Walter Prince

Walter Prince

People

Prince got into off-road racing in 1974, when a friend asked him to run a pit in SCORE International's first Baja race. He did and was immediately hooked on the beauty of the land and the excitement of the race. When he returned home from Baja, he bought a used dune buggy from Stan Parnell, joined the Checkers Off-Road Race Team, and started racing.

When SCORE International established a Driver Representative system in the late 1970s, Prince was elected as the Class 2 Representative. He sent a survey form to every driver in the class after every race, and carefully compiled a list of problems experienced during that competition. The results were sent to every driver and resulted in many modifications the helped racers and fabricators build stronger buggies.

In 1979, SCORE and NORRA both announced they would be sponsoring that year's Baja 1000, about a week apart.  While racers were scratching their heads trying to determine which promoter actually had the blessing of the Mexican government, Prince ran advertisements announcing the creation of the first 'Baja 1001 In-Between Race', which would run backward from La Paz to Ensenada "in-between" the other two races.  The highlight of the race was the establishment of a brand-new Reverse-Gear Only Class, where every car was required to have at least two rear-view mirrors.  Prince not only claimed he won the fictitious race but he was also presented with a surprise trophy by Sal Fish at the SCORE International awards ceremony, honoring "The World's Most Backwards Driver in the World's Most Unusual Race".

It wasn't always fun and games, however. One year the racecourse in Baja, between Mike's Sky Ranch and the Pacific Ocean, had to cross two ranches belonging to the Meling family, who had their fill of broken fences and torn-up roads caused by careless pre-runners. Although the local government had promised to repair all damage to the roads and fences, the repairs never happened. The Meling sisters, Aida and Mary, then banished the racers from their properties and at a certain point stood at the entry to one of their 2000-acre ranches with shotguns in hand, turning back all pre-runners who got within shooting range.  When news of the problem reached the racing community, Prince drove to the ranch from Los Angeles, listened to the complaints of the sisters, and handed Aida $1,000 in cash to fix her fences and roads.  A few weeks later he and SCORE International's Sal Fish drove to the ranch with 50 fluorescent plastic 'sleeves' that could be slipped over the fence poles to make them more visible to the racers.  The sisters were satisfied that their concerns were being addressed, and lifted the ban on racers.

Prince is perhaps best known for his Great Candy Cane Off-Road Race Team. The Great Candy Cane off-road car, with its unmistakable red and white striped candy cane paint job and candy cane shaped wing was known for blaring marching music and Sammy Davis singing 'The Candy Man' from a 200-decibel loudspeaker during race contingency and even during races. Team members tossed thousands of individually wrapped candy canes to spectators during every Baja pre-run and race. They also spent many pre-run hours at local ranches and schools where youngsters would delight in hearing the music and seeing the colorful red and white striped race car with the huge candy canes bolted to the roof.  

When SCORE International published the first issue of SCORE magazine in August 1988, the feature personality profile was titled, "Candy Cane Off-Road Jester is Really a Prince."  The Jester was Walter Prince, then a 53-year-old-buggy driver who was "in the running for the unofficial 'No Win Award', an honor he captured for 11 straight years without winning a nickel in off-road racing."  Prince continued to race with no money wins for a full 25 years, until the time he retired from driving after the legendary Baja 2000, a 2000-mile version of the Baja 1000 held in the year 2000.

Safety of the participants has always been an important issue with Prince, and since retiring from racing, he has been working on compiling a list of all GPS locations (Latitude & Longitude coordinates) for every KM post and all known access roads in Baja.  When complete and field-tested, he will make it available for everyone, including emergency and race personnel, and then the racers themselves.

Walter "Candy Cane" Prince is a U.S. Army veteran, has written two non-fiction books, is a Life member of the American Water Ski Assn., and in 1999 was honored with an Award of Distinction by the Water Ski Hall of Fame.  As for off-road racing, his philosophy is simply, "If it ain't lotsa fun, don't do it."

 

Last updated: March 14, 2022

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