Modified Mustangs & FordsNews & Views
First On Race Day
Ford's Total Performance Program Was Born from The Fierce Desire To Win
In our July issue, NASCAR historian Dr. John Craft gives us a historylesson on the begining of NASCAR's roots, and the ups and downs ofFord's involvement (or lack thereof) in the early years of NASCAR. We'veformatted these excerpts from the full story, along with a few photos ina "Did You Know?" format. For the full story, please be sure to checkout the July issue of Mustang & Fords, available on newsstands now. -Mark Houlahan, editor.
In 1962 Nelson Stacy won the Rebel 300 at Darlington in May andrevisited Victory Lane at Charlotte in the grueling World 600 two weekslater. He also won at Martinsville later in the year. Larry Frank madeit two in a row for Ford in the prestigious Southern 500 also in a Ford.
Later that year, Fred Lorenzen and Ralph Moody took the'62 Galaxie withthe banned "Starlift" removable top to the Bonneville Salt flats and setof score of speed records with an experimental 483ci version of the FEbig-block engine.
Holman/Moody heavily modified the Galaxies that Ford drivers piloted in'63 before taking on the super speedways. Screw jack-adjusted coils weremounted at the bow, and modified leaf springs carrying a track specificnumber of leaves provided suspension at the rear. Heavy-duty sway bars,multiple shocks per wheel, and beefed up drum brakes were standard fare.
Holman/Moody pressed on through 1964 with a fleet of 427 High Riserpowered '64 Galaxies. Bill Stroppe built a handful of High Riser poweredMarauders at his West Coast shop, but things did not go well for Fordstock car drivers. As in 1963, the cars that Holman/Moody-prepared forrace duty all started life as regular street going 427 Galaxies that hadrolled off of the Atlanta assembly line. Twenty or so R-code (two fourbarrel) Galaxies were shipped to Charlotte for their race redeaux. Liketheir '63 brethren they all carried regular VINs (with a 4N66R121--- or4N66R125--- sequence) and most of their street going trim. Race prepparalleled the work performed on '63 Holman/Moody Galaxies and, save forthe addition of the single four-barrel High Riser penthouse, '63 and'64HM Galaxies were pretty much identical under the skin.
Billy Wade (Weatherly's replacement in Bud Moore's Mercs) was the secondhighest Ford performer with four wins. There was still no joy in"Mudville" for Ford racing professionals, however, since most of thewins scored came on short tracks which produced little or no headlinesglory the Monday after race day. Something had to be done. And in fact,forces were afoot behind the scenes at Ford's experimental enginelaboratory that would ultimately change the face of the Grand Nationalseries-but perhaps not as Ford fans would have planned.
For 1965 Holman/Moody began building race cars from "bodies in white"for the first time. When the bodies of the Holman/Moody '65s werereunited with their frames, a cage (still simple by modern standards)was installed along with an all-new fire suppression system designed toavert another tragedy like the one that befell Fireball Roberts in 1964.That having been said, fuel cells were still two seasons in the futurein 1965. In place of the previous Ford serialization, HM kept track oftheir '65 chassis by attaching alloy VIN tags that carried "C5HM-10044through C6HM-10076 serial numbers (some intervening numbers wereassigned to A/FX Mustang drag cars).
In 1966 Bill France and his inspectors found both Smokey Yunick's andJunior Johnson's heavily modified cars to be NASCAR "legal" and let themrace. Curtis Turner put Smokey's Chevelle on the pole and Fred Lorenzenqualified the "Banana" Galaxie third. By mid-race, both had beensidelined by mischance, but a new day had arrived in Grand Nationalracing-one that soon mandated the used of body templates during theinspection process.
At one point in the 1967 season, Petty won ten races in a row. At year'send, he'd racked up 27 wins in 48 starts. His closest Ford competitionwas Dick Hutcherson, who scored but two wins in his Holman/Moody built,#29 Fairlane. But the winds of aerodynamic change were on the horizonfor 1968. And those winds would sweep Ford and Mercury right into thewinner's circle.
David Pearson took the empty seat at Holman/Moody that had been vacatedby Fred Lorenzen when he'd retired the season before. Pearson won mostof the races that Cale Yarborough and Lee Roy Yarborough didn't in 1968.
For the 1969 Daytona 500 NASCAR claimed Ford hadn't built enough Boss429 Mustangs to make the engine legal, so a last minute scramble to swapengines (to the 427 Tunnel Port) before the race start ensued. As aninteresting aside, history records that it was a then little knownHolman/Moody wrench named Robert Yates who built the 500 winner's enginethe night before the 1969 Daytona 500.