The car featured in this article is named “Big Oly“. Big Oly gained great fame for it’s performance during the 1970 Baja 1000 along with it’s influence on this popular annual race as well as the Ford Bronco line of SUVs. The Ford Bronco was an SUV produced from 1966 through 1996 and won many off-road accolades. 

big oly photos
Big Oly

Big Oly of course while resembling the Bronco had plenty of differences as described later in this article. Big Oly became an icon for off-road racing and gave the Ford Bronco line plenty of good advertising.  

 The Baja 1000

What would become a famous racing and endurance run down Mexico’s Baja Peninsula began with American Honda.

In 1962, Honda developed it’s CL72 Scrambler motorcycle and needed a way to prove it’s durability.  American Honda approached Hollywood stuntman Bud Ekins for ideas. Ekins’s mentioned a  run down Mexico’s rugged Baja Peninsula, all the way from Tijuana to La Paz. This route had just about every rugged geographical obstacle conceivable. This run offered to surely test the durability of any motorcycle. So what was a publicity stunt from Honda for a motorcycle gave birth to perhaps the best-known race in all of off-roading.  The Baja 1000 race is generally held the third week of November.

Today, the Baja 1000 is part of the SCORE Championship Desert Racing Series. Also included in this series is the Baja 500, the San Felipe 250 and the San Felipe Challenge of Champions.

Big Oly in the Baja 1000 

The car called “Big Oly” was designed by Parnelli Jones and Bill Stroppe. The truck that they created became a racing legend. Designed by Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing, Big Oly was one of the first purpose-built off-road vehicles to compete at Baja. 

Jones jumped into off-road racing after being urged by Bill Stroppe. At the time Jones had made a great name for himself as an Indy car racer. Bill Stroppe was a legendary off-raod race truck builder and was the most influential person in Ford’s racing program. The car’s name, Big Oly, was derived from it’s sponsor’s name, Olympia Beer”.

Big Oly first hit off-road racing during the 1970 Baja 1000. After that first contest the car went on to win the race both in 1971 and 1972. This specialty built vehicle, based somewhat on the Ford Bronco, was tube framed and was driven in that Baja competition by Parnelli Jones. The actual vehicle that ran in the Baja 1000 in 1971 was, by Jones’ recommendation, scrapped and fitted with a custom tube frame which as both lighter and stronger. Even with those modifications, the vehicle did keep it’s generally Ford Bronco look.

Big Oly is really amazing when you consider that CAD was not used in it’s frame construction. Nevertheless, the frame construction for that time was considered high tech.

big oly specsBig Oly raced for four years and the original is said to be owned by Parnelli Jones. As it turned out Ford Motor Company received a good deal of publicity for their Bronco line. Competing successfully in the rugged Baja 1000, albeit with a highly modified body, certainly added to the Bronco’s reputation.

Customizer Bill Stroppe is said to have built 650 of the Baja Ford Broncos. Ford had a limited production run between 1971 and 1974. These limited production Broncos sold for about $5,600 compared to the standard V-8’s $3,600 at that time.

Big Oly Specifications

Big Oly was built with a 351 cubic inch Ford V-8 with a four-barrel carburetor. Horsepower was rated at 723. Transmission was a C-6 Ford automatic and the vehicle had four wheel disc brakes.

baja 1000 big olyThe front clip hood and doors are fiberglass and the car was rear wheel drive. Surrounding the cabin is a very necessary roll cage.

Big Oly featured in this article was on display at the time in the San Diego Automobile Museum in the city’s Balboa Park.. If your travels take you to the San Diego, CA area you may want to consider a stop at this museum to explore it’s very rare and interesting collection.

(Article and photos copyright Auto Museum Online)