Terlingua Racing Team History
In the early sixties racing car legend, Carroll Shelby and an attorney from Dallas, Dave Witts, found themselves owning a small ghost town called Terlingua in Southwest Texas. The population stood at seven – not including nine goats and two Mexican burros. Nestled on the Mexican border between the Rio Grand River and Big Bend National Park, the pair hoped to parcel off the surrounding 200,000 acres to hunters and make a few bucks. But it was scorching, inhospitable land with nothin’ but rattlesnakes, a few mule deer and a whole lotta armadillos on it. So instead, several times a year Shelby, Witts and a few of their noted compadres ended up using it to have a good time. They’d load up in Shelby’s DC-3 and fly down to the tiny town to have a some fun hunting, riding dirt bikes and swapping tall tales.
Figuring they had something coming to them as legit owners of a bonafied town, they wasted no time forming a city council, handing out all the choice political positions to their drinking buddies: Witts elected himself mayor and Shelby named himself Social Director, alternating as the local dog catcher as well. Automotive artist, Bill Neale, became the director of the Museum of Modern Art and Tom Tierney was elected Chief Justice of the Municipal Court. Other members of the Shelby Rat Pack were doled out esteemed positions as Director of Sanitation, Director of parks and Recreation, Director of Urban Housing, Inspector of Hides and Commodore of the Terlingua Navy.
The stories of life at Terlingua are legend; these were good friends; tough, strong men who worked hard and took their partying seriously. But they also had kind hearts. They began thinking of how they might do something to benefit the Terlingua community. While tossing ideas around about putting together a school, Tierney, a P.R. man for Ford Motor Company, asked if Neale could come up with a logo. On a napkin at a local Dallas watering hole, the rabbit with the sun and three feathers was born and the Terlingua City Council had an official coat of arms.
After the Terlingua Ranch logo was created, Shelby told Neale, “You know it would be kinda neat to use this as a racing team logo, too! If you figure out how to do it, we’ll use it on some of the GT350-R models I’m developing.” Shelby brought the first car to Green Valley Raceway near Dallas on Valentines Day 1965. Ken Miles drove the car, designated 5R002. It was white with blue stripes and had the new Terlingua Racing Team logo on it. It was the first ever “R” model Shelby – winning the race that day!
Shameless pranksters, Neale and Shelby used their privileged pit access at the 1966 Indy 500, to apply the Terlingua Racing Team logo decal to every single car – well, except the one that won the race. After slapping the TRT logo on the Trans-Am cars, they targeted the King Cobras in the Can-Am series. Drivers who may have knowingly or unknowingly, added to the Terlingua Racing Team roster included Parnelil Jones, Dave McDonald, Ken Miles and Lew Spencer.
The TRT logo was later used on the 1967 Jerry Titus car, which raced in the Trans-Am series, winning a title for Ford. Shelby had asked Neale to design the graphics for it asking for a color that would make the car stand out on the Trans-Am grid. Of course, Neale took inspiration from his logo, using the now famous color he calls “gawd-awful” yellow with a black stripe down the middle. Supposedly drivers complained the yellow hood caused a blinding glare but it got the attention they wanted and made it one of the more popular logos of the day.
Since the logo was first seen on that Shelby Mustang GT/350 Ken Miles drove, the Terlingua Racing Team logo has been seen on racecars all over the world. It has raced at LeMans many times, the Targa, Sebring, Nurburgring, Monza, Silverstone, Nassau and Spa. The legend of the Terlingua “Racing Team” continues today with the logo coveted and desired the world over.