Author:Craig Peronne Photos:Boyd Jaynes
Way back in the early planning stages of Dirt Sports, we decided to take a step that, at the time, was rather radical. The norm for magazine features then was to take a vehicle out in the dirt, snap a few photographs of it, maybe huck it off a jump or two and be done. While that was all fine and dandy for what it was, something about it just didn’t sit right with us. After all, if someone was going to spend huge sums of money on crafting a piece of motorsports exotica, along with investing untold hours of labor in its creation, plopping it out in the dirt for a few minutes just didn’t seem to do it justice. Instead of a location somewhere in the desert, the idea was hatched to bring our feature vehicles inside of a studio. There they could be professionally shot by our trusted photographer Boyd Jaynes with much better results than any outdoor session could ever produce. All of it was an effort to portray the best in desert, short-course and rock racing machinery in a more in-depth and beautiful-looking fashion, something we felt they duly deserved. Aptly named Masterpiece In Metal, the section quickly became the cornerstone of this magazine and something every reader looked forward to. It is also a staff favorite as every month we get to take an up close look at some absolutely beautiful vehicles. With 100 of them now shot, we have definitely developed some favorites over the years. While all of them are special, and it was extremely hard to narrow down our list, what follows is a look at some of our favorite Masterpieces in Metal.
SCRAPPER August 2004 Issue #1
In our very first issue we hit the proverbial ball right out of the park with an exclusive look at Jon Nelson’s Scrapper moon buggy. Professional rock crawling was all the rage at the time and Nelson had just turned that world upside down with his original Tiny moon buggy. Previously, most competition crawlers were more traditional Jeep-based units with high centers of gravity and stock frames. Nelson’s Tiny changed all that with its ultra-low stance, lack of weight and VW power plant. Scrapper was an evolution of that design using air shocks for even more weight savings and a shorter, more maneuverable chassis. After its creation, if you wanted to be competitive in the top tier of rock crawling, you had to have a moon buggy.
TIME WARP May 2006 Issue #17
Old-school Fords have always caught our eye and John Yeiser’s 1969 Ford F-100 had our jaws on the floor when we first saw it. As if the beautiful custom body that kept the lines of the original while allowing room for significantly more wheel travel wasn’t enough, under the hood was found a Ford 460 cubic-inch big-block V8. And, just in case that wasn’t enough either, the big-block was outfitted with twin turbos with adjustable boost, allowing the big V8 to produce 1,000 horsepower and 1,000 lb-ft. of torque when turned fully up. A radical suspension with 26 inches of front wheel travel and 36 inches in the rear, along with a beautiful interior, further set it off.
TROPHY-TRUCK REDEFINED January February 2009 Issue #49
The Trophy-Truck class has always been governed by very few rules, letting fabricators build what they please. However, the Volkswagen Touareg Trophy-Truck pushed that concept even further. Built at Arciero Miller Racing with the guidance of Don Tebbe, Trevor Harris, Ryan Arciero and Mark Miller, the Volkswagen factory effort was a radical one using a 5.5L V12 turbo diesel as its power plant. All kinds of trick parts and custom goodness were hidden under its hand-built fiberglass body and aluminum panels, making it a proper factory racer. Sadly, the exotic creation was quickly mothballed when Volkswagen pulled out of desert racing only a few short months after it was finished.
GOLDEN ICON November 2007 Issue #35
This was one of those moments in Masterpiece In Metal history when we were completely awestruck. Big Oly has had so much significance in the history of our sport and now the original was actually here in our studio. At first it seemed weird even to touch it, but then we finally got to work photographing it. What was the original Trophy-Truck of its time, with its radical wing, tube chassis and custom body, was still just as awe-inspiring almost four decades after its original introduction. It was simply awesome to be around it.
MILLION DOLLAR MONSTER April 2008 Issue #40
Other Americans had entered the fabled Dakar Rally before, but when Robby Gordon decided to take a stab at it many heads were turned. Helping to cause much of that whiplash was Gordon’s radical new $1,000,000 Hummer that was built to take on 16 days of some of the most rugged terrain that Africa had to offer. Gordon’s Hummer would actually never set foot in Africa as the race that year was cancelled over concerns of terrorism. However, it would definitely make its mark when the Dakar was relocated to South America, helping to make Gordon the first American ever to win a stage of the Dakar.
THE HYBRID May 2009 Issue #51
If there is one mad genius of the Dirt Sports Nation, it is truly Shannon Campbell. Seemingly able to pump out new creations faster than the Octomom, Campbell holds the record for appearances in Masterpiece in Metal, and it’s not just because we like the guy. Rather, it is because he is not afraid to take chances and push the envelope with radical new designs. Among them was this rock racer that was half moon buggy and half Class 1, built specifically to win King of the Hammers. While many vehicles sport four-wheel-drive IFS setups now, Campbell helped pave the way back in 2009 with the racer we aptly named the Hybrid.
NEW SCHOOL RETRO VW August 2009 Issue # 54
2009 was a very good year for Masterpiece In Metal, producing not only the radical Volkswagen Touareg Trophy-Truck and Cambell’s IFS rock racer, but also Nick Tiedemann’s beautiful Baja Bug. While way less radical than the aforementioned, it was just as beautiful in its own way and showed that one doesn’t have to have insanely deep pockets to have fun in the desert. And, of course, it is a perfect example of the vehicle that helped make desert racing into what it is today.
RADICAL RAPTOR June 2011 Issue #76
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Tiedemann’s Baja Bug, and requiring pockets so deep they wouldn’t fit on any pants known to mankind, is Stewart Raceworks’ insane luxury prerunner. Built for the Weyrich brothers, the custom body slathered in Lamborghini Murcielago yellow (called Giallo Orion) covers a tube chassis that is essentially just as capable as a Trophy-Truck, but with all the creature comfort of a modern luxury car. Of course, it also features every high-end component available and, like all Stewart Raceworks’ vehicles, is absolutely beautiful in its construction and detail. It filled us with serious lust and had us checking eBay to see if it was legal to auction off our first-born to raise money for one.
A TOYOTA TREASURE June 2012 Issue #88
One of the most recognized figures in the Dirt Sports Nation is undoubtedly Ivan “Ironman” Stewart, and the iconic truck that helped him achieve much of that fame is the 015 Toyota Trophy-Truck. A full Toyota factory effort, the 015 was built by the legendary Precision Preparation Inc. (PPI) in 1993 to replace the aging 010 truck. Last raced in the Score Baja 2000, the 015 was completely restored by owner Cal Wells with help from Tommy Morris and others. It was a must for us to shoot and, even two decades after its construction, it still bristles with technology and beautifully constructed, uber-exotic one-off parts.
THE NEXT LEVEL May 2013 Issue #97
We were curious to see the outcome of Penhall Fabrication’s Ultra4 build for BNMotorsports as it promised to blend the best of desert racing with the best of Ultra4. The beautiful results were worth the wait as it did exactly that, combining some very high-end desert components usually reserved for Trophy-Trucks in a unique, nimble package built to take on the varying and punishing terrain of King of the Hammers. Like Campbell’s hybrid IFS design before it, the Penhall/BNMotorsports racer raised the bar once again in what is the ever-changing world of Ultra4 racing.