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The 1967 Mustang notchback Group II sedan was Shelby American's competition model for 1967. The same rule that allowed the the 1965 GT350 to compete in SCCA's B Production class - no rear seats - effectively kept the Shelby Mustangs out of the Trans-Am series. It didn't matter that by 1967 you couldn't buy a Shelby Mustang without a back seat. The die had been cast in 1965.

All of this was just fine with Ford, who liked the idea of Carroll Shelby racing something readily identifiable to the public as a Mustang. Ford had left the Trans-Am to the independents in 1966 and they almost threw it away. Shelby literally pulled the fat out of the fire for Ford at the last race of the season, when Jerry Titus drove a Shelby­prepared car to win the Riverside event - and to earn enough points to give Ford the manufacturer's championship. Their appetite thus wetted, Ford was eager to participate in the 1967 series and cash in on the publicity. The SCCA quickly realized they were on to something and they expanded the Trans-Am to twelve races. They saw manufacturer support as the key to the series' success and did everything they could to seduce marques like Ford, Chevrolet and Mercury. The manufacturers, in turn, saw the Trans-Am as the perfect vehicle to market their new Pony cars.

To assure plenty of manufacturer interest, a unique points system was devised whereby points were awarded Formula 1-style, 9-6-4-3-2-1, but only the highest-placed car from each manufacturer received any points for its team. If, for example, a Mustang won a race, Ford received nine points. If other Mustangs came in second and third, they would win money but no points. A Camaro finishing fourth would receive three points (not six for being the second placing manufacturer). With Shelby American offering turnkey Mustang race cars for sale, there were a lot of them in the series. They not only increased Ford's chances of scoring points but they also kept the other manufacturers from scoring them. The SCCA didn't stop there, however. Each manufacturer was allowed to throw out its three worst finishes. This kept the competition tight for the entire season. It made the series more exciting for fans but increased the pressure on drivers and teams.

Ford contracted Shelby American to field a two-car factory team for 1967. Shelby saw the opportunity to produce a new batch of production race cars. By the end of the model year he would sell 21 1967 Mustang Group II racers. Ford hedged its bet by enlisting the assistance of stock car builder Bud Moore to field a team of specially modified Mercury Cougars which were driven by Dan Gurney and Parnelli Jones. Chevrolet quietly obtained the services of Roger Penske - who started work on a Carnaro Z-28 for his driver, Mark Donohue. Chrysler went the other way, withdrawing all sponsorship except for a single Plymouth Barracuda for Scott Harvey and a Dodge Dart for Ron Grable. All other MoPars were left to go it alone. The 1967 Trans-Am started off with a high level of excitement - and gathered momentum from there.

The very first thing Shelby American had to do was homologate the 1967 Mustang. A review of the FIA's Group II rules for sedans showed that most of the mechanical modifications Shelby had come up with for the GT350 R-Model would be allowed on the Group II car. In addition, since the R-Models had been raced for two years, their components and modifications had been thoroughly evaluated and refined. By the time Shelby American began converting 1967 Mustang notchbacks into race cars, they knew what would work and what wouldn't. There weren't very many surprises or wrong turns.

Group II rules specified that cars had to maintain their basic stock appearance. This included all window glass, full interiors with back seats (but without carpeting). Engines and suspensions could be modified, within specific parameters, and wider wheels could be fitted with only moderate flaring of fenders. The races were made purposely long, 250 miles or more and up to 24 hours. This required pit stops for fuel, tires and driver changes.

The job of coming up with specifications for the 1967 Group II cars landed on the desk of Shelby American GT350 Project Engineer Chuck Cantwell. His experience with the GT350 competition model and 1966 Group II cars made him the obvious choice. Fabricator Jerry Schwarz, who also had a hand in both other projects, did most of the hands-on work. They built a prototype and from it came the team cars and customer cars.

Factory documents show that Shelby American built a total of 26 1967 Mustang Group II racers. One was a prototype which was never actually raced by the team. It was used for evaluation of components and then sold during the race season. Four were actual team cars and the remaining 21 cars were sold to independent racers who used them in Trans-Am and/or SCCA A/Sedan competition.

The Group II engine was based on the venerable 289 Hi­Po. Modifications included larger valves, steel R-Model style valve covers with breathers, an S1CR-6250-2 camshaft, aluminum Cobra T-pan, a Cobra 2x4V aluminum hi-rise intake topped by a pair of 600 CFM Holley carburetors and Shelby drag-type headers. The entire assembly was balanced and blueprinted and backed by a Cobra scattershield. The aluminum Borg Warner 4-speed transmission with close-ratio gears (standard on the GT350) was used. The rear end was fitted with a Detroit Locker "No Spin" unit and 1965 GT350-style over-ride traction bars were added. Shock absorbers were Konis. An oversized radiator was used, along with the R-Model type oil cooler and remote oil filter. Shelby's 1967 Trans-Am engine pumped out some 425 horsepower.

The R-Model's 32-gal. gas tank was necessary because pit stops were mandatory. Special quick-open caps were installed on elongated tubes that poked through the trunk lid - so the trunk did not have to be opened when the car was refueled. A Stewart-Warner 240-A electric fuel pump was employed.

Group II rules mandated full interiors. For the Mustang racer, that meant the stock dash pad with a full set of R­Model mechanical gauges (8000 RPM tachometer, flanked by fuel pressure and oil temperature on the left and oil pressure and water temperature on the right. Door panels and headliner remained, as did windows and cranking mechanisms front and rear. Rear seats and a front passenger seat were also required. Insulation and carpeting were allowed to be removed and roll cages were required. Competition 3-inch wide seat belts and a shoulder harness were installed. Finally, an aftermarket 3-spoke steering wheel replaced the stock wheel. A one-piece fiberglass R­Model type bucket seat was one of the few options available.

Rules allowed the removal of front and rear bumpers, but all other exterior sheetmetal had to be left unchanged. Wheels were American Racing 5-spoke magnesium, 15" x 7" front and 15" x 8" rear. Hood and trunk latching mechanisms were removed and replaced by klik pins. All cars were delivered in white.

The 1967 Trans-Am season began with a 300-mile race at Daytona on February 3rd, two days before the FIA-sanctioned 24-hour endurance event. Shelby American had two cars but did not enter them as a team. Team Manager Lew Spencer recalls that it was Ford's desire to stay in the background rather than go public with the fact that they were behind Shelby's cars. Titus' car was entered by Shelby's friend David Witts, a prominent Dallas attorney and Shelby's partner in the Terlingua Ranch. Shelby's second car was entered by Grady Davis, a Vice President at Gulf Oil. Ostensibly, Gulf sponsored the car and it was driven by Dr. Dick Thompson. Both cars were white for the first race because they were brand new and there was no time to paint them. By the second race, a month later at Sebring, Titus' car would be turned out in the "official" Terlingua Racing Team colors, yellow with black trim.

Daytona proved inconclusive as far as the Trans-Am series was concerned. Five different manufacturers were represented by the first five finishers. Bob Tullius finished first in his Group 44 Dodge Dart. Craig Fisher's Camaro was second, Parnelli Jones' Cougar was third, Titus' Mustang was fourth and a Porsche 911 (in the Under 2­Liter class) was fifth. Thompson failed to finish. There were four other Mustangs at Daytona. All were 1966 cars. The 1967 Shelby production notchbacks had not yet been completed.

The second race was at Sebring, on the last day of March. It was a 4-hour event and Titus won it, with Thompson finishing third. The cars showed up in their "team colors." Titus' car was pale yellow with a flat black hood (and the tops of the front fenders) and triple black stripes (narrow­wide-narrow) on the roof and rear deck. "Terlingua Racing Team" was lettered on the front fenders. The Grady Davis car was white, also with a flat black hood. It carried a wide orange stripe (bordered by a narrow black stripe on each edge) on the roof and rear deck. The cars fooled no one. Ford was deep into the Trans-Am and could not hide it. Two '67 Group II customer cars also showed up at Sebring. Milt Mitner drove Clarence Mathews' car, finishing fourth. Freddy Van Buren drove George Kirksley's car. He was running sixth until the rear end let go.

Race number three was at Green Valley Raceway, near Fort Worth, Texas. Ten Mustangs showed up; besides Shelby's two cars (Titus and Thomspon), there were four '67 Shelby customer cars, two '67 independently-built racers and a pair of '66 cars. The race was an especially memorable one because Titus rolled his car in Saturday practice. What looked like a total write-off was dragged to a local Ford dealer's body shop and rebuilt that night by Jerry Schwarz and three other crew members who were given the key to the dealer's parts department. When the car reappeared at the track on Sunday morning, no one believed it was the same car. Rumors flew that Shelby had another car flown out overnight. Titus had not qualified, so in order to make the Trans-Am grid he was required to enter a consolation race on Sunday morning. He won and was allowed to start from the back of the field. It took him 40 laps to work his way up to second, but when the car had been repaired a new driver's side vent window was not available, so the car was finished without it. Normally that window was safetywired full-open to provide much-needed ventilation. Without this vent, the heat was too much for Titus and he was forced to pit. The crew threw a bucket of water on him and he went out again, only to return a couple of laps later. One of the mechanics took an air chisel and cut a flap in the roof, but it proved to be too little, too late. Titus came back in and literally passed out from the heat. Ron Dykes, the dnver of another Mustang which had retired, took over and brought the car in fifth. Dick Thompson finished third, behind the Bud Moore Cougars of Dan Gurney and Parnelli Jones.

Race #4 was a 4-hour event, held on Memorial Day, may 30th, at Lime Rock. Again, ten Mustangs were entered, Titus led for the first 250 miles (his Mustang had been extensively rebuilt after Green Valley) but he lost the lead when he was forced to pit due to an overheated engine, caused by a broken fan belt. He finished third. Thompson retired with a melted piston. Three other '67 Mustangs finished and the remaining five cars - four '67s and a '66 ­failed to finish.

Mid-Ohio was the fifth race on the Trans-Am schedule held on June 11th. Titus won it and became the season's first double winner, as well as leading in points. Jim Adams drove the Grady Davis entry but failed to finish. A third Shelby team car was driven by Australian Alan Moffat, but he also failed to finish.

Bryar, in Loudon, New Hampshire marked the halfway point in the season. The 250 mile race was a wet one. Rain began falling during the pace lap and by the tenth lap it was a cloudburst. Titus held the lead until Lap 15, when he pitted for rain tires. The stop dropped him back to 6th, but by Lap 30 he was second. On the 45th lap he hit a large puddle just as he was attempting to pass local driver Ken Duclos (also in a '67 Mustang). Duclos hit Titus, causing him to spin eight times in rapid succession. The car slammed into a dirt bank, pushing the rear end in and came to rest at the edge of the track. The crash put Titus out of the race and he later made some disparaging comments about "local yuks" who, he thought, should not be allowed to race in major league events. The comment received wide play and angered some of the independents who showed up at subsequent races sporting buttons that proclaimed, "I'm A Local Yuk." Thompson, in the Grady Davis car, ended up third; John McComb in his new '67 Shelby-built Mustang (Car #10) finished 8th.

The seventh race was held at Marlboro, Maryland on August 12th. It was a 300-miler and was won by Mark Donohue in his Penske Camaro. Milt Mintner/Alan Moffat finished 2nd, followed by Titus (with Jim Adams co-driving). Russ NorburnlPete Feistman finished 4th in a Shelby ­built '67. John McComb went off course with his Shelby car (#10) when the throttle stuck and hit a tree head-on. He was unhurt but his car was a foot shorter. The Grady Davis car, driven by Thompson and Cobra racer Ed Lowther failed to finish.

Titus won the eighth race at Continental Divide Raceway in Castle Rock, Colorado as the Trans-Am moved west. Milt Mitner/Ronnie Bucknum finished 3rd (Mitner beat Titus in practice by a full second). Thompson finished 4th.

Crow's Landing, an airport track near Modesto, California was the site of the ninth race. It was a 250-miler and Titus collected his fourth Trans-Am win. Milt Mitner and co-driver Alan Grant (a former Cobra Team driver) finished 4th. Ronnie Bucknum, in the Grady Davis car (#3), finished 5th. Freddy Van Buren (Car #6) finished 7th; Bob Egan, in his new Shelby car (#16), failed to finish.

On September 13th the Trans-Am traveling circus moved to Riverside for another 250-miler. Titus, on his home track, captured the pole but retired after 17 laps due to a mysterious vibration in the car's front end. Mitner finished 4th, Peter Cordts (in Car #18) finished 5th, Ron Dykes was 6th, Ronnie Bucknum in the Grady Davis car was 7th and James Harris was 14th. The five other Mustangs entered failed to finish.

Las Vegas' Stardust International Raceway hosted the 11th race of the series on September 30th. It was a four­hour event, run at night. It demonstrated that the Penske/Donohue Team was beginning to get their act together. It provided a hint of what was to come the following year. Donohue won the race - his second in as many events. Bucknum finished second in the second Terlingua car. It was the same car Titus had driven in the first ten races. Titus' new car had taken advantage of the latest Trans-Am trick - it had been lightened by acid-dipping. He finished third. Except for one independent, all of the remaining Mustangs - six in all - retired before the race ended. With one race to go, Ford was leading Mercury by only one point. The last race looked to be a cliffhanger.

And it was. Kent, Washington's Pacific Raceway was a 300-mile race. If a Mustang won, Ford would win the championship. If a Cougar won, Mercury would take home the marbles. It was that simple. Things got off to a dismal start for Titus when he wrecked his car in practice. It was so heavily damaged that the few useable parts on it were removed following the race and the carcass was given to a local racer. With the championship still hanging in the balance, Titus borrowed John McComb's Shelby car (#10). His team worked all night giving it the once-over but decided against replacing the still strong-sounding engine. Donohue won the race going away, but the real battle was for second - between Titus and Bucknum in Mustangs and Gurney and Parnelli Jones in Cougars. Jones' car failed to start after a pit stop on Lap 61 and Shelby's team began smiling. Titus' engine let go four laps later and the smiles turned upside down. With 70 laps remaining, Bucknum was Ford's only hope. Despite an engine on the edge of overheating, he maintained second place, with Gurney right on his tail and making up a few seconds every lap. When the checkered flag fell, Bucknum was only ahead of Gurney by 40 seconds.

Titus had left his job as editor of Sports Car Graphic to drive full-time. He was asked to write a column about the Trans-Am for Autoweek (such was the high degree of interest in the Trans-Am) and he summed up the 1967 season nicely in its October 28th issue.

"In retrospect, we started this season with a definite advantage of experience in chassis preparation but down on horsepower. This was corrected by Daytona. Chevy had the horsepower, but not the stopping or handling. By Mid-Ohio they were stopping, by Bryar they were handling and I can only assume that various foul-ups kept them from being real trouble until the last two races.

"The Cougars looked right from the start and got better. They had equal horsepower and brakes to the Mustangs immediately but it took them a few races to get the chassis working well.

"At this juncture I'd say they had kept up on their home­work better than we have, though the mess of moving the entire Shelby operation from the Los Angeles Airport to the new Hawthorne plant this summer was a long and serious handicap.

"Frankly, I underestimated Bud Moore. He had to learn the road racing game and chassis set-up; and to a degree so did Fran Hernandez. [Ford's racing manager in charge of the Mercury team. -Ed.] It seemed logical to assume it would take a whole season to get the clues. Would you believe it took about two races instead? And they gave lessons to everyone as far as pitwork was concerned.

"If someone had told our Terlingua crew at the beginning of the season that we'd have to get over 30 gallons on board in 18.5 seconds or change a full set of five-lug wheels in a minute and 15 seconds, we would have said it was impossible. Yet we are doing it now with consistency, otherwise we would lose time to the Cougars.

"The weight thing got pretty funny. None of us could make our minimums in the beginning. All of us were about 35 pounds over it by summer's end. The attempts at acid­dipping, sand-blasting and general carving were sights to behold. Then along came Floyd Stone with his micrometer and off came the light panels. The cars got faster, anyhow.

"Fifty or 100 pounds doesn't seem to make a damn bit of difference in performance. Certainly not worth the trouble and expense to obtain."

If the 1967 Trans-Am series could be summed up in a nut­shell, it would be described as an evolution towards the Big­Time. It was about to become a professional series, highly regarded by the press, the public, and most of all, by the manufacturers. As the seriousness quotient rose, the enjoyment level of the participants dropped in direct proportion. With so much at stake, everyone was trying very hard to win. The amateurs were left behind as the series became big business for everyone: entrants, manufacturers, sponsors and track promoters. The fans also took the series to heart - probably because of the high level of product recognition between the cars out on the track and the ones they drove to the track. When the level of competition rises in racing, it doesn't take long for a two-tier system to materialize. The top teams were usually the cars out in front. They have the latest equipment, big name drivers, factory connections and deep-pocketed sponsors. The cars filling the back half of the grid were independents trying to compete on limited budgets. The carrot at the end of their stick was the chance to be noticed if they did well. If an opening on one of the top teams materialized, they hoped an invitation would come their way. Each year there were fewer and fewer independents in the Trans-Am because the cost of being competitive rose drastically every season. That is the other side of the coin known as a successful race series.

Terlingua Racing Team

The Terlingua Racing Team emblem - a mean-looking rabbit, silhouetted in black on a chrome and yellow crest _ is probably one of the more recognizable logos to become attached to the Shelby American legend. It was displayed prominently on the 1967 Shelby Trans-Am team car driven by Jerry Titus, which was ostensibly sponsored by the "Terlingua Racing Team." Titus' car was painted "Gawd­Awful Yellow" with a flat black hood and black center stripes. The Terlingua emblem was also displayed on the flanks of Shelby American's GT350 R-Model and 427 Cobra team cars, 5R002 and CSX3002, respectively, when they raced at Green Valley, Texas on February 14, 1965. Ken Miles drove the R-Model to its first race victory that day.

The logo was designed by noted automotive artist Bill Neale, a long time friend of Carroll Shelby's and a fellow Texan. The Shelby-Neale connection goes back to 1951, when Neale first saw Shelby race. They have been friends ever since. Further cementing their relationship is the fact that Neale's wife, Nelda's brother Roger went to high school with Shelby. She knows him well.

In the early 1960s, Shelby got involved in a real estate deal with another friend, Dallas lawyer David Witts. As Shelby tells it, he and Witts wound up owning about 220,000 acres of rocks in Southwest Texas, near the Mexican border. It was some of the most inhospitable land imaginable, virtually all desert wilderness and and jagged mesa, and it included a ghost town named Terlingua. Shelby and Witts bought the land for practically nothing (a fair estimation of its worth) with the idea of subdividing it into 30-acre parcels which would then be sold to hunters, who would own their parcel as well as hunting rights on the total acreage. The area abounded with mule deer, coyote, wolf, rattlesnake and other wild animals which were highly regard­ed hunting trophies.

In earlier times, three Indian tribes _ the Apache, the Comanche and the Kiowa - used the area to assemble and form raiding parties that swept west, across the Rio Grande into Mexico. The Indians called the place Tres Linguas ("Three Tongues") and this was eventu­ally Americanized to "Terlingua" by the local cowboys. in the 1800s, Terlingua became a boom town when quicksilver was discovered in the area. Mines sprung up overnight and the population swelled to more than 5,000. When the mines began to ran dry the town shrunk accordingly. Today the official population is listed as 9 - plus a few goats.

During one hunting trip and carousing expedition in 1963, the idea for the Terlingua Racing Team came up. By the time everyone else had gone home and unpacked, Neale had whipped up a suitable coat of arms and Terlingua acquired a persona. Owning a town had its advantages, even if it was a ghost town. Shelby and Witts lost no time dispensing political patronage positions in the non-existing municipal government. Witts installed himself as mayor.

Shelby was, at times, named as the community's Social Director but on other paperwork he is listed as the dog catcher. Neale became director of the Museum of MOdern Art and the positions of Director of Sanitation, Director of Parks and Recreation, Director of Urban Housing, Inspector of Hides and Commodore of the Terlingua Navy were quick­ly filled by other friends. Business cards and letterhead soon followed. Sporadic meetings were held in some of the tonier watering holes and restaurants in Dallas and were usually followed by a flurry of official sounding press releases.

One such meeting, in May of 1967, was attended by Tom Tierney, a friend of Shelbys who worked for Ford in the area of public relations. When Witts asked him what, exact­ly, it was that a P.R. man did, Tierney responded with an example. "A good P.R. man could take a ghost town like the one you own and put it on the map." Someone else asked how that could be done and Tierney, without missing a breath, said, "Hold a chili cook-off there." And that was how the whole chili cook-off phenomena got its start.

A series of cleverly worded challenges made as part of a handful of newspaper articles resulted in about two hundred people turning up in Terlingua on October 21, 1967 to crown a champion. Among them were hard core chili afi­cionados, members of the Terlingua town council and dozens of reporters representing Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated (which eventually carried a six-page article reporting on the "event"). An uneven dirt airstrip on the edge of town (described as "Terlingua International Airport") allowed most of the participants to fly in, Shelby's DC-3 bringing most of them. The World Championship Chili Cook-Off soon gath­ered momentum, mostly charged up by its own publicity. Within ten years attendance would top 35,000. Several chili organizations were spawned, among them the International Chili Society which sprouted a hundred local regions and sponsored regional cook-offs. The World Finals eventually moved to California and became immersed in show business, complete with celebrity judges and the attendant glitz. Today, tens of thousands of dollars are fun­neled into various charities. And Terlingua is on the map.

One of the most entertaining Terlingua stories is related by Bill Neale. He and Shelby were attending the 1966 Indianapolis 500. They were walking the length of the pits just prior to the race's start, and when no one was looking they applied a Terlingua Racing Team decal to each race car. Virtually every flat surface on the cars were completely covered by sponsor decals, so it was virtually impossible for anyone to spot one which might not belong. By the time Shelby and Neale had covered the length of the pits they somehow managed to put a Terlingua decal on every car except one .... the one that won the race!

< < 1966

1968 > >

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