40 Years To Glory - Happy Birthday Baja 1000!

40 Years Of Racing In Mexico's Baja Peninsula

Jerrod JonesPhotographer, WriterDrew HardinWriterMarty FiolkaWriter

It's been 40 years since the first of the annual races down the Baja Peninsula, and we bet guys like Ron Bishop and Rod Hall can barely believe it. We can barely believe these guys are still doing it! Talk about hardcore! Imagine getting to race in every single Baja 1000 (or Mexican 1000 Rally as it was originally known) race since the beginning and still doing it to this day.

By the time you read this you will already know who won, but two months before 2007's 40th Baja 1000 race took place, Marty Fiolka worked with SCORE to make a truly memorable party and event to commemorate some of the people and technology that made off-road desert racing what it is today. Not only were some of the greatest names in racing history attending the 40 Years to Glory event, there were also some of the most groundbreaking and memorable race vehicles that ever participated in the Baja 1000.

Sal Fish received the honors he deserved (and a new Touareg from Volkswagen) as the president and backbone of SCORE who keeps this great race going. Originally hired on by Mickey Thompson, Sal Fish has been president of SCORE for the last 33 years, and he shows no intentions of leaving for another 30 years.

Happy birthday, Baja 1000, and thanks to you, Sal, for making the SCORE race series what it is today!

This is Vic Hickey and George Hurst's famous Baja Boot. Actually it's the second of two Baja Boots (the second version being built in 1968). It was revolutionary for its time with a 112-inch wheelbase, four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel drive, four-wheel Hurst disc brakes, and custom-made Goodyear 36-inch racing tires. Hickey was a senior engineer at GM, and one could make a claim that the Boot came from the best of GM's skunkworks in the late '60s. Though it did not win the Mexican 1000 in 1967, it did go on to win the Baja 500 in 1969. In 1970, Steve McQueen bought and raced the Baja Boots with his friend, Bud Ekins.

The Ironman himself drove this sweet ride. Toyota and MCI-backed Ivan Stewart built two Tundras in 1998. Ivan went on win both the Baja 1000 and Baja 500 that year, and the Baja 500 the next year. It was a huge success for Toyota's new race Tundras, and more victories for the Ironman.

Big Oly came out of Bill Stroppe's shop but was really the brainchild of Parnelli Jones and one of Stroppe's fabricators, Dick Russell. Stroppe at first resisted the idea of building a tube-chassis vehicle with Bronco skins because it wouldn't be a true Bronco. Jones and Russell would eventually move Big Oly from Russell's garage to Bill Stroppe's shop, and Stroppe eventually accepted the idea. It won the Baja 1000 in 1971 and 1972.

According to party officials, this is actually a replica of the Bruce Meyers-built Meyers Manx, "Old Red," but you'd never know it was a copy by looking at it. Vic Wilson and Ted Mangels drove a Meyers Manx to win the first Mexican 1000 in 1967 and forever locked in the Manx's fame in off-road racing.

You can thank forerunners like this for how well your new truck performs today. It was the lessons learned in Baja by factory-backed teams that led vehicle manufacturers to improve suspensions and drivetrains. In 1973, Four Wheeler staff writer Bill Sanders and Pete Springer got the crazy idea to enter the Baja 1000 with one of Toyota's Land Cruisers fueled by an Impco propane conversion kit. Sanders and Springer not only finished the race but ended up winning the 1973 Baja 1000.

This '59 Ford Edsel was one of the most peculiar race vehicles to ever race in 1972 and 1973 Baja races. It was prepped and built as a customer car by Bill Stroppe and was recently restored to its original racing luster.