Owned and operated by brothers Jordan and Jonathan Brenthel, Brenthel Industries applies the latest engineering and manufacturing technology with old world craftsmanship to achieve outstanding results in Off-road Racing. If you were lucky enough to be a desert racing enthusiast in the mid 80’s, then there is no denying the coolness of the Larry Minor Miller American class 8 truck driven by Steve Kelley who recently got inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. The iconic red and white paint job with gold highlights was arguably one of the best looking trucks out in the desert, and also one of the fastest. For those of you not around during this “TOTALLY AWESOME” time (80’s lingo), class 8 was the elite class in Off Road Racing, it was basically our Trophy Truck class. So what happens when you combine these two generations together? Introducing the next truck in our Method Race Wheels Heritage Series lineup. The Brenthel Gen3 Trick Truck.
As one of off road racings original pioneers, Larry Minor was an off roader at heart and it all started in the Sand Dunes during the late 50’s. In 1967 Minor and Rod Hall would enter the inaugural NORRA Mexican 1000 in a Bill Stroppe prepared Bronco and end up winning the race OVERALL. Minor would move on to Drag Racing and run highly successful Funny car and Top fuel teams, but would still dabble in the desert. Minor was able to entice The Miller Brewing Company to sponsor his drag racing team in 1984 which would also spill over into his Off Road racing program with himself and Parnelli Jones as the drivers. For the 1985 season Minor would step away from the driver’s seat and focus on the team owner position, this is where Steve Kelley came into the picture. In 2005 Minor would be inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, not only for his driving and team ownership roles, but for what he gave back to the sport in which he loved.
Steve Kelley started racing around 1972 and by the time the Larry Minor deal came around he had already proven himself as one of the top drivers in off road racing. 1979 would be Kelley’s first Championship in class 1 unlimited, he then worked his way from the buggies to mini trucks. From 1981 to 1983 he moved to the top tier group, Class 8 with Tommy Morris and then Michael Nesmith in their GMC trucks, scoring the 1982 Class 8 Championship. Kelley got the attention of Larry Minor towards the end of 1984 with his strong runs and finishes in the privateer “Timerider” (Nesmith) class 8.
Kelley was hired at the end of the 1984 season and would take the class by storm, winning the very first race he entered at the HDRA season finale Frontier 250. Kelley would continue his winning ways at the first race of the 1985 season during the Parker 400. During his inaugural season with Larry Minor, they would not only crown him the Class 8 Champion, but also the highly coveted Heavy Metal Championship. Kelley would continue to win races in class 8 until the end of the 1987 season, the last year under the Miller American livery.
The truck was designed by Walker Evans, Larry Minor and Randy Anderson in 1982. Jon Nelson was one of the lead fabricators working out of Walker Evans race shop but Minor hired him away from Walker to run his team. The trucks first race would be the 1983 Parker 400. Nelson says that the truck was state of the art, built very light with an out-of-the-box type thinking on the rear suspension. Rules stated the suspension had to match the chassis so a 1971 Chevrolet chassis was used….with a coil spring rear suspension. According to Nelson they didn’t really take the racing too seriously, meaning due to their busy schedules and other commitments they didn’t put in the time needed to run the team successfully. Towards the end of the 1984 season Nelson convinced Minor that they needed to take this racing seriously as Nelson wanted to win…. Enter Steve Kelley. Over the next few years the Miller American truck would win quite a few races and Steve Kelley’s final win under the Miller American Livery would be the 1987 Gold Coast 300.
Steve would get a new race truck with a different sponsor for the 1988 season. The old truck would make an appearance with Larry Minors kids at selective races until it was completely retired in the early 90’s. Sadly, a few years later the truck was sold, cut up and morphed into a long travel prerunner. To make matters worse, the truck competed in a “Jump Contest” and was destroyed after it landed wrong and endo’ed multiple times. The last I heard the truck had been cut up, stripped and thrown away.
They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Well, during the 50th running of the Baja 1000 Cody Swanty wanted a throwback paint job for his Pro Truck and it was decided that the Miller American paint job would do just fine. The only thing that would make that Miller American Livery cooler is if Tawny Kitaen was rolling all over the hood of that truck to the music of Whitesnake’s “Here I go again”.
Congrats to Steve Kelly on his success and continuing to be an inspiration in Off-Road. Be sure to catch the ORMHOF ceremony in Las Vegas Saturday October 30th 2021!