Photographer Boyd Jaynes has spent darn near a lifetime behind the lens of a camera and for those of you not familiar with his work, he’s shot photos for a lot of big name publications, car manufacturers, and is one of the most in-demand photographers in the automotive industry.
Based in Southern California, Jaynes specializes in motorsports, action sports, and automobiles, and after years of photographing and documenting said events around the world, he had the itch to jump from spectator to participant. When he heard they were resurrecting the Mexican 1000 under the National Off-Road Racing Association, Jaynes decided he was all in and decided to start looking for a rig.
Jaynes tells us that “As soon as the first new NORRA rally was announced back in 2009, I started to look for a Bronco and found this 1968 model on Craigslist in San Diego.”Almost 300,000 early Broncos were built from 1966 to 1977 and few remain in unmodified condition. To find one in an unmolested state was a rare find indeed. Aside from a nasty incident with a former NFL player, the Bronco remains a favorite among truck/off-road enthusiasts including ICON’s Jonathan Ward and Motor City Madman Ted Nugent.
Jaynes is a big fan too and says, “It was cherry and I gave the seller $10K and the truck changed hands. I immediately christened it El Diablo Caballo or ‘Devil Horse’ and secured the California license plate ‘MEX1K’ in honor of the Mexican 1000. After five years of toil and massaging the details, the truck has evolved into what you see here.”
To the uninitiated, The National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA) Mexico 1000 is a brutal drive from the North end of Baja California to the very Southern end. At 1,300 miles, it attracts a diverse field of over 200 trucks, sedans, buggies, and motorcycles hoping to conquer the four-day on and off-road rally. It isn’t cheap to participate either, costing about $5,000 to join in on the fun. Add a mandatory Mexican Insurance Policy that only covers injury on the course (not vehicle loss or damages) and you get an idea of the stakes involved. For an added bit of intrigue, the race follows an old tradition of no pre-runs.
The National Off-Road Racing Association was founded in 1966 by Ed Pearlman and Don Francisco. At the time it was the first racing sanctioning body devoted solely to off-road racing. The first event, the Mexican 1000 (1967), began in Tijuana, went through Ensenada, and finished in La Paz. NORRA ran this race for nearly a decade. This first event laid the groundwork of vehicle classes and rules that shaped off-road racing in Baja for the next 40 years. The involvement of the Mexican government and other issues eventually transitioned the event to become the Baja 1000 race and NORRA was dormant for several decades.
In 2010, NORRA was reborn and returned to the Baja peninsula. The race again was called the Mexican 1000, although with a different flavor and structure. The race was now run in a rally style, with racing sections and transit sections, and is focused on historic desert racing vehicles. Racing vehicles must be motorcycles and automobiles from prior to 1998. In 2011, NORRA added an “alternative fuel” racing class including diesel, electric, ethanol, propane, etc. which allowed modern racing vehicles to participate. The door to modern vehicles was opened all the way in 2012 with the introduction of the “Evolution” category. Clyde Stacy and Robby Gordon were the first winner of this new category.
What was once a funky off-road run now has rules, safety guidelines, regulations and teething pains too. According to NORRA chairman Mike Pearlman,”As a group, NORRA wants to ensure that our expanding family of racers have a clear understanding of where the Mexican 1000 is going. We spoke to many of our customers, and it was clear the Mexican 1000 has reached an important crossroad. Creating the most enjoyable event possible while staying true to the vintage off-road movement is critical. Blending those goals while also expanding the event’s ability to protect our Evolution class participants have a good time is a tough balance. We feel that new formats and tire regulations are the proper way to ensure the future.” These days, there are always the ‘fine print’ formalities to consider.
With the NORRA update out of the way, Boyd explains how his leap from lensman to off-road driver blossomed. “Every vehicle I’ve owned-and many I didn’t own-got driven off-road since I was about 14. I started going to Baja around the same time and got hooked on desert racing. I never personally raced anything off-road until I bought the Bronco although I’ve worked as a automobile/motorsports photographer professionally for about 15 years and felt this was enough qualification.”
Jaynes continues by saying, “The Bronco had no race history but looked ‘racy’ as the previous owner used it to go out as a course volunteer at local desert races. I soon found out that the cage was fake and not properly constructed or connected to the frame, so it was replaced with the current cage and shock mounts built by Jon Krellwitz at RDM off-road. Since the cage build, all fabrication has been done by the talented Jamie Campbell at RACECO,who never ceases to amaze me with his creative solutions.”
“The original transmission was a manual ‘3 on the tree’ unit which I replaced with a manual valve body C4 by Art Carr, which has since been upgraded by Steve Culhane in Lake Elsinore, California. I added a large transmission cooler with electric fan out back. In the spirit of racing in a ‘vintage’ category I’ve resisted the urge to 4-link, coil-over/bypass shock the Bronco’s suspension and have left most things in their original configuration, although beefed things up to handle a 1,000 plus mile race. FOX smooth body 2.0 shocks were carefully valved by both Tommy Morris and Todd Tenbroek.”
“The [Ford 351]engine is nothing too special and has just enough power to get in real trouble, but mild enough to keep the drive train together; if you’ve ever gone over 90 mph off-road in a short wheelbase truck, like an old Bronco, then you know what I’m talking about. I added custom headers, MSD ignition and a ceramic coated MagnaFlow exhaust.”
“I also added PSC power steering the first year. The front Dana 44 by Currie is new this year, replacing the original Dana 30, which hardly held oil but amazingly still functioned after five years of abuse. The rear is a Currie 9-inch with 32-spline axles I installed the first year. Disc brakes from DUFF replaced the original front drums. Two stock fuel tanks were swapped out in favor of a 32 gallon JAZ fuel cell.”
“Every inch of the original sheet metal is still on the truck, although this year I had to replace the hood (cracked in too many places to repair) and opted for a lighter fiberglass version. We also run a windshield, which facilitates the use of old-school open face helmets and bitchin’ mustaches grown each year just for the rally.”
The first rally was a major learning curve for Jaynes. “We never expected to go hit Baja California and be competitive, we just wanted to participate in the race,” Jaynes says. The second year Jaynes added the real cage that would pass tech inspection. The Bronco would not finish the race.
“We lost the transmission. The vehicle was between gears even though it felt like it was in gear causing us to burn up the transmission,” says Jaynes.
He says they later discovered a problem with the shift gate. With the help of Fox Racing’s Brian Godfrey, Jaynes upgraded the suspension and added shocks, and the two have been out in the desert to do some shock tuning on the Bronco. Every year Jaynes has learned a little bit more about what it takes to make the Bronco competitive for the rally. Having big name sponsors like Fox Shocks and General Tire doesn’t hurt either.
Finally, the results of this years 2015 NORRA Mexican 1000 are in and Jaynes can add another win to his arsenal. With a new set of General Grabber MTs under the Bronco and a single (unused) spare on the back, Jaynes and Godfrey left Ensenada and successfully raced all the way to San Jose del Cabo on the same set of tires. Not only did they finish the race, but they managed to do it in record time, earning themselves a first place finish in the #26 Fox Bronco! Congrats guys and now you have another trophy for your mantle.