We once referred to this rolling NASCAR museum piece as a "replica" stock car. We couldn't have been more incorrect. Central Florida's Dr. John Craft snapped up this vintage race-ride years ago, knowing it was a genuine slice of NASCAR history. At one time, NASCAR was more a regional sport, centered mostly in the Southeast. In the years since, NASCAR has grown in popularity to levels rivaling pro football. Fans come out from coast-to-coast to watch stock cars do the roundy-round at speed, listen to the roar of American V-8 power, and enthusiastically watch them slam the wall at 200 mph. Many stock cars have been lost to those sudden impacts, especially the older ones.
Craft's '69 Mercury Cyclone II stock car is a survivor. It still lives some 30 years after its career as a seasoned stock car ended. Craft tells us his Cyclone Spoiler is unusual because stock cars raced prior to 1979 are hard to find. He added that time, the elements, and all the "fender banging" typical of old Grand National racing have taken their toll, and now it is virtually impossible to find these cars sporting their original, unmolested sheetmetal.
John managed to find a genuine, complete, '60s stock car sans all the damage we're used to seeing out there. Originally built by NASCAR legend "Tiger" Tom Pistone for use in the NASCAR Sportsman Series (virtually the same as today's Busch Grand National Division), John's Cyclone II followed a different path than the rest of the flock. Instead of being built by Holman/Moody in Charlotte, North Carolina, John's Cyclone was built by Tom Pistone from Holman sub-components. When Ford pulled out of racing in 1970,Holman/Moody closed its doors. This left the market wide open for enterprising shops, like Tom's, to build great stock cars. Tom built turn-key race cars for anyone with the budget to support one.
Florida racer, Robert Campbell, ponied up the bucks for Tom to build a 427ci Tunnel Port-powered superspeedway car to race in the '73 Daytona Sportsman race. Nineteen sixty-nine Mercury sheetmetal was chosen because it offered Campbell better aerodynamics. This fact, coupled with some Holman/Moody nuances, made the body extra slippery, and the chassis fast.
Beneath the steel was: a full 'cage, four shocks on each axle, fully metallic drum brakes, four 9.5x15-inch steel rims, huge 8.00/8.20 Goodyear stickies, and more. In fourth gear, with the throttle pinned, this Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II was capable of speeds of more than 190 mph. Unfortunately for Campbell, his air-conditioning business folded shortly after the Tom Pistone car was delivered. At best, it saw some regional action in the Southeast, mostly in Florida. In the years to follow, the stock car floated from owner to owner all over the Southeast. Each had plans to return it to racing. None were successful.
Because Craft had a passionate interest in stock car racing, it doesn't surprise us this race warrior ultimately wound up in his capable hands just as vintage stock car racing was gaining momentum. He found this retired race car in Tennessee.
When John first brought the car home, plans were to restore the Cyclone to its original, as-delivered condition with a 427. A chance meeting with Spoiler II enthusiast, Marty Burke, changed the car's direction. A set of NOS front fenders from Banjo Matthews' team was acquired. The car became a Grand National spec Spoiler II. Ford Talladega expert, Mark Moses, contributed a front bumper to this effort. When John attended the late Smokey Yunick's auction, he snapped up some headlight buckets and the grille from Bobby Unser's No. 13 Ford Talladega. Jerry Mason, who worked for Bud Moore, provided the rare rear deck spoiler. Dozens of rare pieces and parts were sourced all over the country to make the car right.
John's Spoiler II graphics package was inspired by the Wood Brothers car campaigned by Cale Yarborough. None of the original three cars campaigned by the Wood Brothers three decades ago survived. Confident none of the three cars survived, John went with a similar theme.
The toughest aspect of this project was the hemi-head, NASCAR-spec Boss 429 engine. John wanted to recreate the same Boss 429 engine Cale Yarborough drove to the winner's circle in Atlanta in 1969. It has the correct "spider" intake manifold, which turned up first. Smoky Yunick's dyno headers scavenge the exhaust fumes. Machine work was performed by Scott Newbury at Powered By Ford in Orlando, Florida. On the dyno, John's Boss '9 produced 604 hp at 7,000 rpm, with torque bending the needles at 527 lb-ft. A race-prepped Ford Top Loader four-speed gets the job done. Four NOS Goodyear Blue Streaks meet the asphalt.
Genuine NASCAR history is hard to find. for John Craft, persistence and commitment to history paid off in this stunning Cyclone ride.