The Baja 1000 is one of the toughest races on the planet, and the 2019 edition had the added drama of a rematch between old rivals. The Ford Bronco R and Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus (SCG) Baja Boot are reincarnations of off-road racers that faced off 50 years ago in the Mexican race. The Bronco won that bout, but this time it didn’t even make it to the finish line. The Baja Boot scored a class win, and was in good enough shape to drive back to the race’s starting point.
While the Bronco that raced in the Baja 1000 in 1969 was based on a production model, the Bronco R is a purpose-built vehicle wearing styling from the upcoming 2021 Ford Bronco. The off-road racer was yet another step in Ford’s agonizingly long rollout of the new Bronco. One of the original SUVs, the Bronco maintains a strong following among car enthusiasts despite having disappeared from showrooms in 1996.
Both the Bronco R and the Baja Boot were brand-new vehicles that had never raced Baja before, casting question marks over their race pace and reliability. But Ford seemed to have worse luck, as documented by public relations boss Mike Levine on Jalopnik. The long list of problems included damaged and broken parts, and a collision. The Bronco eventually became so beat up that Ford mechanics weren’t sure if they could fix it and still get to the finish line before the 34-hour race cutoff time. So they decided to pack it in.
The Baja Boot is based on a one-off racer designed by General Motors engineer Vic Hickey in the 1960s, and subsequently bought and raced by actor Steve McQueen. SCG founder Jim Glickenhaus bought the original Baja Boot decades later, and decided to make his own modern version. The 2019 Baja Boot features Corvette V8 power, is going into limited production with a six-figure price tag.
The reincarnated Baja Boot won its class, but it nearly didn’t finish at all. Nine miles from the finish line with one hour to go before the cutoff, a front brake caliper cracked and seized a wheel. Mechanics were able to get the Baja Boot going again just in time: it finished with just 47 seconds of race time remaining. Still, the Boot was in good enough shape for the SCG team to drive it back to the race start point in Ensenada. We wouldn’t be surprised if SCG put the Boot on a trailer for the trip back to the team’s New York state headquarters, though.
We’ll have to wait and see if the Bronco and Boot return to Baja in 2020 for a rematch. Volkswagen has already confirmed that it will return to Baja next year, but not with one of the Beetles or dune buggies it’s known for. Instead, VW will enter an off-road race truck styled to look like its Atlas Cross Sport family hauler.
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