SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal - October 2018

SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

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Jeeps At Full Speed Clive Skilton Founder of Jeepspeed and former owner of Don-A-Vee Jeep, recalls the days when Jeeps had a large participation in SCORE racing By Clive Skilton Forward: There was another time when Jeeps were popular and they tried their hand at winning the SCORE Baja 500 and Baja 1000 races. At the time, Clive Skilton, owner of Don-A-Vee Jeep, the largest Jeep dealer in the United States campaigned Jeeps in a variety of classes including SCORE Trophy Truck when it began in 1994. In 2001 Skilton started the Jeepspeed off-road race class and continues operating the venue to this day with Mike Barnett as its general manager. Skilton was gracious enough to give SCORE Journal some insight into his history and experience racing in SCORE with racers such as Curt LeDuc and Larry Maddox behind the effort. –by Dan Sanchez The original Russ Weinermont/Larry Maddox Jeep was probably the first Trophy Truck of the 1990s. Jeep, the manufacturer, wanted to win the SCORE Baja 1000 overall and this was their Class 1 entry powered by a inline dry sump, six-cylinder Jeep motor. I was a secondary sponsor of the car through my Don-A-Vee Jeep dealership. After a very successful run with the Commanche trucks in Class 7,  Mike Lesle hired Curt LeDuc and built and raced two 101-inch, stock wheelbase, Class 6, 2wd version, as well as Class 3 4wd Cherokee XJ’s as the factory reps wanted straight axle cars. Mike then got the order for a straight axle Trophy Truck (a tank) and a Class 3 ZJ Grand Cherokee, which was a very nice race car. Larry was not happy and quit racing the good Trophy Truck. My Don-A-Vee Jeep dealership continued to sponsor Mike’s team, particularly driver Steve Kelly who was the Vice President of American Racing Wheels.   In 1993 when Jeep became environmentally conscious, they killed off road racing almost overnight. This was prompted by Sierra Club objecting to Chrysler/Jeep about its TV ads showing trucks blasting across open desert and through streams. Mike Lesle ended up in a legal battle with Jeep.  I jumped in and bought the Larry Maddox car and hired Curt LeDuc to prep, drive, and manage the Don-A-Vee team. The ugly straight axle Trophy Truck ended up in a destruction movie. The Class 3 Cherokee XJ went to South Africa, and my sons Darren and Gavin Skilton raced the Class 6 winning the SCORE Baja 500 and the Baja Spain 2wd Class. The Class 3 ZJ Grand Cherokee became a Class 8 vehicle after SCORE updated Class 6 and Class 3 rules.   In 1993 Curt LeDuc put a ZJ body on the Maddox Trophy Truck  and installed a Dave Whitehead small block Mopar V8. To our amazement we got second place in our very first Trophy Truck race which was the SCORE Baja 1000. It started and finished in Mexicali, and Darren and Gavin won Class 6 beating the John Swift Ford Explorer. Then I got Valvoline to sponsor our Jeep team which consisted of LeDuc’s Trophy Truck, Class 6/8 vehicles, and two stock Grand Cherokees. We had a great run with the Trophy Truck winning the SCORE Baja 500 overall in 1995. It also won Vegas to Reno overall, and picked up a SCORE Trophy Truck Championship beating the factory teams of Ford and Chevrolet over a five year period. Darren went in a slightly different direction trying to get Jeep to enter the Dakar Rally. In 1996 we had a Dakar ZJ Grand Cherokee built and installed the 6 cyl out of the TT.  Unfortunately Jeep turned us down saying Dakar vehicles looked like bread vans? Darren entered the Morrocco Rally, qualified in top three and was leading overall when the inadequate Dana 30 front end collapsed. Darren took the Jeep to Baja Portugal and Baja Italy with mixed results then it was retired until the Baja 2000 taking 2nd place in Class 3 International eventually was exported to Australia in 2004 ,where Colin Hunter installed a Hemi for Class 8. In 1998 we sold the Jeep dealerships and lost the Valvoline deal so we liquidated the team. The TT went to La Paz where it still runs with a GM body and motor. The Class 8 was purchased by Dick Sasser who recently (2017) sold it. We still have the original Class 6 XJ as it was the Jeep that carried Darren and Gavin for their first win (La Rana). At Baja 2000 Curt and his sons won Class 8 with this little 6 cyl Jeep beating twenty V8s!  This amazing Cherokee XJ has countless wins including the SCORE Baja 1000, SCORE Baja 500, SCORE Baja 250, Baja Spain, Mint 400, and the Parker 425, running in Class 6, Class 8, Class 2700, and Jeepspeed. We have kept it completely original except swopping to wet sump and pump gas. SJ

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