Introducing the next truck in our Heritage Series lineup, Justin Lofton’s Rough Rider Trick Truck built for the 2021 NORRA Mexican 1000. Don’t be fooled by the older 1995 Ford F-150 exterior, underneath it all is 2015 Jimco Gen 3 Trick Truck packed with modern technology such as a big block engine mated to a Fortin 5-speed transmission, modern-day Fox suspension, tall Yokohama tires and Method 103 Race Series beadlock wheels. A 1995 Ford F-150 body isn’t the only throwback element—like all Method Race Wheels’ Heritage Series trucks the livery pays homage to a legendary race team from the past, the Rough Riders.
In 1991 Dick Landfield pitched an idea to Ford to create the Biggest SUPER TEAM to ever enter off-road racing. The birth of the Ford “Rough Riders” program had a list of drivers handpicked by Frank DeAngelo and was nothing short of spectacular. Rob MacCachren (class 8), John Swift (class 6), Chuck Johnson (class 7s), Manny Esquerra (Class 7), Dave Ashley (Class 4), Dan Smith (Class 3), Jack Johnson and even the legend himself Parnelli Jones. These racers would share the same sponsors, pit stops, logistics, resources and liveries.
Among this all-star lineup was the Paul and Dave Simon entry or Simon & Simon as they came to be known. The Simons won a Championship in class 7 4x4 that first year under the Rough Riders colors but soon would move to the highly competitive unlimited class (class 1). The Russ Wernimont built truck was basically a full tube chassis, 4 link rear suspension and boxed front suspension with a fiberglass Ford body. Wheel travel was approximately 20” in the front and around 28” in the rear.
For 1991 those numbers were impressive but if you don’t have the shocks to handle that much travel it doesn’t really matter. Russ had to build just about everything for this truck by hand, and that included the shocks. Bilstein was able to supply him with some parts but the shock bodies (3.25” OD) and pistons were custom. The 800hp Ford engine was pushed back about a ¼ of the way into the cab to help with weight distribution. The Simons would also be running the new 37” BFGoodrich Project tires that had only been out for about a year.
Wernimont’s years of experience building and prepping off-road vehicles were being proven in the deserts of the Southwest and Baja.
The 1992 season was filled with promise, but something would always keep the Simon and Simon team from a strong finish. At the 25th annual Baja 1K, the Simons shocked everyone (but themselves) and won the class 1 and overall title, solidifying their spot in off-road racing royalty and proving they were the real deal.
As they say, “All good things must come to an end” and that was pretty much the truth for the Simons. The writing was on the wall for the Rough Riders after DeAngelo stepped down from running the team in 1994. They managed to keep it alive till the end of the 1996 season but by then the majority of the funding was gone and the “Super Team” was no more. The Simons had been racing full time since the mid 80’s and were probably getting a little burnt out. Knowing they would have to start spending A LOT of their own money again, they decided that maybe now was the time to step back from racing and start focusing more on family and their striving construction business. The truck and the transporter were sold to a team in Mexico and has changed hands a few times over the years. Rumor also has it the truck is being rebuilt for the 6100 Spec class and will once again be running the Rough Rider Simon & Simon livery at a race in the future.