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A Conversaion with Ralph Moody

HM sign (Small)The following is a portion of an email I recently received from one of our Team Members. It is lasting memory of a once in a lifetime conversation with the Legendary Ralph Moody. I hope you will enjoy it and if you have had a similar encounter with one of the sports legends please pass it on so we can share it with others.

 

Back in 1993, I regret that I have no pictures from that day , but I do have an autographed card from Ralph’s racing days that he signed for me only a couple of weeks prior to being inducted in the Hall of Fame at Talladega.

I think I covered the highlights of that chat in the thread under Ralph’s Prototype Black Torino that his son Ralph Jr. is restoring.  That car sat under Ralph’s car port on Fairview Rd. in Charlotte for years , I spotted it just driving by one day, flat black, dusty and dented here and there. I had to stop and inquire about it, not knowing this was the Moody residence and having never seen a Talladega with a Torino Mini-Boss hood scoop before.   Like I stated before, I nosed around the car a minute or so, then thought it would be in my best interest to make my presence known. I was shocked out of my shoes when Ralph Moody answered the side door leading to the car port.

Ralph Moody Talladega
Ralph Moody Talladega

My first impression of the car was seeing the difference in the grill and the elongated nose vs. the Torino’s that roamed around Charlotte in my youth. I was eight years old when I saw the Talladega/Spoiler II’s race in Charlotte and I had no grasp in the major differences at the time.  I had no prior knowledge about the front bumper being a kit bashed rear bumper or the rolled rocker panels. Moody was quick to educate me. I was honestly stunned at the cars condition at the time. He said it sat out at the Holman Moody Charlotte airport shop and got banged around, so he finally brought it home.

I asked if he ever considered selling it? The answer was NO, “that’s my sons car to do with as he pleases now”. He said Bruton Smith the CEO of Speedway Motorsports and the Sonic Automotive Group even offered to display the car restored if he’d do it, that offer was met with a NO as well. I can only assume that his age had diminished his interest at that point. Maybe you can see why I’m so interested in seeing Ralph Jr. carry this project to conclusion now.

Mr. Moody was great to talk too but also difficult in some respects. He had a very gravely voice with a still pronounced New Englander ( Boston) accent tossed in. You had to really pay attention to what he was saying to keep up.

autograph2 (Small)I recall him talking about how Ford was losing its edge to Chryco in regards to the 427 Vs. 426 Hemi ….he wasn’t so much being critical of the 427FE Powerplant as he was unhappy with the weight and lack of punching through the air ability of the cars that Ford was running at the time. Two Tons of Slab-Sided Steel.

Ford as you know stuck with the Galaxie far too long when Chrysler was already running much lighter B-Body cars , GM by this point was out of the game as the gamble on the Hi-Rev. 427 Mystery Motor was a disaster in terms of reliability for 500 miles, at 125 Mile Qualifier races for Daytona it was incredibly fast, it just had no long duration staying power. Cross Bolted Main Bearing Caps on the Ford 427 was indeed the ticket.

He did say that Ford went in a good direction with the 1967 Fairlane in terms of weight, but the Unibody presented them with yet another challenge in terms of the grafting of the proven Galaxie 500 front frame to the NASCAR variant. The weight change and smaller body was a distinct step in the right direction but true aerodynamic changes were still a year away. NASCAR had to buy off on the 1967 Fairlane and the Galaxie graft job. Ralph said they had to threaten to pull out of NASCAR to get the required blessing, the same blessing that carried over to the 1968/1969 Torino’s and Cyclone’s  and Aero variants

He did say that the Fastback design was somewhat a hard sell to the Dearborn Execs at first, but Holman Moody had years before proven its merits with the Falcon Challenger III Rally cars they had produced, I think the success of the 1966 Dodge Charger also made them stop and think too.   Once the 1968 Torino/Fairlane 500 Fastback was built, they knew they had a winner. Mr. Moody said that Henry Ford II asked him directly, “What will it take for you to win us a championship” ???  Ralph’s reply was “You wanting us to”  ( I.E.  Pony Up the Money” so HM could run an entire season without money concerns, something they had not done as a team previously )

I asked about the Talladega production as everything I had read up to that point in time gave varying accounts as to actual production numbers of the car. His reply was simple , We never made 500 (editor’s Note: Actual production numbers provided by Ford show 750+- cars were built) cars. He said the NASCAR reps got tired of looking at cars in Atlanta at some point and said OK , you got the numbers. Maybe the monotony of only 3 available colors to look at worked it’s magic?, it’s my understanding the Cyclone Spoiler II’s were intermingled with Spoiler and Color Code Cyclone’s to make their numbers as well.

To Be Continued

 

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Richard

Some of my first and strongest memories from my childhood relate to cars. I still remember when things happened based on what car I was driving at the time. I grew up and lived in Iowa for nearly 40 years before moving to Southern California and now live in Tennessee. I was a Corvette fanatic for years but then re-discovered vintage American Muscle. My wife, Katrina, and I decided we wanted to focus on unique and rare muscle cars. After a lot of research we fell in love with the Ford Blue Oval Aero Cars. These were only built in 1969 and and aerodynamics became an important part of winning races. The only purpose of these limited production cars was to win NASCAR races using the Boss 429 and 427 power plants complimented with a special, wind cheating, aerodynamic body. The Ford Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II are terrific and historic cars. This site is devoted to these car and their owners past and present. We provide an Online Registry for recording the long term history and ownership of every remaining Talladega, Spoiler and Spoiler II.

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4 Comments

  1. Back in the 80’s I had the chance to have a talk with Ralph Moody in person. He also told me less than 500 Talladega’s were built. He told me some interesting facts and some we are still looking for answers to . Holman/Moody is a land mark team in NASCAR history and not just for the Talladega’s. Thing is History has shown us that the first batch of fenders was a bit off thus the need for the big tent. After the first batch of fenders , the second batch came from another supplier and most of the later cars received fenders from the other suppliers along with bumpers and rocker panels. Thus what went out the door at one shop was not counted along with what went out of others to make a total.

  2. I have been told that corrosion prevention never even factored into the fender production process.

    I have also heard of some low opinions of the workmanship of the rocker panels. One person I know that has restored a Talladega as well as a Spoiler II said they look almost as if they were hammered as opposed to rolled.

  3. I had lunch with Mr. Holbrook one day , He showed me his note book some neat stuff. I showed him and Mr. Ralph Young a Holman / Moody oil pan I had obtain in a auction buy of some stuff off one of Benny’s old Talladega’s . The fender’s had very little if any at all Corrosion Prevention.
    Thing is some cars got protection at the dealership, I think Z-Bart was the big thing back then . As to the rockers I know they were rolled and were of good workmanship as to my opinion. Mr. Holbrook and Mr. Young both laughed at seeing the oil pan and how it had door hinges welded in for baffles, One gentlemen wanted to buy it on the spot.. they signed it I will sent a picture to Richard may-be he can post it some place on the site.

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