• Forum membership has its advantages....

How to get into desert racing... as a Virginian!


Well-Known Member
Hello! I'm Anthony Crupi. As stated in the title, I am a Baja racing enthusiast over here in Virginia, and probably the only one for a couple hundred miles. I possess a lot of the skills needed to get into desert racing in SoCal or Nevada *(SCORE, SNORE, Mint 400, etc.). I am good with cars, fabrication, computers, tech, and driving.

I am a high schooler in a suburban area- the closest off roading we have is slow, low geared 4x4s in the Appalachian Mtns. I first saw desert trucks on TV about 6 years ago, and have been hooked since. Now, I have the means of getting my first truck and getting over to SoCal after some practice. (later on, I am vying to get into CalTech- I started a maker space in my school that wins tens of innovation and engineering competitions. If that, as well as Gov School Dual Enrollment and other achievements, don't get me in, well I'll find another way into CA!)

I have the financial resources needed to begin racing (started an online business, and I've got college funds ready to go)- I just need some guidance. I don't know if I want to race pro or not. For now, I want to race around with the other prerunner enthusiasts and get through college. It would be nice to have something to drive my mind through classes every day, just waiting to get out and let the rig rip! If anyone could help me, I would appreciate it greatly.

My questions are as follows:
  • Where should I look for a truck for sale? I need something street legal, and I'm not worried about the fuel economy. Maybe a Class 7 or a 1450? (Sportsman class does not entice me much, nor does JeepSpeed.) The classifieds don't really specify what class the trucks run. I suppose I could ask, but better to find out here first!
  • How much should I be looking to spend on a truck? I'm aiming for a sub 50000 hardcore prerunner/beginner race vehicle.
  • How do pit teams work? Do I need one, because I am simply not a major contender? How do I hire one?
  • How much does it cost to run a race, for a semi-beginner?
  • I know how to control a truck of that size, as well as with a manual trans. I've had practice in other trucks. Do I need anything else, however, to race?
  • Are fuel and insurance still part of the entry fee?
  • Could anyone give me a description of how they think I should better get into racing, given my current situation?
Please excuse my naivete if you disagree with some of this. Better to learn here than at a race where it's too late!


Well-Known Member
Like your enthusiasm, but, its not all that simple. First you want to be in California and buy a street legal race truck. The two don't mix well, either buy a pre runner or a race truck. Street legal trucks don't do very well in racing, things like a windshield and all the other street legal items don't mix well with race tracks. Most street legal trucks don't have the safety items required to pass tech inspection, like full cage, window nets, etc. Some do, most don't. Especially don't count on driving it home, or driving it for the next few weeks for that matter, if you plan to race it even moderately hard. Expect to have at least a half dozen extra tires mounted on beadlocks, 4 large dump jugs, extra set of front and rear arms, extra set of shocks, a couple extra drive shafts, spare transmission, spare third member and axils, radiator and hoses, 2 extra alternators, couple extra electric fuel pumps and filters, etc....
If you only do loop races with MORE, SNORE, or BITD you can get by with only a main pit. They all provide a tow back to main or an access point if you break down. Remember, it was a good day if you can drive it onto the trailer on its own power at the end of the day!
Expect to spend around 2 to 4 grand just to run a race, between entry and rooms, food and drinks, fuel to get there and home and race fuel. Then at least 5 grand to prep the truck so you can use it again, and that's if you have a real good race and don't crash it. Remember just the fiberglass hood and fenders run between 2,500 and up depending on what you use, and I rarely finished with both rear fenders or damage to the front end.
Lastly, big difference between rolling a prerunner truck and a full tube frame race truck, the prerunner cab is usually done where as a race truck, change a few tubes and put on a new fiberglass roof and doors and your ready to go.
Rule of thumb #1 If you want to be a millionaire, first become a billionaire and buy a race truck!!!!!!!!


Well-Known Member
Buy one of the Trophylites that are for sale in the classifieds on this site, can get one for 50k with all the spares you need. Race it for a year minimum and then decide what you want to do as far as racing. You can sell it for what you paid for it, just say goodbye to the money spend while you own it, its the cheapest racing you can do and actually be racing for some money if your good.
Rent a racer first. You can rent trucks or buggies.


Well-Known Member

Prolly want to come out to the desert a time or two before you plunk down that kind of cash...


Well-Known Member
Thank you for all of the quick replies!

Johnboy- Yes, I know that real race trucks are quite hard to make street legal. I just want to seriously build up a prerunner until it's borderline barely legal;)
So what I've taken from you: have spares, have a cheap box truck that can those carry spares/ pit equipment, and be able to tow the race vehicle home on a trailer. I had sort of thought about that, but never really knew how much it would help.

I will definitely only do loop races for now- didn't have to think too hard to figure that out!

As for Trophylites, maybe I'll give that a shot. I would, however, like to race a full-size vehicle that I can drive on the roads. (a prerunner)

Ol'curmawhatnow :p Renting a racer- I don't think I'm about to do that. I want to own what I drive. Besides, renting is mostly for actual trophy trucks and Class 1 buggies. The cost of a crash in one of those would be the cost of an entire truck for me!

vegasloki- nice pic, made me laugh! I can't wait to get down to SoCal for some 60 mph whoops, don't worry. That's my every vacation until CalTech!

Back to the point, where could I find a street legal tube chassis truck? do those even exist?

Could you tell me what the difference is between a Class 7 and 1450 spec? I can't even figure out how to enter either...

So the question is 1450 vs Trophylite. I think that a heavily modified ford ranger is nearly the same thing as a t-lite. Think about weight, suspension travel, etc. The Ranger might be slower, but it's street legal. It's also cheaper- they hover around $25000. Leaves enough room for a good pit truck and spare parts to be factored in.

What do you guys think?
Last edited:


Well-Known Member
I think you are about to become an addict. especially if you have the resources you say you do. Just enough to get a decent taste before you go broke. SLOWWWWWWWWWW way down. You need to spend $2000 and come out to a race and hang out . Finding a team willing to let you hang out w will be easy on here. Until you have done this SLOWWWWWWWWWWWW down. There are plenty of threads on here w the same idea to research. Don't burn down everyone repeating these threads again and again. I am extremely biased about Trophy Lite . Rick Johnson is a damn good man and could set you up for a day in the dirt or a race rental. Expect to pay about the same amount in damages as you do for the rental . Good luck


Well-Known Member
A tube frame race truck that didn't start as a production truck won't have a VIN and in CA won't be able to be legally registered, at least easily. The closest thing to do what you want to do is what Camburg and Toyota did for Leno at the Mint 400 and take a stock truck and convert it. You are going to need to start with something that has a VIN, isn't salvaged (though could have a salvage title) and has all the legally required emissions and safety gear. Plenty have done it, I'm converting a mid travel Ranger from full street/trail to 7100 legal prerunner that's street legal in NV. Though my goal is not to race.

In your shoes with good funding I'd buy a used Gen1 Raptor and take it to someone like SDHQ or Camburg and have them finish it off as a race ready prerunner. You could do the same with a Tacoma or F150. Where you register the car will matter because getting an emissions legal car with a racing fuel cell could be problematic. I've got a 96 so I'm running Classic Car plates with no smog requirements.

I'll tell you the same thing I'd tell our kids and grandkid then leave it at that. Please take it in the spirit intended...

What you are proposing is not only not practical it's not a good idea. You've never raced, you don't need a 1450 and you aren't going to be going 60 over whoops your first times out. Unless you are rolling the truck through those whoops.

Ditch the part time street car idea for a real race truck if what the real goal is to race. It's not practical, there are too many compromises and in the end it will cost more in money and hassle and not be competitive with the others in your class. Particularly if it's your first build. You are going to need a shop/place to store the car out here, tools and a lot more experience and skills than you have now. You're just thinking about tow vehicles, tools, fab equipment and safety equipment. You need to do a lot more thinking and planning. We can tell by the kinds of questions you are asking you aren't quite ready to jump in. You are at the beginning of what is going to be a long process and require a great deal more patience.

You can rent a ride in most any class, not just TT and Class 1. Short term that could be your best solution but only after you've come out at least once to check things out. You can meet people, get the lay of land and see how things are done out here. When you visit you will have more information to be able to make better informed decisions about how you wish to proceed.


Well-Known Member
You have sensible advice, 43mod. I will look more into slowly entering the racing scene, rather than attempting to teleport in!

Vegasloki - I have researched how to get a custom built car registered in VA. I will research more about CA laws, but in VA most types of homebuilds/ shop builds are exempt from emissions, safety, and fuel storage unless produced in a manner that could be perceived as mass production. I have heard about the FuelSafe cells not being legal, though I've heard people have worked around that.

Your Raptor idea has crossed my mind before. However, the base models still hover at ~$40000 today. With the modifications I hope to do, it might reach higher than I want it to.

I understand your concern of my newness to Baja style driving, as an East Coast driver who has never had experience on that terrain. I'm not a complete idiot, however eager I am viewed!

Building up a team and a shop are not things I have fully considered because I don't know if I have that kind of full devotion to racing. The only reason I continue to hope to run a street legal vehicle in a race is that I want to have fun, but still be able to have a smooth ride. I don't think I can or should move that far into racing anytime soon.

So then the option of renting comes up. I suppose I could do that. I would love to try my hand at Trophy Lite. However, the experience would not feel the same. The mental portion would be less interesting. I won't own the truck, or get to work on it. I would just be like one of the famous people that came to try it because it looks fun. No one knows their names for their skill.

I will take some time to check out the scene down there, go to races, and get friendly with the teams. I then could perhaps, after practice, rent a TrophyLite for a loop race. From there I could definitely see myself either buying a TrophyLite or a 6100, which I understand is the next level up. Though I can definitely see my DD being a lux prerunner throughout most of that!

But lessons learned: take it slow! (and learn as well)


Well-Known Member
You can find higher mileage early Raptors for $25-30k. You're another $15k plus for a basic conversion.

If you build your own you'll need the better part of $10k for tube fab and welding tools. It's not unheard of for a first time builder to take a few hundred hours to finish a build. My build sheet for the 96 is about $20k once all is said and done and that's with me doing all the work except for engine machining. I reckon it will take 300-400 hours, maybe more and I've built other race cars.

You can work around using a cell particularly if you don't have to pass smog. Some guys have even managed to put the factory gauge senders in for fuel level.

Are you planning on towing this to and from VA?

El Mamito USMC

Well-Known Member
i would highly advise you to travel to some local races like in TX (TORRA) or some in the AZ desert. maybe spectate a BITD race, if you want to travel to Baja , go to a CODE race and see it first hand before you spend the cash. ask people that actually have the vehicles the maintenance cost. buying is no the issue. maintenance is.

ill be racing the Baja 1000, this yr (ATV). if you want to tag along you can as long bring a vehicle to chase.


Well-Known Member
Start a grass roots off road race club where you live and stage races in the back woods...:cool:
I'm not a complete idiot, however eager I am viewed!

The only reason I continue to hope to run a street legal vehicle in a race is that I want to have fun, but still be able to have a smooth ride.

From there I could definitely see myself either buying a TrophyLite or a 6100, which I understand is the next level up.

Though I can definitely see my DD being a lux prerunner throughout most of that!
Ahh.. the exuberance of youth! I remember when I was going to rule the world, and had a response to every objection or caution.

Better start buying lottery tickets, kid! ;)
in VA most types of homebuilds/ shop builds are exempt from emissions, safety, and fuel storage unless produced in a manner that could be perceived as mass production.
Oh, and btw, California is the EXACT OPPOSITE. Even if you build a vehicle to regulation, you basically have to win another lottery to get a chance to register it to be street legal.

You might also consider renting a BajaLite from Pete:

Baja Racing Adventures - Phoenix, AZ

Pistol Pete

Good luck, we don't want you to crash and burn.


Well-Known Member
vegasloki- I would rather have an experienced team to help me build up a truck, or buy one already fabricated. I can sort of weld and I'm good at CAD to machining, but my team and I are not going to be able to replicate the quality we would get at a race shop. And yes, I would tow this around until I reside somewhere closer.

El Mamito- thank you for the offer! I would take it, if I currently had a truck! Maybe when I have a truck I could open up a thread asking to be a chase vehicle?

Starting off grass roots is what all the greats do. I'm in the suburbs. Oh well. Least I'm not 40 and trying to start. Oh wait, Jim Graham.

The 1974 C10? $149000. What?
Besides, I don't need a street legal race truck. Just a prerunner.

I actually saw those rentals a while back. I would like to try running their 6100 truck. Do you now, however, if anyone rents out TrophyLites? I would like to run those. They look slightly more fun.

I'm going to take vegasloki's advice. I'm going to get a prerunner, drive to SoCal, and stay a while. Check out the shops, and prerun. Anyone know where I could find the, say Mint 400 route?

After that, I'll see if I can be a chase truck in the prerunner, just to check out the scene during a race. After that practice, which still probably isn't enough, next I would probably rent a T-lite and actually enter a race. A lot slower and more organized than what I originally was thinking, but hey, that's why I came here!


Well-Known Member
OK now I am beginning to think our leg is being pulled . This guy can touch on more disconnected ideas in one post than I can.

Chris Tobin

Well-Known Member
The 1974 C10? $149000. What?
Besides, I don't need a street legal race truck. Just a prerunner.
That truck would work well for what you want/asked for and the ad says $14,900 not $149,000... there is a big difference!!! It does have "k" at then end but I don't imagine he is asking $14,900,000 for the truck. Why don't you call him and verify as he says he wants to sell it this weekend and it is a new listing... If it is indeed $14,900 then you can buy it and begin your adventure at the next race either as a chaser or racer...