The sport of desert racing is one of the most grueling motorsports on the planet. No matter how well a machine is engineered and built, it is just a matter of luck as to how long it will survive the brutal desert. Most race vehicles live to race five seasons and then are sold off with the notion that they are too beat up to withstand extreme conditions and to continue to perform in the desert. This month's prerunner is here to prove the racing community wrong.
For more than 10 years, Scott Steinberger has been slowly climbing the ranks of desert race vehicles and has finally reached the top -- the Trophy Truck. Starting with Mini Mags in the late Eighties and early Nineties, Scott began his racing career. In 1993, he jumped up to Class 7s and then Pro Truck in 1997. After winning the points championship in 2001 for the SCORE Pro Truck division and fifth Baja 1000 victory, Scott decided that he was ready to get behind the wheel of a Trophy Truck.
In late 2001, Scott purchased one of the first Trophy Trucks ever built: a '93 Russ Wernimont creation that was built for Jimmy Smith and made its desert debut as a Class 1 vehicle toward the end of the 1993 season. When the 1994 season began, SCORE developed the Trophy Truck Class, where the truck has been running ever since.
For the next four years, Jimmy Smith drove the truck before selling it off to Terrible Herbst Motorsports in 1996. There, Mike Smith went to work modifying the truck to suit the aggressive driving style of team Herbst. In 1999, the Herbsts sold the truck to the Internet company Excite.com, which ran the truck for one race, the Baja 2000. Soon after the race, Excite.com decided to put the truck up for sale, and in 2001, Scott Steinberger of PCI Race Radios in Long Beach, California, purchased the old beauty.
During its travels from owner to owner, the truck has undergone a variety of modifications. To start, Mike Smith of Terrible Herbst Motorsports increased the 4130 chrome-moly tube chassis' front and rear suspension travel by 3 inches, bringing it to 24 inches in the front and 30 inches in the rear. Next on the modifications list was new shocks. In the front, Mike Smith's own coilover and 4-inch bypass shocks, with three rebound and three compression adjustment tubes, are mounted up to the front A-arm suspension. Smith also swapped the original upper A-arm for a stronger, lighter one-piece, machined Billet aluminum upper control arm.
In the rear, Mike Smith's coilover shocks and six-tube 4-inch bypass shocks can be seen attached to the trailing arms of the four-link suspension. Although these major changes to the suspension were created, two vital components in the original suspension remain, the adjustable antisway bar and the cantilever secondary suspension.
First, the adjustable antisway bar, controlled by a lever in the cab, is a unique design that allows the driver to engage and disengage the bar to best suit the needs of the constantly changing driving conditions. For instance, when the truck is traveling through a rough whoop section, the sway bar is disengaged, freeing up the rear suspension and allowing the truck to be guided through the area easier and faster. In corners, the bar is engaged to eliminate some of the unwanted body roll, giving the driver more control throughout the turns.
The second part of the original suspension that is still in use is the rear cantilever system on the trailing arms. This cantilever system, with a Mike Smith shock attached to it, serves as a heavy-duty bumpstop as the rear suspension compresses, but since there is no rebound in the system, the suspension droops out faster upon rebound. This secondary suspension comes in handy when the truck is driven at high speeds in big whoop sections.
With the killer suspension this truck possesses, the TIG-welded chassis has been subject to breakage from all the aggressive driving over the years. To help eliminate frame failure, the Excite.com owners had Derrick Collins perform the cross-bracing that can be seen throughout the chassis. By cutting the triangles on the chassis into smaller ones, the breakage occurrences have been reduced.For power, Scott's Trophy Truck is propelled by a 442ci Ford V-8 built by Ron Shaver. Harnessing the 750 horses the engine puts out is a Steve Culhane modified T-400 transmission. From there, a 10-inch Chrisman rearend with 5.43:1 gears spins the 37x12.50R17 BFGoodrich Baja T/A KR tires mounted on 17x8-inch Ultra bead-locked wheels.
Giving his truck an updated look, Scott has a 2000 Ford F-150 fiberglass body from Mike McQueen Prototype Designs in Hermosa Beach, California. The alluring paint, flames, and lightning bolt design, a characteristic that has been on every race vehicle owned by Scott, was sprayed on by Wachter Paint Designs, using Sikkens paint. The resulting finish is drool-worthy.
Although the truck is old, it has won more than nine SCORE races and two SCORE Trophy Truck point championships. Combine this with the numerous victories and point championships Scott Steinberger has under his belt and this old desert beauty is sure to return to the winner's circle in no time. So far in the 2002 season, Scott has steered his truck to a Fourth Place finish in his first race in Laughlin and a Second Place finish in San Felipe. It's just a matter of time before Scott gets used to driving the truck and getting some victories.