BAJA BOOT



Steve McQueen’s

James Glickenhaus, builder of the fabulously-fast super cars, bought Steve McQueen’s famous race buggy the “Baja Boot”.  For the uninitiated, the Boot is the intersection of hot-rod design, GM parts, Hurst Fabrication and unadulterated swagger. And what he plans to do with the Boot is nothing short of a miracle. In 2019 he plans to design, build & test a new modern version of the car and race it in the Baja 1000. The goal is to have a road-legal car which you can drive from your garage to the desert, compete on the grueling off-road courses and drive it home afterwards. A monumental feat if he can accomplish it and with the help of local California race car builders at Armada Engineering, we think he will succeed! After all, legend has it that the original Baja Boot was built in 30 days, 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 (NORRA) announced the first official Mexican 1000 off-road race. Hot-rodder and racing fiend Vic Hickey took notice and enlisted the help of a brilliant innovator and racing pioneer, Drino Miller. They had to build the Boot in secret, on nights and weekends, due to Vick's connections with General Motors, which had a strict 'No Racing' policy at the time. The whole thing was put together in a stunning 26-day build at Hurst Fabrication, but building a car and having it sorted for a punishing race in the wild Baja desert 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 Ekins 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.


Baja Sun Films


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 Mexican1000 race, they were up against some formidable competitors like Rod Hall,  Parnelli Jones and James Garner.  The Baja Boot did not finish the race again. It suffered from a broken transmission witch left it disabled 237 miles into the competition. Eventually the Boot did succeed, winning with Bud Ekins at the wheel during the Baja 500 in 1969 and it ran well into the 1970s - changing owners many times and eventually disappearing into obscurity. The Baja Boot redefined the meaning of an off-road racer and many of its innovations were built upon with future buggies & SUV's including the HUMMER. 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 accomplished dirt bike racer. In 2009, at about the same age as when Chad began his auto racing career, 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!