Big Oly,” Big Names, Big Money: Iconic Bronco Headed to Auction
March 23, 2021
By: The Bronco Nation
By @Laura 1976
If you’ve been waiting for a chance to own the world’s most famous Bronco, you better act soon. It’s the first time the vehicle has been listed for sale, and who can say if –– or when –– it may be available again.
“Big Oly,” the iconic 1969 vehicle famous for its desert races of the early 1970s, will be up for auction May 14-22 in Indianapolis. The custom-built Ford Bronco is owned by the equally renowned racing driver Rufus “Parnelli” Jones. The vehicle has been restored by Dick Russell, one of its original fabricators.
Auto blogs across the web have been sharing the news –– some forecasting the vehicle to sell for approximately $1M, and @Rgwinn broke it to us in the forums. Classic Bronco authority Todd Zuercher has been a great source of history on the vehicle. He details the build-out and rise of the racing vehicle in “A History of Ford’s Legendary 4X4 Ford Bronco.” Todd will be giving a Zoom presentation on this book on Thursday, March 25, filled with rarely seen photos, technical details, and highlights of significant models.
Big Oly’s Design
Known as the Crazy Colt prior to sponsorship by the Olympia Brewing Company in 1971, the highly modified Bronco has a lightweight chromoly tube frame chassis, fiberglass body, aluminum interior panels, and wing roof. The twin I-beam front suspension with radius arms is joined by a rear four-link suspension, and both systems use coil springs with an internally mounted shock absorber. A 351 Windsor V8 engine, C6 transmission, disc brakes, an air filter mounted inside the cab, and a custom windshield design are some more of Big Oly’s traits.
Full gallery available on Mecum.com
Its Storied Record
Parnelli Jones may have driven the vehicle hard, but he drove it well. Big Oly broke down in its first Baja race, the 1970 Mexican 1000, due to Jones’ pedal-to-the-metal style. However, Jones, with off-road builder and mechanic Bill Stroppe as his co-pilot, won in both 1971 and ’72.
1973-74 brought more fame to this Bronco’s name, with wins at the Mint 400 and Baja 500 in 1973. A head-on collision by a motorcycle in 1974’s Baja 500 brought an early end to any hopes for Big Oly placing that year. After repairs and one last race in 1975, the off-road vehicle was retired. In those five short years, the Bronco achieved its mythical status, changing the game for off-road racing and securing a lifetime of glory in the books.
Head over to our Bronco Nation Big Oly Auction thread and tell us your memories surrounding this piece of history.