This is the Big Oly trophy truck, it was built by Marshall Madruga as a 100% race-ready homage to the most famous desert racing truck of them all – the Ford Bronco-based Big Oly from the early 1970s.

With 725 bhp on pump gas, Marshall’s Big Oly is an explosively fast racing truck and notably quicker than the original Parnelli Jones piloted example. It’s been displayed everywhere from the Petersen Automotive Museum to SEMA, and it’s now being offered for sale.

Fast Facts – The Big Oly Trophy Truck

  • The build process of the Big Oly trophy truck began in 2007, Marshall Madruga had seen Parnelli Jones racing Big Oly back in the early 1970s and it had a major impact on him – so much so that he set out to build a modern high-performance version of the truck.
  • Marshall isn’t one to do thing by halves but building a modern desert racing trophy truck can easily result in a bill in the low six figures. So he bought a Sandco Performance trophy truck chassis and then almost all of the work himself.
  • One of the biggest challenges during the build process was the fact that the truck needed a bespoke fiberglass body – Marshall has a background working with fiberglass making surfboards, so he applied that knowledge to create the one-off panels that make up the body.
  • The vehicle was designed from the get go as a fully functional desert racing trophy truck and it remains so today, with a 725 bhp 438 cubic inch 351W Dart Block Ford V8, racing suspension and brakes. It’s now being offered for sale for the first time.

Big Oly + Parnelli Jones

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of “Big Oly.” It’s the vehicle that rewrote the rule book for off-road racing in the early 1970s, going on to dominate races like the Baja 1000, the Baja 500, and the Mint 400.

Big Oly Original

Image DescriptionThis is the original Big Oly, as you can see Marshall did a remarkable job of building his own modern Trophy Truck version of it.

Today the concept of “silhouette” off-road racing trucks is well established, but back in the late 1960s when Big Oly was designed and built it was a pioneering concept. The Bronco’s unusual name came from the team’s lead sponsor – Olympia Beer.

Rather than using the stock body-on-chassis Bronco as the starting point for their racing truck, Parnelli Jones, Dick Russell, and Bill Stroppe developed an all new chromoly space frame chassis, onto which fiberglass and aluminum body panels was attached to make the vehicle look like a Bronco.

As the story goes, Jones had little interest in desert racing but Stroppe knew he’d be a natural so he hatched a plan to get Jones into a Bronco.

He suggested it to Jones at a Christmas party in 1967, making a point of doing it in front of a large crowd. Jones explained that he wasn’t interested, Stroppe said something about off-road racing being too hard for him, which fired up Jones’ competitive spirit and saw him agree to race in the Star Dust 7/11 race across the Nevada desert in 1968.

Big Oly Trophy Truck 5

Image DescriptionThe interior of the truck is ready to race, with racing seats and harnesses, AutoMeter gauges, and a Lowrance GPS.

The Jones/Stroppe partnership would go on to revolutionize off-road racing. They brought in everything they knew about building race cars to the world of off-road racing trucks and changed it forever.

The Big Oly Trophy Truck

When Marshall Madruga saw Big Oly in action back in the 197os it had a major impact on him, but back then its unlikely he ever realized that one day he would hand built his own Big Oly – only faster than the original.

The project began in earnest in 2007, he bought a Sandco Performance trophy truck chassis and set to work. The upper and lower A-arms, trailing arms, sway bar arms, and Bilstein Blackhawk shock reservoir mounts were all plated in 24k gold. The steering links, rods, front and back bumpers and all other mounts are finished in brushed nickel.

Big Oly Trophy Truck 3

Image DescriptionThe truck has that distinctive overhead wing and it carries two spare wheels/tires in the rear.

A 438 cubic inch 351W Dart Block Ford V8 was fitted, it breathes through a Holley Terminator EFI system and it makes 725 bhp at 6,800 rpm on pump gas, with 650 lb ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. Power is sent back through a 3-speed automatic transmission.

Inside the truck you’ll find PRP seats and harnesses, AutoMeter gauges, and a Lowrance GPS. The body was made in fiberglass by Marshall has an homage to the original, and the paintwork was completed by Perry McNeil – a significant job in itself.

After completion the truck was on display at the San Diego Automotive Museum for two years, then at the Petersen Automotive Museum for six months – right in the main lobby. It’s also been featured in a slew of magazines both in print and online, and at SEMA in 2011 it was ranked number five out of the top 25 vehicles at the show.

It’s now being offered for sale through Barrett Jackson at the Scottsdale 2023 auction. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.

Big Oly Trophy Truck 2 Big Oly Trophy Truck 8 Big Oly Trophy Truck 7 Big Oly Trophy Truck 6 Big Oly Trophy Truck 4 Big Oly Trophy Truck 1

Images courtesy of Marshall Madruga

Published by Ben Branch -