Following on David Pearson’s 1968 NASCAR championship win, the Ford Motor Company introduced several new weapons in a monumental effort to continue its reign over Chrysler Corporation. While 1969 saw continued engine development, increased attention to aerodynamics provided a quantum leap in terms of both speed and stability, creating the “winged warriors” that remain among the most famous and recognizable stock cars in NASCAR history.
While the fastback-style Mercury Cyclone and Ford Torino bodies worked very well on the shorter tracks, Ford engineers identified their rather large, squared-off frontal area and recessed grille as major sources of aerodynamic drag that prevented the cars from fully exploiting their race-proven 427 cubic inch Tunnel Port engines on the longer speedways. Accordingly, Ford developed the Spoiler II variant of the Mercury Cyclone, along with the Torino Talladega. Both cars featured similar and painstakingly executed body enhancements including a dramatically elongated nose section, a flush-mounted grille and the addition of a close-fitting, modified front bumper borrowed from the Ford Fairlane. Uniquely, the Mercury also bore a pair of “re-rolled” and raised rocker panels, which allowed the car to be lowered by one full inch for better handling and air penetration, while still meeting NASCAR’s minimum ride height requirements.
On the powertrain front, since Ford had been stymied by NASCAR’s earlier disapproval of the exotic SOHC 427 “Cammer” engine, the Tunnel-Port 427 wedge-head engine continued in use through 1968 and was replaced by the brilliant Boss 429 for 1969. To homologate the Boss 429 engine for NASCAR competition, it was made available as a limited-production option for the Mustang, with the conversion performed by the Kar Kraft facility in Brighton, Michigan. For the engineers, shoehorning the new Boss 429 V8 into the rather compact engine bay of the Mustang was no easy task. Major modifications were required to the shock towers and front suspension, but to make the new engine eligible to compete in NASCAR, Ford had to build and sell at least 500 examples per model year. Ultimately, 859 Boss 429 Mustangs were produced in 1969 followed by an additional 500 examples for 1970, prior to the cancellation of Ford’s corporate racing program. Although it was conservatively rated at 375 horsepower in street trim, the Boss 429 produced approximately 600 horsepower in racing tune and today, it remains without a doubt one of the most exotic and powerful engines ever conceived and produced by Ford.
In racing trim, the Spoiler II was actually slightly faster than its Talladega stablemate. In the hands of NASCAR driving legends including Cale Yarborough and Lee Roy Yarbrough, the Cyclone Spoiler II took four victories during a particularly hard-fought 1969 racing season, while David Pearson grabbed his fourth NASCAR championship with the Torino Talladega variant. While NASCAR mandated 500 street versions to homologate the cars for competition, Mercury records indicate that 285 Cale Yarborough-edition Spoiler IIs and 218 Dan Gurney-edition cars were produced with just 134 known to exist today. In fact, just one of the three original Cyclone Spoiler II racing cars is known to remain today.
Displaying the instantly recognizable racing livery of Cale Yarborough’s original Wood Brothers-built car, the Cyclone offered here is based upon an original surviving race car. Originally built by Tom “Tiger” Pistone as a turn-key racing car for a customer using many Holman and Moody-based components, the car was built with 1969 Cyclone body panels for their proven aerodynamic properties and powered by a Tunnel-Port 427. Capable of achieving speeds of up to 190 miles per hour when completed, the car was intended to contest the 1973 NASCAR Sportsman Series, which was similar in concept to the Busch Grand National Series of today. Other features included a full roll cage, dual shock absorbers at each corner and fully metallic drum brakes, as well as racing wheels and tires. Used only briefly in the Southeast, the car passed through several owners until the noted stock car author, collector and restorer, Dr. John Craft, located the car in Tennessee and purchased it.
Today, precious few original NASCAR stockers of the 1960s remain with their period sheetmetal intact due to the rigors of the aggressive nature of stock car racing. Craft originally considered restoring the car to its original specifications with 427 power, but since just one of the NASCAR Cyclones remains in existence, the decision was made to recreate a Grand National-specification Spoiler II at the urging of Marty Burke. New Old Stock front fenders were sourced from Banjo Matthews, a front bumper was provided by Mark Moses, and the rear deck spoiler was courtesy of former Bud Moore team member Jerry Mason. Notably, the headlight buckets and grille originated from Bobby Unser’s Talladega, which were purchased by Dr. Craft at the Smokey Yunick estate auction. In addition, many other very rare and unique parts were sourced throughout the United States, lending even greater authenticity to the completed project.
A period-style NASCAR-specification Boss 429 racing engine powers the Cyclone, closely replicating the engine used by Cale Yarborough to win the 1969 Atlanta 500. A correct and very rare spider-type intake manifold was located and a pair of headers that were originally used by Smokey Yunick for dyno-testing purposes handles the exhaust. Scott Newbury of Orlando’s Powered By Ford machined the engine and when it was assembled, dynamometer testing confirmed peak output figures reaching 604 horsepower and 527 pound-feet of torque. Power is handled by a stout, race-prepared and period-style Ford Toploader four-speed manual transmission, while a set of New Old Stock Goodyear Blue Streak racing tires provide the rolling stock for this recreated superspeedway contender.
Featured in Modified Mustangs and Fords magazine, this Cyclone Spoiler II is representative of the NASCAR “Aero Warriors” of the late 1960s. With its painstaking restoration under the expert direction of Dr. John Craft, this great example of America’s rich NASCAR racing history is ready for continued display, or as a formidable entry to the growing number of vintage racing events nationwide.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in September 2009 at the Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, California.
604 hp, 429 cu. in. race-prepared Ford Boss 429 engine, single four-barrel carburetor, race-prepared Ford Toploader four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with unequal-length A-arms and coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and race-specification four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 116"