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The Baja Boot 'off-road' vehicle.
|Steve first raced the Baja Boot in the 'Stardust 7-11' off-road race in June 1968. A gruelling
320 mile odyssey for both cars and motorbikes, the race started at the Stardust raceway in Las Vegas, Nevada,
and ran across the potentially lethal Amargosa desert. Friend and fellow racer Bud Ekins was also with Steve in
the Baja Boot in the role of rider-navigator.
In the lead up to the race Steve told the media - "I've lined me up a sweet machine for this one. Called the 'Baja Boot.' Chevy powered. Four hundred and fifty horses under the bonnet. Space frame construction. Four-wheel drive. Independant suspension. And 'smooth'! I can notch close to a hundred over a sand wash and you better believe that's moving."
|Steve and Bud were performing well in the race, until, in Steve's own words, as related to writer William F Nolan: "We were really battin' along, feeling good about the car and our chances with it, when we see this big fat wheel rolling along beside us. It's our wheel! The axle had popped. Well, that did it. We just sat on our tails in the desert 'till help came."|
Steve also took the Baja Boot for a spin in 1969's 'Baja 1000', which as the name suggests, is a 1000 mile long
Set on Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, also known as 'The Devils Playground', the Baja 1000 is the longest off road race in the world. It is also arguably the toughest and most dangerous (with 1969's event claiming two lives).
Steve was accompanied by co-driver Harold Daigh this time out, and the pair were travelling well, but, with just 237 miles completed, disaster struck when a broken transmission put them out of the race.
Steve later told William Nolan: "In the fast sections, it was not unusual for us to get airborn for 50 to 70 feet over road dips. The Boot rides so smooth you can overdo things. Even in bad, choppy sections it'll do 60 or so, and if you slam into a big rock at that speed you can crack an axle or worse."
|Here is a good technological rundown on the Boot as provided by Peter MacGillivray from www.4wheeloffroad.com:|
The very first Mexican 1000 Rally featured a purpose-built racer dubbed the Hurst Baja Boot, brought to life by designer Vic Hickey. A General Motors engineer and desert racing fan, Hickey transformed his preliminary sketches into an actual vehicle in less than a month. Fabricated from SAE- 1010 13/4-inch steel tubing, the 3,450-pound vehicle boasted zero front and rear overhang and 9 inches of vertical wheel travel. At 112 inches in length, this hybrid four-wheel-drive buggy relied on a suspension system that included parts from Corvette rear drive assemblies, Olds Toronado axleshafts, and a Dana transfer case. Inverted from their normal positions, the drive assemblies allowed the driver to disengage the transfer case so the Boot could be operated in front-wheel drive only. A collapsible steering column, 11-inch Hurst-Airheart disc brakes, and a 20-inch-diameter, six-blade fan with reversed pitch (to blow air away through a Chevy truck radiator) were among the vehicle's most innovative features. Even the 350ci V-8 was used in a unique manner: Hickey installed it backward in the chassis, in front of the rear axleshafts.