Back in 1972 Bobby Ferro had been racing off-road since he was a teenager, but on motorcycles. He started working as a mechanic at Baja racer Bud Ekins’ motorcycle shop, and soon became a very accomplished two-wheeled racer.
But an all-expense paid trip in 1967 to Vietnam interrupted that, and after two years serving in the Army’s 1st Infantry Division (and two Tet Offensives), Ferro returned home and got back to racing by winning the 1970 World Hare and Hound Championship. The win shocked many in the motorcycle industry.
Always looking for another way to go fast, he bought a Wampuskitty buggy and went racing in the 1970 Baja 500 and 1000. He bought parts at the Sandmaster shop in North Hollywood, and soon got to know the owners, Scott McKenzie and Don Arnett. They soon asked him to join the Sandmaster race team.
They put him in their newest creation, a modified Funco SS-1, and entered him in the Baja 1000 in 1971 in which he took Second overall to Parnelli Jones. Ferro was 17 minutes behind, but was driving a VW buggy with four cylinders and hundreds of horsepower less than PJ.
He won overall in 1971 at the Baja 500 driving solo, which was a new innovation. Up until that time all entries had at least two drivers.
But it was the 1972 Baja 500 that was Bobby’s greatest off-road achievement and his favorite race. “Sandmaster had two entries in the Baja 500 that year. Arnett gave me the crappiest number—number 293—and gave the other starting position (117) to Johnson. It was almost 5 p.m. before I started. Boy, was I pissed off, from the start all the way to the finish,” Bobby revealed.
Right off the start, Ferro went all out, passing cars at will. “Anger has power,” said Ferro, and he used all that power from the Ensenada start, down to Rancho Chapala, then turned north to San Felipe, and all the way back to Ensenada, the finish line.
To the astonishment of the dozen or so racers who had already finished, some who were out celebrating (because of their good starting numbers), Ferro came blazing into Ensenada at 3:49 AM with the best time of 10 hours 56 minutes and was declared the winner soon after finishing. “Honey, you won!” Ferro’s wife informed him.
As the NORRA official report of the race stated, “Perhaps even more outstanding than Bobby’s two Baja 500 wins in a row is that he did it this time with starting position 293. The experts will tell you that winning any of the Baja races with such a high starting number is impossible, but Bobby left tire marks all over this theory.” Who could argue that this race was one of the greatest off-road racing performances up to that time and maybe ever?
Postscript:Ferro quit off-road racing in the early ’80s, save for an occasional guest drive for a car owner here and there. “I was just tired of it,” he said. He moved onto Trans-Am racing for a couple seasons with George Fulmer and the Javelin team, and then into open-wheeled Formula 5000 cars with David Hobb’s team. He drove in over 100 car commercials, and did stunt work for movies like Earthquake starring Charlton Heston.
Ferro, at age 69, can be seen every weekend at Perris Speedway, where he drives his Sprint Car, usually racking up a win. He’s currently thinking about putting together a Spec-truck for off-road racing. Racers, beware!