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.
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:
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.
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:
There were also a bunch of cars whose body panels had been stripped off, especially plastic-bodied Saturns like this SW2:
Another Saturn lacking in the body panel department was this V6, all-wheel drive Vue:
Here it is sitting behind a Mad Max-ed Mercury Grand Marquis. Notice there is no rear hatch:
There was also this half-lifted Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ, whose driver was most likely staring straight up at the sky while driving:
Speaking of WJs, one gentleman used some fake flooring from Home Depot to Wagoneer-ify his Grand Cherokee:
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:
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?):
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:
And then there was a pink camper+van. No, not a “camper van,” but a camper plus a van:
I also have to mention this Ford Ranger with a Jeep Cherokee XJ grille up front, because it actually looks damn good:
While at the pit stop, I talked with a bunch of people enjoying what makes this rally such a blast: wrenching.
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:
On the floor next to them was the offending part, a control arm that had somehow broken:
Then there was this guy Sawzall-ing some rusty metal from his Chevrolet Astro van:
And I met this Jalopnik reader who was replacing his stripped-down Saturn Vue’s front driver’s-side CV axle:
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: