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Mickey Thompson's Big Red |

Mickey Thompson’s Big Red

Mickey Thompson Big Red

In honor of  the 2012 Baja 500 I am going to go a little off topic by doing an article about Mickey Thompson’s legendary Baja truck Big Red! Mickey Thompson’s Big Red is a kind of a special car for Mickey since it was the truck he had his best finish in the Baja 500 (2nd place) and was the only truck that he raced for more than one season!

Originally Mickey’s first truck was a 1972 Chevy C10 that he used for Off Road racing.  However, the C10 couldn’t take the punishment that M/T put it through so he decided on a bigger truck for next season. The truck he chose: a 1973 Chevy C20 Truck which became Big Red.

The Test of Big Red before the Mexican 1000.

Big Red is powered by a 454 Big Block Chevy which was estimated to have over 600 horsepower! The 454 was hooked up to a modified Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission which was modified by B&M. The transmission was fitted with two transmission coolers, which was done do to the extra weight and the high power to keep the transmission from overheating in the desert.

M/T and Danny Thompson getting ready for the start of the Baja 500

Big Red has a 55 Gallon fuel cell which is mounted in the bed (One of the first off road trucks to do this I believe). The 55 gallon tank had a fill on both sides to make in-race refilling much faster. For extra strength in the desert M/T made the roll cage and the front bumper of the truck out of titanium. However this did add to the overall weight of the truck which ended up being 5600 pounds!

During his past few racing Experiences in the desert Mickey encountered several problems. This included ignition not working, alternators breaking, and a few other problems. With the help of his son Danny, Mickey fixed this problems by making the sure the truck had 2 of everything! Two alternators, two separate and independent brake master cylinders as well as a dual ignition system that could be switched by the driver and the co driver while the truck was driving!

Mickey and Danny Thompson racing in the Baja 500!

The suspension and rear end of the truck was completely customized and fabricated as well. All of the brakes on the truck were converted to disc brakes, there were also three shocks for each wheel on the truck.  The rear end had a custom built full-floating rear axle, the rear end itself was built to hold extra fluid and had a new innovative system to help keep the fluid cool during a long race.

Another idea M/T came up with was to use aircraft hoses for all of the hoses on the truck. This was done to prevent oil from leaking in case of a roll over.

Using its 600 plus horsepower Big Red had a top speed of around 165 MPH while Off Road. During the Baja 500 and the Mexican 1000 Mickey averaged a race speed of 109 MPH!

A great photo of Big Red soaring through the Desert!

Mickey’s first race using Big Red was in November of 1972, he raced in the Mexican 1000. During the Mexican 1000 Big Red was strong for the first few legs of the race, sadly M/T had a few problems including losing the hood and Big Red broke down and had to be towed a way. Mickey ended up with a DNF for the Mexican 1000. He later went on to race the Baja 500 where Mickey earned his best finish in the 500 with a  Second place! The truck would race Baja one more time in 1974 which again would result in a DNF.

Big Red getting ready to race the Mexican 1000. In 1972 the Mexican 1000 was just four years old! M/T was ready to make a new name for himself in the world of Off Road Racing.

I have to say I am really impressed with Big Red. I have always been a fan of Mickey Thompson and his innovative hot rods and trucks but I have to say Big Red is one of the best. It really shows off the innovative talent Mickey had. Coming up with some of the systems that I mentioned above that are still used in the Trophy Trucks today! Big Red is a one of a kind truck that is currently sitting in a shop in Eugene, Oregon completely untouched since it’s last race.

Mickey was really ahead of his time, the Cockpit of Big Red looks more like the cockpit of a Cessna Aircraft than a truck!

This is how Big Red looked after its last race in 1975, it has sat in Oregon for over 35 years. The Truck is a peace of Baja and Off Road racing history. Prehaps one day this Off Road Relic will drive again.

3 comments on “Mickey Thompson’s Big Red

  1. Doc Rockett on said:

    In my mid-20′s, I was a member of FAIR (First Association of Independent Racers)back in the early to mid 1970′s and my neighbor Jack and I were Mickey Thompsons pit crew at Rancho San San Yanez. We gassed them up and whatever else they needed and they were off again. Mickey Thompson and his son Danny drove great together. I have always been into hot rods and motorcycles. This was one of the automotive highlights of my life in my twentys. I was very sorry when we lost Mickey. Thank you for refreshing some early memories of my youth!!! James “Doc” Rockett

    • Butch O'Neal on said:

      Doc,
      I too was a FAIR member back in the 70′s. It was neat to read this article, although as far as I know, nobody has come close to averaging 109 MPH in Baja races. I think fast overall back then was somewhere around 30 hours and trucks were nowhere close to Class 1 buggies in the overall standings.
      In the early ’80′s I teamed with Mickey for the Mint 400 and the very first ‘Vegas to Reno race.
      We also preran some Baja races together, and I chased him the year he won the overall in the early ’80′s.
      At the Firecracker 250 in Barstow Ca., we filmed a segment for the feature movie he made to promote off road racing. It showed in a few premere openings under the title ” Man in an Iron Cage” and I played a part of pit manager, which ended up on the cutting room floor with thousands of feet of unused film.

      Small world, eh?

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