The motorstorm of retro off-road awesomeness that is the NORRA Mexican 1000 takes over Baja next week. Among this year’s competitors is this badass Bronco; it won the race almost forty years ago, ended up a derelict in a desert junkyard, and is returning with a legendary driver and a fresh restoration.
National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA) co-founder Ed Pearlman came up with the idea for a point-to-point hard charge down the Baja peninsula in 1967. The Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame tells us; “Several time records had been set for the charge from the U.S. border at Tijuana to La Paz, but none involved multiple vehicles and side-by-side and handlebar-to-taillight competition, let alone a checkered flag at the end.”
A young racer named Rod Hall was in the starting grid at the inaugural Mexican 1000, and just two years later was finishing first in a Ford Bronco carrying a little tool bag and a cooler full of sandwiches his wife packed him. Hall kept killing it from there, and is now considered the most successful Baja driver in history by the Off-Road Motorsports Hall Of Fame.
I mean, Hall is the chairman of the Hall Of Fame, but the guy’s resume is insane: “ten-time winner of the Mint 400, ten-time winner of the Parker 400, 12-time winner of the Fireworks 250, 12-time winner of the Baja 500 and the only 17-time winner of the Baja 1000. Over the course of his racing career, Hall has won 14 major class points championships in production 4-Wheel Drive vehicles and well over 150 major events.”
Flash forward a few decades from that 1969 win and Hall’s still kicking ass in Baja, but his Bronco’s languishing in some desert junkyard.
So far all I’ve been able to figure out is that “somebody” recognized it, slapped a coat of paint on it, and donated it to the Hall Of Fame. “The strip-down revealed more than [we] were expecting,” they said. “The floorboards were rusting, the drivetrain was ready for a metal recycler, and the roll cage had deteriorated to the point that it was better suited as a coat rack.”
So Samco Fabrication in Sparks, Nevada was enlisted to rebuild the Bronco to its former glory and get it back up to compliance for this year’s Mexican 1000 race. Ford Performance provided a 347ci crate motor, Currie Enterprises supplied the axles, and Summit Racing Equipment and Tifco have provided a pallet of parts, accessories, and fittings.
The Ansen Sprint retro slot mag wheels come from American Racing, rolling on BFGoodrich KM2 tires. KC HiLiTES, Wild Horses 4x4, Fox Racing, and Mastercraft Safety have also helped finish off the build.
Samco succeeded at getting the Bronco back to battle-ready status, and this beast will be racing in Baja again next week- with septuagenarian Rod Hall at the wheel.
Automotive journalist and storied Rally competitor (class champion at Dakar) Sue Mead, along with Overland Journal Editor-in-Chief and all-around badass adventure dude Chris Collard will help Hall with navigation. Two Ford Raptor chase rigs will keep the race effort rolling with Steve Medley and Matt Hoey will leading the support effort.
“I’m 78 years old and I might not have to many races left in me. The guys are doing a great job on the restoration and it’s going to be fun to drive my old Bronco in Baja again,” says Hall.
This is just a taste of one of the awesome stories surrounding the Mexican 1000. I’ll be running all over the Baja peninsula myself this week trying to get great photos, video, and uncover even more interesting tales about all the insanity a vintage off-road race brings... so stay tuned!
Here’s the truck as spotted in Ensenada today; ready to head into tech inspection and start eating dirt!
Images via Trackside Photo and Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, used with permission. Last photo by the author.