Mickey Thompson’s 1975 Chevy LUV.
Mickey Thompson’s 1975 Chevy LUV.

Mickey Thompson’s 1975 Chevy LUV

IT MAY be dirty, dusty and guaranteed to smash you around a fair bit, but desert racing is one of those things that must be outrageously good fun.

The vehicles made to do it look like oversized toys too, and we were lucky to have a classic desert racing truck on the Sunshine Coast last weekend in the shape of Mickey Thompson's 1975 Chevy LUV off-road monster.

A 7.4-litre V8 mounted in the back; a smashed-up desert-duelled body and American Stars and Stripes livery. What's not to love here?

The truck is owned by Mickey Thompson Tires in Australia, who use it as a promotional vehicle to showcase the history of legendary American off-road and drag racer Mickey Thompson and the innovative tyres his company produced.

"It was built to compete in the Baja 500 (a famous Mexican desert race) in 1975, where it unfortunately failed to finish," said Jeff Newick from the company. "Mickey drove things at full noise the whole time - it was either win or bust with him."

After the desert race the Chevy LUV (Light Utility Vehicle) did some stadium events before being mothballed in its battle-scarred condition.

A spell at California's NHRA Museum followed, before Mickey's son Danny agreed to sell it to Australia for promotional use.

"It's kept in storage in Brisbane, and transported around the country to major shows," Jeff said.

"We fire it up for spectators and give it a run now and then. Believe me, all 600 horses are still there."

Such power - 447kW in our language - comes from a modified Chevy 7.4-litre (or 454 cu in) aluminium LS7 engine, beautifully on show on the truck's rear shelf and behind an almighty semi-trailer's radiator.

Transmission is an Oldsmobile Hydromatic three-speed auto, while the drivetrain has been fully modified to suit the power and tough race conditions.

There's a titanium roll cage that was state-of-the-art back in the 1970s, while the torsion bar suspension is Smokey Alleman-fabricated, with three Mickey Thompson shock absorbers at each front wheel, and four at each rear wheel.

This is for desert racing of course, so even the driver's bucket seat has full suspension and shocks.

The body is originally an Isuzu truck design that was rebadged by Chevrolet, and is decked out in period US Marines livery to show off the famous red, white and blue.

It was retired "warts and all", so the body has numerous bumps and scrapes, the front headlight is smashed and the under-body bash plate has seen plenty of action.

It's wonderful to see a racing machine exactly as it was back in 1975, and that includes those famous Mickey Thompson tyres.

"The truck is part of the legend of Mickey Thompson, his history, and what he achieved," said Jeff fondly of this brutal truck he loves firing up at any opportunity.

That unbridled racing V8 roar, combined with the truck's history and outrageous looks, makes it justifiably priceless.


Model: 1975 Chevy LUV Mickey Thompson off-road racing truck.

Details: Rear-engined two-seat custom racing truck built for the Baja 500 desert race in Mexico.

Engine: Rear-mounted and custom tuned 454cu in (7.4-litre) Chevrolet LS7 aluminium engine.

Transmission: Oldsmobile Turbo Hydromatic three-speed automatic.

Power: 600bhp (447kW).

Did you know? American Mickey Thompson, who raced this truck, set more speed and endurance records than any other man in automotive history.

‘Touching, irreverent’ show coming to a stage near you

Premium Content ‘Touching, irreverent’ show coming to a stage near you

New cabaret performance coming to three Northern Rivers locations

29 TAFE jobs saved but cuts might still go ahead

Premium Content 29 TAFE jobs saved but cuts might still go ahead

Claims 29 jobs are being cut have been "blown out of proportion"

Man passed own breathalyser test, convicted of drink driving

Premium Content Man passed own breathalyser test, convicted of drink driving

The Suffolk Park man faced Ballina Local Court for drink driving offences.