Glickenhaus vs. Ford and Armada vs. Geiser Brothers
Glickenhaus knew this year’s Baja 1000 was David vs. Goliath.
At Glickenhaus, we race because we love racing, we love an extreme challenge, and we love to constantly push, test, and improve our vehicles. We are racing against ourselves to improve year over year. We are racing against the toughest courses in the world. And we are already making plans to return to the Baja and race again next year.
Glickenhaus’ budget to design, engineer, build, test, and race the Glickenhaus Boot was 0.026% of Ford’s marketing budget that same year, and that doesn’t include Ford’s cost to create their road Bronco. Ford has been the main sponsor of the Baja 1000 in 2019 and 2020. The Glickenhaus Team knew Ford Performance was spending a fortune to improve and test their Bronco, and that Ford ran a 24 hour test with the Bronco and their drivers. On paper, Ford put together a top program with top drivers and one of the leading trophy truck building companies in the world, the Geiser Brothers to build a purpose build race Bronco.
There is a story we would like to share about Geiser Brothers, Armada, Glickenhaus and Ford. When we first put the idea of racing the Baja 1000 into the world we asked if anyone knew anyone at SCORE. Someone connected us with a technical director at SCORE, who connected us with Darren Skilton, who leads or Boot development and racing. Darren had worked with several major factory teams, and many other people over decades of off-road racing experience. Jim Glickenhaus called Darren and said, “Look, I know you get calls like this all the time, from some wealthy person who wants to go into off-road racing. And you tell them what they have to do, and then you never hear from them again. I’m going to tell you my vision for a new version of the Baja Boot to race the Baja. You tell me what we have to do to make it happen. If I say yes, we are going to make it happen.” When Darren realized our passion and commitment to the project, and the respect we had coming in as outsiders, he agreed to lead the Boot project. Darren helped us define the Boot’s technical specifications and then we set off to find an off-road engineering shop to help us with the engineering.
Darren told Glickenhaus, “I have narrowed it down to a short list with two possibilities. The first is Geiser Brothers. They are one of the top Baja and trophy truck builders in the world. They could definitely build the Boot, and it would be solid. They are a safe, conservative choice, and the off-road world would highly respect that choice.” That sounded great to us, and we asked Darren to explain the other choice. “The other shop is Armada Engineering. They build trucks that race in Best of the Desert races, but not many trucks that have competed in the Baja yet. They are less well known in the Baja, and it is a more out of the box choice.”
At this point, from an outsider’s point of view, the easier choice seemed to be Geiser Brothers, so we asked Darren to explain why Armada was on the short list. Darren explained, “Armada builds things that are completely outside the box. Elliot created a vehicle, an Ultra 4, that was completely unique at the time, and has come in the top ten overall at King of the Hammers. Now many people have copied the design, but it has a few similarities to the Boot. I wanted you to see the Ultra 4 before you decide.” So we drive out a few hours into the desert to this compound that was artistic, and beautiful, and vaguely Mad Max. The client of Armada’s drives up with this huge vehicle that was unlike anything I had ever seen. It had massively long a-arms and looked like a steam-punk, mechanical insect. The client offered to take Jesse Glickenhaus for a ride. “I had never driven hard off-road before. We tore through the desert at 70 miles per hour and came to a huge mountain filled with boulders. My first thought was that we were not possibly going to drive up that mountain. We drove up, and then down, faster than I thought possible. When I got back I asked Darren how the Boot would compare to the driving we had just done. Will it be able to do 10% 25% of that terrain?” Darren told Jesse that the driver was very conservative, and since we weren’t wearing helmets or Hans devices for the drive, he was driving easy, and the Boot would be able to do anything we just drove. Jesse called his dad as soon as they were back to an area with reception. “Armada is building our Boots.” Ford, it turned out, went with Geiser Brothers. Glickenhaus took the road less traveled, and went with the out of the box choice of Armada.
Apples to Apples
Comparing a road Bronco to a road Boot is perhaps not a fair comparison, it is apples to potatoes as the Boot is in an entirely different class of road vehicles. However, that doesn’t mean it is not fair to compare the Boot and the Bronco R race truck. Ford created the Bronco R as a purpose built race truck built by a collaboration between Ford Performance and Geiser Brothers. While Ford never sold a Bronco R, they offered the trucks for sale for around 500,000 USD, which is almost 25% more expensive than a full race Boot’s sale price. Ford talked up the stock engine and gearbox, and part of a stock chassis. However most of the Bronco R, including the whole front end, suspension, etc. had nothing to do with the production Bronco. The Glickenhaus Baja Race Boot is completely stock including the chassis, suspension, engine, transfer-case, axles, etc, but for the added, required safety equipment of race seats, race harnesses, FIA fuel cells, race roll cage, and radios.
While we were testing before the 2019 Baja 1000, Ensenda was pouring rain. Darren told us he knew of a place where it would be dry. We drove 2.5 hours, the first two in rain, until it cleared up and we found a 20 mile square patch of race course to test in. Twenty minutes later the Bronco R team drove up and set up a few miles down the road in that same square route. Jim Glickenhaus said, “Let’s go say hi,” so he and Jesse jumped in their factory road Boot and drove a few miles down the road, pulling to a stop in the middle of the Ford Performance team. They jumped out and Jim said, “Hey, I have a Ford. It’s yellow, and it was driven by some guy named Bruce.” (That would be the Ford MKIV chassis J6 that was driven by Mark Donohue and Bruce McLaren to finish Fourth Overall at the 1967 Le Mans.) The Ford team stood, mouths open in silence. Then one of the heads of Ford Performance started looking at the Boot and got angry, saying in an accusatory tone, “You guys just built a trophy truck, and this isn’t a car, and that’s not the point of Class 2.” Jesse Glickenhaus stopped him, “A trophy truck? This is our road Boot. We drove it down here from LA. This isn’t even our race Boot. Also, class two is essentially an unlimited buggy class with production bodies allowed. We are a production car racing. The Bronco is not a buggy as it has a solid rear axle.” When the race Bronco drove up from testing, it was clear that while Ford was accusing us of building a trophy truck, that is exactly what they had done, and attached it to part of a Ford Ranger chassis. Jim and Jesse drove off and wished them good luck.
Many bottles of tequila would be bet over the next two years over who would win, the Boot or the Bronco. After this year’s race, we will see if anyone is still betting on the Ford.