The Terlingua

The Terlingua (aka Mary Jane) – #17

We have had several people involved peripherally with our series since it’s initial development.  A few of those have intended to come racing with us.  Our original hope was that others would build cars to our specs and come out and race.  What happened more often than not was that life got in the way, and we ended up getting offered to buy a donor car from a very disappointed, almost racer.  This is how we came into possession of the #17 car, our sixth build.  I still refer to her as “Mary Jane” because, like Black Betty, that’s the name the original owner had given her.  Unlike Black Betty, which was named after a song, and had a theme, Mary Jane was named for the prominent smell that permeated the car.  She’s an ’87 four-plug coupe, and our first “speed density” car.


Our Chief of Design had a theme in mind from day one of us getting the car.  The Chief has been involved with a rogue group of Mustang owners who pilgrimage to their holy land each year to celebrate the lesser known accomplishments of Carroll Shelby and his fellow band of troublemakers.  He wanted to build a tribute car to the 1967 Jerry Titus Trans-Am car, albeit in a slightly different color than “God-awful yellow”.  We chose Cub Cadet yellow.


Jerry Titus original car… the model for our build.


Some of our cars are built with speed and intention of getting them to the track as soon as we can, and then each winter, our Chief of Design takes a liking to a car design, and hibernates with it like a mama bear in winter.  These cars are more restorations than race car builds.  The Ghia has this touch given to it, and Mary Jane, aka “The Terlingua” was getting even more attention than the Chief’s beloved Ghia.  Again, partly due to the love he has for the whole Terlingua attitude of Shelby’s and partly as a middle finger to Terlingua purists, and partly due to the experience of this being our sixth build, this car is something special.
MJ before restoration / build

This is how she started out.

Our Chief of Dirty Things started with an entire strip down and intensive cleaning inside and out, to rid the car of it’s “chronic” smell.  I’m happy to report that I was absent that day.  My nearly bald head needed washing, or something of equal importance.  Washing a car is one thing.  Power washing the engine compartment and inside of a 29-year-old car is quite something else.  Thank goodness our Chief is also severely OCD, hence no “offensive odor” (I was written up in college once for an “offensive odor” emanating from my dorm room).


The Chief of Pretty, Shiny Things took over at this point, and he grabbed a rattle-can of Cub Cadet yellow from our local Tractor Supply, and got to painting things that normally don’t show.  Since Mary Jane’s original color was something of a blueish green, we wanted to put paint where no paint had gone before to make this car look like it had always been Cub Cadet yellow.  So the engine compartment, trunk, door jams, etc. were all painted this way.  The car was then stripped of all trim, and sent to paint without a dashboard being reinstalled.
mj 2

We had yellow boogers for weeks.

We’ve learned that the fewer exposed surfaces we leave in our cars, the fewer things end up getting painted the same color as the exterior.  So this one was a really stripped down roller ready for the paint scheme.  We’ve talked about our paint guys in the past.  We use a very low-end shop, but when we have “different” paint schemes, we have to keep very close to the work to make sure it’s done right.  The Fairmont had a few runs before it was done right.  Others we’ve just let go.  But this one, being a Terlingua tribute car, had to be right.  And it did take two tries to get the lines where we wanted them, the black applied correctly, etc.  All in all, we’re pretty happy, and our paint guys have become friends.


Back at the shop, our Chief of Pretty, Shiny Things and our Chief of Design got together and created an incredible-looking engine.  Again, restored, not just race-prepped.  Also, the dashboard got a complete re-dye job including some nice touches of Cub Cadet yellow that really make the dashboard look not only new, but current and updated.  While we have a lot of Chiefs (some would say too many most days) they really nailed this one.
MJ engine

Mary Jane’s new heart


We figured out a few new tricks with this build, notice the clean door panels, if you get a chance to peek inside. Also, notice the super-cool GT3 seats we picked up for less than our standard go-to Kirkey race seats.  There have been several drivers who claim the #17 to be the most comfortable car we have in the fleet.  So, all things buttoned up and ready to go to the track for testing, the week of the season 2 opener, our Chief of Noticing Things We Don’t Want to Hear About heard a slight rod knock.  No problem.  We’ve built an engine in less time before, and we’ve been scavenging, er, I mean “picking”, so we had the capability and the time.  That was a brutal week, that’s documented in another post (yet to be released), but we got it done and to the track in time for the season opener.  And while it looked fantastic on the track, it was a bit down on power.  We knew this to be the case, since the ’87 engine only produced 88 HP.  We were hoping that the ECU had mappings for the new cam we had installed, but alas, that didn’t seem to be the case.  We actually struggled with understanding why the engine seemed so down on power.  But we were happy the car ran.  There were some issues with the brakes.  While we put a brand new master cylinder on the car, the brakes bounced between power and full manual.

our faux GT3 seats really do the trick.

Fast forward to the second race weekend, where we had a patchy wet surface on the track, and the car ran good one race, then started to sputter badly in the second race, causing our illustrious madam president to come in and DNF the car.  We put the #17 on a trailer determined to find the engine problem and the brake issue.  Upon taking apart the vacuum tubes that lead up to the brake booster, our Chief of Mechanical Thingies found a mud-dobber nest inside the vacuum tube between the manifold and the brake system.  That would probably explain the strange brake behavior.  And, as it turns out, the crappy engine running.  The poor ECU couldn’t figure out what was going on, hence the strange behavior.

Check out that cluster console!

The Terlingua has since been returned to the track, and while we still know she’s down on power, she led us to an even more interesting side-effect of our series.  Our Chief Race Instructor and General Show Off, really likes to stir things up, but in his heart, he’s like a caged tiger.  He longs to hunt some random innocent down on track, and put his foot firmly up their rear bumper.  The problem is, his beloved Ghia is faster than stink, so it doesn’t give him any challenge.  Enter the Terlingua with an estimated 17 less HP.  Now the Chief “I’m In Your Mirror” can drive the ever-loving wheels off this car just to keep up with traffic.  We’ve started putting him out front to keep the pack closer together and give an overall better race for the spectators, and it’s worked.  We have video from race 7 and 8 from his rear bumper.  It’s a good watch, if you want to see how difficult it is to pass a slower car who really doesn’t want to let you by.


So here we are, six cars in, and a devious plan.  Slow cars up front.  15 laps is all you get, and as some of our “ringers” found out last race weekend, you have to move quickly in a 15-lap format, otherwise you just plain run out of time.  The racing is getting better and better due to things I’ll discuss in another post, but you can probably guess why.  Six drivers, lots of seat time equals faster drivers, and better competition.


Like all our cars, come down and check out the #17 Terlingua, she’s a real beauty.  Notice she has two seats, she’s a great ride giver if you ask nicely. See you at the track!