Big Oly is clearly a much-loved icon.
The Ford Bronco is a hotly anticipated release, especially amongst off-road enthusiasts. It's no wonder, considering that we've seen the SUV climb Hells Gate in reverse. We've also seen a specially adapted Bronco R attack the Baja 1000 and succeed, but that race wasn't entered just for fun. The Bronco and the Baja have a special connection thanks to a model that came to be known as 'Big Oly'. Saleen actually rendered a modern version of this specific vehicle last year, but there's nothing quite like the original, something that has just been proved at Dana Mecum's recent Original Spring Classic event, where the original Big Oly traded hands for a cool $1.87 million.
As for that special connection between the Baja race and the Bronco, the story is well-documented, but Big Oly became a legend for winning the Baja 1000 in 1971 and 1972, as well as the 1973 Baja 500 and the 1973 Mint 400. As impressive as the driving was, the vehicle underneath was arguably even more special. The body is a mix of fiberglass and aluminum panels to keep it light and easy to repair, while two 22-gallon gas tanks keep the 390-horsepower Ford Windsor V8 quenched throughout a race. Obviously, that roof isn't stock either and may seem a bit odd if you don't understand this car's racing pedigree, but the whole package - signage and all - has become iconic.
We doubt that the new owner, whoever that may be, is interested in testing whether Big Oly can withstand the grueling Baja today, but as a piece of brilliant engineering and racing history, this is one of the few auction buys that we'd be happy to see locked away in a garage for future generations to appreciate. As Frank Mecum, VP of Consignments for Mecum Auctions, says, "The winning bidder now owns a historic Baja champion purchased from one of the greatest racers of all time." It just goes to show that horsepower and money are not all-important - an icon can be born from the most simple of machines.