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Ridiculous Racers: Trophy Trucks

High flying, three wheeling, off-roading, speeding machines. Trophy trucks are some of the most well engineered truck builds around. Check them out!

The Most Exciting Trucks in the World

Trophy Truck - themint400.com
Trophy Truck - themint400.com

Truck owners love to mess with their trucks. Big shocks, big wheels, fender flares, light bars, skid plates, just about anything to make their truck a rough and tumble off-roader. Well, a lot of these truck performance and aesthetic additions point to a motorsport subset that’s been kicking up dirt and flying through the air since the 1980s. Trophy trucks are some of the most insanely engineered automotive marvels to have ever been conceived.

These specialized trucks are composed of lightweight body panels, have ridiculous long travel suspensions, and sometimes carry engines that push well over 1,000 horses. They’re made to quickly traverse any terrain and do it exceedingly well. If you want to see the most exciting racing on four wheels, trophy trucks should be at the top of the list. There’s no wonder that some of the racing world’s greatest drivers, like rally racer Ken Block and F1 champion Jenson Button, have made their way into one of these trucks. Let’s do a little more digging on what all the hype is about when it comes to trophy trucks.

What Are Trophy Trucks?

Ivan Stewart's Toyota - pressroom.toyota.com
Ivan Stewart's Toyota - pressroom.toyota.com

Trophy trucks are uniquely crafted off-road machines that race through deserts, over rocky terrain, and take jumps in stride. The trophy truck class wasn’t officially classified until 1994 for the by SCORE for the Baja 1000. However, one of the earliest and most popular examples of what we consider the modern trophy truck was Toyota’s TRD developed off-road racing truck. Ivan “Ironman” Stewart raced Toyota’s trophy truck from 1983 until 2000, racking up a long list of wins in both the stadium circuit and in the Baja endurance events. He was so good in fact, you may have recognized his iconic Toyota trophy truck from the cover of his 1990s video game, Ivan ”Ironman” Stewarts Super Off Road.

Baja 1000 Trophy Truck - @Honda on twitter.com
Baja 1000 Trophy Truck - @Honda on twitter.com

With his success and the extensive engineering TRD utilized to create his racing trucks, the classification of trophy trucks we know today were born. But what makes these trucks different from the pickup trucks we see every day? For one, there isn’t really a truck bed to speak of. There may be some spots back there for tool boxes and tires, otherwise it looks like a mess of metal tubing and empty spaces. There’s more to it than just the absence of a bed though, so here’s a quick rundown on what makes a trophy truck a trophy truck.

Trophy trucks are predominantly made up of a tube chassis that’s adorned with a highly stylized and sponsored composite truck body. These composite body panels are molded to resemble production trucks like the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, Toyota Tacoma, Honda Ridgeline, or something completely unique in terms of design. Depending on the type of racing, you can find these trophy trucks outfitted with lighting across their roofs and fronts, skid plates, spare tires at the rear, and some form of number plate.

Trophy Truck chassis - blitzkriegoffroad.com
Trophy Truck chassis - blitzkriegoffroad.com

The next largest component is one of the most important bits, the long travel suspension that’s been highly engineered and tuned to peak performance in these trucks. At the front, trophy trucks utilize a specially crafted independent A-arm setup with racing engineered bypass shocks and coilovers from brands like Bilstein, Fox Racing, King Off-Road Racing Shocks, TRD, and many more. These same brands offer their proven trophy truck shocks for your own prerunner build if you’re in the market.

Trophy trucks need some incredibly powerful and bulletproof engines when it comes to reaching those high speeds though. Peeling back the composite shell reveals a big-block V8 engine stuffed inside these trucks and they’re typically sourced from Ford, GM, or Toyota. The naturally aspirated V8s are given a full overhaul by strengthening components, machining custom parts, installing aftermarket enhancements, and by outfitting them with some serious air filters. Trophy trucks intake a ton of air and it is almost always full of dust or debris, so having a giant, high-quality air filter is a must. These engines are then dynoed and tuned to have a good torque to horsepower ratio.

Feeding that big V8 is a massive fuel tank sitting where the truck bed would be. These trophy trucks aren’t the most fuel efficient, only getting between two to three miles per gallon. So, the fuel tank in turn has to be large enough to keep it moving for miles on end with little need to stop for fuel. Typically, trophy truck fuel tanks can range between 60 to 100 gallons. That’s significantly larger than the tanks found in gas guzzling full-size SUVs like the Chevrolet Suburban at 28 gallons.

Different Trophy Truck Races

While the idea of a trophy truck may remain virtually the same, they don’t go through the same types of racing necessarily. There are three distinct types of races when it comes to trophy truck championships. Each has its own dynamic that teams have to account for when they build their trucks. Here they are plus some of the specific championships if you’re looking to see some high-flying trophy trucks in person.

Desert Trophy Trucks

Desert Trophy Truck - @JensonButton on twitter.com
Desert Trophy Truck - @JensonButton on twitter.com

Out in the desert is where the trophy trucks thrive. Deep sands, rock crawling, and unexpected jumps abound, but these trucks are ready to tackle every new obstacle. Trophy trucks that race in the Baja 1000, Mint 400, or the Best in the Desert series all have to be prepared for a long point to point journey. These trucks are commonly outfitted with one or two spares, additional spare parts like serpentine belts, tool kits, and shovels. They also are running throughout the night, so bright lighting rigs are a must. In addition to the driver, there’s usually a co-driver who is providing turn-by-turn directions using GPS and any notes they’ve gathered from prerunning the course.

Championship Off-Road

Championship Off-Road - Championship Off-Road on facebook.com
Championship Off-Road - Championship Off-Road on facebook.com

Championship Off-Road has changed hands quite a few times over the years, but it’s currently being organized under AMSOIL. The series features multiple classes of trophy trucks, SXS, and buggies that race on short dirt circuits. There are even some trophy karts that look like a mini trophy truck that are driven by up-and-coming kid racers. The tracks for Championship Off-Road still feature jumps and plenty of dirt, but this series is a lot easier for spectators to witness being a smaller racing area. This series is also a lot safer with emergency vehicles available right away and no chance of getting lost in the wilderness. Horsepower and weight drop a bit in comparison to the endurance desert guys (especially those trophy karts), but the racing is a lot more engaging given the tighter starting grid.

Stadium Super Trucks

Stadium Super Trucks - Stadium Super Trucks on facebook.com
Stadium Super Trucks - Stadium Super Trucks on facebook.com

In a similar vein to Championship Off-Road is Stadium Super Trucks. This group sticks to circuits and dabbles in dirt on occasion, but they primarily race on paved tracks or down city streets. Barricades and fences line the circuit as these trophy trucks hit ramps along straightaways or to shave seconds off their times. When these trucks do make tight corners, they hardly let up and are lifting a wheel with three planted. It’s a spectacular motorsport series to watch and the racing can get pretty aggressive between competitors.

Want More Trophy Trucks?

Trophy Truck - themint400.com
Trophy Truck - themint400.com

Trophy Truck season is ramping up as we approach summer, so keep an eye out for one of these racing truck events near you. Want more off-roading goodness? We’ve dived into the Baja 1000 and even given you some tips on how to craft your pickup truck into a prerunner build based off these trophy trucks. And there’s of course resources on which used pickup trucks are best for off-road, some of our picks for the best off-roading trails, and an article detailing some off-road tires that can really help your truck dig into the elements.

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Jesse McGraw

Jesse McGraw brings his life-long car obsession into his writing. A fun childhood that involved growing up around race tracks, working on a rusty ‘99 Dodge Dakota held together by zip ties, and collecting Hot Wheels developed into a strong appreciation for automotive history. If there is an old, obscure, or rare car, he wants to know about it. With a bachelor's degree in Web Development & Design from Dakota State University, Jesse can talk shop about car or computer specs, focusing on classic cars, imports, and car culture.

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