We crossed the border around 9am and quickly pick up our tourist visas. It’s 10 miles to the bullring and our hotel in Mexicali. The Willys is already turning heads, people are stopping in the road to take pictures. I always pick up stickers before going to race in Mexico. Racing is part of Baja history and the people here love off road racing. Our crew this year will be Jeff McCullough navigating, Carlos and Lisa Campos handling the drive into Cabo and Mom will keep an eye on us all. There are over 150 entries this year, 60 more than 2012. After signing in we drive the Willys over to the bullring and get in line.
Great timing! The mayor, Mike Pearlman, and NORRA officials are getting their pictures with the 1928 Willys, hopefully for the local papers. It’s a long, hot day and the Willys has found it’s way into the Baja history books. I believe it is the oldest car to ever race off road.
We are all ready to go by 7am. There is a long line along the bullring and we are starting 1 minute apart. It’s going to be difficult to drive the Willy fast. There is a lot of bump steering and we couldn’t find room for a sway bar and asphalt roads we are hitting 70 mph that’s it I can’t control it after that.
It’s 25 miles to the restart on the dry lake bed. We are off to a great start on course. We keep pace with other cars but it’s not easy. If I hit anything at 70 mph and jump the car it would literally land turn sideways and roll over. We’ll have to be happy with finishing each day, no matter how long it takes.
It’s going to be a great race. Picture this, to my left is the Galaxy 500 hauling ass across the silt-covered lake bed. We are in the middle of doing 70 mph there are three other vehicles to my right all taking their own line. “A blast from the past.”
Each stage has new challenges the deep sand is coming up next. There are cars stuck everywhere including the Galaxy 500. The Willys handles this area very good floating across the sand.
Jeff is doing a great job keeping us on course. Also, keeping up to date with our rally book. The warning in this book can save your lives or at least your vehicle. Day One is over not very impressive finish. I think we are 78 overall at 20-30 cars are out and 20 finish after us.
Bay of L.A.
The stages are very long today. 134 miles, 50 miles in transit then 76 miles and finish in transit totaling 404 miles. We are finished in Loreto, my favorite city in Baja and staying at my favorite hotel La Luna.
We are in late, the street party is over and the buffet just closed. Mike is handing out free drink tickets, we enjoyed a couple of beers by the pool. It’s time to find the hotel and check in. Lisa, Carlos, and Mom are not far behind. The rooms are great and the A/C works. It’s around 10 pm. I am done. Just enough time left to have a quick dinner next door. Today goes down in history as my hardest day of racing ever. 13 1/2 hours. I am falling asleep at the dinner table… time to go!
We are racing on Baja Sur time now. My phone says 6am but it’s 7am.
We need to suit up quickly and get to the Pemex Station. No showers today. The start is just outside of the town at a bar called El Boracho for breakfast. Day 2 had ended with a bad accident and fatality. The start of cars was moved back 1 hour and because of our late finish we are not starting until 11:22.
We are now running our own race. Starting in the rear and it’s all I can do to keep the Willys on course the roads a narrow with sandy shoals, dry stickers, mesquite bushes on one side and 6′ tall cactus on the other. We keep moving along looking forward to day 4 and the Cabo finish line.
Day 3 is almost done as we enter La Paz something went wrong. It was very hot just over 100 the car stalls at every light but starts quickly but as we near the finish line it gets worse. Stalling on the podium we start it again and roll into the Malacon. What a great reception. Day 3 is done but what went wrong with the Willys?
As the car cools down it starts to run fine again, what’s going on?
We spent the rest of the day at Stella on the beach a couple of great margaritas the Willy starts fine and runs fine to the parking lot.
The finish of it all in Cabo San Jose. 7 am the car keeps stalling. I pulled the radiator cover and air cleaner. The manual choke is closed and won’t stay open. We wired it open and and the car starts up quickly. I hope we found the problem. And the car is running better to the start line. But something is still wrong. I spend the entire morning tracking down all the parts to install a fuel pressure regulator. It is time to start, 11am, but as the car gets hotter it runs worse. We leave the start line and the car will hardly run. The traffic is terrible and the car stalls constantly. I don’t know what to do. Finally the car stalls in front of an open auto parts store. We are going to buy a new carburetor and get back in the race. One big problem. Most auto parts store don’t sell carburetors anymore. The store manager calls around to other stores and there isn’t a Holley Carburetor anywhere. 2 hours later and he finds one Edlebrock. They want 5,800 pesos for it (yust over $500.) I don’t think it will even fit. We have removed the carb now 3 times. Checked everything. It’s all over and we’re timed out. Just over 1000 miles and we’re done.
We built the oldest car to ever run the NORRA 1000. It wasn’t perfect. It took over 1 year to finish. We learned a lot about fabricating the hard way. A big thanks to everyone at our Lost Boys Shop that built the 1928 Willys: Stewart, Derek, and Butch thanks for all your hard work! And a special thanks to Tony at General Tires, he has helped on every vehicle we own and we greatly appreciate all their support.
Although Dirt Sports Magazine would not allow us to be part of the bullring. We’re proud of our contribution to the NORRA 1000. 1 1/2 years of work over in 4 days of racing. Did we restore a moment in history? Maybe not. But we sure did forge the future with a 1928 Willys Whippet.
To see a car this old running down the Baja Peninsula certainly took spectators by surprise. This is what racing could have looked like 90 years ago. I could rewrite history with this car even if only in my book: “The First Car to Win the Mexican 1000 in 1928!” (It only went to La Paz then!)