Baja Racing News.com SPECIAL
As the 40th anniversary of the Baja 1000 was celebrated in 2007, it is the perfect time to gather not only the pioneers of the past runs, but also their historic vehicles. On Sunday, November 11 2007, the Parade of Champions gathered at the Tijuana Bullring to kick off the week of racing.
The first Baja races started at the bullring and headed south to La Paz, so the setting was especially fitting for this reunion. On this day, the cars and their famous drivers headed south to Ensenada, and then on to the Horsepower ranch. Horsepower Ranch, located in the hills east of Ensenada, is also the setting for the Wide Open Welcome Fiesta.
Two of the legends of Baja racing, Walker Evans and Parnelli Jones, lean on their Chevy pickup and catch up on old times
A Rogues' Gallery of Baja racing. From left to right is Walker Evans, Parnelli Jones, Nico Saad, Sal Fish and Nico?s cousin.
Bruce Myers, the man who envisioned, designed and built the Myers Manx, stands in front of the first and best-known example. Nicknamed Old Red, this is the car that Meyers and Ted Mangels took on a ?feasibility run? down the Baja peninsula in mid April 1967. Upon reaching La Paz, Meyer decided that it was not only possible for one of his cars to make the run, when the first Baja race was run in November 1967, he fielded a team of 4 cars. It was one of those Meyers Manx driven by Ted Mangels that won the 1967 race.
It was Dave Ekins, riding a Honda CL 72, better known as the 305 Scrambler, which proved it was possible to traverse the length of Baja California in a motorized vehicle. Now some 45 years later, another Honda is making the run. Believe it or not, a team from Japan is going to ride the 2007 SCORE Baja 1000 on this near exact replica of the bike that Ekins rode. The brave men are Katsuhisa Mikami, Hiroyuki Watanabe and Jun Mihashi and they say that they are doing it as a tribute to Ekins and the Honda. We hope they have a great ride.
As with many race vehicles of the early days, this 1972 Chevy truck was lost and spent time as a farm vehicle. Built by Vic Hickey and owned at one time by Steve McQueen, the truck was found in 1985 and restored by Ron Johnson. This truck represents the first factory effort by Chevrolet in off road racing. It has13,000 original miles and it still wears the original paint and wheels.
The man behind the machines that won Baja is Dick Russell. While many think that it was Stroppe that built the Big Only Bronco, it was actually the brainchild of Parnelli Jones and Russell. Later, Russell designed and built the Chevy pickup that Walker Evans and Jones companied in the 70?s. Jones was so adamant that Russell be known as the builder of the Bronco that he had stickers made for it that read ?This son of a bitch was built and repaired by Dick Russell.? The same sticker ran on the Chevy as well.
With all of the cars ready, the drivers and owners posed for a group shot before heading off to Ensenada.
Volkswagen Motorsports Manager Clark Campbell and SCORE honcho Sal Fish throw signs in front of Sal's new Race Serviced Toureg. VW is the official vehicle of the SCORE Baja series, and it is Campbell who has been instrumental in bringing VW back to off-road racing.
The Parade of Champions was quite a sight as they drove down Highway 1 on its way to Ensenada. Spectators lined the road in places to catch a glimpse of the cars and their drivers.
There are a few toll roads on Highway 1, and the sight of the historic race cars lined up to pay seemed surreal to say the least.
Upon reaching Ensenada, the parade met the assembled racers and spectators to a rousing ovation.
UPDATE: Since this article was published, the Famous Downtown Tijuana BullRing has been demolished. Some say, removing the soul of the city.