Greg Westphall and his Mercury muscle
Geoff Stunkard - October 25, 2012 10:00 AM
There is a certain amount of personal honor in having a car in your family since it was new.
Most of us can fondly remember some of the vehicles our parents once owned that carted us off to ball games and school dances. Not many of us know where those cars ended up. For Greg Westphall of Naperville, Illinois, things turned out a little different. He still is the caretaker of the 1969 Mercury Cyclone his father bought back at the peak of the muscle car era.
“My dad bought this car in December of 1968,” says Greg, who works as a director of engineering. “I learned how to drive in it, took it to my prom, and wanted to keep it in the family. It has a lot of sentimental value.”
It could have been a four-door Montego and still made him feel good when he went out to the garage, but luckily for Greg, the old man wanted a lot of power under the hood. While more pedestrian Cyclones could be had with 302 and 351 power, the Cyclone CJ that Gary Westphall got when he traded in his 1963 tri-powered Marauder S55 was equipped with the Q-code flat-hood 428; the only other CJ engines were the top-of-the-line R-code 428 Cobra Jet, denoting Ram Air, and the S-code 390. The 1969 428 was rated at 335 horsepower and came with 10.6 compression, an externally-balanced crank and a Holley 4150 carburetor. It was topped only by the SCJ version, which used an even more durable bottom end assembly.
For Greg and his family, the car would provide many cherished memories, such as trips to Yosemite and Yellowstone, even a couple of rides to the top of Pikes Peak. His father and brother added air conditioning from a Montego station wagon for longer trips, while the car also benefited from hop-ups like a Holley 850 carb, Mallory dual-point distributor and Edelbrock intake. After living in California and Oklahoma, the Westphall family returned to Illinois in 1980, and Greg began driving it in 1982.
His fun ended two years later when a connecting rod broke and the car sat for a number of years after that. Greg paid his father $100 for it and stored it at a girlfriend’s house in Plainfield. Later, a tornado took out almost the entire subdivision, including her home, though the car and the garage remained unharmed.
“I was working at Birkholz Body Werks, a Mercedes-Benz body shop, as an apprentice painter,” says Greg. “The owner, Armin Birkholz, allowed me to tow the car to the shop and start on it. I spent the next six years working on it.”
While this would be a full restoration, Greg had no intention of turning the family treasure into a trailer queen. The idea was to rebuild the car into how it looked new, but with an emphasis on drivability. Stripped down to bare metal, he rebuilt the torque boxes and replaced the floor, had the engine overbored to .040 and added new forged 10.5 pistons. He had a skilled painter at the shop named Gabriel spray on basecoat/clear coat Glasurit to a close match to the factory Medium Gold Metallic. The suspension was upgraded with KYB shocks and tubular control arms, with 15x7 front rims (235-60R15) and 15x8 rear rims (245-60R15), which grapple with the asphalt through the Detroit Locker 3.50 ring.
There were some other engine mods as well. The internals were balanced by E&R Performance in Addison, Illinois, with a Crower solid lifter cam in the center and a Milodon road race oil pan underneath. Stab Engineering in Oswego, Illinois, did the actual build. Edelbrock FE-type heads and a matched Performer RPM intake are fed high-test fuel through an able Holley 800 double-pumper with annular discharge technology. A Mallory Unilite sparks it while FPA Tri-Y headers finish it off. The sturdy C6 was left in place with a simple stock rebuild. Greg also added the R-code style Ram Air scoop during the rebuild. The motor is now definitely above the factory 335hp OEM rating, with or without it!
The car’s debut happened at the World Ford Challenge in Joliet in 1999, where it took a first place finish in its show class. Since Greg admits the car gets regular cruising time, the idea of photographing evening light was a fitting touch.
Mercury Cyclones are not commonplace today. Greg has been around this one since he was four years old. It’s a family heritage well worth preserving, and Greg continues to enjoy the car to add to that tradition.
1969: Cyclones and Spoilers
Mercury remained a major player in 1969 in both the street scene and the racing era. Cougar was the vehicle of choice for drag racing, being used by the likes of Ed Schartman and Don Nicholson (Mercury had dropped out of the Trans-Am series in 1969 to allow Ford to emphasize the new Boss 302 Mustangs). Cougar on the street could be had in plush XR7 trim or the new performance-oriented Eliminator models.
In NASCAR, the mid-size Mercury and Ford models continued a battle of one-upsmanship with Chrysler in terms of aerodynamic and engine design. The fastback Cyclone design was superseded on the speedways with the new Spoiler II models, which featured the same aerodynamic advantages that the Ford Torino Talladega had made. These Mercurys would win eight of the 37 victories the Ford Motor Company posted during the 1969-’70 “aero-wars” seasons.
On the street, the Cyclone was Mercury’s mid-size muscle car. A street version of the Spoiler was released in January 1969 to legalize the body design for NASCAR. This included a 351-powered Dan Gurney edition and a 428-powered Cale Yarborough edition. Both are very rare today.