The following story was submitted by Lee Parks. He was in attendance at the 1968 Atlanta 500. It was one of the new Cyclone Driveaway Promotions. Not only was he there but his dad was a Mercury Dealer!
By: Lee Parks, edited by Administrator.
I was there in 1968; I was only 13 at the time. The experience was a memorable one and I will try to recount what I remember from 50 years ago.
But first, some background. My dad was the L-M dealer in Gastonia, NC at the time. In 1967 he set up a second dealership in Spartanburg, SC, Parks-Bayless. It is the dealership that advertised the Cyclone 500 in your original article. The dealership was short lived, largely hurt by a 1967 UAW strike at Ford that crippled car production and left the fledgling dealership with few new Mercurys to sell.
My brother, who was put in charge of the Spartanburg dealership, drove a white Cyclone for the two parade laps at the Atlanta Speedway with me in the passenger seat. Cale Yarborough led the pack. Your article states that these cars were presold and the new owners got to drive them on the parade lap but I’m not sure all the the cars were sold.
After the race my brother and I drove our appointed Cyclone out. Unfortunately, in the stop and go traffic, it came very close to overheating before we finally got it on the highway where we could get some air going through the radiator. I don’t recall riding in that car all the way back to Gastonia as other family members were there from Gastonia. My brother could have gone on to Spartanburg with it. So, it’s quite possible that this is the car advertised in the ad. One thing is certain, the car was white with red stripes. As I recall, red interior. I don’t know where the Coral color with black or parchment interior came from in the ad. Ads make mistakes and even this one advertises Mercury “Cugars”. (Editor’s note: It is now known that both white and coral cars were produced with the number of each varying depending on the track where the promotion was held. We are not even sure who many tracks participated in this promotion.)
I enjoyed your previous article and, in my opinion, this was certainly L-M’s final heyday. Dad’s dealership burned down in 1970. At that point he relinquished the L-M franchise after 22 years and focused on a little-known brand called Toyota that he started selling in 1968. (Editor’s note: Now Mercury no longer exists and Toyota races in NASCAR! Who would have believed that in 1968?)
The attached photos are from the 1968 Atlanta 500. They were taken primarily in the tent prior to the race. They’re not the best, but you get the idea. One is of me and Tiny Lund standing with a Cyclone that clearly marks the event. I looked at the back emblem through a magnifying glass but I don’t see the flag or 500, just Cyclone. The second photo is Lee Roy Yarbrough speaking under the tent. You can see the jacket and hat giveaways. The third is David Pearson, #17 and Cale Yarborough,#21 in the 2nd and 4th lineup positions. The pole was set by Lee Roy Yarbrough in another Cyclone (out of view). Cale won the race. The fourth is a picture of me and Cale Yarborough at Borough L-M in Charlotte in 1968 standing next to a Montego. Behind my head is barely visible a race poster for Cale. I know this to be 68 because it’s in their old South Tryon showroom in Charlotte. Their advertisement from the 1969 World 600 race shows they moved to Independence Blvd.
I just donated an L-M hat from the Driveaway Program and a 1969 Atlanta 500 racing program to an owner of a 69 428 CJ. The program has a 428 CJ ad in it.
1968 Charlotte World 600
Regarding the 1968 Charlotte World 600. I was at that race also. I don’t remember much about the race, but I know I was there because my grandparents were killed in an auto accident the Saturday before. My parents decided to let me go to the race as planned to divert my attention from the tragedy. You don’t forget a weekend like that. I don’t recall any Cyclones on display for that race and my dad in neighboring Gastonia did not participate in the promotion if there was one. Being 30 miles from the track, it would have been an easy participation for his dealership, but that did not happen. That’s not to say the event didn’t happen, but it doesn’t stand out in my memory. He was not prone to keeping too many high performance cars in stock.
Dad probably had a Spoiler at some point. I don’t know. I do remember the CYS very well. We lived in a small mill city and most people were not prone to fork out bucks for high performance cars. Those that had the money bough the Monterey sedans and Lincolns. Those that didn’t bought Comets. I did have one of the 1970 Hertz Cougar Eliminators (351 C) with sunroof. That’s the one that got away from me. My dad would say, “we don’t keep cars, we sell them”. And he did.
I will try to contact my brother and see if he has any memories of the Atlanta race since he actually drove the Driveaway car and obviously approved the Parks-Bayless ad. If I dig up anything else I will send it your way.