Rod Short
January 1, 2013
Photos By: Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Bud Moore returned to his roots in 1968 and, with his leftover Trans-Am Cougars, won the NASCAR Grand American championship for ponycars with Tiny Lund, while still fielding cars at selected races on the Grand National circuit. In the meantime, Roger Penske's Sunoco Camaros were nearly invincible on the SCCA Trans-Am tour at that time, as they took the 1968 championship away from Carroll Shelby's Mustangs. This was a time when success on the track greatly affected sales on the showroom floor, so Moore may not have been all that surprised when Ford called him to come back to SCCA Trans-Am with Parnelli Jones and George Follmer as his drivers.

While all of the car manufacturers capitalized on the popularity of Trans-Am racing with special edition ponycars such as the Camaro Z-28 and the AAAR 'Cuda, the Mustangs that Bud Moore started the 1969 season with weren't Boss 302s, but actually standard SportsRoof models. Once they were pulled off the production line, Kar Kraft of Brighton, Michigan, began preparation of these bodies in white by stripping them completely, running them through an acid bath for weight reduction and then re-welding factory joints and seams for greater strength. Full rollcages were installed, not only for driver safety, but also to square up the unibody chassis and provide rigidity and strength.

While Kar Kraft generally receives all of the credit for this initial work, there's little doubt that Bud Moore Engineering finished the process of converting these production cars into the race cars that they wanted. Every conceivable means of lightening the car was undertaken, from additional acid dipping to sand blasting to cutting away excess metal. The goal wasn't to get the car down to the 2,900 weight minimum, but to go under that as far as possible. Once done, weight was added back in such a way that the car would arrive at the track with as close to a 50/50 weight distribution ratio as possible, which was a challenge with the Mustang's long nose and short rear deck. Suspension mounting points were relocated, larger sway bars were added and bigger brakes were installed—all standard fare in building a race car.

Of particular note, however, were some of the significant changes that were purposefully done to be less apparent to the eye. Carburetor setups were carefully revised to compensate for g-forces that affected fuel delivery. To lower the ride height and center of gravity, the floorboards were sectioned for additional clearance for the exhaust system so the car could ride lower. The rear seat was relocated to cover traction bars and even the front radiator support was chopped by an inch to drop the nose slightly to provide a reduced frontal area for better aerodynamics. Careful consideration was given to different gear ratios within the transmissions themselves, as well as what ring and pinion was inside the differential so that the car could get out of a corner as fast and clean as possible. Suspension alignments were also carefully calculated to optimize cornering as well. Even the choice of tire was a strategic decision—Firestone was selected over Goodyear for the Bud Moore Mustangs because of certain perceived advantages.

By the time the tire smoke had cleared from the 1969 racing season, Bud Moore had finished the year with great success, but still fell just short of the Team Penske Camaros that won the Trans-Am championship. During the course of the year, the Mustangs were undoubtedly faster, but a bad run of racing luck that included mechanical failures, tire issues, and one unfortunate accident that decimated the majority of the Mustangs running at one event. At that time, Chevrolet pulled even with Ford with two manufacturer's championships apiece.