• Last modified 761 days ago (June 16, 2022)


For rally car, it's love at 1st blight

Staff writer

Tristen Hett’s 1982 Toyota Supra, which he showed Saturday and later drove in Hillsboro’s downtown cruise, might not be quite the same car Jim Croce owned when he said he’d “bought a car held together by wire and a couple of hunks of twine.”

But it might be close.

Hett picked up the car at a junkyard to use as parts for another 1982 Supra. After harvesting parts he needed, Hett began working to get the junkyard car drivable.

“We do this thing called the Gambler 500 road rally,” Hett said.

Gambler 500 cars aren’t heavy-duty, high-dollar racing machines, and the event is not a race.

The challenge is to drive a car that cost about $500, gather at a rally to drive a back road and off-road course, and hope to get 500 miles out of the car.

“I’ve blown maybe six engines,” Hett said.

The winner is the one who picks up the most trash along the way.

Sometimes, instead of driving cars and pickups, participants drive riding lawn mowers. A lawn mower race is planned for next month, but a firm date has not been set.

The next car rally will be Sept. 23 to 25 in western Kansas.

It’s not about competing but about having fun and taking a gamble whether a car will make the entire 500 miles.

Kansas Gambler 500 cars aren’t heavy-duty, high-dollar machines. They are mostly put together from what owners have on hand or can find.

You couldn’t accuse Hett’s Supra of being pretty.

He said the car was put together with no science to it.

“I look at it and see if it looks like it will work and I try it,” he said.

The driver’s door opens with a screwdriver. Its air intake, harvested from a Ford pickup, pokes through the hood. Its springs came from a Jeep Wrangler, so the ride is far from smooth. The engine it now has came from a Mustang. The doors have no inside panels.

With two glass pack mufflers, the car makes a lot of noise.

Unlike most of the drivers in Saturday’s car show and cruise, Hett didn’t clean off the mud and shine up his black car before showing it off Saturday.

“It kind of turns heads,” he said.

Hett, who now lives in El Dorado, went to school in Hillsboro. His father lives in Durham.

Last modified June 16, 2022