Parnelli Jones’ Baja-raced ‘Big Oly’ Ford Bronco joins Mecum’s Indy auction

Credit: Original article published by Classic Cars Journal.

The history-making 1969 Ford Bronco named “Big Oly” that motorsports legend Parnelli Jones raced in the Baja 1000 will roll onto the auction block this May during Mecum’s 34th Original Spring Classic auction in Indianapolis, company founder and president Dana Mecum announced Thursday.

Jones was “one of the most diverse and successful drivers in motorsports history,” Mecum said.  Inducted to the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1992, he is best known for winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1963, and both the 1971 and 1972 Baja 1000 desert races in Big Oly.

“His other most notable career moments include being the first Indianapolis 500 driver to qualify at over 150 mph in 1962 and winning the race as a team owner in 1970 and 1971 with driver Al Unser Sr,” Mecum said.

Big Oly’s history started when Jones turned down fellow racer Bill Stroppe’s offer to run with him at a Baja 1000 event in Mexico.

Not happy with the rejection, Stroppe told friends that “Jones wasn’t man enough for off-roading.” Stroppe’s comment was just the right amount of provocation to get Jones on board and racing in the 1968 Baja 1000 with a mostly stock Bronco. 

Not surprisingly, the unaltered Bronco didn’t cut it, so Jones sought out to build the most special Bronco of all to dominate future Baja 1000s – the Big Oly.

Parnelli Jones’ Baja-raced 'Big Oly' Ford Bronco joins Mecum's Indy  auction

With Stroppe’s mechanic Dirk Russel, Jones built a faster and stronger lightweight Bronco with a tube frame and body made of fiberglass and aluminum. They powered the custom Bronco with a 351/390 horsepower Ford Windsor V8 engine mated to a modified Ford C6 B&M full-race transmission.

Other features include a chrome-moly space frame, extreme shock absorbers and suspension travel, a big custom wing and a spool rear end for better traction.

The custom Bronco was completed in time for Jones and Stroppe, sponsored by Olympia Brewing Company (which resulted in the name Big Oly), to run in the 1970 Baja 1000. Big Oly unfortunately broke an axle and was forced out, but the Bronco redeemed itself by winning both the 1971 and 1972 Baja 1000 events.

Parnelli Jones’ Baja-raced 'Big Oly' Ford Bronco joins Mecum's Indy  auction
Jones and Stroppe winning the 1973 Mint 400 with Big Oly | Photo from Mecum Auctions

‘The Baja 1000 is known to be one of the most prestigious, and most grueling, off-road races in the world,” Mecum said. “Big Oly also went on to dominate the Baja 500 Mint 400 in 1973, cementing its legacy as the single most-significant Bronco-inspired vehicle ever built, and the one likely most responsible for the model line’s ultimate commercial sales success.”

Big Oly’s offering at Mecum “will be another historical moment for the winning Bronco as it crosses the block from Jones’ private collection, along with a handful of other impressive vehicles – including a Formula One Race Car – and a selection of cherished memorabilia from Jones’s personal office.

“The entire Parnelli Jones Collection will join approximately 2,000 other vehicles and a large assemblage of Road Art offerings for the annual auction,” Mecum said.

To learn more about this 1969 Ford Bronco ‘Big Oly’ and the other offerings from Jones’ private collection that’ll cross Mecum’s auction block this May, visit Mecum’s website.

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