The road-legal Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus Baja Boot won its class in this year’s Baja 100 then was … [+]
In the world of cars and motorsport, there’s no shortage in stories of success, comebacks and dramatic defeats. Most of them are even worthy of making it to the big screen. Ford v Ferrari or Rush are perfect examples and you’ll find both movies tick all those boxes a dozen times over. What you won’t find, however, is many modern-day versions of those made-for-Hollywood plot lines and characters. Today’s motorsport is just too damn expensive at the top and the established players like Ferrari, Ford, Porsche, or Mercedes have deep enough pockets to outspend any privateer or smaller team to the point where all hope is lost for the little guy long before the starting flag drops. You just don’t hear about upstart outfits taking on the titans of the industry and showing them how it’s done anymore. That is unless you shine a light on James Glickenhaus.
You may not have even heard of the guy, but looking at what he’s accomplished in the last few years with his company Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, it’s not outlandish at all to mention his name in the same breath as Enzo Ferrari, Bruce McLaren or Ferruccio Lamborghini. His operation is a fraction of the size of the mainstream manufacturers but that hasn’t stopped him from showing them the way home at some of the world’s most famous races. Most recently at this year’s Baja 1000, beating Ford and its all-new purpose-built Bronco R. What makes the win so impressive is that while the Ford was an all-out race truck underneath a body shell designed to look like the road-legal 2020 Bronco, Glickenhaus’s race truck, the Baja Boot is road legal. But not only that, the team drove it down to the race from California, raced it and then drove it back home after beating Ford by a few hours. That just doesn’t happen anymore.
The Glickenhaus Boot can tackle the Baja 1000 and is no less comfortable to ride in than a Jeep … [+]
Unlike the infamously intimidating and cutthroat Enzo Ferrari and most other car manufacturer owners and founders, while certainly still competitive, Glickenhaus is approachable, mild-mannered and welcoming. After chatting with Glickenhaus in the lobby of his hotel, he came off more like a friendly neighbor from down the street, the kind of guy who actually returns your tools when they borrow them. But like Ferrari once did, Glickenhaus is in the midst of building a successful race team alongside a road car operation, starting with the Baja Boot. “There’s an interesting thing that’s happening. If you buy a really exotic sports car today, it’s getting more difficult to find a place to use it. The roads are terrible, you can’t go crazy speeds on public roads, and yeah you can join one of these country clubs, which people do. But I began thinking that if we built a really cool on-road-off-road car, people could really use it. You go down the highway, you see a dirt road, you turn off, you go and come back and you have a great time,” said Glickenhaus.
That mentality of having a desire or vision, putting it on paper and then building it from scratch is a common denominator between the great names in the industry. Ferrari started building road cars only to fund his racing effort. Lamborghini only started building cars because he was a disgruntled Ferrari customer and knew he could do better. And, as Ford v Ferrari depicts, Ford built the Le Mans-winning GT40 in response to a slight from Ferrari himself. And then there are guys like Colin Chapman and Bruce McLaren who built internationally successful race teams from almost nothing at all, on a fraction of the budget the established teams were working with. Brush up on Glickenhaus’s story and the parallels are almost too easy to make.
Glickenhaus had his own run-in with Ferrari after wanting to take his custom-built F430 Scuderia-based P4/5 Competizione racing. Maranello distanced itself from him and offered no factory support whatsoever, yet, after his second attempt at the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring in 2012, Glickenhaus took first in class. He then set out to build his own car from scratch, the SCG003, entering it in sportscar races the world over, but with only three cars total, it was still just a fraction of the operation of the marquee manufacturers. But it’s the Baja Boot which might stand as the most significant cornerstone in the brand’s short history. The Baja Boot will be the first car from Glickenhaus that will go into regular production and meet the same modern safety standards as every other car on the road.
Glickenhaus’s main motivation behind the boot was to create an SUV that was actually capable of tackling something like the Baja 1000, as-is from the dealership floor. “We want it to be a really capable SUV. Because today you have a situation where Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Bentley, and Mercedes all make SUVs, but you can’t buy them as-is and go do something like King of the Hammers. You need to put on a lot of aftermarket parts. But I wanted to say, ‘What if you had a stock SUV, that you buy from a dealer with bolt-on components and go run the Baja 1000?’” said Glickenhaus. The answer is the Baja Boot.
The Glickenhaus Road Boot was used as pre-run vehicle for the Race Boot
Inspired by the original Steve McQueen Baja Boot (which Glickenhaus owns), the Glickenhaus Boot comes in two flavors: Road and Race. Both are road legal with only relatively minor differences separating the two. The Raod Boot gets a 650 horsepower LT4 engine while the Race Boot gets a less powerful 460 hp LT1 engine to meet race regulations set for Class 2 trucks in the Baja 1000. Other than that, the Race Boot gets a bigger fuel tank, a different transmission, and beefier suspension arms, but Glickenhaus says if you want the Race Boot for daily driving and have no intention of taking it racing, that’s entirely your prerogative.
Glickenhaus is still in the testing and refining phase, but as it stands now, the Boot is no less uncomfortable to ride in than a Jeep Wrangler and more than capable of tackling everything Baja had to offer. To prove it, the team used the Road Boot as a chase vehicle for the Race Boot at this year’s race. Compare that to the hundreds of millions of dollars Ford threw at the purpose-built Bronco R which finished the race a few hours after the Boot and is nowhere near road legal.
What Glickenhaus is doing evokes the spirit of the golden age of motorsport. A time when you could drive your Aston Martin, Ferrari, or Jaguar to Le Mans, race it, be competitive, and then, barring any catastrophic failures or crashes, drive it home. You could say that Glickenhaus and his efforts are a few decades out of place, but with how regulated sports cars and racing has become in recent years, Glickenhaus’s efforts are a breath of fresh air.
Follow me on Instagram @BusinesBryan