Legendary off-road industry pioneer and chassis builder Lynn Chenowth, whose open-wheel creations were a driving force behind some of the sport’s biggest victories, and greatest drivers, has been named grand marshal for next week’s Yokohama Mexican 1000 rally by event organizer National Off Road Racing Association (NORRA).
“NORRA has enjoyed recognizing off-road racing’s history via our vintage-themed Mexican 1000 rally and by honoring its biggest stars as grand marshals,” said NORRA President Mike Pearlman, whose father Ed Pearlman promoted the world’s original desert off-road race with NORRA’s running of the first Mexican 1000 in 1967. “The entire off-road industry and the sport of off-road racing owe Lynn Chenowth and Chenowth Racing Products a great deal of appreciation – and admiration. We are proud to make this announcement and look forward to their presence at this year’s Yokohama NORRA Mexican 1000.”
In the 1970s it was Chenowth who helped usher in the development of true tube frame off-road vehicles. The sport was quickly evolving, and needed to overcome the shortcomings of original fiberglass dune buggies built on Volkswagen Beetle chassis. After founding Chenowth Racing Products, he took a mass production approach to building his cars, making recreational, affordable chassis and products that took the sport to the masses. In fact, over 20,000 Chenowth-branded race, recreational and sand buggy frames were built by the company and shipped around the world, many assembled in home garages by mechanically inclined enthusiasts.
Lynn’s Chenowth “Wedge,” Chenowth 1000 and Chenowth 2000 race cars all became winners in the 1970s, pushing the envelop of speed and reliability. Although he eventually sold Chenowth Racing Products in 1980 to fellow San Diego resident Mike Thomas, Lynn continued his role in the development of Chenowth desert and short course cars, as well as the company’s ventures into Yamaha and military vehicles that were used by American Navy SEALS in Operation Desert Storm.
By 1989 he set his off-road racing days aside to establish Pulltarps Manufacturing in 1992, which built operator-friendly mechanical tarp systems for large construction trucks and trailers. Thanks to years of engineering and manufacturing experience, Lynn was able grow Pulltarps to a successful enterprise until he sold the company in early 2017. Wanting to return to the fun of off-road racing, he and a team of former factory craftsman have started to build new Chenowth racing chassis, as well as laying the foundation of a seaside Chenowth Legacy Lodge and Museum south of San Felipe, Baja, Mexico.
Lynn Chenowth made his official return to off-road racing at the 2017 NORRA race, building a historic DR-2 chassis that is nearly identical to the company’s open-wheel buggies that dominated desert competition in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Last year, the Chenowth-backed NORRA entry included a “who’s who” list of all-star guest drivers including; Roger Mears, Johnny Johnson, Mike Lund, Bill Reams, Rudy Townsley and Bill Hrynko.
For 2018, Chenowth has entered two Chenowth DR-2s at NORRA; the No.70 for Baja champions Ryan Thomas (son of Mike Thomas) and Mike Lund, and the No.113 car for veteran racer Charlie Townsley. Both vehicles will run the iconic blue and black retro livery used by Chenowth factory-backed racecars in the past.
“Being asked by NORRA to serve as grand marshal for this year’s Mexican 1000 is both unexpected and humbling,” explained Chenowth, who now splits his time with wife Amy between southern California and Baja, Mexico. “My return to the sport with a Chenowth car was at last year’s event, and it was one of the best times I have ever had. I never imagined being welcomed back to desert racing with such an honor. I thank NORRA and Mike Pearlman for the wonderful invitation, and especially for creating a special place for vintage cars that rekindles our passion for what we love to do.”