969 platforms.
After a design Concept has been agreed upon by designers and management it is important to test how this new “Concept” might function in the real world. For the 1969 Ford Talladega this would likely have included wind tunnel tests and possibly road tests for cooling purposes. For the Talladega/Spoiler II run some of the Concept Cars and Prototypes may have also functioned as Mules.
At this point in development of the ultimate vehicle the design and engineering team build a Prototype of what might become an actual production car. Prototypes may also be Mules where final designs are again tested. These cars might be used for early press release photos, crash testing, car shows or other similar activities.
A Pilot car is one that is assembled on the production line for the purpose of refining and correcting any production issues or procedures on the assembly line. These cars will normally not be available to the public for retail purchase. They are often kept in-house for corporate use and testing. However, some of the Talladega Pilot cars were sold to retail buyers.
This is the most simple definition. These cars are the regular Production cars that were built on the assembly line for retail sale to customers. Some of these cars may have been diverted to regional sales offices for promotional use or used by corporate executives for short periods of time.
Show Car or One Off Production Car:
These cars are a little more difficult to explain because they may overlap with any of the other definitions. These are cars built for a special purpose to promote the brand or model. They may also be built to special specifications for a VIP within Ford or celebrity outside of Ford. For the purpose of making these definitions more specific to the Ford and Mercury Aero Cars we will define a Show Car or One Off Car as one built after the Prototypes. That means the Show Cars or One Off Cars were built by Ford or one of its sub-contractors for promotional purposes.
This definition will limit itself to the professional level of racing. We all know there were Talladega/Spoiler II race cars in 1969-1971. At this time we do not believe any professional level of race cars were built from factory produced Talladegas or Spoiler IIs. All such cars were built on professional race team chassis using factory or factory style sheet metal. This definition excludes drag racing cars; we have no knowledge of professional teams using a factory car but would sure like to see any evidence proving otherwise. It is also understood that certainly some armature racers on both circle tracks and drag strips may have used production Talladega/Spoiler II bodies for racing.