Never Stop Driving #18: Viva Baja!


“I can’t think of a better situation than taking the easily distracted and apathetic out from behind the wheel,” commented a reader of last week’s newsletter. That is one positive spin on the possibility of widespread autonomous cars. I also find myself fantasizing about a future in which people who don’t cherish driving will either be at home, indulging in the Metaverse, or reclining in the passenger’s seat of an autonomous vehicle while letting a robot do the driving—thus leaving the roads gloriously empty for the rest of us.

Who doesn’t love a wide open road, like the dirt course of the Baja 1000? While scrolling through movie options on Amazon last weekend, I stumbled upon the 2019 Baja documentary Dust2Glory, a sequel to one of my favorite films, Dust to Glory, based on Baja desert racing. The original focuses on the race itself while the sequel highlights competitors and their families and what they get from the event. I defy anyone to watch and not get excited about driving.

As a younger man, I was obsessed with Baja racing. Back in 2006, I talked my way onto desert racing legend Rod Hall’s team as a driver in the Baja 500. My fantasy of rocketing across the terrain and soaring over bumps wasn’t quite realized, because we drove a stock Hummer H3. The game was survival, not speed, and we averaged about 25 mph. That’s not to say I was ever bored behind the wheel. I was terrified of making a mistake and damaging the truck, which would let down the crew who worked tirelessly before and during the event. Hall, who passed away in 2019 after racing in 50 Baja 1000s, built a team of family and volunteers who thrived under the grueling pressure. Our preservation pace meant that completing the 500 miles took 18 hours. Hall himself drove the anchor leg to the 5:00 AM finish, which was fitting because in our class of stock trucks, the Hummer was the lone survivor and thus we won at Baja.

The Hummer H3 I drove in the Baja 500 with Rod Hall. General Motors was heavily involved in the effort and used desert racing to torture test and improve the H3. Trackside Photo

The winner’s plaque on my garage wall is nice, but the people—and this is a bit trite—were the real treasures of that effort. I just loved to be around such a passionate group who were all pulling in the same direction, all thoroughly thrilled to be there, and all covering each other’s backs. Dust2Glory captured that sentiment.

Dana Brown wrote and directed both Dust movies. His father, Bruce Brown, made the 1971 movie On Any Sunday, which celebrated all the reasons people ride motorcycles but which also appealed to car guys like me. That flick said to me, “These creators get it, they understand me and my passion.” Here at Hagerty, we wrote a book about why we love cars so much—Never Stop Driving (also in audio format)—that was hugely inspired by On Any Sunday.

Which now has me thinking that we car folks need a movie version of the book, something like On Any Sunday that focuses on cars. Our movie should confirm our own enthusiasm but also communicate to others why cars and driving should be cherished and preserved. If you agree, please let me know in the comments, and share any other ideas you might have for such a movie.

Before I sign off, let me recommend a few things for you to enjoy over the weekend.

Our new video series with Larry Chen. Here he brings us a fetching collection of JDM cars.

Don’t miss a drag race with the new a 1400-horsepower Supra.

Last week, we published a handful of long-read digital articles, thoughtful, sit-back pieces that are above and beyond the usual internet click bait, the sort of stories we can produce because Hagerty values your time and your passion. A few of the headlines:

Architecture, Design, and the Hyundai EV; The Brash Birth of the Monster Truck; 10,000 Uses for a Model A.

Next week, I’ll bring you a dispatch from the Mustang Stampede, a convoy of over 1000 Mustangs that are converging on Detroit to see the new, next-generation Mustang. I’ll also be at the Detroit Concours this weekend, which is on the grounds of the gorgeous Detroit Institute of Arts and will be a fantastic time. Tickets are still available, so come join us and be sure to say Hi.

Enjoy your ride this weekend.

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    I wholeheartedly support the idea of converting the book into a movie, ala “On Any Sunday” or even the “Dust” movies. Hagerty has recently published articles focused on encouraging and assisting young people to become engaged in automotive hobbies and pursuits. A “Never Stop Driving” documentary could really help further those efforts.
    It seems to me that a few examples of “regular people” who have entered the car scene and compiled rich stories of their experiences (i.e. – NOT Jay Leno or Chip Foose or even Tom Cotter) would be relatable to viewers who might be thinking of jumping into the car and truck scene.

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