Holman Moody - 1956-present - Charlotte, North Carolina
Holman Moody was for years the official racing contractor for Ford. They prepared GT40s, A/FX Mustangs, Shelby Cobras, Falcons, and Stock Cars for NASCAR, NHRA and sports car racing teams. Holman Moody prepared racecars were friven by some of the best drivers in the world; men like: Fred Lorenzen, Mark Donohue, Bobby Allison, Ronnie Bucknum, Parnelli Jones, Ned Jarrett, Walt Hansgen, Peter Revson, David Pearson, Nelson Stacy, Al Unser, Joe Weatherly, Cale Yarborough, Dan Gurney, A. J. Foyt, Bo Ljungfeldt, Mario Andretti, Jim Clark, Junior Johnson, Dick Hutcherson, Augie Pabst, Richard Petty, Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner, and Bobby Unser.
In 1956 John Holman moved from southern California to Charlotte, NC, to take over the Ford racing effort in NASCAR. He had been working for Bill Stroppe and the Western arm of Ford’s racing effort.
Holman succeeded and sales of Ford cars rebounded, even threatening Chevy's longstanding sales lead. Soon Holman's Fords were winning the majority of NASCAR races, so General Motors president Harlow Curtis introduced a surprise motion at a routine meeting of the Automobile Manufacturers Association asking that the AMA stop all "factory" support of American racing and cease advertising their vehicle's top speed and horsepower. Amazingly, the motion passed.
John Holman was left with a garage full of cars belonging to Ford which no longer had any use for the company. Each of the Ford drivers were given a race car, transporter, and some spare parts.
John's son, Lee Holman, was given the job taking inventory of all of the spare parts. Holman knew racing would continue without Detroit factory support, so he and his friend, Ralph Moody, pooled their money and bought everything from Ford at a bargain price. Ralph Moody was an experienced driver from Massachusetts who moved to Florida in the late 1940s and enjoyed a successful career racing modifieds. In 1956 he made the move to NASCAR's Grand National division where he met Holman. The new racing team of Holman-Moody won their first two Grand National races in 1957.
Holman Moody entered two 1958 Fords at the last two races on the beach at Daytona. The same two cars, one driven by Curtis Turner and the other driven by Joe Weatherly, raced to first and third in one race and second and fourth in another.
Sometime during the 1958 season, Holman Moody began to change from a racing team to a racing factory. In addition to building and racing their own cars, the shop was now building cars and selling them to other teams. By late 1958 Ford support was slowly returning to racing. This support helped the Holman Moody team in the construction of ten 1959 Thunderbirds. This was the first time Holman Moody was able to get bare bodies off of the assembly lines. The production line was stopped while Holman Moody got the bare chassis and parts they needed to build the race cars. All unnecessary items in the production automobile were left off.
Johnny Beauchamp's Holman Moody Thunderbird finished in a dead heat with Lee Petty's Oldsmobile at Daytona. Three days later NASCAR officials gave Petty the win. The two cars averaged 135.521 mph, which made it the fastest stock car race in history.
The 1961 season started with Holman Moody racing Thunderbirds. Joe Weatherly won the convertible race at Darlington, with Lee Holman on his pit crew. Holman Moody debuted their new Ford Starliner convertibles with the removable hardtops. The other teams didn't like the "fastback" shape of the tops, but Ford made enough of the cars to meet the production requirements, and Holman Moody cars kept on winning. At Atlanta, NASCAR officials made Holman Moody re-install the "X" frames under the Starliner. They had removed it to save weight, but as the the production car had this bracing it was replaced and the Holman Moody cars continued to win races. Holman Moody started building engines for other teams as well, with the Woods Brothers #21 team becoming one of their first engine customers.
In 1962 Holman Moody entered a Ford Falcon in the 12 Hours of Sebring. Later in the year they prepared a small-block AC Cobra, driven by Augie Pabst, for entry in Nassau's Speed Week competition. The following year they entered another AC Cobra at Sebring but met with little success as the Ferraris remained dominant.
During 1963 Dan Gurney won at Riverside in a Holman Moody-prepared Ford and both Fred Lorenzen and Fireball Roberts racked up 9 NASCAR wins in Holman Moody racecars. They introduced their revolutionary box steel NASCAR chassis in 1964, a chassis that soon became the Grand National standard. The chassis featured improvements such as tube shocks, square tubing frames, and rear ends with floater housings. “I really had to argue with Bill France (Sr.)”, Ralph recalls. “He’d say you couldn’t have this, you couldn’t have that..but drivers were getting hurt. Finally, in the early 60’s Bill said, “You build the car, and bring it to the track. We’ll take a look at it. “ Well, we brought it to Bristol, and ran well. We won at Hickory, and everybody wanted one.” Lorenzen and Roberts continued the previous seasons success, winning another 9 races for Holman Moody.
During 1965 they built 33 Ford-powered Intermeccanica Omegas for the US importer and also completed 10 altered wheelbase A/FX Ford Mustang Drag racers for the NHRA's new Factory Experimental class. After Fireball Roberts horrific 1964 crash at Charlotte, Dick Hutcherson replaced him and won 9 races while Lorenzen won 3.
Mario Andretti won the 1967 24 hours of Daytona in a Holman Moody Ford and also drove their famed Honker II Can-Am car in two early races in that famous Canadian-American series. Fred Lorenzen won the NASCAR race at Daytona as well.
During 1968 David Pearson won his second NASCAR Championship in his Holman Moody prepared Torino with sixteen wins. The following year Holman Moody prepared Ford's first purpose-built NASCAR racer, the Torino Talledega, for Pearson, who won 11 races and his third championship.
In 1970 Holman Moody built 3 special aero Torinos in preparation for the upcoming 1970 NASCAR season. Called the "King Cobra" they were designed by Larry Shinoda to compete agains the Mopar aero warriors. Cale Yarbrough tested the car at Daytona for Ford but the project was shelved before the start of the season when NASCAR changed the homologation rules. Pearson returned to the previous year's Talledega racear and won only one race.
Following a disagreement with Ralph Moody in 1972, the Holmans bought out all of his stock, and Moody left for another racing team. The Holmans got to retain their now-famous Holman-Moody corporate identity, but were forced to hold a "fire sale" to buy Moody's stock. All nine of their GT40s, as well as a bunch of old NASCAR and Can Am racers were liquidated. The small firm survived into the mid-1970s as a NASCAR engine shop and built all of the engines for the successful Woods Brothers #21 racing team.
John Holman suffered a fatal heart attack in 1976 and the firm ended up in receivership. Two years later, the situation had improved enough so that John's son Lee Holman was able to take over management of the firm. High on the younger Holman's agenda was a return to building racecars and the struggling firm built a Mazda which competed at LeMans later in the year. He also continued their profitable engine building program, which continued to supply the Woods Brothers with their race-winning engines.
In 1982 the Charlotte airport gave Holman Moody notice of their intent to condemn the Holman Moody building in preparation for a new airport runway. The board of directors held an auction to sell off the firm's building and equipment, and Lee Holman was able to buy enough of it to form a new firm, called Holman Automotive, Inc. which would concentrate on building racecars. He remained as president of Holman Moody and operated both firms from the same facility.
Holman introduced the prototype chassis of his proposed GT40 MKII, racing cars at the 1991 Shelby American Automobile Club convention in Charlotte, NC. The first of sixteen continued production GT40 MKII’s was completed in 1992 and was built using the original tooling, suppliers and components of the originals.
A new building was built in 2003 at 9119 Forsyth Park Dr. in southwest Charlotte, N.C. and the two Holman firms, Holman Automotive and Holman Moody continue to share the 75,000 sq. ft. facility. Holman Moody continues to build racing engines and Holman specializes in the sales and restoration of original GT40s and other Ford-powered race cars.
© 2004 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com
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