The Mint 400, “the Great American Off-Road Race,” takes over Las Vegas in the second week of March. The 2016 edition is getting some real goodies, too; more vintage vehicles and an epic truck show where you can see (and rate!) all the insane vehicles people spend small fortunes on.
You might already know that racing vehicles are separated into different classes based on things like engine size, frame design, tire size and other factors that basically dictate the car’s capability. The idea there is to level the playing field somewhat, and create consistency while giving teams the opportunity to personalize. Except, of course, in the “Unlimited” class, which is basically just a nuclear arms race.
But desert truck culture gets a lot more diverse than what’s on the race course. There are support vehicles, fan vehicles and things called “pre-runners” playing big parts of the action.
Now fans and haters are going to get the opportunity to look at and judge the “background” rigs out there at the Rigid Roundup; basically a car show for desert dogs.
You’re going to see the list of entries populated between now and March 10th, and you can vote on your favorites which will win cash, tires, light bars and other toys.
Of course you can also talk smack about the awful ones. For some of you, that’s probably going to be more fun than looking for favorites.
There are official rules if you actually give a shit, but here’s a quick breakdown of the show categories. This is effectively a rundown of all the trucks you meet at a desert race.
Vintage: Anything from 1990 or older. Anything. Race car, support vehicle, lifted Radio Flyer.
Pre-Runners : A “pre-runner” is really any vehicle used to scout a race course before the event. This practice is called “pre-running” (get it?).
The setup is traditionally this: rear-wheel drive, lots of power, lots of suspension travel. A good one can run through a race course at a decent clip. The wealthiest teams will just use retired race cars for the job, but most pre-runners are just heavily modified street-legal pickup trucks.
The ideal “budget” pre-runner is a pickup with decent suspension, good tires and maybe 4WD to compensate for a lack of power. You can get pretty much any truck with off-road pretenses through most desert race courses, but the weaker your rig the longer it takes.
Anyway the Rigid Roundup’s definition of a Pre-Runner is street legal, truck body style, non-racer with working doors and windows.
Chase Trucks: A chase truck is a rolling tool shed. These are typically heavy duty pickups with utility beds, lots of drawers and boxes like a phone company vehicle. They move slowly and stay off race courses altogether unless absolutely necessary. That said, most are still decently off-road capable even if they’d have to move slow over rough terrain.
Trucks showing off in this class at the Rigid Roundup will have to be street legal and be actually used as a racing support vehicle.
Street Kings: What’s described as “off-road style show vehicles” by Rigid Industries is referred to by the rest of us as “bro trucks.”
Lots of bling and enormous suspension setups fitted for the sole purpose of accommodating ridiculously oversized wheels.
Some people spend a lot of money making their trucks look like off-road themed night clubs. It’s not for me, but if you dig it there should be plenty to see at the show!
1450 Class: For the purposes of the Rigid Roundup, this is just anything made to look like an actual race vehicle. Competitors can apply too, but you don’t have to be registered to legitimately “race ready” to show off in this slot. No VW Beetles, sadly.
You’ll find that most of the “off-road rigs” in the American southwest fall into one of those categories. Especially in the desert world.
Keep checking those entry lists and vote for your favorites! Winners will be announced on March 11th, the day before the 2016 Mint 400.
Images via Mint 400/Mad Media, the author, Monster Energy