USA trip: 50th Anniversary Aero Reunion

The greatest gathering of aero cars ever assembled happened over the weekend of October 10th-13th 2019 in Alabama USA, hosted by muscle car collector Tim Wellborn the event was a massive success despite the weather not always co-operating.

Luckily, I was able to get my hands on two VIP tickets for the duration so with my son-in- law, David, we boarded an Air France plane to Atlanta and then on to Sweet Home Alabama.

A four-day festival celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Ford and Mopar iconic cars that for a short while dominated NASCAR from 1969 to 1970. Those models include the Ford Talladega, Mercury Cyclone, Dodge Charger 500, Dodge Daytona and the Plymouth Superbird.

The show took place in various locations making an interesting hotel search around the designated sites. Kicking off with Atalanta Speedway  where the chance of driving your car on the banked circuit proved to be a tremendous craving for owners and spectators alike with unlimited photo opportunities, turning back the clock and watching these aero cars thunder around the 1.5 mile oval track was nothing short of breath taking.

Various non-aero cars were invited to the show and mingled in with the Anniversary models.

Hippy Bird,Talledega bound

Onto day two, having left Hampton, Georgia the next phase saw the participants roll into the Wellborn estate for a huge “show and shine” with NASCAR celebrities on hand to sign autographs and chew the cud about their racing exploits it made a wonderful laid back setting.

On hand were NASCAR legends the “Alabama Gang” comprising off Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison and Charles “Red” Farmer with the restored #22 Bobby Allison red and gold Daytona on display echoing the great man’s achievements.

Other famous Wing cars present were the #71 Bobby Isaac Daytona which visited Goodwood in 2003, Neil “Soapy” Castles #06 Daytona, the # 07 Daytona, the #07 Ramo Stott Superbird, Richard Petty’s #43 Superbird, Dan Gurney’s Superbird and the #61 Superbird. On the Ford front LeeRoy Yarborough’s and Donnie Allison’s Talladega’s kept the Mopars company.

Highlight of the day was the World unveiling of the freshly restored #42 magenta and chartreuse painted Daytona driven by Marty Robbins. Built and maintained by Cotton Owens the car represents Robbins October 1970 NASCAR race at the Charlotte 500 where he finished 32nd with LeeRoy Yarborough taking the checked flag. Marty Robbins was a huge Country music star cranking out the hits for three decades which enabled him to race at NASCAR events as an independent. Robbins’ final championship race was in 1981 and he sadly died in 1983 leaving a huge musical legacy and a fond farewell to the track.

These slippery aerodynamic machines are the hardest bunch of muscle cars to restore be they Blue Ovals or Mopars. The kind that have collectors drooling over are the original unrestored pieces worth their weight in gold. A good friend of mine Ric Edwards from Kentucky who happens to be one of only a handful of owners who purchased their car brand new. He owns a” survivor” 440+6 Limelite Superbird complete with 50 years of dings, dents ,scratches and a ton of family history, Ric was 23 when he drove the Plymouth out of the showroom, he still uses the “ Bird” attending shows and cruises just like he always has.

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Day three also celebrated the Seventies as many folks dressed in hippy gear with outlandish clothing from a by-gone age commemorating the “Love All, Flower Power” idealism of the day.

Tim Wellborn’s grounds are vast as is his house, set in many, many acers of woodland, the property dominates Alexander City in Alabama where the Wellborn Muscle Car museum resides and that’s where day three began.

The aero fans congregated at the museum and very soon took all the available parking space with even more exhibits then the day before of stunning cars, the authorities closed a complete parking lot giving more room for participants and the public alike. Then in rolled Mopar legendary engine builder Herb McCandless from Burlington, North Carolina with a fully restored burgundy painted Chrysler 300G one of only 1280 built.

The Charger 500/Daytona wind tunnel test car model from the Lockheed Aviation facility in Atlanta, Georgia is a fabulous antiquity to be exhibited along with the very Pit Board showing the 200mph plus record run of Buddy Baker driving the #88 test mule Daytona around Talladega.

This event saw Alex City come to a standstill as folk from far around joined in the celebrations and a Country Band fired-up. A local Hot Rod club cruised up Highway 280 from nearby Dadeville, mingling in with the jamboree. Late afternoon unfortunately saw the first rain of the show which brought proceedings to a halt.

Certainly, the host town benefitted hugely from the aero reunion with restaurants, coffee houses, bars and hotels rammed out of sight and with the Talladega 500 race only a day away this locality was buzzing.

K&KDaytona

Onto the final day of the event and what better way to end on a high at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race held at Talladega. Over 250,00 race car fans a field of 40 cars and a heap of aero warrior exhibits made an excellent vista. The race ended abruptly with only one session having been completed as the weather intervened again with a deluge of rain preventing racing.

So, after the scramble for hotel rooms which mysteriously doubled in price everyone came back on the Monday being Columbus Day an American Bank Holiday. Controversy reigned supreme as crashes, cautions and points penalties further extended the race, luckily no drivers sustained personal injury and after the carnage Ryan Blaney took the win driving a Penske Team Mustang, my man Brad Keselowski finished 25th.

This half century gathering of the world’s finest 1969/70 aerodynamic cars was an overwhelming success, everything from the locations, organisation, ticketing, NASCAR legends and a fabulous vibe throughout created a most memorable experience. Taking a “show” on the road is difficult enough, however Tim Wellborn, Doug Schellinger (DSAC), Robert Wolf (MCG) and a whole swarm of helpers including Simon Rogers from the UK managed to complete this feat to perfection, hats off to all involved.

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