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Herbst Truggy – El Tiburón (The Land Shark)

There are some vehicles that change everything. The Herbst Truggy is one of those vehicles. It not only challenged Class 1 rules but its form over function aesthetics set a tone that celebrated and revered its ugliness, rebelling against the idea of pretty, perhaps non-functional design.  It’s an idea that carries through today as we scoff at new vehicles thinking, “I wonder how long until it breaks?”

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The Herbst Truggy embraced and evolved the idea of having truly “Unlimited” class restrictions, an idea that has challenged some of the best manufacturers and engineers in the world and sent them home scratching their heads. Off-road is the only form of motorsport left in the world that is truly “Unlimited”, a fact that is to be celebrated.

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The Herbst Truggy is the steroid pumped Brock Lesnar of off-road racing, both terrifyingly brutal and satisfying.  We worship its strength. Affectionately known as “El Tiburón” or the “Land Shark”, its classic war plane style nose glossed with of a full set of shark teeth ready to chomp on anything that gets in its way has become one of the most distinguished vehicles in off-road racing.

The Truggy entered into the fray in 2004 and immediately devoured the competition, taking back-to-back Baja 1000 victories, numerous Baja 500 wins, and multiple championships. It literally took years for the competition to catch up. Not only did it crush the competition in Class 1 but it consistently shamed the Trophy Trucks as well.

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Originally built for Jerry Herbst to race Class 1, the Mike Smith designed Truggy was designed to be simpler and stronger than the current class 1 cars by eliminating the plunged rear axle in favor of the tougher solid rear axle of a Trophy Truck. The Truggy started with 37 inch tires but grew to 39 inch tires once they were available to take on the massive holes of Baja. Mike Smith not only designed and built the truck but hand-built custom shocks until larger shocks became a standard.

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Dirt Co. created this limited edition commemorative run of El Tiburón Tee, only available on Race-Dezert.com. Click the photo to get yours now.

It is the late Master fabricator Mike McQueen who is actually credited for coming up with the Land Shark livery. After punching holes to allow airflow to the header, he stepped back and noticed it looked like gills on a shark which perfectly complemented the pointy nose.  The teeth were added from there.

El Tiburón’s brutish looks mask many of its innovations, like the upper Uniball joints with unlimited angle.

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Most recently, the Herbst Truggy burnt to the ground during the NORRA Mexican 1000 but the Herbst and Mike Smith have vowed it will be rebuilt and raced again.

TERRIBLE HERBST MOTORSPORTS LANDSHARK TRUGGY STATS

Owner: Terrible Herbst Motorsports
Builder: Mike Smith Fabrication
Date completed: 1995
Top Speed: 150 mph
Chassis: Mike Smith Fabrication
Frame: 4130 Chromoly Tube
Weight: 5,900 lbs
Wheel Base: 125″
Track Width: 96”Front, 91” Rear
Engine: Patton Racing Engines, 454in small block, Ford V8
Cooling: Ron Davis Radiators
Exhaust: R.E.F. Unlimited, Stainless
Plumbing: Brown & Miller Racing Solution
Transmission: Culhane Racing Transmission Turbo 400
Driveline: Driveline Unlimited
Torque Converter: Coan Converter
Brakes: 13” Brembo 4-piston calipers
Fuel Cell: 64 gallon Harmon Fuel Cell, Weldon fuel pumps
Tires: 39 x 13.5 R17 BFGoodrich KR
Wheels: 17” Ultra Xtreme Wheel
Paint/Graphics: Airbrush- Gator Graphics / Vinyl – Patrick’s Signs
Body: McQueen prototype
Front Suspension: A-arm, Mike Smith solid piston Bypass shock, Mike Smith coilover, Mike Smith Racing shocks, 30” travel
Rear Suspension: Solid axel, 4-link, trailing arm designs, Chrisman 11” third member, 34” travel, Mike Smith Solid piston bypass shock, Mike Smith coilover, Mike Smith Racing Shock
Steering: Steering box, Power Steering Solution pump, Smith ram
Paneling: Carbon, Aluminum
Wiring: Tom Oliva, American Wire Harness
Lights: KC HiLites
Navigation: Lawrence GPS, Leadnav Systems
Communication: Racing Communication
Seats: Cobra Technology
Safety: Simpson harnesses, Mastercraft Safety window nets

TERRIBLE HERBST MOTORSPORTS LANDSHARK TRUGGY STATS

YEAR

SERIES

RACE

Class Finish

Overall Finish

Class Championship

Overall Points Championship

1997

SCORE CLASS 1 CHAMPIONSHIP

1

1998

BITD SILVER STATE 300

2

1998

SCORE BAJA 500

1

1998

SCORE CLASS 1 CHAMPIONSHIP

1

1998

SCORE OVERALL POINTS CHAMPIONSHIP

1

1999

BITD VEGAS TO RENO

1

2

1999

BITD TERRIBLE’S TOWN 250

1

2

1999

SCORE LAUGHLIN DESERT CHALLENGE

1

1

1999

SCORE LAS VEGAS TERRIBLE’S PRIMM 300

1

1

1999

SCORE BAJA 1000

1

1999

SCORE CLASS 1 CHAMPIONSHIP

1

2000

BITD TERRIBLE’S TOWN 250

1

1

2000

SCORE SAN FELIPE 250

1

2000

SCORE BAJA 500

1

2000

BITD NEVADA 2000

1

1

2000

SCORE BAJA 2000

1

1

2000

SCORE CLASS 1 CHAMPIONSHIP

1

2000

SCORE OVERALL POINTS CHAMPIONSHIP

1

2001

BITD TERRIBLE’S TOWN 250

1

1

2001

SCORE LAS VEGAS TERRIBLE’S PRIMM 300

1

1

2001

BITD VEGAS TO RENO

2

3

2001

SCORE CLASS 1 CHAMPIONSHIP

1

2002

BITD TERRIBLE’S TOWN 250

1

1

2002

SCORE LAUGHLIN DESERT CHALLENGE

2

2002

SCORE SAN FELIPE 250

1

2002

SCORE BAJA 500

1

1

2002

SCORE BAJA 1000

3

2002

SCORE CLASS 1 CHAMPIONSHIP

1

2002

SCORE OVERALL POINTS CHAMPIONSHIP

1

2003

SCORE BAJA 500

1

1

2004

SCORE BAJA 500

1

2004

SCORE LAUGHLIN DESERT CHALLENGE

1

2004

SCORE BAJA 1000

1

1

2005

SCORE BAJA 1000

1

1

2006

SCORE LAS VEGAS TERRIBLE’S PRIMM 300

1

2006

SCORE BAJA 500

1

2006

SCORE SAN FELIPE 250

1

2006

SCORE BAJA 1000

1

2006

SCORE CLASS 1 CHAMPIONSHIP

1

2006

SCORE OVERALL POINTS CHAMPIONSHIP

1

2007

SCORE LAS VEGAS TERRIBLE’S PRIMM 300

1

2007

SCORE BAJA 1000

1

NORRA photo by Pasion Racing
Statistics provided by SCORE-International and Best in the Desert
Studio photography by Vincent Knakal of Mad Media

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