SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal - December 2018

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

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Page 106 of 112

BaJa HQ: Sharing the Stoke By Stephen Romero Photography: Larry Saavedra, Dan Sanchez and courtesy of Baja HQ Most people who know veteran SCORE desert racer, Cameron Steele, understand his passion for Baja. He’s one of the area’s greatest advocates and wants others to experience the vibe of racing Baja by simply experiencing it from their own vehicle. So earlier this year he opened the doors to a unique full-service aftermarket shop he calls Baja HQ. Located in San Juan Capistrano, California, Baja HQ is open to the public and specializes in outfitting trucks and Jeeps with custom suspensions, high-intensity lighting, appearance add-ons, off-road wheels and tires, and all the things that make a vehicle Baja capable. All the products Baja HQ offers, are the kinds of products that Steele himself endorses for getting the most out of your vehicle in places like Baja. What’s different at Baja HQ from other off-road shops, however, is that its customers have a real interest in desert racing, or simply driving off-road in places like Baja. “The idea had been bouncing around in my head for years,” Steele said. “I want to share the stoke of Baja. That’s been our tagline. I want people to come here and look on the walls filled with pictures and video, to see what we’ve been doing for the past 30 years of desert racing.” Partners in Baja HQ A look around Baja HQ tells you that this is not just any old truck accessory shop. Many of the faces there are familiar ones to those that follow Baja racing. Steele and his wife Heidi partnered with longtime racing buddies Brandon Piorek, Mike Craft, and Andy Bonin to make Baja HQ a reality in 2018. “For me what’s happening at Baja HQ is form before fashion,” Steele said about the shop’s build style. “If a customer is adamant about something, we will do whatever they want.” As an example of the types of vehicle they like to build Steele pointed out a recent truck they did for a customer. “My favorite build this year is a Ford Raptor that was built totally stealth with upgraded FOX shocks, Deaver rear leaf springs, and 37-inch BFGs,” said Steele. “On the other end we can build long-travel suspensions and anything customers want. But my philosophy has always been not to overbuild an off-road vehicle, but to make it functional.” A Look Inside When you first walk into the Baja HQ shop, you notice that the entrance is framed by several of Steele’s Trophy Trucks and pre-runners. This gives you an immediate idea of just how large of a complex it was from the outside. Once inside, customers walk into a comfortable, stylish, retail section of the shop where products are displayed, and build options are discussed with guys like Piorek, or maybe Steele himself, if he’s not busy racing. Some of off-road’s finest wheels are mounted on one wall, across from where a display of other products like Fox Racing shocks and Baja Designs accessory lighting hangs. Large wall-mounted video monitors loop action-packed scenes from Baja and other off-road events. If you’re inclined to stay awhile longer, customers can enjoy the plush couches and there’s plenty of chairs to chill out and take it all in. The large shop where the builds happen, is behind another set of double doors. One look around the corner and you’ll see everything from vehicle lifts and state-of-the-art tire machines, to practically every tool ever made, all nearly organized. It’s all intended for those wanting to take their ride to the next level. What jumps out at you at Baja HQ is that the place is nearly spotless, an environment suited to the high-caliber vehicles that are built there and where technicians go about their business with the precision of a full-fledged race team in action. Social Media and Webcasts To kick off the grand opening this year, Steele and his partners hosted a get-together for several hundred off-road racers, fans and family, including Steel’s long-time friend and racing rival Rob MacCachren, who made an appearance. Social media also plays a part in spreading the word about Baja HQ, while other less formal events are announced on their Facebook page. A recent Facebook Live event at Baja HQ for instance included a webcast with SCORE Champion Andy McMillin and other racers, which drew 100’s of visitors to the shop, with thousands more viewing online. The free hot dogs and side dishes surely didn’t disappoint those in attendance. Steele and his partners find every opportunity to “share the stoke” of Baja and no doubt are doing their part in keeping the conversation of the sport alive and well among enthusiasts everywhere. SJ

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