A couple of weeks ago we regretfully had to tell you that the 45th Talladega was canceled. Robert Pegler from New Zealand was kind enough to send us a small recap of his memories of the 4oth Reunion in 2009. This does not make the loss of this year’s event any easier but it makes it clear we need to take part in these events and treasure them because we never know when we may not see another. I have also included a few of my photos from that event.
Aero Warrior ReunionThe 40th Anniversary Aero Warrior Reunion at Talladega in 2009
As told by Robert Pegler. Kiwi (the flightless bird) at the Winged Warriors Event
It was late 2008 while considering the purchase of an older American car with some sort of history that I came across a 1969 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler Dan Gurney Special being advertised for sale in place near Little Rock Arkansas. The vehicle seemed in reasonable shape but would require a complete restoration. Being a rare example and also a big block, I thought it would be a worthy candidate for the expense involved in bringing it back from 40 years of less than kind use. (I think the dukes of Hazard Chargers had easier lives and this was realized once we started the strip down) A month or three of negotiations ensued before I became the new owner of the Cyclone in early 2009. My Cyclone was to be painstakingly restored by my friends in Bristol Tennessee.
After the purchase, I became interested in vehicles with a history surrounding the NASCAR years 1969 to 1970, also known as the “The Aero Wars”. As part of my growing interest in these types of vehicles I joined the Daytona/ Superbird Auto Club, which was primarily formed to promote the restoration and to keep track of the survivor vehicles of that period. As the name suggests the club prominently caters for models such as Plymouth Superbirds, Dodge Charger 500’s, Dodge Daytona’s, Mercury Cyclone Spoiler 2’s and the Ford Torino Talladega’s. Through the clubs monthly newsletter we were made aware of the forthcoming 40th Anniversary Aero Warrior Reunion at Talladega in November. My brother Andrew, close friend Ray Corrick and I normally make an annual trip to America to visit friends in both Tennessee and Alabama. It was decided to amend our normal mid-year trip (avoiding NZ’s worst weather) and make the trip too Talladega and join in the 2009 Anniversary.
My friends who were restoring the Cyclone were given a call, and it was agreed the restoration could be completed within the time available, but the programme would be tight. We found during this process how rare these cars were, and now how limited the availability of parts either used, or reproductions are.
As it is working with newly restored vehicles there always is settling period and minor adjustments are always required and this was the case with the Cyclone, but with far more dire consequences than we could imagine.
Getting the vehicle to Talladega for the Event.
Murphy’s Law played a few cards at this point
The car transporter moving the vehicle from Bristol to Alabama lost a wheel complete with axle; this took 2 days to repair. When they eventually got rolling again the truck was stopped for having a “light out”. The Highway Patrol Man examined the drivers log book as is the procedure, and it was found he had over driven his allocated hours. He was ordered to sleep for 12 hours before continuing, again another delay. This added another 3 days on the delivery period which I have to admit was already tight.
The Talladega event Day 1 of the 4 Day event
The Dan Gurney Cyclone still in transit on a truck somewhere in the South
The first morning we left Calera, Alabama in our good friend Billy’s Chevy pickup stopping for a bite to eat at McDonalds, not too far from where Thursday’s registration was taking place. We knew quickly that we were on the right track as a matte black race-numbered Plymouth Superbird turned into the car park. As we chatted to the couple we learned they had driven from California to attend. Registration was really the putting together of faces to names that I had been in contact with over the last few months organising us getting there. It was an easy time, very relaxed and plenty of winged warriors and aero cars to drool over. There was even a car bought all the way from New Zealand by John Houlihan. John’s Dodge Daytona was driven from Long Beach L.A. to the event and back again, to be shipped home.
We left early evening as we were expecting the Dan Gurney Cyclone early next morning.
The Talladega event day 2
We choose not to attend the event this day and try to get the Cyclone prepared for the following day.
The day should have involved a museum trip to a Dodge/Plymouth dealership fitted out as it would have been the 60’s (a complete stocked parts department, service bay and sales department with rare period vehicles, a road trip, concluding with an evening party.
5am Friday the car was rolled off the truck at Wal-Mart in Calera. After a quick breakfast at Waffle House we then drove the car to Billy’s to put it on the hoist and do a pre run check. On the last road run when everything was starting to gel, and the car was getting its Interstate legs, Murphy’s Law played the next cards; we noticed steam exiting one of tail pipes. The problem was diagnosed very quickly as blown head gasket. So much for the parade lap this year at Talladega; that was the end of it and what seemed of our hopes of driving on Talladega. Boy, I reckon whoever drove past would have thought we were part of a Funeral procession as the days high had evaporated with the steam of the coolant out of the exhaust. Depressed it was time for a few beers.
The car was parked in the barn and we made the balance of the event using the pickup as transport. BUGGER!
The Talladega event day 3
Saturday was another day and we took off early to see Talladega’s Motor Sports Hall of Fame, where all the cars were assembled for a panoramic photo shoot and guest speakers from the cars earlier days and car museum. John Houlihan even managed to get some air time on an American Speed TV clip, and we were getting feelings that we would be able to bum rides for tomorrow’s parade lap. Things were looking up, and it is hard not to get NASCAR fever when you are immersed in it.
The Talladega event day 4
Sunday is the big one, off at 6.30am. You know you’re getting close as there is a fog like haze of smoke from all the cooking fires. About five miles away from the track and you turn into the approach road and its six lanes of traffic, and two more half on the shoulder all one way to the track. Entertainment ensues all the way with die hard fans doing it their way. Somehow we crossed the tide of cars and got lined up near to the Aero cars and met up with owners. Ray and Andrew were offered a ride in a Plymouth Superbird once owned by Richard Petty. Many thanks to Bruce and Sandra from North Carolina for their willingness to have us as passengers. I scored a ride in Richard and Katrina Fleener’s Talladega; many thanks go out to them also. It was really a blast to see the line of cars running on the track with early fans for the big race lining the fences, and passing the cars with all the drivers and teams that would be racing soon after we left the track.
I reckon if you get the opportunity or even the hint of a chance jump on it. The people and the Southern Hospitality are legendary. I believe we have already started saving for the 45th Aero Car reunion.in 2014.