Story: Secret Stash of Aero Warriors in Tennessee!

Aero Warriors- or Winged Warriors as the Mopar aero cars are sometimes called- were created with one thing in mind, and that was to win big on the NASCAR circuit.  The aerodynamic warriors included four vehicles, beginning with the 1969 Ford Talladega, which was based on the Torino.  The Ford Torino already had a fastback design, but Ford rounded the front end for the Talladega, which resulted in improved airflow from the front of the car.  The 1969 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II quickly followed as the second Aero Warrior.  Dodge was also in the race game with the Charger 500, but when it was determined not to be aerodynamically friendly enough they began wind-tunnel testing, and the result was the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona.  The last Aero Warrior was the 1970 Plymouth Superbird, then it all ground to a halt for the 1971 NASCAR season when the rules were modified that had given these cars such an advantage on the race track.  One of the great things that came out of this era of NASCAR was that a minimum of 500 street versions of a car that was raced had to be produced to sell to the public, and more than that by the time the Superbird rolled around.  Fast-forward 50+ years to the present, and the early aerodynamic cars from 1969 and 1970 have become very desirable commodities in the car collecting community, and back in 2015 Motor Trend editor Ryan Brutt ran across a “secret stash” of these cars.  The article documenting his find can be seen here on the Motor Trend Website.  Many thanks go out to Barn Finds reader Larry D. for the great tip on this collection.

The story goes that Ryan has been traveling all across the country over the past few years documenting “barn finds”, a term he defines as any abandoned or neglected but still desirable car, whether it has been stored inside a barn or not.  In 2015, Ryan had made a trip to the Wellborn Muscle Car Museum in Alexander City, Alabama, but on his way home decided to make a detour through Tennessee to follow up on a lead he had received about this stash of Aero Warrior cars.  Ryan says that standing in front of the warehouse in this small Tennessee town you’d never expect what is inside, and he describes the experience as “mind-boggling”.  The warehouse is about as big as a football field!

When Ryan chatted with the owner of this warehouse full of cars, he disclosed that while growing up he had gone to work for his father’s company which allowed him to go to training at places such as Ford and Dodge.  This was all about the time that the aero wars competition was really beginning to heat up, and he took an early interest in aerodynamic design and was able to work his way into training at places like Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds, and the Holman/Moody race shops.  All of this early aerodynamic interest resulted in him starting to buy and collect Aero Warriors.

The owner’s collection has grown over the years to the point where he had to put all of the cars in this warehouse.  And not only does the warehouse contain cars, but there is also a large collection of parts and rooms full of NOS items such as Talladega badges.  To say that this man was fully engrained in the Aero Warriors culture is an understatement!  The cars themselves vary in conditions, some of which are in running and driving condition, and these are occasionally taken out for a spin and enjoyed.

Other cars are not running and are in various states of repair and completeness.  Ryan says that one of the saddest cars in the entire place is a 1970 Superbird, which is an original 426 Hemi car.  It was used as a circle-track car at one time but became the victim of a shop-related fire, then was abandoned in a field after that and nearly sent to the crusher.  But thankfully, the current owner saved it and put it in his warehouse for safekeeping.  He still has the complete 426 Hemi and transmission from this car also stored in the warehouse.  The Motor Trend article includes over 170 photos, so be sure to check it out here, you’ll definitely be amazed at what you see all in this one place!  If that’s not enough, the owner also has a second warehouse with another collection of miscellaneous cars.  Barn Finds hopes you have enjoyed reading about this collection of Aero Warriors!

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Comments

  1. Claudio

    Money DOES NOT buy you happiness but it can buy a lot of cars …

    Like 13
    • Arthell64 Member

      I knew the owner of these cars well. Mike was a huge nascar fan is why he bought these cars. He bought them back in the 1970’s and paid less than $2000 for each car. Unfortunately Mike died from covid-19 last year and now his son and daughter are the owners.

      Like 1
      • Gary

        Too bad he didn’t pay more attention to the news, he still might be enjoying these cars.

        Like 1
    • Gary

      Interesting. Money can not buy you happiness, that much is true, but it can buy you physical security and options in life. That strongly encourages happiness. Funny how no one says that lack of money makes you sad, that would seem a universal truth, would it not? The rich have been pushing those platitudes for years to try and keep the poor in their place. I have seen very few frowning billionaires, but plenty of down trodden poor people.

      Like 5
      • Pierre

        Too much money probably makes people feel ashamed (then sad), how can one (I am not talking about this person who collected those cars over his lifetime, which was his passion, I am talking about really rich people who just never seem to have enough and just don’t know what to do with their money) feel proud to have so much (too much),when others, often nice and hardworking people, have too less. You having more money means other having less…it is really OK, to me, if it is not in excess. And if it is deserved. The feeling of deserving what you get (and who can deserve billions of $) is probably one of the needed ingredients to experience happiness. But, we are on barnfinds here, and those lines don’t belong to this website, let’s go back to talking about cars : this collections of cars is truly amazing, and this was a very clear and instructive write-up on the short-lived story of the aerowarriors ;)

        Like 1
  2. timothy r herrod

    Nascar actually let them run the superbirds in the 71 season with a much smaller motor, 303 cid i think it was. Did quite well for the first part of the race, then they blew up. Nascar was relieved

    Like 8
  3. Joe Machado

    The correct history of 5, not 4 Aero cars of racing.
    First, the 1969 Charger 500. 500 being the minimum number to produce to qualify as stock cars.
    Second car, the 1969 Talladega. Third, the 1969 Cyclone Spoiler II.
    Fourth, the 1969 Daytona.
    Then rules changed for 1970 by Nascar. One car for every two dealers in the country.
    One step back now. The Restrictor Plate, was to first be used at Michigan, August 1970. But, a minute point in history, Neil Castles was trailering 2 cars on way to Michigan. Short track Charger and the Daytona. Both number 06.
    He also brought his number 06 Daytona to Ona Speedway. But not to race.
    It had a Restrictor plate for that next race.
    Buddy Baker drove the Daytona at Ona, but that is a long story.
    As for the 1971 season, the engine prepped for the Dick Brookes 22, were 2 Keith Black 305 Trans Am engines turning around 9,000 rpm.
    Another long story.
    Rules introduced by Bill France were to have control over his racing, not car manufacturers.
    The car collection in Tennessee I knew of decades ago. As he was one of our members as we created at my home in Summer 1974. Winged Warriors.
    There were 4 clubs. Eventually down to two.
    Monroe Schellinger had created the one other that his son, Doug keeps going.
    Aero name came about so it would combine all the groups, Mopar and the FOMOCO cars.
    Sorry it’s long, but history repeated incorrectly in print gets repeated incorrectly.

    Like 20
    • Crawdad

      For those for whom ONA speedway is unfamiliar, it is a 3/8 mile, slightly banked Asphalt oval near Huntington, WV . In The mid-sixties, I was a young ( 12-13 yrs old. ) racing nut, and in ’64 or ’65 got to go there to see Richard Petty, Freddy Lorenzen, David Pierson, and the other big names of that time race there. That cemented my life-long interest.

      Like 6
      • Joe Machado

        Crawdad, I was asked to bring my number 06 Daytona to Ona Speedway for the 50th anniversary since Buddy Baker ran there.
        The night the lights went out. Were you there August 1970?

        Like 3
      • Crawdad

        No, I had friends that drag raced at Riverside Drag Strip in Proctorville, OH in that time period. However , I did race hobby stock at Ona in the mid 90’s ( an early Fox body Mustang Painted in Pierson’s colors / number.
        Was a mid-pack effort, but tons of fun for the ( relatively ) modest amount of time and money spent.

        Like 1
  4. RichardinMaine

    Funny how sanctioning bodies always write dominant cars out of the rules.

    Like 4
  5. Burger

    Love to see the raggedy-trashed examples of these cars. Seen too many over-restored ones with their attached douchebag owners. Almost as bad as going to a Corvette meet. Ugh ….

    Like 7
    • Gary

      Agreed. In the 1970s when these started showing up at events, they were just used cars, some pretty trashed at the time, yet the owners were regular guys that loved them and would talk up a storm about them. These days, if the 1%ers who have sucked them all in, decide to bring them out of climate controlled storage for the day, they look annoyed if you dare ask a question. As if they are doing us a favor by being there. Usually they and the car sit behind a rope and look smugly at all us peons who want to see. The few times I have actually gotten an owner to talk to me, it is obvious they know very little about the car, or cars in general. Might as well be the Rolex on their arm as a car, just a display of wealth and privilege. Sad what has happened to this hobby.

      Like 7
    • Claudio

      I agree with you and the term used to describe a lot of douchebags …

      Like 3
  6. Timothy Phaff Member

    It’s a dream!!!

  7. CordManDownUnder Member

    Hey Mike & Joe – Is there any chance that the custodian would be interested in selling any of these winged cars, especially those in need of substantial repair, such as the fire stricken No.50 or similar? We restore to hold and like a challenge…like our Cord, these are pieces of history. Thought I would ask??

  8. Arthell64 Member

    The guy that owned these cars was a regular guy. He just happened to buy them when they were cheap used cars. The orange car was a bank repo (around 1977)that he bought from a local bank for something like $1500.
    Mike used to take the orange superbird to Richard Petty events and give kids rides until he ran out of gas. He would fill it back up and give rides until anybody that wanted a ride had one. He was a nice guy that would talk hours about the history of the aero cars.

    Like 10
    • Claudio

      Regular guy
      A regular guy doesn’t own a warehouse that size
      Nevertheless,this caretaker did just that
      He took care of these
      I Never liked them but can appreciate that some do

      Like 2
  9. Joe Machado

    I was not mentioning the owners name, but I see it leaked out.
    Anyway, I have known Mike since about 1975.
    He never portrayed any aspects of the rich kid.
    He was a VERY sharing gentleman.
    Mike funded events and no, no stanchons kept you away.
    Touchy feelie was ok. I have put children in my real racecars and had them start them after we made sure no issues would happen, after important points were addressed with child and parent. It will make that childs day for life.
    Value be damned, share the experience. Not just the vision.
    If you’re afraid, sell them, we will share them instead for you.
    Remember, we are the caretakers, never really owning anything.
    Mike, thankyou for your hospitality. I bought 2 of the shirts with you, David and Lou. These 3 we lost in the last two years. I Salute you all. Saving our History

    Like 3
    • Claudio

      Joe
      I thank you very much for these comments
      For your knowledge
      For you sharing of it
      For your great writing
      For your passion
      Wishing you a very merry Christmas
      A happy new year
      Health to you and your family in these hard times
      We will never meet as we are worls apart but i salute you and the other old guys (some grumpy)
      That are always willing to share a bit of their life experiences

      Like 3
  10. Cattoo Cattoo Member

    This is a great comments section. Thanks for the information and sharing your memories of friend, clubs and cars.

  11. $ where mouth is

    If anyone can put me in touch with the gentleman (Mike) im seeking a couple Talladega badges and a few other items..Please.
    Ill keep checking back here in hopes someone can connect me or Mike gets my message.

    As for wealth, sure too many dont deserve it, some do, some worked hard their whole youth and made sound investments.
    Its not being wealthy or not, its what one does with what they got. In this case, i formone would love to see such a warehouse of legendary metal machines !
    Perhaps one day theyll be sold off, and lesser wealthy folks can get a chance to own a dream machine.

  12. Kenn

    Yeah, some folks who worked hard all their lives, always did much more than was asked, sacrificed time with family and friends, skipped vacations and weekends in order to work, made huge financial risks and ended up very wealthy turn out to be jerks. Most don’t. Funny how no one mentions the average Joe that is a jerk, treats his wife and kids like dirt, lies when truth would help him and often uses an entire paycheck to buy lottery tickets.
    It’s astonishing to me to read so many negative comments about “rich” folks when I read about the holdings so many on this site have.

    • Gary

      That is because the American Dream for the most part has vanished from America. The people you speakof may work hard, but do they give their employees a living wage and some reasonable benefits, or they just get richer and richer until they don’t even know how to spend all that money? That is why classic car prices are out of control, people who have gotten wealthy by not sharing a fair share with workers who made them rich can play with all that ill gotten wealth. Maybe that is why some here speak poorly of the uber wealthy who have things like this. And in the 1970s, these cost the guy a fe grand each, still that is 10K in todays money. How many of us today could buy this many cars at that price and just put them in a hundred grand warehouse? Is it jealously or resentment at a rigged system where once here we were the envy of the rest of the world.1950-1975 American was fair to all workers and there still was plenty of room for others to become very rich. Now we have small numbers becoming insanely rich and Uncle Sam gives Walmart workers Medicaid.

      Like 2
  13. Kenn

    It would be interesting to note, Gary, how many businesses you’ve built, how many employees you’ve hired (and paid well), how many charities you support. If you’ve been a wage-earner all your life, have you ever done more than was asked? Volunteered to serve others pro bono? If you’re a Walmart worker dissatisfied with wages there, why not look for a better paying job? Unless, of course, it would require more effort to be to work on time, little permission to take “sick” days Monday’s after big celebrations following football, basketball, baseball championship games or anytime you would rather be somewhere else rather than work. As an aside, what is your opinion of Jay Leno and his terrific collection?

    Like 2
  14. CordManDownUnder Member

    Hi Artell64..Thanks for the reply & info regarding Mike and his passion for these cars, such a pity about covid. For some of these cars, not even the rich guys with little idea will accept the challenge and the cost irrespective of their cheque book, plus the next generation often fail to see the history and the need to preserve where possible. Along with the Cord 812 we have a few 53 Packard Caribbean’s, I am restoring that avoided the crusher along with many packards unfortunately after the factory closed. One was a previous parade car for the Knights of Columbus Mn. We are bring her back to the old days! Let’s hope these winged cars, including those in bad shape can be preserved even Red no.50 – history does repeat – most will recall the time when these cars struggled on the show-room floor, while others lost the wing and nose to allow sale.

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