Welcome Kurt Scherbaum and our new monthly Vintage series!

Kurt Scherbaum is a native San Diegan that grew up in the late 60’s & early 70’s traveling throughout Baja and the southwest shooting images of off-road racing and iconic landscapes. Throughout the early years Kurt spent countless hours in the darkroom developing film & printing images to help support his passion for photography. Selling prints to local racers helped offset the costs of gear and travel and connected him to the early personalities of our sport. Over the years Kurt has experienced the ever changing technology and progress that defines modern photography enjoying all genres and always looking for the next photographic challenge. Kurt currently owns The Lensman Photography and enjoys photographing occasional races, landscapes, and wildlife. Check out Kurt’s images @ thelensmanphotography.com and stay current by following him on Instagram and Facebook.

June of 1975 marked the genesis of what would become my lifelong passion for the sport of off-road racing. My passion would come into being just outside the small Mexican farming village of Ojos Negros, a 30 minute drive east of Ensenada. In the early 1900’s Ojos Negros was the first capital of the state of Baja California. This race (the 1975 SCORE AC Delco Baja 500) fueled by the high flying class 1 cars, the unmuffled exhausts of the class 8 trucks, and the unique class 6 sedans would forever put an indelible mark on me. This is just a few of several images I will be sharing that personifies the early days of off-road racing.

1975 SCORE AC Delco Baja 500

In a quest to shoot unique images I climbed atop the camper on the back of my Dad’s Datsun pickup and captured this unique perspective. I learned at an early age that capturing the sense of speed, using unique perspectives, and ensuring my images told a story were of utmost importance. Camera: Minolta SRT 101 35mm, Kodachrome 64 film, panned @ 1/30th sec exposure. 

Walker Evans and Pancho Weaver at speed in the class 8 Chevy C-10 pickup crossing the Ojos Negros cattle guard. Walker would move on to a Ford, then ultimately land a Dodge factory ride that would take him to his retirement. 

In the early to late 70’s you could expect to see a multitude of manufacturers motorcycles represented at Baja races. From the more common Yamaha’s, Honda’s & Husqvarna’s to Harley Davidson’s, KTM’s, Can-Am’s, & Penton’s. Many of them were fresh off the showroom floor with very few modifications that may have included aftermarket exhausts and over sized desert tanks to extend range between pits. Often utilizing family members to take on the tasks of pitting and chasing, these true grass roots efforts lead to factory dominated racing starting in the late 70’s. Camera: Minolta SRT 101 35mm, Kodachrome 64 film, Can-Am image 1/500th sec exposure, Penton image panned @ 1/30th sec exposure. 

Racing into the rising sun out of Ojos Negros the 125cc team of Jackobson & Bilbrey lead the 250cc team of Daly & Priestly while an unknown entry on a 125cc Penton flies over the cattle guard. (Larry Roeseler & Bruce Ogilvie would go on to win the race overall on a Harley Davidson giving Harley their only overall Baja win ever!) 

The early days of off-road racing saw garage-built creations typically based on Volkswagen’s rear engine layout with tube roll cages, a couple of bucket seats, and a slightly warmed over engine with exhaust. A few pioneers saw a need to produce stronger more dependable race cars that could be sold to the masses. Names like Chenowth, Funco, Jimco, Sandmaster, & Hi-Jumper would emerge and forever change the sport with their improved suspensions, transmissions, motors and much safer chassis.
Camera: Minolta SRT 101 35mm, Kodacolor II film ASA 100 panned at 1/60th sec exposure.

Here’s an example of an early class 2 unlimited two seat buggy entry with two roof mounted spares and an L at the end of the race number designating it as a “late entry”. The L would signifying that the entry would not be found in the official race program. 

The word “visionary” or term “cutting edge” are quite often heard when discussing one of the sports true innovators Mickey Thompson. This example of cutting edge technology had a hand built chassis, rear engine Chevy 454 aluminum block, a modified Oldsmobile Toronado front wheel drive transmission (reversed) 11″ of front travel, 36″ Mickey Thompson Baja King Tires, and multiple shocks per wheel. Mickey was constantly innovating and would go on to develop the US Marines buggy, the Challenger series of buggies and bring off-road racing to the masses at Riverside Raceway and eventually to large stadium crowds across the U.S. Camera: Minolta SRT 101 35mm, Kodachrome 64 film, panned @ 1/60th sec exposure.

Mickey and Danny Thompson flying the Ojos Negros cattle crossing in the highly modified class 2 unlimited 2 seat Chevrolet LUV truck. Mickey & Danny would go on to suffer transmission problems and withdrew from the race. 

Check out Kurt’s images @ thelensmanphotography.com and stay current by following him on Instagram and Facebook.

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