Team Penske came up with an original and meaningful gift to present owner Roger Penske on his 80th birthday today.
After an exhaustive restoration process, Team Penske unveiled one of the most unique pieces of its history, a customized 1972 International Fleetstar truck known as the “Blue Hilton.” The truck was one of the first known enclosed transporters used for racing purposes and served the team in various capacities from 1972-83, including transportation of the No. 66 McLaren that Mark Donohue drove to victory in the 1972 Indianapolis 500. It was the first of what is now a record 16 triumphs at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for Team Penske.
The truck’s restoration is complete down to the smallest detail, including authentic PPG paint and hand lettering. In conjunction with its sister transporter, the “White Hilton,” the blue version was also used to transport the powerful, championship-winning Porsche 917s that dominated the landscape of the Can-Am Series in the early 1970s with drivers George Follmer and Donohue before it was sold in 1983. (Penske can be seen in the photo at top overseeing work on one of the Porsches from the 1970s).
“After we confirmed that it was, in fact, the Blue Hilton that was for sale, I called Brian Hard (president of Penske Truck Leasing) and we agreed that we had to find a way to bring her back to life,” said Tim Cindric, Team Penske president. “This transporter was there when the foundation was laid for Team Penske and it is symbolic of the way in which we operate today. Everyone at PTL did an unbelievable job restoring this vehicle. I can’t wait for Roger to see it in person, as it is something he will cherish.”
The Blue Hilton helped change the landscape of auto racing, as it was the precursor to today’s massive, closed transporters that carry cars, parts and equipment to racetracks all over the globe. With his keen engineering mind, Donohue designed the payload area of the truck based on efficiency and functionality. It was aptly named the Blue Hilton based on its royal blue exterior and the sleeper area above the cab, which is a standard feature in today’s transporters.
Until Jerry Breon, a long-time Penske team member, located the sales listing in an automotive trade magazine in the fall of 2015, the truck was thought to have been scrapped. It was purchased from George Boyd of Urbana, Illinois, who had utilized it while competing in various racing series until retiring it to a spot on his property. He was the only owner of the truck after its days at Team Penske.
After verification and removal from the Boyd property, the Blue Hilton was towed to the Penske Truck Leasing Collision Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the restoration began with the help of Donohue’s original blueprints. With assistance from Morgan Corporation, the restoration took more than 8,000 man-hours to complete.
“When you talk with the crew members that drove and worked out of this transporter over those years and you look at the photos from the many cars it carried, you see how the Blue Hilton was an integral part of our history,” said Bernie King, Team Penske historian. “It’s certainly very much a part of the Team Penske heritage. Everyone at Penske Truck Leasing that was involved did a fantastic job of restoring this truck to how it was when it ran and carried many of the team’s winning cars.”
The Blue Hilton will initially be on display at Team Penske headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina, where fans can view it from the Fan Walk that runs the length of the massive shop floor.