Everything is cooler in off-road trim—even the 420,666,069th Mazda Miata you’ve seen on the internet, or a Porsche 912 that was already cool. The masterminds behind the Gambler 500 recently dropped by Hoonigan for a good ol’ fashioned hoon-off, and needless to say, everybody wins in their battle of cool cars catching sweet air.
Of the two cars, it’s hard to tell whose story is cooler. Jason Lightner’s Porsche 912 started off as a restoration project that he grew bored with. When he wanted a more reliable rally car to run, he looked no further than the car already in his driveway, which has since been given a mild lift, a flat-six engine in place of the original flat-four, safety gear for racing and nobby tires.
Now his once-pristine car has roof dents and paint coming off in chunks, and it couldn’t be any cooler. New life goal: hoon a Porsche 911 or 912 in the dirt.
The Miata has the opposite for an origin story. Its life with the Gambler 500 crew started as an unloved $800 hunk of junk that was prepped to give their friend and auto writer Jessi Combs something to run in the rally. Now it sports Paco Motorsports’ long-travel “Offroadster” kit that lifted it way up in the air and gave it an insane wide stance, tall tires and all kinds of extra tubing.
“We started adding more and more nice stuff to it, but you still have the heart of the garbage,” Gambler 500 boss Tate Morgan said of the engine’s 230,000-mile drivetrain. It has a trunk full of coolant as it tends to overheat, one bottle of which escaped over a jump.
I’m torn. Do I love the ex-restoration build that’s gone rallying or the trashball car that’s been made into something rad more? This is an impossible choice. Jump them all!