Logo

Legends of Baja – Rod Hall

by / 0 Comments / 178 View / April 19, 2015

Legendary off-road racer Rod Hall returns to Baja, Mexico, in the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame championship 1969 Ford Bronco.

Back in the 1969, Ford Broncos, custom prepped by Bill Stroppe were the hot ticket for desert racing.

Back in the 1969, Ford Broncos, custom prepped by Bill Stroppe were the hot ticket for desert racing.

A cool breeze drifted off the Pacific Ocean, carrying with it the typical morning fog that Tijuana, Mexico, is known for. Somewhere in the border town mayhem, a few dozen cars, four-wheel drives, and motorcycles lined up near the bullfighting arena.

The year was 1967, and a guy named Ed Pearlman and his crew from the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA) had come up with the idea for a non-stop race down the Baja peninsula. Several time records had been set for the charge from the U.S. border at Tijuana to La Paz, but none involved multiple vehicles and side-by-side and handlebar-to-taillight competition, let alone a checkered flag at the end. By today’s standards, the vehicles were crude and low-tech, and the only way to confirm the actual time was with a telegraph wired to the U.S. via Morse code. At the starting line was a young ambitious kid named Rod Hall. He had a handful of races under his belt, even a few trophies, but this new challenge in the wilds of Baja would be the ultimate adventure thus far.

A few years have passed since Rod Hall wore an old-style open-face helmet. At 78 years of age, he still has a gleam in his eye and a youthful enthusiasm for the track.

A few years have passed since Rod Hall wore an old-style open-face helmet. At 78 years
of age, he still has a gleam in his eye and a youthful enthusiasm for the track.

Back in the day there were few detailed maps of the peninsula and even fewer fuel stations. GPS technology would not come about for several decades, and Hall and teammate Larry Minor would need to navigate the 1,000-plus-mile route with a compass and dead reckoning. His wife packed a few sandwiches in a cooler before they loaded a bag of tools and extra fuel cans on the back of their Jeep and headed south. Someone at the starting line said, “Rod, if you get lost just head south by southeast. You will get to La Paz…south by southeast.” They didn’t win that race, but did finish, which was a formidable accomplishment.

Two years later, in 1969, Hall was again in Baja with teammate Larry Minor; this time behind the wheel of a Ford Bronco built by Bill Stroppe. To the surprise of the motorcycle riders and buggy jockeys, Hall and Minor would roll into La Paz—beat up and nursing the Bronco on fumes—ahead of all contenders. Hall went on to race every NORRA Mexican 1000 and SCORE Baja 1000 since (46 total so far), and ultimately became the winningest off-road racer in America.

The Bronco changed hands several times before ending up in a junkyard in the Southern California desert, where it sat until drifting sands nearly buried it. It was eventually salvaged, given a paint job, and donated to the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame (ORMHOF) museum in Reno, Nevada.

A few months ago the old stallion was pulled from the museum and carted over to Samco Fabrication for a full restoration. On April 26, 2015, Hall will again be south of the border and behind the wheel of his championship Bronco for the 1,200-mile NORRA Mexican 1000.

The strip-down revealed more than they were expecting. The floorboards were rusting, the drivetrain was ready for a metal recycler, and the roll cage had deteriorated to the point that it was better suited as a coat rack.

Rod Hall 3Fortunately, Rod is loved throughout the world, the Hall of Fame has a loyal following, and support for the project has been overwhelming. Ford Performance stepped up with a 347ci crate motor, Currie Enterprises supplied axles, and Summit Racing Equipment and Tifco have provided a pallet of parts, accessories, and fittings. Samco sourced a set of retro slot mags (Ansen Sprints) from American Racing, which will roll on BFGoodrich KM2 tires. Other support has come from KC HiLiTES, Wild Horses 4×4, Fox Racing, and Mastercraft Safety.

ORMHOF Bronco - Car 71 - Trackside copyrightAssuming navigational duties for Hall will be Dakar Rally class champion Sue Mead and Overland Journal’s Editor-in-Chief Chris Collard. There is even a rumor that Damien Michelin might be suiting up and running with Rod. Sticking with the “all Ford” concept, the chase vehicles will be none other than a pair of Ford Raptors. For more information, or to support ORMHOF’s efforts (they are selling race T-shirts, koozies, and swag) go to www.ormhof.com, follow them on Facebook, or get Twitter updates (#rodhallracing).

We’ll be bringing you more when the restoration is complete and the team will be testing the old Bronco in the deserts of Northern Nevada. Hall said, “I’m 78 years old and I might not have to many races left in me. The guys are doing a great job on the restoration and it’s going to be fun to drive my old Bronco in Baja again.”

Photos courtesy of Trackside Photo and ORMHOF

 

The old Bronco was in rough shape when it was hauled into Samco on a trailer. After Hall raced it in 1969 and 1970, he sold it to Myron Croel, who had earned (according to Rod) the nickname of Myron “Roll” for turning the Bronco rubber-side-up a few times. Many of the body panels had been replaced but the floorboards and body mounts were in rough shape.

ORMHOF Bronco basket case 001

ORMHOF Bronco basket case 007

ORMHOF Bronco basket case 006

ORMHOF Bronco basket case 005

ORMHOF Bronco basket case 004

ORMHOF Bronco basket case 003

ORMHOF Bronco basket case 002

 

 

After stripping the old stallion down to its bones, the team at Samco Fabrication began the arduous process of repairing and replacing damaged components. The team is in the process of refitting the vehicle with a 347ci crate motor from Ford Performance, Currie axles, a Wild Horses suspension and Fox shocks, and American Racing Ansen Sprint slot mags with BFGoodrich KM2 tires. Summit Racing and Tifco have provided tons of parts and accessories, and KC HiLiTES, Bestop, and Mastercraft Safety will be fitting the Bronco with the best parts available in their genre.

ORMHOF Bronco restoration 001ORMHOF Bronco restoration 002

 

ORMHOF Bronco restoration 003

ORMHOF Bronco restoration 004

ORMHOF Bronco restoration 005

 

ORMHOF Bronco restoration 006

ORMHOF Bronco restoration 007

ORMHOF Bronco restoration 008

ORMHOF Bronco restoration 009

ORMHOF Bronco restoration 010

ORMHOF Bronco restoration 011

ORMHOF Bronco restoration 012

ORMHOF Bronco restoration 013

 

Wrapping up the team will be chase team masters Steve Medley and Matt Hoey in two Ford Raptors—fitting support for an old Bronco.

ORMHOF Bronco restoration 014

 

Look for an upcoming documentary on Rod Hall and the project on the Off-RoadMotorsports Hall of Fame website (www.ormhof.com)

ORMHOF Bronco restoration 015

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.