1969 Ford Talladega
“In 1983, he got a divorce, took off for Alaska, and left it at his mom’s house,” Mike Lattin said. “They would come down in the summer, visit his mom, start the car, and the son would always say, ‘Dad, Dad, let’s take the car out.’
“The dad would say, ‘No, not licensed.’
“The son would say, ‘Let’s take the plate off Grandma’s car.’
“And his dad would always say nope.”
After two or three years, the father stopped coming back.
The son grew up, moved back, and lives in his grandma’s house, where the Talladega remained parked. Recently the father realized he wasn’t going to do anything with the car, which brought about the sale.
Mike Lattin runs a shop called Mainly Muscle Cars in Granite Falls, Washington. He heard about the Talladega through a friend he calls “Montana Mike” in Helena.
“Montana Mike found the Talladega on a Facebook ad in a little town called Big Timber, which is in Montana.”
Before Lattin drove 773 miles from Washington State, Montana Mike inspected the Talladega. Apparently, the two doors to the garage that housed the Talladega hadn’t been opened in “forever,” from the looks of a large pile of tires and “junk” in front of them.
Montana Mike looked at the car and sent pictures to Lattin. The white Talladega was “super solid with day-two speed parts.”
Of course, the dad and son knew what they had, a 1969 Talladega, every one of which was powered by a 428 Cobra Jet driving a set of 3.00 gears through a C6 automatic transmission.
“It had been wrecked at one time, and they replaced the front door pillar, the door, and I think the fender,” Lattin said. The Talladega wasn’t running when they picked it up.
At the shop, Lattin drained the old oil and re-oiled the 428 because it hadn’t been started since the mid-1980s. He was intrigued to find a 427 dual-point distributor. He poured gas in the carburetor, which he did not
even take apart.
“I just put gas down the vent, and fresh gas in the tank, and it popped like mad. We did a burnout in our parking lot, when the landlord was here. He said, ‘Well, that put some hair on my chest.’”
Lattin’s 17-year-old daughter, Taylor, seen here with a 1969 GT500, went with her dad and uncle on the Montana trip. “When my dad first came to me with the idea of the
“Astonishingly, each tire held air”
Montana trip, I was hesitant,” she said. “As a teenager during one of my last summers before the end of my high school career, there were several things I had to consider before agreeing to join them. Previous commitments and the thought that participating in the trip might leave me with major FOMO [fear of missing out.—Ed.] of the plans that my friends might make while I was away made me consider my options carefully.”
She did go, and her comments about the find are in the story’s captions.
Readers can contact Jerry Heasley at jerry[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @jerryheasley. He is looking for rare finds, the “ones that got away,” and stories of cars with provenance. He will travel to significant rare finds to document them as they are pulled out.
“It had been wrecked at one time”
n “The real excitement began for me when we started to roll the tires away from the lazy garage doors,” said Taylor Lattin, 17-year-old daughter of the man who bought this rare find. “The owner of the place looked at me with wide, surprised eyes as I started to unstack them with the rest of the guys. I wasn’t afraid to get my hands dirty. The suspense grew when we got the last tire out of the way and dragged open the first layer of wooden barn doors to unveil the second garage door. We slid open the creaky man-door that was nestled into the faded siding, sneaking past the slumbering Talladega. It was dark and dusty inside, and only the car’s silhouette hit the back of the garage door from the light that shone in brightly from the man-door.”
n Taylor said, “The summer Montana sun shone in beneath the door and climbed limberly atop the dirty hood of the Talladega, revealing the aged 1970s aftermarket pinstripes and preserved interior. We were all fueled with a new sense of determination by the sight of her. The tires had been held up on jacks while being stored, so we decided to fill them. We held our breath, and, astonishingly, each tire held air.”
n “My dad and uncle both rushed to the car like nurses to a newborn, and opened the doors to unleash the unpleasant perfume of moth balls.”
n “My heart was racing, and I was just thinking of how she’d look fully embraced in the sun’s rays,” said Taylor. “We removed all the jacks and got behind her, pushing and shoving until she began to roll out into the fresh air. Once she was out, we all had to stand back and admire her beauty.”
n Every Talladega came with a 428 Cobra Jet backed by a C6 automatic transmission. None was a Super Cobra Jet or had ram air.
n Talladega Fords came with an oil cooler, which was usually reserved for cars with the Drag Pack option. The Talladega was the one and only automatic car up until that point in which the factory installed staggered rear shocks. “She only had the aftermarket headers, air cleaner, and intake manifold,” Taylor said, “but still had the original and very rare Cobra Jet oil cooler.”
n Taylor, seen here with a 1969 Shelby GT500 in her dad’s shop, is 17 and a muscle car enthusiast.