Only In Vegas? A Lifted, 4×4 Stretch Limo Will Race In the Mint 400

Only In Vegas? A Lifted, 4×4 Stretch Limo Will Race In the Mint 400

03/11/2022

The city that never sleeps, full of gambling, cocktails, and a wide variety of entertainment, Las Vegas is the perfect venue for the Mint 400 off-road race. Why not tackle the brutal contest in the one vehicle that is equally as recognized as the Golden Nugget of old Las Vegas, the stretch limousine? We’re about to find out as Jim York, vice president of stunts at Pit Viper, and Gabby Downing, an automotive content creator on YouTube, join forces to race their own 1999 Lincoln Town Car stretch limo modified using a Chevrolet one-ton pickup frame and four-wheel drive.

The idea of a 4WD stretch limo isn’t an oddity in Las Vegas, a city where if something can be made into a spectacle, it probably will exist. However, unlike that one you’ll more than likely see rolling down The Strip full of drunk people screaming and hollering on their way to the next hotel bar or nightclub stop, this off-roading limo is poised to enter into the most legendary off-road race in the world, the Mint 400. More incredible in this already spectacular story is that the entire vehicle was built in less than a month.

What Made This A Racing Limo

The Town Car started life as a standard stretch limo conversion and retains its Ford SOHC Modular 4.6 liter V-8 engine and its 4R75W AOD four-speed automatic transmission. In fact, the frame of the limo is also still there—it’s just welded on top of a one-ton Chevrolet 4WD frame. To drive the front and rear axles, an Atlas transfer case was added behind the 4R75W to send torque to the front and rear Dana 44 axles, which also were sourced from a one-ton Chevy.

The 37×12.50R17 BF Goodrich competition tires, mounted on 17 inch Vision Manx beadlock wheels, are shoved down far from the limo body by way of the original one-ton leaf spring design with a set of Rough Country shocks and bump stops. The car qualifies to race in the Experimental/Supercar class and will be the sole entry on race day.

The Drivers

Both York and Downing have zero open desert racing experience, but both do have their own unique driving experiences that they will rely on. Downing, besides being a YouTube creator, is also a grassroots drift and rally driver with her regular drift car currently being a BMW E46 3 Series.

Jim York, on the other hand, holds world records for the longest jump in a limo, hearse, and a “hot tub limo.” Let’s just say he has an affinity with long-wheelbase cars. Even so, York and Downing both know that this isn’t going to be a cake walk. “We both know it’s a horrible idea,” said York, “And both of us can’t wait to see how bad of an idea this really is.” Downing, meanwhile, explains it with their “Jim and Gabby’s Gang of Thieves” team motto: “Full send or no send.”

Why Race a Limo In The Mint 400?

That question is mostly answered  with a “why not?” As York points out, “This race has never been attempted let alone completed by a limo.” In the entire history of the Mint 400, this is potentially a first, though it certainly is not the race’s first oddball entry.

While you’d think that the team behind the race would hesitate in allowing a limo run, you’d be wrong. We asked Matt Martelli, CEO and Creative Director of Terranaut Media Group and the Mint 400, about this entry. “We love creative vehicles like this,” he said, “The Mint 400 has a long tradition of crazy and unique vehicles racing with us. Everything from sedans to RVs to tanks have raced in it. You build it to pass our safety inspection and we will let you race.”

While we’d hesitate to race a strangely long vehicle riding on leaf-sprung live axles in open desert competition, there is one thing that might help us reconsider: The limo retains its fully functioning bar with an assortment of adult beverages (well, so far—who knows what the bumps ‘n thumps of the desert will do to the hooch). The 2022 Mint 400 takes place out in the desert near Las Vegas on March 9-13, 2022.

Photos provided by Daniel Nobel

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