Talladega Prototype: Banjo Matthews Red Ram Air Car
Arguably, one of the most if not the most significant of the Ford Talladega Prototype cars built is the red Banjo Matthews car. It was built in August of 1968 well before the regular production cars started on the assembly line in late January of 1969. Intra-Company memos from the time suggest that things were changing rapidly in the plan to build a street version necessary to homologate the new aerodynamic body and Boss 429 engine for use in the 1969 NASCAR season.
This car was likely what most represented what the “car guys” at Ford wanted to build and put on the street. Although it lacks the race cars Boss 429 it does have the top of the line 428 CJ Ram Air engine plus lots of other extras such as air conditioning, bucket seats and automatic C6 transmission.
The “RED TALLADEGA” is the earliest prototype Talladega known to exist and the only red, Ram Air Talladega built. Ordered as a special purpose vehicle by Ford Motor Company Administrative Services it was built with options not available on any production Talladega. Some of these include: rim blow deluxe steering wheel, air conditioning selectaire, AM/FM stereo radio, rear seat speakers, tinted glass complete, deluxe belts and warning light, tachometer, dark red vinyl bucket seats and Candyapple Red paint.
Why was the Talladega so special? Horse power was getting more and more expensive for NASCAR race teams and the manufacturers were just discovering that aerodynamics could provide more speed from the same horsepower. The race was then on to build the most aerodynamic car for theNASCAR super speedways. The only problem was that NASCAR demanded that at least 500 street going examples be built for sale to the public.
This is why the Talladega prototype was built; once at Ford Administrative Services the transformation of a regular Torino Cobra into this sleek Talladega began. The rocker panels were hand modified to lower the car and the front fenders were hand modified for aerodynamics. Engineers removed the hood latching mechanism and installed hood pins as the only means to hold the hood shut. This unique one of a kind prototype came with a white “C stripe” that was modified in the front for the longer nose and at the rear a piece stripe was added to cover the holes in the quarter panel where the Torino emblem used to be. The Ford “T” emblem is also unique in the material it is made of and its placement on the doors. The tail panel was painted black, but still has the GT lower moldings on it. The hood, hood scoop and wiper panel were all painted flat black, not egg shell. When all that was done, they then fitted the car with chrome styled steel wheels and Goodyear white letter tires with GT caps.
The car was used in some photo shoots and was seen in Stock Car Racing Magazine in April of 1969. Ford owned the car for almost four years before selling the car to NASCAR Hall of Fame legend Banjo Matthew in March of 1971. This car has the documentation including a copy of the original title in Ford’s name, registration card in Ford’s name, a loan contract, invoice and receipt from Ford to Banjo Matthews, a release agreement from Banjo to Ford and a Marti Report.
We can only guess “what if” Ford had followed through with a production Talladega closer in spirit to this Prototype. Today, production Talladegas are extremely rare and sought after today but if the “bean counters” at Ford had not changed the way they were built with no options and the absolute minimum of amenities we would likely not be able to afford them today!