The VW Bus is a timeless staple of off-road racing in Mexico. It’s– wait, what? Bus? No, that can’t be right. Oh. Oh mercy. It’s a bus alright. Looks like, 50 years after its first run, the Mexican 1000 is still the best place for lunatics to become legends.
You may have heard of the SCORE Baja 1000. If you haven’t, it’s an epic about-1,000-mile off-road rally from the top of Mexico’s western peninsula to the bottom. Or back to the top, depending on the year.
The Mexican 1000 runs a similar concept along a similar route, but the personality of the event is much different.
“SCORE’s all about winning,” racing hero Robby Gordon once told me. “NORRA likes to have fun.”
NORRA is the sanctioning body behind the Mexican 1000, which is going down from April 21 to 27 this year. The Mexican 1000 is OG Baja racing. It was the first official off-road peninsula race as we know it in 1967, and after a hiatus, it’s operating again. NORRA’s race is competitive, but the “fun” Gordon was referring to is a party at every pit stop and awesome antics like this:
NORRA is one of the few places that vintage and truly wacky off-road vehicles can earnestly compete fender-to-fender. It’s wonderful every year, but the nuttiness of a VW van/bus/camper thing racing is peak Jalopnikness and I love it.
This particular flying whale is being built by the crew at GoWesty.com, a California outfit that services old VW buses, which are worth big money now in case you haven’t noticed!
The 1987 Vanagon has apparently already raced on a road course as a two-wheel drive 24 Hours Of LeMons competitor (another insane automotive event you need to know about) and will now get a second life as a four-wheel drive Baja racer.
Looks like the company’s documenting the build on its YouTube channel. Here’s a little introduction to the project:
Oh and here’s a guy singing a song in and around the van:
If this doesn’t convince you that NORRA needs to be on your radar, let me add that it’s the only off-road race awarding trophies by “era.” Instead of traditional “classes” restricting how a competitive vehicle can be built, the NORRA Mexican 1000 is divided into “technological eras.”
As NORRA’s official rules read-
“The Eras are roughly defined by the technology that was available in that era, rather than by specific build dates. The Era technology restrictions are primarily focused upon chassis, suspension, and transmission technology. Era specific engine technology restrictions are in place in some classes and may be implemented in additional classes in the future.”
This year’s race is divided into Pioneer Era (1967 - 1975), Legend Era (1976 - 1982), Challenger Era (1983 – 1988), Vintage Era (1989 – 1997, rolling 20 years old) and Evolution Era (which is modern machines and some weirdo stuff like recreational vehicles.)
GoWesty’s camper van will actually fall into the Evolution Era, but is competing in an “RV” category so, you know, it actually has a shot at being competitive. Who the hell else is racing an RV? (Seriously asking, because if you are I want to know about it.)
I’m going to try and round up as much NORRA info as I can so you can follow the race from your computer before the green flags drop. Some of you may remember that we actually live-streamed the event last year with, uh, some success but I’m heartbroken to say I won’t be able to chase the conga line this time.