Own A Piece Of Ford Bronco History With Parnelli Jones' Big Oly

Illustration for article titled Own A Piece Of Ford Bronco History With Parnelli Jones' Big Oly
Photo: Mecum

Parnelli Jones is something of a legend in the racing world, taking victories at motorsport events as diverse as the Indianapolis 500 and the Baja 1000 desert race. And now you can own a piece of Ford Bronco–and Baja—history, because his iconic “Big Oly” is going up for auction.

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In fact, Mecum is auctioning off the entire Parnelli Jones collection, which includes six cars from the man’s personal collection. But the shining star is undoubtedly the Big Oly Bronco. This distinctive machine took its nickname from its main sponsor, Olympia Beer, and won the Baja 1000 back-to-back in 1971 and 1972. They also took home the 1973 Baja 500 and and the 1973 Mint 400. Needless to say, this bad boy has pedigree.

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Photo: Mecum
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Photo: Mecum
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Photo: Mecum

And let’s run through some specs:

  • 154-inch length
  • 72-inch width
  • 2,620-pound dry weight
  • Chrome moly tubing space frame
  • Fiberglass and aluminum bodywork
  • 351/390 HP Ford Windsor V-8 engine
  • Modified Ford C6 B&M hydro transmission
  • Gold/White/Black exterior with No. 1 livery
  • 45-gallon fuel capacity
  • Runs on high-octane racing fuel
  • Extreme shock absorber and suspension travel
  • Custom big wing on top
  • Split windshield to reduce dust in the cockpit
  • Spool rear end for better traction
  • Firestone White-letter off-road tires

Jones got into off-road racing after losing out on the Indy 500 with just four laps to go when his Andy Granatelli-run turbine car broke down. Co-driver Bill Stroppe basically dared Jones into it, saying “Jones wasn’t man enough for off-road racing.”

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Photo: Mecum
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Photo: Mecum
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But Jones wasn’t going to take that lying down, nor would he take it easy, and the Big Oly was designed to push every boundary possible. Aside from the roof, which was basically just designed to be a huge wing, there were tons of other innovations: a split windshield to reduce cockpit dust, built-in Thermos drinking systems for the drivers, a fiberglass frame, a backlit device containing a hand-operated scroll of maps that functioned as an analog GPS, and heavily modified suspension. If an aspect could be modified, it was. And it worked. Off-roading was never the same after that point.

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Photo: Mecum
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One of the coolest things about this machine, though, is that it’s remained in Jones’ personal collection since he raced it. Back in that era, it was common for successful cars to be sold off and essentially raced to death, but the Big Oly was something else. Jones knew that. So he kept it safe, taking it out of storage to occasionally lend it to a museum exhibition.

Because of its pristine nature and the historical significance of the Big Oly, Hagerty is estimating that it could sell for over one million dollars. It’s hard to imagine it going for anything less.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

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