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I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500

Illustration for article titled I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500

Over 800 cars showed up to the Detroit Gambler 500—a rally made up of $500 and under shitboxes—and while I only spotted a small portion of that total, what I did see was absolute madness.

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While I wasn’t able to participate in the rally like I did last year, I did make it a point to stop by the Gambler 500 lunch spot at Eastern Market in Detroit, and right away I couldn’t help but drool over this Cadillac CTS on 33-inch mud tires:

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Illustration for article titled I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500

The owner had hacked the Cadi’s roof off, “massaged” the fenders and rear quarter panels, and added quintessential truck-bro accessories like a light bar, a winch, a brush guard and a snorkel.

Illustration for article titled I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500

While walking around the parking area, I also saw not one, but two tank-cars. First there was the awesome gold Pontiac Grand Prix shown above, then there was this army-green, winch-carrying Buick century:

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Illustration for article titled I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500

There were also a bunch of cars whose body panels had been stripped off, especially plastic-bodied Saturns like this SW2:

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Illustration for article titled I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500

Another Saturn lacking in the body panel department was this V6, all-wheel drive Vue:

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Here it is sitting behind a Mad Max-ed Mercury Grand Marquis. Notice there is no rear hatch:

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There was also this half-lifted Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ, whose driver was most likely staring straight up at the sky while driving:

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Speaking of WJs, one gentleman used some fake flooring from Home Depot to Wagoneer-ify his Grand Cherokee:

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And yes, that’s an ambulance behind the Jeep; looks like someone listened to Jason Torchinsky’s “ultimate camping excursion vehicle” advice. If you look closely, you can see it has off-road trail permits on it, which is just hilarious to see on an ambulance:

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I also saw this Subaru Outback Limited which has had some steel tubing welded to it so that a minibike could be fitted out back (see what I did there?):

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One of the most bizarre vehicles in the parking lot was this Suzuki Sidekick with a turkey head and neck sticking off its front bumper. I still have no clue what this was all about:

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And then there was a pink camper+van. No, not a “camper van,” but a camper plus a van:

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Yup:

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I also have to mention this Ford Ranger with a Jeep Cherokee XJ grille up front, because it actually looks damn good:

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While at the pit stop, I talked with a bunch of people enjoying what makes this rally such a blast: wrenching.

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These guys were crouched down in the wheel-well of an older Ford Expedition, grunting as they yanked on a breaker bar trying to loosen a rusty bolt.

It looks like they actually bent the brake shield to access the bolt; from what I could tell, they were breaking tools trying to get that bolt free from the axle thanks to all the rust:

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On the floor next to them was the offending part, a control arm that had somehow broken:

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Then there was this guy Sawzall-ing some rusty metal from his Chevrolet Astro van:

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And I met this Jalopnik reader who was replacing his stripped-down Saturn Vue’s front driver’s-side CV axle:

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I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the wackiness and ingenuity of Detroit Gambler 500 participants, seeing as Motor City has a reputation for being chock-full of diehard gearheads, and seeing as I did attend this event last year. Still, I have to admit, I struggled to keep my jaw off the ground.

Some more photos of weird cars:

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Illustration for article titled I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500
Illustration for article titled I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500
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Illustration for article titled I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500
Illustration for article titled I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500
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Illustration for article titled I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500
Illustration for article titled I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500
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Illustration for article titled I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500
Illustration for article titled I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500
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Illustration for article titled I Saw Some Insane Cars At The Detroit Gambler 500

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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DISCUSSION

svenskfox
MK6GTI-now with added Miata

That half-lifted Grand Cherokee looks like some of the lifted trucks in CA. It’s apparently a thing here.