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

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BUGGY BUILDING BLOCKS The New Owners Of Alumicraft Are Taking Race Buggies And Trucks To The Next Level By Dan Sanchez Photos by Jack Wright The off-road racing, open-wheel buggy has a long history in off-road racing as well as in SCORE. One of the advocates and early champions of open-wheel vehicles was John Cooley, who raced in the 1980s and ‘90s, then decided to start building sand cars and pre-runners, starting Alumicraft in 1996, specializing in building chassis from 4130 Chromoly tubing.  Over the decades, many veteran championship racers began their careers racing in Alumicraft vehicles. Some include Rob MacCachren, Steve Sourapas, Cameron Steele, and members of the Menzies, Herbst, and McMillin families. But among the racers, Cooley also mentored up-and-coming fabricators who might someday carry on the Alumicraft tradition after he and his wife Grindle sold the company in 2021.  Enter Matt Major and Tristan Fleming, who are the latest co-owners of Alumicraft. “I was kind of born into off-road,” says Major. “My dad owned a company called Major Performance building race motors for a number of years. I actually started at Chenowth with Ryan Thomas and Mike Thomas. I was the shop helper and then got hired out of there into Alumicraft 28 years ago. I was lucky enough to have John Cooley as a mentor and grew up, basically my adult life in this business with that. So I felt lucky for this unique opportunity.”  Major handles all of the design and construction side of Alumicraft, while Fleming handles the daily operations and administrative parts of the business. “Actually, Alumicraft has been a part of my family for a long time, and that’s kind of what started the passion for me in off-road,” said Fleming. “I mainly come from the dunes background with the sand car side of things, which Alumicraft does a lot of. But the main focus of it has always been the racing part. So that’s how I got introduced to it and I had a unique opportunity to become involved in the business with Matt almost three years ago.”  Both Major and Fleming became involved in the sale and realized together, they could handle the fabrication and business sides without interference. So they partnered together to form this latest version of the company. “With me becoming involved with the business during the sale and Matt leading the prep side, it was natural for us to partner together,” said Fleming.  The Next Level  The Alumicraft team has pushed forward with a variety of innovations and demonstrated it with a great set of accomplishments. In the 2023 SCORE World Desert Championship season, Alumicraft racers racked up multiple class wins, taking first place in Class 1 and Class 10 at the SCORE Baja 500, sweeping the podium in Class 10 at the SCORE Baja 1000. At the end of the season, Cody Reid in his Alumicraft Class 1 took the Class Championship, while Francisco Vera took the Class 10 Championship. To top off the season, Alumicraft won SCORE’s Open Wheel Manufacturer Of The Year. While building buggies is the company’s DNA, they also continued forging ahead building SCORE Trophy Trucks and TT Specs. “We’ve built several Trophy Trucks, one that was successful racing in Australia, and another was Ethan Hagle’s that ran in SCORE last year after moving into it from Class 10,”  said Major.  The most recent was Broc Dickerson›s SCORE Trophy Truck which is a 2WD and debuted at this year›s King Shocks 37th SCORE San Felipe 250. Although Dickerson DNF’d, Major and Fleming believe the truck has a lot to offer, and Dickerson is quickly learning the class. “I think there is still an opportunity to build some competitive two-wheel drive trucks,” SAYS Major. “In Broc’s truck, the power-to-weight is great, and it has a lot to offer. Plus it has a six-speed transmission, it›s fast, and Broc’s a phenomenal driver who is showing he›s capable of running with, the top guys. Sure he›s got a big fight ahead of them. But we›re excited to see what he can do.”  Class 1 Resurgence Over the past few seasons, Class 1 buggies have become fewer, but Major and Fleming believe a resurgence is coming. “There are great families involved in Class 1 and now with the Reid family racing our All-Wheel Drive, they are making leaps and bounds with that car,” says Major. “In Class 1 you got families like the Parkhouse’s, the Reid’s, and the Wilsons. Those teams are all staples in the off-road community and are committed to the class. They’ve been doing this for a long time, multigenerational, and I think all those guys want to see it succeed.” Major and Fleming believe part of the lack in participation in Class 1 is because the vehicles have become as expensive as running a SCORE Trophy Truck. But Alumicraft is working on making these vehicles more affordable. “I think the Class 1’s got priced very high, almost to where they were getting to the point competing with trucks,” said Fleming. “A lot of people looked at it and said, if we’re going to spend this much, we may as well jump into a truck. We have some options, however, that have brought that price point down quite a bit, and these vehicles have shown to be very competitive. I think it will take the Class 1 guys getting on the same page, picking and choosing races.”  As an example, racer Connor McMullen is currently dominating in state-side races with his Alumicraft Class 1 car that is equipped with a crate motor, instead of a more expensive custom built engine. “This is driving a lot of excitement around the class,” adds Fleming. “It shows you can run a Class 1 car with something like a spec motor and be competitive. Now we are producing more Class 1 cars like this, versus what we were building two or three years ago. So we’re seeing a lot of resurgence in this class because of this.”  Alumicraft also saw a large count of Class 1 vehicles participate at a state-side race earlier this year, with Kevin Reid of Reid Motorsports, taking the lead and starting a prize purse to attract more racers. He did the same at SCORE races in 2023 and proved successful. “I think once some more stuff like that happens and that class starts picking up it’ll gain traction,” said Major.  The Class 10 Route In the meantime, Alumicraft is also busy building many Class 10 vehicles. They see first-time racers getting into this class because it’s an easy route into off-road racing. “We’re building cars for a lot of first-time guys,” says Major. “Some want to go into bigger car classes, but I reel them back in and talk them into something that gets their feet wet first.”  Major knows that campaigning and prepping a Class 10 car is easier and not as overwhelming as a Class 1 or even a SCORE Trophy Truck. “You don’t need as many people, and the vehicles don’t eat up parts like a truck does. It’s a great class to get into and it teaches you how to drive. There’s a lot a lot going on with a six-speed transmission and a cutting break in these vehicles. You’re constantly busy driving a Class 10. And if you’ve learned how to drive one of these, you’ll be able to drive just about anything in the future.”  As Alumicraft continues to innovate with new ideas and help ease the entry into off-road racing for many, it’s hopeful that more people will come to enjoy these vehicles and appreciate the effort and history that still stands behind them. SJ

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