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REMEMBERING ORMHOF INDUCTEE PARNELLI JONES

REMEMBERING ORMHOF INDUCTEE PARNELLI JONES

June 4, 2024 -- American racing icon and Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee Rufus Parnell "Parnelli" Jones has passed away.  He was 90 years old.  Parnelli was a member of the inaugural ORMHOF Class of 1978.

Off-Road Legends Walker Evans, Ivan Stewart, Parnelli Jones, and Malcolm Smith at the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction & Awards Gala in 2012.

In the course of his career, Parnelli Jones won nearly every major auto race in North America both off-road and on pavement. Among his many racing accomplishments, he captured victory at the Indianapolis 500, the Baja 1000 twice, the Baja 500 twice, Pikes Peak twice, and the Mint 400.

Parnelli Jones' Big Oly Bronco sold at auction in 2021 for $1.8 million. Photo credit: Mecum Auctions

In an interview with SCORE International, Parnelli shared about driving the Big Oly Bronco with Bill Stroppe. "Bill Stroppe was good for me," said Parnelli, "He'd beat me on the leg and say, 'slow down, slow down, there are coyotes out here and snakes, and we don't want to spend the night out here.' That encouraged me to back off a bit," Parnelli chuckled.  Bill Stoppe was inducted into the Hall of Fame with Parnelli in 1978.

Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing, with support from Chevrolet's Special Vehicles Division, built a Class 8 truck in 1975. The truck was recognizable for its bright yellow-gold paint scheme, and became well-known for its many race wins in 1975 and 1976, including the Parker 400, Baja 500, Mint 400, and Baja 1000. Parnelli Jones shared driving duties in the Class 8 with Walker Evans and fellow Indy 500 winner Rick Mears.  Walker Evans was inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2004.

Parnelli Jones' championship Class 8 truck is currently on display at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Daytona Beach, Florida. Parnelli graciously donated the truck to the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2011.

The Parnelli Jones-built off-road truck was so successful in Class 8, that it was moved to Class 2, where it defeated the highly competitive two-seat race vehicles and was crowned the SCORE Overall Class 2 Points champion. The truck featured a high horsepower, small block Chevrolet engine, B&M turbo 400 automatic transmission, and aircraft quality materials and construction.

The Parnelli Jones-built BFG Blazer is one of the most iconic off-road vehicles of all time. Now part of the ORMHOF Collection, the Blazer was restored by Sean Hoglund for owner Cameron Thieriot, who raced it in the NORRA Mexican 1000 before donating it to the Hall of Fame in 2021.

In their quest to dominate off-road racing in the mid-1970s, Chevrolet approached Parnelli Jones with the opportunity to create a very special race vehicle, the BFG Blazer. Unlike off-road racing vehicles of the day, the BFG Blazer made use of a full tube frame chassis, custom one-off suspension components, a fiberglass body, and a Big Oly-inspired wing across the back of the roof.  The BFG Blazer was driven by Frank 'Scoop' Vessels and Bob Gordon.  Scoop Vessels was inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007, Bob Gordon was inducted in 2017. 

"We are saddened to learn of the passing of a true legend," said ORMHOF chairman Mark McMillin, "Parnelli Jones was not only an American icon and off-road racing legend, he was a great friend to the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame."

Parnelli Jones' ORMHOF Inductee Page

About the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame

The Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame was established in 1978 by racing promoter and NORRA founder Ed Pearlman to recognize and honor those individuals and organizations whose lifelong contributions to off-road motorsports have set a standard for others to follow. In 1995, legendary off-road racer Rod Hall became ORMHOF chairman, a position he held for more than twenty years, before selecting current chairman Mark McMillin as his successor.

The mission of the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame is to educate and inspire present and future generations of the off-road community by celebrating the achievements of those who came before.  Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductees represent excellence and achievement in many areas of off-road, including advocacy, journalism, industry, rock sports, desert racing, short course, and rally.  

ORMHOF maintains a collection of vintage off-road vehicles that are displayed at museums around the country, as well as an extensive online archive of print, images, video, and now audio, with more content added as funds become available.  The Hall of Fame Off-Road Registry invites clubs, organizations, events, businesses, and individuals with fifty years or more of history in off-road to apply for Hall of Fame heritage status in the official archives of the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. 

The Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame is funded through donations, individual memberships, and industry partners. A 501c non-profit organization, ORMHOF has earned a GuideStar Non-Profit Gold Seal of Transparency for 2024.

ORMHOF is guided by an all-volunteer board of leaders in the off-road community, including chairman Mark McMillin and board members Frank ‘Butch’ Arciero Jr, Dave Cole, Frank DeAngelo, Bud Feldkamp, Jeff Furrier, Bob Ham, Josh Hall, Gary Haugley, Rich Klein, Rafael Navarro III, Fardad Niknam, Bonnie Vessels, and Rory Ward.

To support the Hall of Fame, please join, partner, or donate today. Legends live at ormhof.org.

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