There are a number of ways a particular vehicle can get famous, from appearing on TV or in a movie to having been designed by a noteworthy automotive expert. But one of the most prestigious, at least for the grittier side of car fanaticism, is by having a legendary racing pedigree. And, when it comes to the Baja 1000 (formerly the Mexican 1000), probably no vehicle is quite as noteworthy as the ‘Big Oly’ Bronco.
Interestingly enough, this specially-built off-road beast isn’t actually a Ford Bronco at all — it was just made to look like one. Rather, it’s a custom job made with a tubular steel frame, a lightweight fiberglass body, and a very powerful 351 Windsor V8 engine. Perhaps the most impressive part of its unique construction, however, is its iconic wing. Mounted to the roll cage, this riveted aluminum topper was actually designed using the same principles as the wings of airplanes, only in reverse — helping to apply significant and necessary downforce while racing.
Of course, this ride would be nothing without a story. And, boy, has it got one. ‘Big Oly’ was actually originally called the ‘Crazy Colt’ before Olympia beer came on as a sponsor. But what happened prior to that is even more interesting. You see, this Bronco was famously driven by Parnelli Jones, a prolific IndyCar racer. So the story goes, Jones initially had no interest in racing off-road — that is, until Bill Stroppe (his future boss and a storied racer in his own right) goaded him into it, claiming Jones’ constitution couldn’t handle off-roading. Following that interaction, they went on (along with ‘Big Oly’) to win race after race, and even effectively changed the way Baja 1000 racers were constructed and driven. Now, this custom Bronco can be seen at the Petersen Automotive Museum in all its unique glory. But it will only be on display through November of next year, so you’d better act quickly.