Story Behind the 1969 “Bunkie” Knudsen Talladega

George Troell (deceased) and his prized “Bunkie Knudsen” Talladega

I have said it many times: “The people are what make the cars so much fun.” Yes, I love the thrill of acceleration that pushes you back in your seat, and the beauty of the car’s lines as well as the physical sensations of cornering on the brink of disaster but in the long run it is the people. If you know someone who isn’t into the car scene it may be difficult to explain to them the attachment we have to these mechanical objects. These hunks of steel are like members of the family to many of us.

While attending the First Talladega Family Reunion I happened to meet Michael Troell who had an outstanding Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II Dan Gurney car at the show. As we were talking he explained that he was about to undertake the restoration of the “Bunkie” Knudsen 1969 Ford Talladega. For those of you who don’t know, that is the yellow Talladega that was built specially for “Bunkie” Knudsen the then President of Ford Motor Company.

As important as this particular car is to the legend of the Talladega, it is even more important to the Troell family. The following story was written by Michael and is Part I of a continuing story we will be running on this car over the next few months leading up to the Second Annual Talladega Family Reunion.

The Story Behind the “Bunkie” Knudsen Talladega Restoration (Part I)

The Decision

The year was 2003, the place, the Woodward Dream Cruise, downtown Birmingham at Revin with Ford. This would be the last time the “Bunkie” Knudsen Talladega would be seen in public in its original state. After much deliberation and soul searching by my father, George Troell, the decision was made to do a full frame off rotisserie restoration. The decision came with much controversy as the purists felt that the car should be left in its original state. It was said that by restoring the car it would take away some of its mystique as well as its value. In the end, my father felt it was in the best interest of the car to do a full restoration and it was time to restore.

The Dream

With that decision made it was now time to see a dream become reality. The first task was to find a restoration shop who not only understood the vision my father had but could see it through. Early in 2003 my father was given the name Ronald Sandie, owner of R&R Restoration in Taylor Michigan. Ron had just finished restoring a 1968 factory-built Super Stock Cobra Jet Mustang better known as the Gas Rhonda Cobra Jet. After one meeting my father knew he had found the one man that would help him bring his vision to life. After several meetings and much planning it was now time for the restoration to begin.

A Change in Plans

With everything in place and the restoration set to begin my father make a last second decision that surprised everyone. To this day it is still unknown as to why, but his decision was to put the Talladega on hold in favor of my mother’s 1969 Cyclone Spoiler Dan Gurney Special. The Cyclone had been in the family since 1969 when my grandfather had bought it at Stu Evans Lincoln Mercury in Garden City, Michigan. So in late fall 2003 Ron began the restoration on the Cyclone, it would take almost 2 years to complete. It would debut at Concourse d’Elegance of America at Meadow Brook in the summer of 2006.

With the Cyclone having spent the summer of 2006 doing the show circuit, it was now time to begin the restoration of the “Bunkie” Knudsen Talladega.

Tragedy Halts Restoration

With preparation and planning underway the unthinkable happened that would forever change the course of one man’s hope and dreams. In March of 2007 my father was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer in which he was only given 6 months to live. The restoration was stopped before it had begun and an uncertain future loomed. On September 18, 2007 my father passed. One week prior to his passing I had promised him that I would see to it that the car would be restored. I told him it would be done right, just as he had envisioned.

In July of 2008 I sat down with my mother and Ron to begin discussing the restoration. We were all in agreement that the car was to be done in my father’s memory. The restoration was scheduled to begin in the fall of 2008. The plan was to debut it at the 40th anniversary of Talladega Superspeedway in 2009.

On September 19th 2008, the day after the one year anniversary of my father’s passing my mother was diagnosed with both brain and bone cancer. Originally she was given a few weeks to live. The restoration would once again be stopped before it began. On June 28, 2009 my mother lost her battle with cancer. All discussions regarding the restoration had now ceased to exist.

A Promise Kept, a Dream Begins

It was now November and 5 months had passed since losing our mother; and my sister Julie and I had a decision to make. In sitting down with Ron the three of us knew what had to be done. We needed to keep a promise and fulfill a dream. It was finally time to begin the restoration of the “Bunkie” Knudsen Talladega.

We all knew that this would be no easy task, the one man who held all the knowledge and the vision was gone. It was now up to my sister and I, and the one man that my father entrusted to see his vision become reality, Ronald Sandie.

 

The Restoration Begins

On December 6, 2009 6 years after the decision was made the “Bunkie” Knudsen Talladega headed to R&R Restoration.

(To be continued; Part 2)

Filed Under: FeaturedFord TalladegaPrototypesTalladega Family Reunion

About the Author: Some of my first and strongest memories from my childhood relate to cars. I still remember when things happened based on what car I was driving at the time. I grew up and lived in Iowa for nearly 40 years before moving to Southern California and now live in Tennessee. I was a Corvette fanatic for years but then re-discovered vintage American Muscle. My wife, Katrina, and I decided we wanted to focus on unique and rare muscle cars. After a lot of research we fell in love with the Ford Blue Oval Aero Cars. These were only built in 1969 and and aerodynamics became an important part of winning races. The only purpose of these limited production cars was to win NASCAR races using the Boss 429 and 427 power plants complimented with a special, wind cheating, aerodynamic body. The Ford Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II are terrific and historic cars. This site is devoted to these car and their owners past and present. We provide an Online Registry for recording the long term history and ownership of every remaining Talladega, Spoiler and Spoiler II.

Comments (5)

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  1. Jon Wood says:

    I have been waiting for this.Keep it coming Michael.Jon Wood

  2. Rick O aka Talladega Guru says:

    I met the late Mr. Troell years ago as did many other Talladega owners as well as Spoiler II owners. Mr. Troell’s love for the 69 Areo cars from Ford was clear in every word he spoke about them. I met Michael with his Father back in 1989 best I can recall and you could tell he had the same love for these cars his father had as well as Mustang’s. This past year my son and I were invite to go to Mr.Sandie’s shop by Michael and Mr.Sandie.
    I can state the car is in caring hands to be restored and the vision Mr. Trolle had will be seen to the end by his son Michael and it is something that the time was right to do, to safe guard the history of one of the rarest Talladega’s built. This car has some very neat stuff on it. Can not wait for Michael to tell us the rest of the story as Georges car get’s back to its day one look or better.

  3. Tim says:

    I met your father at the Ford 100th celebration. At that time he was talking to someone about selling the car. He did tell me it was starting to show its age and it was time for it to be restored, I kicked myself for not talking to him more about buying it. Good to see it in capable hands and look forward to its debut

  4. Gerry Bonanni says:

    I happen to have several pictures of this yellow Talladega when Bunkie was driving it. A friend who was with Ford Racing in 69 gave me copies of the pics. Interesting note, it had a unique side exit exhaust collector, and a set of Magnums on it. Please let me know your e-mail, or how I can post these cool pics to help you.

    Gerry Bonanni
    Senior Engineer, Paint and Body Repair
    Ford Motor Company

  5. Edward Elzinga says:

    I saw this car at the Concours d’ Ellegance in Louisville, KY at Churchill Downs. It is fantastic. The restoration is awesome. It is a beautiful car. I had a 1958 Thunderbird convertible right across the drive from this Talladega. I was drolling every time I looked at the yellow machine.

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