Affectionately known as “Big Oly,”—the world’s most renowned Ford Bronco is set to cross the Mecum auction block at Mecum’s 2021 Spring Classic this May 14-22 in Indianapolis.

Big Oly is one of the most memorable cars in the history of motorsports. The example was based on a 1969 Bronco and was sponsored by Olympia Brewing Company. The iconic Parnelli Jones drove the example and is notorious for giving pet names to the vehicles he raced. Jones rose to fame competing in his Watson-Offenhauser racer he named “Ol’ Calhoun.” He broke the 150MPH barrier and was victorious at the Indianapolis 500.  

The whole journey started with a simple dare. Having experienced his share of tragedies, Jones became more careful with the cars he would race, prematurely ending the 1967 Indianapolis 500 after a transmission bearing failed that left him less than four laps from success in the groundbreaking Andy Granatelli-run STP Turbine.

Jones’ newfound selectivity made him turn down the chance to race with Stroppe at the Baja 1000. Stroppe, however, was not one to immediately admit defeat. At a party in late 1967, Stroppe told some friends that “Jones wasn’t brave enough for off-road racing.”  “It was like showing a red cape to a bull,” Jones later admitted.

Stroppe and Jones have had a long and rich history in racing. In 1964, Jones raced for Stroppe, where he won eight races on his way to a USAC Stock Car title. In 1963-1964, he was also able to get back-to-back stock car victories at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.

In 1968, Jones also attempted to compete at the Baja 1000 using a mostly stock Bronco. It was then that he realized that he needed something more innovative to win. He then brainstormed and came up with the most special Bronco ever produced: Big Oly. 

Jones immediately shared his ideas with Stroppe mechanic Dick Russell. Russell concluded that they should bring Big Oly to his garage to create a faster, more powerful, and lightweight Bronco incorporating a tube frame and a body made from fiberglass and aluminum. 

At first, Stroppe initially got upset with the two for seemingly going behind his back, with Jones needing to calm Stroppe down. Ultimately, Stroppe appreciated and understood the innovative ideas the two were seeking to accomplish. For these innovations to become a reality, Stroppe realized that the Bronco had to be completed at his race shop.  

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By: Sports Car Digest
Title: Parnelli Jones’ Legendary “Big Oly” Ford Bronco Heading for Auction
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Published Date: Fri, 19 Mar 2021 23:05:45 +0000