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Inch Pincher Baja.jpg


We all know of the famous EMPI Inch Pincher Gasser, right? We all know that the mighty racetrack Inch Pincher record holder helped EMPI became the industry it was back in the days! Little know however that another EMPI Inch Pincher car was a success car back then! In fact, that special Inch Pincher was racing in the dust of the mexican desert with Dune buggies and others Ford Branco!

This EMPI car deserve a special focus! In fact, several Inch Pincher Baja were campained in the Baja races as the same SHT 207 california registered '67 bug used different paintscheme : from a psychedelic one to a more traditionnal bright orange one! The car may eventually used a silver paintjob a one time!

Now, that is the coolest picture of the psychedelic baja ever. Would you believe it appeared in a french magazine? Yes... In Sport Auto magazine! Thanks Mach1 Geoffroy for that awesome gift!

Of course, the psychedelic paintscheme is my favourite of them all, and you all undestand why! The artwork was performed at the very first Bug-in ever in 1968! Revell, the famous model car manufacturer, decided the a gathering like the Bug-in would be a good place to get such a colorful paintjob done, by hand!!!

A freshly repainted Inch Pincher too attracts many onlookers! Photographer unknown, but the scene took place in 1968 at the first Bug-in ever! Seems it attracted a lot of curious guys...

Close up view of the painters! No others than 5 artists were necessary to get the paisley print paint job done in time! Seems the job attracted many onlookers!

Mechanics were Lee LEIGHTON, but Darrell VITTONE also built a 1700cc 85hp engine for the EMPI Baja!

Another incredible color picture! Did you ever seen it before? I'm sure not... Same place as the above color one (note the blue Manx buggy wainting in the background). The paisley paintscheme takes another level on a color picture for sure.

Same unknown photographer for another never seen before close-up views... Perfect for that replica project Russell ;)... Note the EMPI fiberglass hood and decklid...

Below is a complete article (with period pictures!) written by Jack MATHEWS in the Daily Enterprise newspaper dated Monday, November 4, 1968! Talk about rare facts... Another 'Oh my god' material only available in the Nostalgia corner of Cal-look.com website...

FINISHING TOUCHES - EMPI mechanic Lee Leighton makes final adjustements to the air filters on the colorful Volkswagen that EMPI and toy manufacturer, Revell Inc., are co-sponsoring in the Baja 1000 off road race that began this morning in Ensenada. The car had been built and reinforced to withstand as much abuse miles as a normal car would get in 500.000 miles if one ever ran that long. Revell plans to put a model kit of this same car on the market some time after the Baja race (More about that modell below).

Lee LEIGHTON wrenching on the car. Never heard that Lee worked on the Baja Inch Pincher sedan before.

With its multi-hued fluorescent paintjob, its three sets of headlights, tractor-like tires and commercial decals plastered all over, it would seem more at home in a hobby shop that on a highway. And that's where it will be - or miniature protoptypes of it at least - after the Baja 1000 off-road race that began this morning in Ensenada.

The toy in question is, or once was, a 1967 Volswagen sedan that has been jazzed up at an expense of about 5.000$ and in the spirit of competition to compete in the nightmare road race from Ensenada to La Paz in Baja California. This is the second annual Baja 1000 and more that 250 cars, jeeps, dune buggies, pick-up trucks and motorcycles started the long, reacherous trek toward Baja's southern tip at 6 o'clock this morning and if all goes as well as last year, only about 50 of them will be around at the finish.

The first 90 and the last 40 miles of the race are on paved road and the rest is on whatever nature intended - which lends itself to just about anything other that wheeled transportation. "If the car finishes the race, it's about the same as 500.000 miles on an average car", says Jim HANSEN of EMPI, builder and co-sponsor of the toy entry. The other co-sponsor, Revell Inc., of toy making fame, plans to market a model Baja kit on the VW design in the near future.

Location unknown... Doing some mechanics...

Hansen says the same car, minus the fancy artwork and most of the engineering, was entered in last years inaugural Baja 1000 but lasted only 375 miles before a ditch snuck up and destroyed its front end. To avoid that type of accident, the fenders, decklid and hood have been replaced with fiberglass. If they hit anything hard enough, the panels will break away. Heavy metal skid plates have also been installed beneath the car to protect shock absorbers and suspension systems. The engine, once a mildmanered 1300 cc 53 standard model, has been beefed up to 1700 cc and turns out 88 horsepower.

What put most of the cars out of the race last year, Hansen says, was heavy dirt contamination in the engines. To prevent that from hapening to the toys, its engine has been completely sealed off from the outside world and reveives its air from one of the two filters installed on top of the car. The filters are soaked in glycerine and are the same type as those used in space capsules. Teh second filter circulates air inside the car which is also sealed to protect the drivers from dust.

To shift the weight away from the front end of the car, mechanics have removed the normal nine-gallon gas tank from beneath the luggage compartment and installed a 23 gallon in the back seat. The larger tank will allow the drivers to skip every other gas stop along the race route, Hansen says, saving much time. The drivers are required to take a number of accessoris along with them - such encouraging things as snakebite kits, survival packs, sleeping bags and at least three days supply of food rations. In addition, two spares tires will be packed in alongside the gas tank.

The race is expected to last about 30 hours for the early finishers and who knos how long for the last. Though only 30% of teh starters last year finished, all of them were eventually found...

Above picture shows the Revell model that the article refers to. This is a very cool model. I feel very lucky to have bought mine some years ago, complete, never opened, with duplicate stickers. You could build 3 different kinds of bug : Baja, stock or cal-look!

The Revell model even offered a special record : 27 hours to La Paz! I wonder how that music sounded...

Copyright 2010 El Dub - All rights reserved.

E-mail : eldub@cal-look.com


Inch Baja
Desert action on this rare color picture of the EMPI baja Inch Pincher too... Note the EMPI scooped for tach front hood!

I thought a bit of history regarding the Mexican 1000 was necessary here, so here it is, direct from the NORRA website. Commented pictures follow!

Ed PEARLMANN is the man who first organized the Mexican 1000, co-founded the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA) and founded the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame (ORMHOF). His legacy of contributions to the development of off-road motorsports is undeniable. He served in the Pacific theater during World War II as a Marine. During his time in Guam he organized fun jeep races for the troops to help keep up moral. When he returned from the War he purchased a surplus jeep and spent three months touring through Baja finding fishing spots. When he returned, he and his wife Shirley opened a chain of flower shops in the San Fernando Valley, California. In the 1950s off road exploration and fly fishing both interested him greatly. In the early 1960s he began racing for enjoyment at the Riverside off-road events hosted by Brian Chuchua. In 1966, Don Francisco joined Ed Pearlman and a group of other California based off-road enthusiasts in founding the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA). Francisco helped establish the inaugural Mexican 1000 in 1967. Utilizing his skills as a pilot, Francisco charted a viable racecourse and calculating needed service stop locations. Using his personal aircraft, specially modified to fly on lower octane pump gas, Don was very active during the actual events transporting VIP's and press up and down the race course. He also worked with Pearlman to establish the first set of rules and classes for the sport of off-road racing. The first race to be sanctioned by the organization would be the 1967 "Mexican 1000 Rally" beginning in Tijuana and racing from Ensenada to La Paz. 68 vehicles started the race competing in four classes. For the first time different types of vehicles would compete against each other. After the first vehicle, the Meyers Manx Buggy driven by Vic WILSON and Ted Mangels came across the line Pearlman knew he had an event that held great potential.

A very early picture by Glenn MILLER of the EMPI baja! Note (ok, take you glasses because the picture looks like a thumbnail...) the bug remains his stock metal hood at that time and get a buggy bumper. Also note Dave ANDREWS on that picture!

The EMPI baja leaving for the BAJA 500 race from Ensenada to Mexico! I think this picture was taken sometimes around 1969, with Don ERNST as driver, Dune Buggies & Hoy VWs Editor Tom BATESas co-pilot, and a Darrell VITTONE built 1700cc 85hp engine!

Interior was very functional, included some EMPI gauges and a Halda Tripmaster.