With the way off-road land is getting shut down across the country, history like this will be common place in 30 years. We take a look back at the largest off-road race in the United States – The Mint 400. A race that began as a casino marketing stunt for the Mint Hotel and Casino.
The Mint 400 began in 1967, but brought something new to the event in 1970 with whiskey decanters to help commemorate the annual off-road race. That year Drino Miller, a 1978 inductee of the Off-Road Motorsports Hall Of Fame, won the Mint 400 co-driving the first single-seat racing buggy with Vic Wilson. They finished the course in 12:44:34.
The 1970 Mint 400 decanter with its big and bold "Mint 400" displayed on the front of the bottle.
Miller had first created the buggy after missing the deadline to attend law school classes. The buggy was something he created in a small garage using junkyard parts. Spending around $2,500 he first drove the vehicle placing second in the 1967 Mint 400.
Drino Miller piloting his single-seat buggy in 1970.
In a sport not known for it’s prize money, the 1970 Mint 400 had a $50,000 purse. Based on average inflation rates that purse in 2017 would have been over $300,000. The race grew every year and in 1970 had 287 participants.
Vehicles paraded from the Mint Hotel and Casino, in what is now considered Downtown Las Vegas, North to Tule Springs. Today’s course takes place on the polar opposite of where the first Mint 400s took place.
It can be argued that the Mint 400 is still the greatest off-road race in the world, but there is plenty of other competition nowadays.
Being able to see and hold the decanter from 1970, gives a feeling of what it would have been like to be in Vegas during this era of off-road racing. Because of the racers then, we have the opportunity to see the sport today.