James Glickenhaus, builder of the likely-to-be-fabulously-fast Ferrari P4/5 Competizione, bought Steve McQueen's famous Hurst Baja Boot race buggy two weeks ago at Pebble Beach. For the uninitiated, The Boot's the intersection of GM parts, Hurst fabrication and unadulterated swagger.
Mr. Glickenhaus must be striving for the title of "most awesome kajillionaire" because the acquisition of the Baja Boot lends some serious cred to his so-far Ferrari-heavy collection. What he plans to do with Das Boot is currently unknown, but let's take a quick look at its awesome back story.
It came about when in 1967 the newly-minted National Off-Road Racing Association announced the 849-mile Mexican 1000 which came to be known as the Baja 1000. Hot-rodder and racing fiend Vic Hickey took notice and used his connections at GM to kick off a project for a purpose built racing buggy. It used a beefy tube steel frame, heavy suspension, a 450-hp 350 cubic-inch V8 and Hydra-matic automatic transmission and huge tires to attack the rugged Mexican terrain. The whole thing was put together in a stunning 26-day build at Hurst, but building a thing and having it sorted for a punishing race are two different things.
On its first race, it broke. Its transmission grenaded and left it disabled 237 miles into the competition. It wasn't the end of the line though. Actor and racer Steve McQueen heard about the Boot through his Triumph dealer's brother Bud Ekin. After hearing about it, McQueen convinced Ekin to join him in buying and campaigning the Boot. McQueen purchased the buggy and in 1968 entered it into the 7-11 Race outside of Vegas. It broke again, losing a wheel.
Eventually the Boot did succeed, winning with Bud at the wheel during the Baja 500 in 1969 and it ran into the 1970s. The point of the Baja Boot was to experiment really. It redefined the meaning of an off-road racer and many of its innovations were built on with future buggies. No offense to Glickenhaus' Ferrari P4/5, but if it came right down to it, we'd lean on the Baja Boot every day of the week. Well done, sir. Well done.