Many gearheads, particularly those of the Blue Oval persuasion, are well familiar with the name Moody.
That’s largely because Ralph Moody Sr. was a major driver (pun intended) of racing innovation and design throughout the 20th century.
In particular, together with John Holman, the Holman-Moody race team helped develop and refine a veritable fleet of awe-inspiring machines, from offshore power boats to the legendary Ford GT-40. In fact, serving as Ford’s de facto tuning shop in the 1960s, the FoMoCo tapped Holman-Moody to design and build its entrant into the nascent NASCAR Aero Wars: the Torino Talladega.
While Ralph Moody Sr. passed away in 2004, the Moody legacy carries on with his son, Ralph Moody Jr.
Growing up in and around his father’s business, Ralph Moody Jr. learned plenty about the racing world—both in the garage and cockpit. “I was sweeping floors or always doing something,” Ralph laughs. “I remember going over to see where the race cars were being built. I was fascinated by it.”
Now an accomplished mechanical engineer, Ralph Jr. got his start by wrenching in the Moody garage. “I had a lot of time on the workbenches in the shop helping some of the other teams with engines, heads, and stuff.”
We sat down with Ralph Moody Jr. to talk all about his family’s history and get the backstory behind a specific restoration project for a podcast episode. We’ll feature some excerpts from our discussion in the article below and you can check out the whole interview in the podcast episode below:
A Historic Prototype
As it turns out, Ralph Jr. is nearing the conclusion of perhaps his most important project: the restoration of one of the original Torino Talladega prototypes used by the Holman-Moody race shop between 1968 and 1969.
“That car’s shell sat on the surface plate at Holman-Moody for almost a year and that particular body was the template car for the race cars,” Ralph explains. “So they made the templates off that car to make the race car bodies for the Talladega.”
After its service as a template car, Ralph Sr. took the Talladega’s body shell, installed the original 428ci engine and drivetrain, and bolted the whole thing back together—where it served as the Moody family’s trusty grocery-getter for years.
“It was a family car, my grandmother drove it,” he laughs. “Then we put it in storage. From the early 1980s through the ’90s, it just kind of sat there.”
The History of the Torino Talladega
Since he knows a heck of a lot about the Torino Talladega, Ralph Jr. spent plenty of time describing its evolution. “My dad was always pretty involved with aerodynamics,” he says. “Holman-Moody actually took Ford Falcons and made fastbacks out of them in the early ’60s, and raced them outside of NASCAR. They were very successful.”
Pretty soon after that, the Holman-Moody team took a fastback-equipped Ford Starliner to Bonneville, where it reached speeds close to 200 mph. More testing demonstrated that the fastback design proved to be well-suited for high-speed aerodynamics, which resulted in the arrival of the “Sportsroof” option on the Torino when it debuted in 1968.
But the Torino still wasn’t ready for the NASCAR Superspeedways.
“They wanted to make it a little faster,” Ralph explains. “Holman-Moody was starting to develop the front end for the Talladega, extending the nose, narrowing everything, smoothing the air lines, closing the gaps. There’s a lot of special work that’s done up at the front end.”
Turns out, it was a winning recipe.
“The Superbird was more recognizable because of its wing,” Ralph smiles. “But in competition, the Talladega won many more races than the Superbird or the Daytona.”
The Torino Talladega’s corporate cousin is the Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II—so you may appreciate this article: Check Out This 1969 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II Before it Returns to Bonneville
Preserving a Legacy
Ralph admits that the Talladega restoration has been a long process. “I was travelling all over the world for work,” he reveals. “So it’s been in progress for about 18 years.”
But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Ralph’s work travel ground to a halt—which meant he had more time around the house to kickstart the Talladega’s restoration. Better still, he’s reached out to the close-knit racing community around his home in Charlotte, North Carolina for help.
With plenty of folks offering their talents on the project, Ralph tells us the car is nearing completion. The body is currently on a rotisserie in primer with paint set to spray soon. More importantly, while the body was getting prepped, Ralph had the engine rebuilt, and all of the original parts have been restored and are waiting on a shelf for final assembly.
The goal is to have the car finished as close to original as possible sometime next year, after which Ralph says he won’t hesitate in taking the car to shows and events.
Undeniably, the Ford Torino Talladega is an important part of American automotive and racing history. And that’s doubly true for Ralph Moody Jr., who views the restoration of the prototype as a vital way to honor his father’s memory.
“I want to preserve the legacy. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a number of years to get finished. I’ll be happy when it’s back on the road.”
You can catch our entire interview with Ralph Moody Jr. in the OnAllCylinders Podcast section.
There’s plenty more information on the Torino Talladega and Cyclone Spoiler II available here at the Talladega and Spoiler Registry.
Hat Tip to Summit Racing’s David Metheney for connecting us with Ralph Jr. for this interview.