Let’s take a trip back in time. The year was 1967, and you are at the starting line of the Baja 1000 off-road race. It was then called the National Off Road Racing Association (NORRA) Mexican 1000. The were no real maps, or at least none that had any details of the Baja California peninsula. There was certainly none of the technology we accept as standard today, such as GPS mapping or navigation. It was all done by compass and what was known as dead reckoning.
Rod Hall and his teammate Larry Minor were sitting in a fixed-up Jeep. The engine was running and they were about to embark upon something that only a dozen or so people had ever done before–drive from one end of Baja California to the other as fast as they possibly could. Back then, you were lucky if the town (if you can call the small villages that existed between the U.S./Mexico border area and LaPaz near the southern tip of Baja towns) had a gas station. Hall and Minor had some food and water in a cooler, a few tools in a bag, and extra gas cans strapped to the Jeep. The pair did not win that year, but they did finish, completing one heck of an adventure.
Let’s move forward to 1969. Bill Stroppe, the legendary race car builder, who had created miracle machines for stock car races, Pike’s Peak, and many other automotive racing venues, had built a Ford Bronco especially for the 1,000-mile race. Hall and Minor were at the start line of the race again, sitting in the Stroppe Bronco. This time they won. Not only did they win, the two beat all of the motorcycles and buggies to the finish line.
During the next 30 years, Hall would go on to become one of the most successful off-road racers in history. He ran every NORRA Mexican 1000 and SCORE Baja 1000 (SCORE would eventually take over the race from NORRA). Hall did 46 of the 1,000-mile races in Baja before retiring from the sport. Unfortunately, the Bronco disappeared. It had several different owners over the years and fell into disrepair. It sat in a Southern California junkyard for a long time. The extraordinary vehicle was discovered, cleaned up as best as could be done at the time, painted, and then donated to the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame (ORMHOF) museum that is located in Reno, Nevada. That’s where it sat for years. That is until a few months ago.
Samco Fabrication was chosen for a full restoration of the famous 1969 Ford Bronco. The frame-off restoration done by the folks at Samco uncovered the decades of neglect that had occurred before the museum took possession of the Bronco. The engine and transmission were pretty much junkyard material, and the years of corrosion had almost chewed through the floors. Almost everything (as you can witness in the photos here and in the Gallery below) had to be replaced or rebuilt from scratch.
Summit Racing Equipment and TIFCO worked with Samco to provide all kinds of parts, accessories, and fittings for the 1969 Ford Bronco restoration. A new 347 ci V8 engine came from Ford Performance, and Currie Enterprises supplied the new axles. Samco was also able to get a set of retro slot mags (Ansen Sprints) from American Racing, and the Bronco was shod with BFGoodrich KM2 tires. KC HiLiTES, Wild Horses 4×4, FOX Racing, and Mastercraft Safety all pitched in to help with the restoration.
Now fast-forward to today. Rod Hall, with the help of a number of co-drivers and navigators, will be piloting the restored 1969 Ford Bronco in the 2015 NORRA Mexican 1000 rally. The multi-day event begins April 26th, and once again Hall will be throttling the engine of his championship Bronco during a 1,000-plus mile Baja adventure. For more information on participating in the NORRA Mexican 1000 off-road rally event, and all the fun and fellowship it offers, go to the organization’s website. To read more about the famous Stroppe-built Ford Bronco that Rod Hall and Larry Minor drove to victory at the 1969 NORRA Mexican 1000 off-road race, check out the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame museum.
Photographs Courtesy Trackside Photo and the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame