by Ned Bacon

Each year, dozens of prominent figures from the off-road world are nominated for induction into the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame (ORMHOF). Among the five people selected to be honored this year is Overland Journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Chris Collard.

He was nominated for the category of pioneering journalism by none other than the late Mark A. Smith, founder of Jeepers Jamboree, fellow Hall of Famer, and second-to-none pioneer of the off-road world. Mark saw that Chris’ accomplishments more than fit the ORMHOF criteria, which to quote, reads: “They are characterized by their desire to win, the mastery of their field, and their courage to innovate. Each of the inductees has made a significant contribution to off-road motorsports in at least one of the following aspects: Business, History, Design, Engineering, Prestige of the sport, and/or Growth of the Sport.” In reading that quote, I can’t find one aspect of it that Chris doesn’t qualify for.

I first met Chris in 1995 when I wrote a piece on the JP Eater, the first compact dual-case transfer case system for the Toyota pickup. Chris’ mechanical knowledge helped get that project off the ground and revolutionized ultra-low gearing for Toyota fans. A few months later I bumped into him in a Sacramento parking lot as he ran passed me in his brown uniform, delivering a package for UPS. This was my first sighting of his unlimited energy. Our next encounter was a year later when we crossed paths on the Rubicon Trail, where we sat around the campfire and got to know one another. We discovered we had a lot of common interests—a main one being our love of Baja, Mexico. A trip was planned.

During that adventure south I was doing a tire test article for a prominent manufacturer. At one point I shot a couple of photos, popped a coldie, took a seat in the shade, and quipped that my work was done for the day. Unbeknownst to me, at that moment a journalist was born. Chris said something like, “Boy I wish I had your job.” From that point on, the man was on a mission that has not slowed to this day. A couple of years later he resigned from his 17-year position with UPS and plunged head-long into the world of freelance journalism, utilizing his already strong photography skills and mechanical knowledge while working hard on improving his writing (English was his least favorite subject in college). He went at this life-changing dream with commitment, focus, and drive unsurpassed by anyone I have seen at any endeavor.

The results of his efforts are staggering, and the reason he is now a member of the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. Through his work as a freelance writer/photographer and Editor-in-Chief of Overland Journal, Chris has traveled through more than 50 countries and his work has been published in at least a dozen of them. He has covered races, rallies, and expeditions everywhere from Mexico and Africa, to Australia, Asia, and South America, bringing the excitement of these events to his readers with enthusiasm. He has written about and photographed exotic travel pieces from all seven continents; a recent highlight was crossing Antarctica by four-wheel drive with the Expeditions 7 team.

Beyond his work as a journalist, Chris has found time to devote his boundless energy to volunteer with numerous non-profit organizations. He has put in endless hours into helping the California 4WD Association, providing media services and working on fundraisers to fight land closures. He has served on the BOD of his own 4X4 club, the Sierra Treasure Hunters, and has spent the last 10 years as the Trail Coordinator for Sierra Trek. In the 90s he helped develop an off-road program for Disabled Sports USA to bring the joys of camping and four wheeling to the physically and mentally disabled. In 2006 he ventured to remote villages in Oaxaca, Mexico, (in a Jeep) with Free Wheelchair Mission to deliver wheelchairs to the mobility challenged. To top off this super-human list of endeavors, Chris also finds time to do contract photography work for auto manufacturers and various aftermarket companies. I don’t know how, but his lovely wife, Suzy, insists he finds time for her as well!

Chris has received a few well-deserved awards over the years, including Best Freelance Journalism and Writer of the Year from the Outdoor Writers Association of California, Cal4Wheel President’s Award for two decades of volunteerism, and the Buzzy Willis Award for outstanding achievement in opening or maintaining access to motorized recreation.

Being inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame is an award I feel is long overdue. Congratulations old friend, I don’t know anyone who has worked harder or accomplished more at their chosen profession.

 

 

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After a 2,400-kilometer crossing of Antarctica, Chris and Overland Journal publisher Scott Brady celebrate with a few drams of Shackleton’s whiskey. 

 

 

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Chris finds himself hanging out with notable characters such as Richard Petty, Coco, Prince Harry (above), and of course, the crash dummy.

 

 

 

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Chris’ learned the love of off-road sports at a young age while riding on the tank of his dad’s Greeves 250 in the Mojave Desert. At age 20 he purchased his first four-wheel drive (which he still owns). Mark A. Smith, known as the father of Jeeping, nominated Chris for the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame (right).

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He will do anything to get the money shot.

 

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In 2011 Hall of Fame member Sue Mead asked Chris to be the media manager for the Fabschool General Tire Ford Raptor at the Dakar Rally, South America. Sue and team manager Darren Skilton pulled off an overall class win. 

 

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Some of Chris’ rides. A Nissan he was riding in Morocco when it lost steering and did a barrel roll in the middle of the desert. He and friend Brian Franzia drove one of Mark Smith’s original Jeep CJ7s across South America in 1998. His “punk kid” 1982 Toyota. One of his Australian rigs he should have taken better care of.

 

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He has spent endless hours volunteering on conservation projects and land-use fundraising events, and help develop Disable Sports USA’s off-road/camping program. 

 

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Chris loves helicopters, whether he is riding in one or photographing them. 

 

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His work has included commercial photography for various auto manufactures and aftermarket companies.

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Capturing the action has been one of Chris’ specialties.

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Features have included classic vehicles from high profile racers such as Rod Hall (Bronco) and James Garner (Grabber Olds 442).

 

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Photographing and writing about the world’s distant locales is his passion. These images are from a solo moto trek across America’s West, a trek to Angel Falls, Venezuela, through the Gran Sabana, and traversing Australia’s expansive Outback.

 

 

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About the Hall of Fame

ORMHOF was originally the vision of Ed Pearlman, founder of the NORRA Mexican 1000 (1967), and the man responsible for putting organized off-road racing on the map. Pearlman felt the early pioneers of the flourishing sport should be recognized in a hall of fame. In 1978 he inducted the first 16 members, a list that included early racers like Parnelli Jones, Steve McQueen, and James Garner. Despite Pearlman’s noble attempts to recognize his inductees, his idea never really got off the ground until Rod Hall acquired NORRA in 1995. Hall embraced Pearlman’s vision and put together a board of directors. They developed a mission statement and found a permanent home for ORMHOF at the National Automobile Museum, the Harrah Collection in Reno, Nevada. Three categories were formed:  Competition, Recreation and Pioneer (which includes the sub categories of Advocates, Industry and Journalism). Today there are 78 inductees in the Hall of Fame, and the list reads like a who’s who of the off-road world.

 

 

On behalf of all of us at Overland International, we congratulate Chris on his latest achievement. Chris embodies the spirit of adventure that compels us all to push further into the unknown. Although well traveled, it is obvious to us, his journey is just beginning.

From Humble Beginnings

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About the Author: Ned Bacon