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What is the Gambler 500?

An Old Morris Minor Off-Road.

The Gambler 500 is a unique event that doesn’t require a fancy car to race in. Typically, if you plan to participate in any kind of rally or race, your vehicle needs a significant investment. That’s why you see the names of sponsors plastered across the cars of professional drivers. But this race is all about doing things on the cheap. Here’s everything you need to know about this off-road navigation rally, including how to join the fun.

What Is the Gambler 500?

It all started when a group of friends in Oregon thought it would be nifty to go off-road in cars that cost no more than $500. The goal was simply to see if they could do it and how far they could drive before the cars decided the race was over. Now, it’s an annual event that attracts participants from around the world.

Over the course of two days, teams of two navigate to GPS waypoints. There, they can enjoy a party with fellow competitors at the end of each day. You never know what you’ll encounter along the way, so it’s good to have a few tools on hand, like a utility jack and spare tires. This race is all about having fun off-road, but stewardship of the land is a major component too. Participants are expected to clean up trash en route to the waypoints, and prizes are awarded for sharing the trash you collect on social media.

Who Can participate?Mitsubishi Pajero Off-Road

Pretty much anyone can take part in the Gambler 500. All you need is a vehicle, a willing driver and navigator, and a healthy sense of fun and adventure. Of course, you also need to have a driver’s license and insurance, and you may need to purchase the necessary off-highway vehicle (OHV) permits, depending on the route, but that’s about it.

The registration fee of just $40 makes the race accessible to everyone, and although race organizers encourage using cars that cost less than $500, you can technically drive anything. Driving a car that qualifies as a hunk of junk is half the fun!

Pavement Is Lava

Remember the kids’ game where you jumped from couch to chair and back again because the floor was lava? Well, in the Gambler 500, the pavement is lava. You can navigate to the race’s waypoints following whatever safe route you choose, but the goal is to stay off-road. On top of the prizes for trash, there are also awards for finding the best routes, as an incentive to avoid the highway.

How Can I Participate?

The main event is held every year in Oregon, but it’s not the only race of its kind. There are now Gambler 500 events held throughout the United States, Canada and Iceland, all with the same spirit of fun and stewardship. Low entry fees, cheap cars and a love of off-roading are all that’s required. So, if you’re looking to get involved in an off-road rally without draining your bank account, give the Gambler 500 a try.

Check out all the products for off-roading available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information about how to drive off-road, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy Flickr.




Nicole Wakelin View All

Nicole Wakelin covers the automotive industry as a freelance journalist for a variety of outlets. Her work includes news pieces, podcasts, radio, written reviews, and video reviews. She can be found in The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, US News and World Report, and AAA along with lifestyle blogs like Be Car Chic, The Other PTA, and She Buys Cars. She is active on social media with a large following on both Twitter and Instagram and currently serves as Vice President of the New England Motor Press Association.

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