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The term rally can cover a wide range of motorsports, from high-roller exotic car events like the Gumball 3000 to heavily-regulated off-road competitions such as the World Rally Championship (WRC). The Gambler 500 can be considered a rally, but it’s far-removed from both these extremes — it’s not a race, and it certainly doesn’t require a million-dollar supercar to participate. Touted as “Cannonball Run crossed with Burning Man and the Thunderdome”, the Gambler 500 lives by the mantra that “fun > rules”.
The Gambler 500 is a 500-mile mostly off-road adventure rally that travels through the public lands of Oregon. It’s free to enter, and participants are asked to start with a vehicle that cost $500 or less (although additional money can be spent on modifications). Other rules are minimal, and mostly consist of “don’t be a dick”. Each vehicle is loaded with food, water, camping gear, navigation and communications equipment, and spare parts for the inevitable breakdowns.
The 2017 Gambler 500 was the biggest yet — and possibly the largest rally in the world — with 742 cars and trucks participating. Iain Harrison of RECOIL Magazine attended, teaming up with co-driver Dan Brokos and a camera crew for RECOILtv.
Harrison’s vehicle was a particularly beat-up 1985 Toyota van, outfitted with OD green paint, a light bar, hacked-up wheel arches, and mud tires. The tires rubbed, the battery disconnected itself, and it rattled loudly the whole trip, but it completed the journey in one piece (well, mostly).
Check out the 11-minute 2017 Gambler 500 recap video below from RECOILtv: