Off Road Nights Dirt Lifestyle Festival

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The Off Road Nights (ORN) Dirt Lifestyle Festival is a celebration of the off-road culture. Despite being set in the heart of Temecula, CA in the heat of August, the night setting was perfect for this outdoor event.

Day turns to Night


One of the best advantages is that the ORN Dirt Lifestyle Festival is that it starts late in the day. If you’re familiar with southern California weather away from the beach, you know that you don’t want to be outside between the hours of 11am and 4pm. It’s just too dang hot at those times during the latter part of the Summer season.


For photography, it also presents a great time to get pictures. You get into the “Golden Hour” and get those glamorous shots. A little cloud cover would have been nice for both weather and photos – you’d get cooler temperatures and less harsh shadowing, and both are issues you must deal with for most other shows.

Sun Down, Lights Up


Shooting in the dark without a tripod presents some challenges. Shoot with a low shutter speed and you can take a picture that will be blurry from even the slightest movement. Jack up the ISO and you introduce more and more grain. Decrease the aperture and you decrease your focal distance.


However, I like that in a challenge and you capture some amazing things that you wouldn’t think of during the day. The way rock lights color the suspension, moody lighting that you can only capture using parking lot lights, or just images that you can’t create and make you think differently over daytime photography.

The HST Gordini


If you’ve followed the story of Robby Gordon and the Dakar Rally, you know he’s had a bit of a “history” with the race. In his last effort, he created this race rig known as the HST Gordini. A lot of it was based on the Hummer-bodied build he raced a year before he created it. It was a tremendous undertaking considering he was racing against factory backed efforts in the “Cars” class.


The HST Gordini is now for sale with its last race being the 2016 Dakar Rally, I believe. It’s still powered by a LS7 in Dakar Specification (so it has restrictors in the intake) with a MoTeC suite of electronics, an Albins six-speed sequential transmission in 2WD, an air inflation system, an air conditioning (though, nothing like you would expect in a road car) among the other very high-end parts that you need to challenge a Dakar Rally.

Water Boy and The Holy Toledo


Up next are a pair of trucks that have extensive history with the Mint 400 and open desert racing. These are the Water Boy Jeep J10 Truck and one of the Brian Chuchua Holy Toledo Jeep Commandos – both owned by Dennis Sletten and Ricky Barfield. The Chuchua Commandos are, in my opinion, the earliest example of true trophy trucks as not only did they have the backing of Jeep, but these Commandos were all fully fiberglass bodies just as you see racing today. This was including one with a mid-engine Dauntless V6. Dennis and Ricky’s “Herbie,” which gained that name after being sold to Jim Bell in Nebraska, was purchased in 2017 and confirmed to be one of the original Holy Toledos.


The Water Boy here is a reproduction, but the original shares a history with the Holy Toledo. Dennis’ cousin, Paul Price raced the original in these colors in 1980. Paul’s co-driver, Dick Dahn, raced a Holey Toledo in the Water Boy colors while Price drove one with Rock Bradford. The history of these trucks is much longer than I can dedicate here. One day, I hope I can share the full story. Both, along with a third Jeep that was on display with them, belong in a museum because most of the things we take for granted today in off-road and open desert racing were all pioneered on these vehicles.

Rugged Radios “Off-Road Hot Rod”


This was cool to look at, but if you haven’t seen it before, this is not what it looks like. It’s not a hot rod off-roader – it’s a 2018 Polaris RZR XP Turbo with a reproduction 1932 Ford body and a fake V8 engine. That’s not to say it hasn’t been built up, though. Instead of just slapping a fiberglass body on and calling it a day this RZR has a custom frame, Walker Evans Racing shocks, and a fully caged interior that includes a PRP bench seat.


So, while it’s a bit disappointing to learn this isn’t a real ’32 made into an off-roader, it does scream with all of the right hot rod intentions.

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