This Baja adventure is brought to you by Subaru power

Wide open. That’s the position you’re looking to place the throttle. It’s also the name on the side of the chase truck, buggies, and a nondescript building in Ensenada, Mexico. Wide Open Baja has been serving up the truest off-road experience for 21 years, and it’s the closest you’ll get to real off-road racing outside of spending the dough to line up at the start of the actual Baja 500 or 1000. Actually, if you have the dough, Wide Open Baja will let you do that too. And the entire adventure is spurred on by a powerplant initially destined to spend its life shuffling the kids to and from school in an Impreza.

The tube chassis is built in-house at Wide Open Baja. Fox supplies the suspension, while BFGoodrich delivers tires by the truckload. At the heart of it all, however, is a 2.5-liter boxer engine built by Subaru. For those familiar with the brand, this is the EJ motor and you can find them sending light aircraft into the sky, turning kits cars into DIY dream machines, and serving up dust and send through the Baja desert.

These buggies are fabricated in house. Wide Open builders weld up the tube-frame chassis. From there, it’s a matter of putting all the pieces together as if this were the best kind of full-size model kit. From the pedal box on to the suspension and the electronics, it’s Wide Open doing the full installation. The Subaru motors are shipped down to them and prepped for dirty work. All that means is a an extra bit of shielding to keep out the dirt and dust.

Wide Open Baja originally used a Porsche-style horizontal engine but it proved to be finicky, complicated, and expensive. Switching to the Subaru engine 10 years ago was a smart move, as the Boxer-style layout is similar allowing for the compact mill to find an easy home in the back of a buggy. It’s also a less expensive engine to repair, far more reliable, and thanks to the gearing of the four-speed manual gearbox with which it’s paired, you’ll find gobs of torque throughout the rev range.
That’s crucial because it allows a rookie off-road driver (like myself) to shift gears less often and focus more on the path ahead. First gear gets you moving, but the majority of your Baja adventure will see second and third gear receiving the heftiest of workouts. There are plenty of sections for truly wide-open fourth-gear speed of course.

The name of the company rings true across the two days I spend behind the wheel of a Wide Open buggy. With no front glass, my skin is protected not just by my clothes but also a layer of fine dust and sweat. The buggy boasts 13 inches of travel at each corner courtesy of dual reservoir Fox Racing shocks so large jumps are taken with a heavy throttle foot and a pillow soft landing awaits.

And the whole time I’m chugging through the changing Baja landscape, there’s a Subaru motor buzzing just behind my hand. I’m working hard but the engine is barely breaking a sweat. In fact, it thrives under these harsh conditions. The Mexican sun. The dust and dirt. Water and mud. It’s of no consequence to the engine. We’re through it. Over it. Past it. And on to the next beautiful vista, soaring desert jump, rocky cliff, and everything else that Baja can toss at us.

[Images copyright 2018 Hooniverse/Jeff Glucker]

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5 responses to “This Baja adventure is brought to you by Subaru power”

  1. Alff Avatar

    “For those familiar with the brand, this is the EJ motor and you can find them sending light aircraft into the sky causing light aircraft to fall from the sky, turning kits cars into DIY dream machines failed marriages, and serving up dust and send through the Baja desert.lying fallow in Alf’s driveway for weeks at a time”

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      Weeks, not something requiring multiple calendars? I’m impressed.

  2. outback_ute Avatar

    I’m surprised how simple the air intake/filter is.
    Do they have fresh air supplies for the crew?

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      It’s definitely simple.
      The lead and chase cars carry spares as well. Plus there is an air filtration system on board for driver and co-driver. Flip a switch and a fan pulls air away from the helmet through a hose.

  3. Manxman Avatar

    Reminds me of a line from a Little Feat song:
    “Baked by the sun
    Every time I go to Mexico
    And I’m still…”