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Robby Gordon's Custom Dual-Purpose Sand Car/Prerunner - One Baja

Posted in Features on February 1, 2006
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Off-road racing is not for the faint of heart. In fact, anyone who has ever driven past 20 mph on a dirt road will attest to that. One of the most commonly heard questions by passengers who have been on one of these rides of doom goes something like this, "Who do you think you are? Robby Gordon?"

Yes, it's common knowledge that Robby Gordon can pretty much drive the wheels and then some off of anything that has a motor and across virtually every discipline of racing: IndyCar, IRL, SCORE, and NASCAR. So when it comes time to mix business with pleasure, it should come as no surprise that the NASCAR Nextel Cup team owner and driver has built one of the most advanced and detailed cars to ever see the dunes.

What has been classified as a dual-purpose vehicle by Team Gordon race manager, Jay Hooker, is really a 405hp UMI Corvette Z-06-powered V-8 dune rocket that doubles as Gordon's prerunner for the SCORE Baja 500 and 1000 races. The chassis of the car is made from 0.083-, 0.095,- and 1.75-inch 4130 chromoly tubing that has been powdercoated for both durability and aesthetics. Mounted to the chassis are numerous tabs and mounting brackets for the myriad performance parts and Lawson Products hardware, including the custom-built 0.250-inch 6061 T6 aluminum RGR skidplate and side bars.

The heart of the car rests in its suspension system, both front and rear. Knowing that the car would be subjected to surfaces other than the soft, absorbing sand of the dunes, Team Gordon constructed a suspension that would withstand the rigors of a Baja racecourse and still be able to provide 23 inches of rear suspension travel and 20 inches of front suspension travel. To accomplish this task, all of the suspension components were custom-fabricated and gusseted for the ultimate in durability. Massive 1-1/2-inch FK Heim joints tie the entire suspension together, while custom-valved, Eibach spring-equipped Race Runner 3.0 coilover shocks with reservoirs handle the dampening duties of the car. Tasked with making sure that the 405hp car goes where it's told, a Howe Performance 1.5:1 ratio power steering system and power pulley were installed. Steering feedback to the driver is delivered via a custom-fabricated steering column with a tilt function and built-in turn-signal arm. A custom-stitched MOMO race wheel has also been installed. To provide additional steering and turning while in the sand, a CNC cutting brake rests in the center console just below the Fortin shifter. In addition to the cutting brake, custom 12-inch drilled, vented, and slotted Robby Gordon Motor-sports/KarTeck disc brakes reside at all four corners and are controlled by a CNC master cylinder and plumbed with Alpha Performance fittings, hardware, and lines.

Since the car does serve dual purposes, there are two sets of wheel and tire combinations available that can be mated up to the custom Robby Gordon Motorsports/KarTeck hubs at a moment's notice. The first set are race-ready BFGoodrich Baja T/A radials with matching 17-inch Robby Gordon Race Wheels, while the second set is dedicated to the dunes and consists of 15-inch Douglas wheels wrapped with 33-15 Sand Tires Unlimited San Blaster paddle tires in the rear, while the front set consists of 16-inch Douglas wheels wrapped with BFGoodrich 10.00-16 smoothies.

PhotosView Slideshow

As previously mentioned, the power to the car is delivered via a UMI Corvette Z-06 V-8 that creates a staggering 405 hp, and that's without engaging the nitrous system that has been installed for those sudden bursts of power while charging up a sand hill. The ability to maintain the consistency of 405 hp while in the adverse terrain, heat, and conditions that the Team Gordon crew regularly face is directly attributed to the numerous performance products that help support the powerplant. Custom-fabricated and -bent Bassani headers and mufflers assist the fuel-injected V-8 with breathing duties.A Rancho Transmission-massaged Mendeola five-speed manual transmission translates the power from the engine to the tires through GKN 934 CV joints that have been race-prepped and Sway-A-Way axles. Cooling duties were addressed by the implementation of a custom Ron Davis aluminum radiator mounted high above the engine that contains a built-in heat exchanger. Dual 16-inch Spal electric fans are piggybacked onto the radiator to assist with additional cooling. To get the party started, gel-filled Optima batteries have been anchored into place.

Since the car makes the occasional trips into Mexico, the fuel-injection system remained stock so that the car could be filled at the local PEMEX station without any complications. The 38-gallon fuel tank is nestled directly behind the rear bucket seats and in front of the engine. The shell of the tank consists of custom-shaped and -welded 0.063-inch aluminum and has been equipped with a custom-made Fuel-Safe fuel cell.

The interior of the car is all business, starting at the custom-fabricated aluminum dashboard and ending at the aluminum CNC pedals. Mounted with surgical precision in the dashboard is a bevy of Auto Meter Pro Comp Ultra-Lite gauges that tell a complete story on the car's vital signs at any given moment.Once seated in the one of four custom-stitched JetTrim seats and strapped in via the five-point Simpson race harnesses, one begins to notice that the creature comforts of home are just an arm's length away, which is the exact distance from the Sirius-equipped Clarion Pro-Audio head unit, iCom race radio, Lowrance Baja 6000 Color GPS System, and TerraTrip 303 rally race computer. All communication equipment for the car has been integrated into the occupant's helmets care of PCI Racing Radios. Hella HID and LED lights have been installed at various locations throughout the car, including courtesy map lights in the headliner area, the headlights, and the taillights.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the car is that it is street-legal in Arizona, which loosely translated means you could pull up to your favorite watering hole or home-improvement center in it. Like we said earlier, when you're the best in the business you have only the best and that includes a certain dual-purpose, street-legal car that would whip circles around anything in its vicinity.

Special thanks to the crew (Kyle and Brian) at Robby Gordon Off Road in Anaheim, California, for their assistance, as well as to Team Gordon's legendary race team manager, Jay Hooker, for the early morning photo shoot and unlimited assistance. Just a few more examples of what makes the Team Gordon organization the best in the business.


Robby Gordon

Custom dual-purpose sand car/prerunner

UMI Corvette Z-06 V-8, 405 hp

Five-speed Mendeola

Custom-fabricated with Eibach spring coilover Race Ready 3.0 shocks

Suspension travel (in.):
2o (front); 23 (rear)

Sand Tires Unlimited Sand Blasters (rear); BFGoodrich (front)


Clarion Pro-Audio Radio, Terra Trip Rally Computer, iCom Race Radio, PCI Racing Radios, Spal Electric Fans, Ron Davis Custom Radiator, Disc brakes, Auto Meter gauges, Fuel-Safe fuel cell

PhotosView Slideshow

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