Testudo II: An Amazing Creature

Champions All
“Champions All” in Hornbake Library

All Terps are familiar with the bronze statues of our mascot Testudo that dot the campus, as well as the brown, furry Testudo who entertains the crowds at athletic and other campus events. Then, of course, there’s also the gaily decorated turtles that remain from the university’s 150th anniversary celebration in 2006 sprinkled here and there, including the UMD Archives’ very own “Champions All” here in Hornbake:

Many members of the campus community even know that the real Testudo, the live diamondback terrapin that was used as the model for the original bronze statue, the one that stands in front of McKeldin Library, has been taxidermied and mounted on a board and resides in the University Archives.

Real Testudo head on

But perhaps the most amazing representation of Testudo was the mobile version known as Testudo II.

mechanical testudo_1968 yearbook
Image of Testudo II from the 1968 Terrapin yearbook.

This crazy creature, constructed in 1965, was the brainchild of the Student Government Association. The Executive Committee was looking for ways to increase school spirit on campus and allocated $3400 from SGA’s annual budget to fund the project. Some members of the campus community initially objected to the cost, deeming the project a waste of money, but student leaders pushed ahead, and Testudo II made his debut at a pep rally and bonfire on December 3, 1965, the night before the annual football game with rival Penn State and the home opener for the men’s basketball team vs. Wake Forest.

Testudo II DBK 12 06 1965_crop
Coverage of Testudo II’s debut from the December 6, 1965, Diamondback.

He made his first appearance on national television the following day at the football game, when he rode around the track inside Byrd Stadium at halftime.

Testudo II was 15 feet long and approximately 6 feet high, and his shell measured 10 feet across. The firm Art Designer’s, Inc., in Arlington, VA, constructed the terrapin, which was water-proof, using a Triumph TR-3 roadster as the base. They chose this vehicle since it was lower to the ground than a Volkswagon Beetle or a Fiat, the original possibilities, and had a better frame and acceleration.

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Following his December 1965 debut, Testudo II continued to appear at local events like Homecoming and even traveled on the road with the Terps, appearing, for example, in the Oyster Bowl parade in Norfolk, VA, in 1968 and the Peach Bowl parade in Atlanta, GA, in 1973.

Mechanical Testudo_1973 Peach Bowl_Betsy Turner
Testudo II in the parade for the December 28, 1973, Peach Bowl.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to determine the fate of this fabulous creation, but we assume he disappeared sometime in the 1970s. If any of our readers know what happened to Testudo II, please let us know at umdarchives@umd.edu, or leave us a comment here on Terrapin Tales.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic to re-create this amazing Testudo? Come on, students in the Clark School of Engineering, we challenge you to make this happen! We bet you could even get some support from Maryland Athletics…

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