That headline pretty much covers it. We were down in Baja, California, Mexico for the 2015 running of the Mexican 1000. This is not the SCORE Baja 1000. This is the Baja 1000’s drunk cousin, who makes the party so much more fun. This is what the Baja 1000 was like in 1968, when it was still the Mexican 1000, and this new Mexican 1000 (running since around 2010, when Mike Perlman, son of the original founder, Ed Perlman, decided to start a vintage off-road rally on the Baja Peninsula) features a ton of vintage buggies, trucks, cars, and bikes, tearing through 1,300 miles of desert and Mexican highway from Ensenada to San Jose Del Cabo.
Baja is a truck-lover’s paradise, every small town is home to Chevy C-10s of all eras, Frankensteined Fords and Dodge D-series, not to mention all the Ramchargers, since they were produced here until, like, yesterday [Editor’s note, Dodge produced the Ramcharger in Mexico until 1996]. There are old pick-ups behind shacks and toppling fences, and even better, there are old pick-ups still in action, hauling livestock and cactus and race fans, the latter eager for stickers and signatures from the off-roaders at the rally stage exits.
Every truck on the street told a story in its dings and dents, and every truck in the race was rapidly making its own story (and dings and dents). One of our favorites included the 1983 Bronco with famous off-road racer Walker Evans’ signature on the tailgate. Apparently Mr. Evans was a little impatient to get by the Bronco in the previous year’s race. Oh yeah, did we mention the Bronco wasn’t racing? It was just the pace truck that year! Walker signed the damaged rear, and offered to pay for repairs.
Getting a love tap from a legend is small potatoes in the Mexican 1000. Augie and Nathan lost the whole front end of their ride, towed it out of the dirt, found a mechanic and were back in action to cross the finish line. Bruce Galien didn’t get his 351 Cleveland powered 19’68 Ford to the end after it blew a head gasket, but he did keep all the body panels straight, which is more than we can say for the “Big Oly” Bronco, which did a bit of summersaulting on the second day, and lost the front diff cover on the third, but still made it to the end, and even pulled some other competitors out of the silt. Maybe all the racers should have taken notes from Sue Mead and Shelby Hall, who took the 19’69 Motor Trend Bronco through the desert in the same pristine condition as it started the race in. They weren’t alone of course, Chris Collard and Shelby’s grandfather, a fellow named Rod Hall (you might notice his name on the fender…from back in 1969) also took good care of the museum piece on its journey.
Between the racers, the locals, and the school busses-turned-car haulers, the Mexican 1000 is truly trucker’s heaven, even if it is a little hard on the trucks themselves. Scroll on through and see for yourself.