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James Glickenhaus, builder of the fabulously-fast Ferrari P4/5 Competizione, bought Steve McQueen’s famous race buggy the
“Baja Boot”. For the uninitiated, The Boot is 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 first Mexican 1000 off-road race.
Hot-rodder and racing fiend Vic Hickey took notice and He enlisted the help of a brilliant innovator Drinno Miller. He used his connections at GM to kick off a project for a purpose built racing buggy. The whole thing was put together in a stunning 26-day build at Hurst Fabrication, but building a thing and having it sorted for a punishing race are two different things. On its first race The Boot broke down, but it wasn’t the end of the line. Actor and racer Steve McQueen heard about the buggie and convinced Bud Ekin to join him in buying and campaigning the Boot. McQueen entered the buggy in 1968 into the 7-11 Race outside of Las Vegas. It broke again, losing a wheel.
McQueen: “We were really battin’ along, feeling good about the car and our chances with it, when we see this big fat wheel rolling along beside us. It’s our wheel! The axle had popped! Well that did it... we just sat on our tails in the desert ‘till help came”.
In the 1969 Mexican Baja 1000 race, The Boot suffered from a broken transmission witch left it disabled 237 miles into the competition. Eventually the Boot did succeed, winning with Bud Ekin at the wheel during the Baja 500 in 1969 and it ran into the 1970s. The Baja Boot redefined the meaning of an off-road racer and many of its innovations were built on with future buggies. The “Baja Bucket” seats, were designed and patented by Steve McQueen to help prevent injuries in case of a roll-over. McQueen passed on the racing bug to his only son Chad, even bringing him to the set of the film “Le Mans”. Chad would experience the thrill of racing at triple digit speeds, seated on his dad’s lap at the wheel of a Porsche 917. And there would be no doubt afterwards that the McQueen racing gene would be passed on to another generation. Chad became a hardcore automobile and motorcycle racing enthusiast. his professional racing career started in the SCCA, where he became a national’s champion. In 2006 at the wheel of his Porsche GT3, he hit the wall hard after his car suffered a mechanical failure. He suffered serious life threatening injuries, and his recovery would be arduous and painful. But his favorite project has been serving as mentor and coach to his youngest son, Chase, already an acomplished dirt bike racer. In 2009, at about the same age as when chad began his auto racing carreer, Chase McQueen competed in and won his first kart race. And so, another McQueen generation would continue to celebrate the joy and love of racing!