Brothers, Broncos & Baja - Race Prepping for the NORRA Mexican 1000Posted in Events on July 25, 2016
Two brothers had a childhood dream of someday racing in Baja. The Herman brothers, Paul and George, are off-road addicts and have been since they grew up running the desert in their mom's '79 Scout. Their love of back-country exploration grew and each acquired a classic Bronco. Paul's yellow Bronco is a 1972 model, while George's red and black one is a 1971 vintage. Over the years, the brothers have built their rigs bigger and better, duplicating some performance paths yet choosing unique, personalized modifications in many other areas.
Rob Bonney of Rob Bonney Fabrication in Phoenix has done much of the fabrication work on these two steeds, and they were built mostly as performance rock-crawlers that can move fast too. They both run high-horsepower, fuel-injected Ford 392ci V-8 engines, NV4500 manual transmissions, and low-geared Atlas II transfer cases. Bonney did his magic with the tube work and built custom linked suspensions on both to support Currie 9-inch axles. He placed King coilover and bypass shocks at each corner.
The two Broncos underwent hundreds of hours of prep and testing.
With some fun trail running and crawling under their belts, the Hermans began to wonder if it was time to rekindle that dream of running down Baja. As it turned out, George was able to complete the NORRA Mexican 1000 race in 2015 with Paul along for chase duties. The race bug bit fully, and both Paul and George made plans to run the 2016 race.
While George's Bronco had been modified for racing the past year, Paul's had not. There was plenty of work to do to convert this Bronco to meet the NORRA rule book guidelines. With an enthusiastic crew of volunteer friends, both brothers set out to prep the Broncos for the peninsula trek.
Maybe you too have a dream of running a race in Baja, or maybe something shorter. Ever wonder what's involved in taking a trail rig and modifying it to race-ready condition? The Hermans did just that to see how they could fare tackling an adventure of nearly 1400 miles running from Ensenada to the finish in San José del Cabo at the far south tip.
With narrowed bodies, these Broncos are practically open-wheel rigs. After a lot of work, it was finally time to run through contingency and tech inspection in Ensenada, and take these Broncos down the Baja Peninsula.
Over the years these Broncos have morphed to use mostly a tube chassis with a well-designed cage structure. Paul's Bronco is set up with a third seat in the rear for a passive rider known as the "meat puppet". Shocks were sent out to King for a rebuild and a few valving tweaks.
Bonney had fabricated some trick straps to secure Paul's fuel cell, but was concerned about holding down all the liquid weight over long stretches of rough terrain. He added some backbone ribs to the straps to keep the cell better secured.
Previously, the rear seat on Paul's rig sat in an open cage structure. Bonney added removable aluminum panels all around this seating area, including panels separating the seat from the fuel cell behind it. Later, high-density foam padding was added to cage bars where a helmet might be at risk of hitting a tube.
With final preps nearly complete. The Hermans took a day to run a few desert trails in the Phoenix area the week before the Mexican 1000. These Broncos were initially built for trail running and rock crawling, but are now equipped with horsepower and hardware to romp faster over rough terrain. Despite the high-horsepower engines, they still crawl well at low speeds with NV4500 manual trannies and Atlas II transfer cases.
It was satisfying to see all the prep work had paid off and both Broncos got the stamp of approval from the NORRA officials. It was an interesting learning experience and start to the adventure.