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DSO and Special Orders

Part 3: Special Paint

Color Code Data Plate
Color Code Data Plate

Over the past few months Rick Ochs and I have been passing back and fourth information and Marti Reports to gain a little more insight into the Mercury cars represented on this web site. A great deal of what follows is thanks to Rick with some additional information added from my experience with the cars. I hope you will find this useful and entertaining even if you don’t own a Mercury. Much of what is written here will apply to the Fords as well.

The following information is based on a review of factory Mercury paper work, and two historical pages previously posted on this web site. Ford in 1969 was obviously into the sales philosophy of “win on Sunday sell on M0onday”. The corporate fathers wanted to keep its Mercury Division in the game. The Ford Torino, Mustangs and GT 40 were already well established. Ford was spending millions on building cars like the GT 40, Boss 302 and 429, Talladega and Spoiler II to keep the cars out front in NASCAR, on the Drag Strips and Trans AM sports car racing.

Marketing was a big part of this budget. If growing up your dad drove you to school in a Ford you most likely bought a Ford for your fist car; same with the other manufactures. Ford, as a company, knew Mercury had a lot of following in NASCAR and NASCAR was big in the south. This led to some very interesting and never seen again (as far as I know) sales promotions in the SE. Using the Mercury division paper work, it states in part that they did marketing on the Dan Gurney and Cale Yarborough cars in select dealer areas.

All of the Data Plates found on your cars have a place for the DSO. What does DSO mean? It stands for “Domestic Special Order”. Most Data Plates only list two DSO numbers for regular Blue Oval production cars. As example, DSO 11 stands for Atlanta. Please beware that Ford and Mercury DSO numbers are not exactly the same. They share some numbers but others they do not. What are given here are Mercury DSO numbers!

Talladega Data Plate
Talladega Data Plate

For special production cars there are four additional numbers in the DSO. This is an example of what the last four DSO numbers could be: “2604”. A full DSO might be: 217024.

To understand how this works we will use an example for a Color Code/Pre-Spoiler. Mercury decides to do a special marketing program such as the Color Code/Pre-Spoiler cars. Mercury would first send a promotion program letter to a dealership in one or more specific DSO areas explaining the promotion. They woule then ship test “units” (cars) to a select DSO area to see if these special paint two tone red/white cars would sell to customers. If they did not sell well then the promotion would not be continued, if they did it might be expanded. They might also test to see what option packages sold the best and what ones did not. This might also help them decide what the ultimate option package include.

We all know about the Talladega “2500” last four digits in the DSO number and the “7024” in the last four digits in a Spoiler II. So why is there only two digits in a Spoiler DSO and many different ones in a Color Code DSO?

Spoiler II Data Plate
Spoiler II Data Plate

In the case of the Color Code cars that have been documented, some have different DSO numbers and others have exactly the same number. Why is this? After looking at numerous Color Code Mari Reports and Data Plate information it appears that the last four digits in the DSO represent a specific grouping of options. That is, the factory built certain cars for certain DSOs with the exact same option list including engine, transmission, gear ratio and similar options. This could have been based on what sold the best in select DSO area’s or they may have been testing to see which combinations sold best in each DSO. Remember, these cars were built prior to the Cale Yarborough and Dan Gurney Spoiler production.

The Color Code/Pre-Spoilers were all 1969 model year cars built up to December 31, 1968. After January 1, 1969 the Spoiler production was started. We have no records, information or examples of a blue and white Color Code car having ever been produced only the red and white cars.

In short, with paper work from Ford/Mercury: the six digit DSO numbers were package units sold to dealers with red and white two tone paint to match the Cale Yarborough  NASCAR race car. Each option package sent to the DSO holding yard contained a specific engine, interior and other option package. Each different option package would have a different last four digit DSO. Ford did the same with the Thunderbolts, Lightweight Galaxies and many other Package cars such as the Talladega. Its package was “one size fits all” with the exception of color. You got it in red, white or blue. As stated before the Talladega six digit DSO was the two number area DSO number followed by the Talladega four digit Special Order DSO number “2500”.

Back to the Dan Gurney and Cale Yarborough Spoilers. Obviously, the Color Code promotion was a big enough success to be carried forward and expanded upon. The Cale Yarborough Spoiler was very similar to the Color Code cars but the Dan Gurney Spoiler appears to be a completely new addition to the concept. There are examples that disprove the accepted fact that the Gurney cars were only sold west of the Mississippi and Yarborough cars were only sold to the east. Even so, it was likely the Corporate intent to do just that. Cale Yarborough was a famous NASCAR racing name in the SE but not so well known else where. Dan Gurney on the other hand was a well known name on the West Coast and in the Indy Car and Sports Car arena but did race NASCAR when the series toured to Riverside Raceway in California.

Why do the Spoiler cars not have a six digit DSO? Remember, the Color Code/Pre-Spoiler, Spoiler II and Talladega were Special Order cars and will all have six digit DSO numbers. The Cale Yarborough and Dan Gurney Spoiler cars are simply option packages and will therefore have the standard two digit DSO. The Spoilers were not Special Order cars!

If this didn’t confuse you then let’s try a little harder. When a car came out of a plant it was taken to the shipping yard. There were big signs hanging in the air such as “22” or “63”. These signs represented the different DSOs where the car was to be shipped. This could be by rail or truck.  A car could be scheduled to be shipped to DSO 26 (Memphis); however, a dealer from a different DSO could purchase it from the original dealer for re-sale to a customer in his DSO. Thus two invoice or more could be found for the same car and the car sold in a different DSO than shown on the Data Plate.

One final comment, you will note that only the Talladega and Spoiler II Data Plates have the “Special Performance Vehicle” box on the Data Plate.

Spoiler Data Plate
Spoiler Data Plate


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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  1. Richard, I was reading this article and I thought that top data plate looked familiar and it is because that is my car. However, where that data plate shows Ford the one on my car shows Mercury. Also do you know what the DSO#21215 means. My car is a 302, 3 speed manual on the tree. Thanks for the article. Barry

    1. Barry, yes the data is from your Data Plate. What is shown on the web site is a artistic reproduction used to simulate the actual Data Plate and I only did one for both Fords and Mercurys with different data shown on the plate. the 21 shown in the DSO is for the Atlanta factory where your car was built. The remaining numbers are 2115 and represent the actual options package used to build your Special Order. There may be no other with those last 4 digits or there may be several. We just don’t have enough examples to know. Here are the DSO numbers for the other Color Code Cars I have registered and not all are 428 CJs and some that are have different DSOs.
      222213 (I have two with this DSO)

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