Bud Moore Engineering - Reflecting With Bud
Bud Moore Reminisces About Parnelli Jones, Bad Firestone Tires, And Winning The '70 Trans-Am Championship
For nearly four decades, the name Bud Moore was synonymous with Ford racing, as he built and campaigned cars for some of the best NASCAR drivers in the history of the sport. By the time he sold Bud Moore Engineering in 1999, Bud Moore cars had won 63 NASCAR and Winston Cup races (seventh all-time) and 43 poles (ninth all-time).
But more importantly to Mustang enthusiasts, Bud Moore built and campaigned Boss 302 Mustangs for the '69-'71 Trans-Am seasons. With drivers Parnelli Jones and George Follmer (along with a second team campaigned by Shelby), the Boss 302s came up short in 1969. But Bud's team returned with a vengeance in 1970 to win 6 of the 11 races to take the '70 Trans-Am Championship.
Born on May 25, 1925, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Bud Moore was a war hero before he became a racing hero. At D-Day during World War II, he was one of the first to land at Utah Beach. Serving in the Third Army with General Patton, Moore went all the way to Berlin and returned home in 1945 with two Bronze Stars and five Purple Hearts.
Back home, he found himself "tinkerin' " with cars, and opened a shop so he could fix used cars to resell. In a June 1994 Super Ford magazine interview, Moore explained, in his deep Southern dialect, how the ball started him rolling toward racing. "We done a lot of work on what the bootleggers called 'moonshine cars.' All I did was work on them. I don't even know who drove 'em. All I know is we never had one of them stopped."
By the late '40s, Moore was running three or four times a week at local tracks and competing in races staged by Bill France's new National Association of Stock Car Racing, or NASCAR. In 1961, he created Bud Moore Engineering, with Joe Weatherly driving Pontiacs to championships in 1962 and 1963. By the end of 1963, Moore had switched his allegiance to Ford's Mercury Division to campaign cars for Weatherly and Darrell Dieringer. In 1967, Mercury asked Moore to build and race Cougars in the SCCA's new Trans-Am series. With drivers like Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, Ed Leslie, and Peter Revson, Mercury would finish second in the championship standings, just two points behind Mustang. Mercury dropped out of Trans-Am for 1968, but Moore and his Cougars jumped to NASCAR's short-lived Grand American series, where Moore won the championship.
His road-racing experience paid off when Ford came calling for him to campaign a pair of new Boss 302 Mustangs for 1969. Putting his NASCAR business on hold, he dove full-time into Trans-Am to develop and build red, white, and black Mustangs for Parnelli Jones (No. 15) and George Follmer (No. 16). On the other side of the country, Shelby American was doing the same with blue and white Boss 302s for drivers Horst Kwech and Peter Revson.
Ford's four-car attack jumped into an early championship lead by winning four of the first five races (three by Moore cars). But problems with the Firestone tires prevented the Mustangs from winning another race, and Ford eventually lost the championship by 14 points to Roger Penske's Camaro driven by Mark Donahue.
For 1970, Moore returned to Trans-Am with new '70 Boss 302 Mustangs and the entire effort on his shoulders as Ford eliminated the Shelby team entirely. The school-bus-yellow Mustangs of Jones and Follmer dominated, winning the first four races and six total to win the Trans-Am championship over new rival American Motors. Jones also won the Drivers' Championship.
Ford withdrew support from all forms of racing at the end of 1970, but Moore continued as an independent during the '71 Trans-Am season. With drivers Follmer and Peter Gregg, along with sponsorship help from contractor S.S. Jacobs, Moore's Mustangs managed to win three races and finish second to the factory-backed American Motors' Javelins.