Armed with a family passion for the industry, successful business savvy and an eye toward the future, Rafael Navarro IV (pictured at left, above) and his father Rafael Navarro III (right) are taking the Jimco Racing legacy forward into the future.
Dedicated to a mission of keeping one of motorsport’s most iconic names marching toward the future, Jimco Racing Inc. has finalized its acquisition by the Rafael Navarro family — a highly familiar name within off-road racing circles. Today’s announcement comes three months after the untimely death of motorsports entrepreneur and former Jimco owner Robbie Pierce, who died in a scuba diving accident on January 3.
The venture was originally structured in late 2022 as a new business partnership between the Navarro family and Pierce, designed to offer a multi-year ownership transition and mentorship alliance. Determined to carry on Jimco’s rich legacy and overall vision for its future despite the tragic loss of Pierce, the Navarros completed the acquisition of Jimco Racing Inc. from Pierce’s estate in its entirety on Wednesday.
Jimco Racing Inc. will continue to conduct all business operations in the same facility located in Santee, California, along with retaining the management experience of current Director of Operations/R&D Barry Karakas, who has and will continue to be a valued part of the company’s growth plan.
Jimco is one of the most successful manufacturers of off-road racing vehicles in history. A true American success story, Jimco was born out of passion and enthusiasm; eventually seeing its talented craftsmen build and develop more than 500 race cars, trucks and UTVs and hundreds of victories and championships around the world.
An off-road racing institution with roots in Baja, Mexico, the California-based Navarros are a multi-generational family comprised of three generations of competitors – Rafael Navarro II (aged 78), Rafael Navarro III (54) and Rafael Navarro IV (29). The Navarro’s have successfully competed in both desert and short-course off-road racing, as well as owning the legendary “Pete’s Camp” seaside resort and camping facility located in San Felipe, Baja, Mexico.
Veteran off-road fabricator/designer and company cornerstone Barry Karakas will continue his crucial role within the organization as part of the new Jimco Racing management structure. Karakas will serve as the director of operations and R&D.
The Navarro family brings decades of successful business, real estate, and motorsports experience to a storied Jimco Racing legacy. Still a Mexican resident, in 1950 Rafael Navarro II helped his uncle Pete establish Pete’s Camp, now a long-established destination for off-road and Baja adventurists, and helped launch GN Prodcutores Agricolas, a massive farming operation located near the U.S./California border in Mexicali.
Rafael Navarro III built a career in the automotive industry after obtaining his law degree while working with Jackson Dawson in support of the BFGoodrich tire brand — including off-road racing icons Frank DeAngelo and Dan Newsome. He then transitioned to Michelin North America as field marketing manager where he served with Jeff Cummings. Navarro eventually transitioned to Pirelli Tire North America, where he recently retired as Chief Marketing Officer and of the North American Motorsports business unit.
Better known as “Quatro,” Rafael Navarro is a talented driver in both desert and short-course off-road racing, including SCORE Lite champion (in a Jimco-VW), Class 10 champion overall SCORE champion) plus Pro-category short-course competition. Recently married to wife Rachel, the youngest Navarro earned an B.S. Mechanical Engineering from Clemson University in 2015. Then went on to earn his Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering. He opened his own RTECH Industries shop that specialized in off-road engineering, CAD drawing and the production of CNC components including supplying exotic suspension and drivetrain pieces to Jimco. This entity will continue to operate under within the Jimco business to service existing customers while providing added value and capability to Jimco Racing Inc.
Founded in the mid-1970s by Jim Julson, Jimco emerged as one of the finest builders open-wheel off-road race cars in its formative years. The company was purchased in 2018 by Robbie Pierce.
Jimco Racing Inc. will continue the evolution of its current product line-up, including a recently debuted all-wheel drive unlimited Trophy-Truck. Karakas and Rafael Navarro IV vow to actively engage in even more advanced, cutting-edge engineering already being incorporated into the next generation of front running Jimco race trucks, open-wheel buggies and pre-runners.
Founded in the mid-1970s by former Navy civilian engineer Jim Julson, Jimco’s roots began in his home garage in El Cajon, Calif. In six months Julson moved his company to a small shop in Santee, and by 1978 he had left his job in the Navy to build off-road race cars full time. Blessed with salesmanship and business savvy, son Mike Julson joined the family enterprise in the early 1980’s, with Jim retiring to Oregon in 1989. In the years that followed Jimco earned a record 25 SCORE International “Chassis Manufacturer of the Year” titles, with the company eventually moving to a 16,000 square foot facility just down the street.
In 2016 Mike Julson entered semi-retirement of his own, with Robbie Pierce eventually acquiring the company in April of 2018. Pierce, the former owner of MasterCraft, MasterCraft Defense and Impact Safety, was a 2018 inductee into the Off-Road Motorsport Hall of Fame.
oday’s off-road racing industry is defined by the incorporation of materials, engineering, electronics and components that rival any in modern motorsports. Jimco Racing will continue to push technology forward as it creates the next generation of race trucks and cars.
In addition, Jimco Racing Inc. will remain a Master Wholesale Distributor in the greater San Diego area for both MasterCraft Safety and Impact Safety — ensuring that the always loyal off-road racing community continues to have access to their extensive line of safety products, helmets, and seats.
Jimco Racing will be well represented at this weekend’s massive BFGoodrich Mint 400 race in Las Vegas. Not only will the company’s state-of-the-art Jimco all-wheel drive Trophy-Truck built for Bobby Patton of Fastball Racing be on display at the BFGoodrich booth on Thursday, March 9, but also at the race’s VIP tent in Primm, Nevada on Friday and Saturday.