Name: Jim Riley, Eric Morley
Model: Bel Air “Rippin’ Rooster”
Tell Us Your Story: The Norra Mexican 1000 is a dirty, sweaty, exhausting off-road race up and down the Baja California peninsula held annually in April. Last year in 2015, the fan-favorite Rippin’ Rooster, owned by Jim Riley and Eric Morley, faced challenge after challenge on the open road (see Hot Rod Magazine’s excellent ride-along story of the 2015 race here). Silt beds, potholes, cacti and countless other hazards left the Rooster battered, broken and stuck on the road a few miles away from the finish line. Yet the valiant effort put in by Riley and his team inspired the onlookers and fans, and this year, the Rooster rose from the ashes to make a triumphant third-place finish.
The Rippin’ Rooster is a “Tri-Five” Chevy, with a ’55 body, ’57 front and rear pieces and a ’56 windshield. During the 2015 race it was painted red, but this year the paint scheme paid tribute to Evel Knievel, with a white base, blue and red stripes and red stars. The Rooster gets its Rip from a Robert Simpson-built Chevy 350 engine, and many of its internal off-road parts are Lucas Oil products. The end result is a car that looks great, sounds great, and has a ton of personality.
The Mexican 1000 is a four-day trek across over 1200 miles of desert terrain, with early mornings and late nights repairing and patching the cars for the next day of punishment and reward. The Rippin’ Rooster may have started the race in fighting condition, but it ended without its hood. Out in the middle of the desert, with less-than-ideal mechanic opportunities, repairs are done on the fly with whatever materials are on hand, including water bottles and beer cans.
But it isn’t the Rippin’ Rooster’s bottom-line performance that gives it such appeal. Rather, fans adore the friendly crew and drivers. Every year, Riley and his team raise money to supply Rancho Milagro, a local orphanage, with food and supplies for three months when they head south to race. They spend a healthy amount of time with their young fans and are generous with stickers and other Rooster-branded keepsakes. Last year, despite not finishing the race, the Rippin’ Rooster’s crew still got huge cheers when they finally crossed the finish line. With a third-place win this year, Rooster fans share in Riley and Morley’s elation for rising once again.