Motor City Madman: Ted Nugent The Professional Off-Road Racer?

Ted Nugent Zebra Bronco

We know Ted Nugent as the crazy, long haired,  guitarist who wrote Stranglehold. Professional off-road racing is a side of the Motor City Madman that is largely unknown. From the late 70s to the late 80s rock ‘n roll legend Ted Nugent moonlighted as a professional off-road racer. In the above photo captured by photographer Randy Rasmussen, Uncle Ted can be since posing with his heavily modified Chevy K5 Blazer complete with side exhaust before a Los Angeles area race.

Ted pictured with his son Toby and Off Road Legend Mickey Thompson at a 1979 MTEG Stadium series event.

Ted pictured with his son Toby and Off Road Legend Mickey Thompson at a 1979 MTEG Stadium series event.

The fact that Nugent is a gear head or an off-road enthusiast is common knowledge. We are sure many of you are familiar with his Zebra striped Bronco. The fact that he has raced professionally is a little known fact. Nugent states he lived for the axle twisting, u-joint grinding, suspension-destroying action of off-road racing. He also states that racing has inspired his music such as the songs Motor City Madhouse and Love Grenade (“Only off-road racers can come up with guitar licks like that.”)

Aside from his K5 Blazer, he also raced a 1972 302ci V8 Ford Bronco with three on the floor. This Bronco had been modified with Bilstein shocks, a limited slip rear axle and a Warn winch.  Sadly, information on  Ted Nugent’  professional racing career is scarce. He did tell ESPN Magazine that for a dozen or so years he had off-road legends Mickey Thompson, Parnelli Jones and Bill Stroppe as mentors.

Ted Nugent had this to say about his first professional off-road experience “…I remember my first professional encounter driving with the Tracy Valenta team, under the guidance of Mickey and Bill and Parnelli. They actually walked the Barstow 350 course with me up there in the California desert. I did the pre-run and checked out the terrain, which they warned me would be changing as every vehicle passed and altered the berms, dips, bumps and hills. I remember I actually put the pedal to the metal — which I’m really good at; I’m really good at flooring vehicles. It’s what happens after you floor them that I had to learn.

Ted-Nugent-Off-Road-Chevy-K5-Blazer-x

“But to my credit, if I may brag a moment, and I think I shall, I didn’t blow up … The real master racers will tell you that to finish is quite a win unto itself. And I finished most of them, but that first one in late ’78 or early ’79, I finished in a Class 10 buggy, where after the first couple hours, there was no suspension for all practical applications.

Everything was overheated, and I was overheated, and I’d been bludgeoned by the frame of the vehicle and the hits, the dives, and I did a couple of T-bones and I flipped and rolled it a couple of times. But I finished the damn race, which I thought was really good, and I wrote some great guitar licks that night because of the inspiration of the sheer velocity and mayhem. It was so uninhibited.”

If anyone has any pictures or stories of Ted Nugent off-road racing back in the day, Off Road Xtreme would love to see them. Please share any stories in the comments below, or share photos through Messaging on the Offroad Xtreme Facebook page!

About the author

Josh Courter

Josh Courter is a Power Automedia freelancer with a serious passion for anything custom. Rods, classics, sleds, and even motorcycles provide inspiration for Josh along with his passion for automotive history.
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