If you have ever wondered about what Burning Man + People Of Wal-Mart + The Baja Desert races would look like, search no more. The answer is something called the Gambler 500, it is real, and it is one of the coolest events I have ever seen. The best part was the Prius I found and the people that own it.
What Is The Gambler 500?
The Gambler 500 started as some friends in Oregon as a challenge to see how far a $500 vehicle could take them in the wilderness. In 2014, there were only 14 participants, and it exploded in growth from there.
By 2018 there were over 1600+ vehicles that were participating in the event and about 4,000 attendees. Part of the fun of the Gambler is also to help do a massive trail cleanup. In fact, the trail trash that was picked up in 2018 filled three forty-foot trash bins.
Local Law Enforcement had nothing but good things to say about the event and the participants. Between the cleanup efforts and the crazy events that happen at the Hooptie-X (more to come on that), the Gambler 500 is genuinely something to set your sites on.
My Adventure With Our "Gambler"
There are all sorts of cars that come to this event. They, as the legend says, are cheap, beater cars that people use to drive all over the wilderness. I will get to the Toyota Prius gambler in just a bit, first how I ended up at the Gambler.
Like many of the participants, they get invited by someone who has been to the Gambler; then, they end up going with their rig. Being my first year, I was invited to take a wild ride.
The car I was in was a 1999 Subaru Outback Sport, which was named the Honey Badger, and for a good reason. This $250 car with a few tweaks and upgrades, it became a legend of its own in the wild outdoors of Oregon.
Our team of 3 took off out of Portland and began making our way down to the main event. Driving on some of the back roads in the Deschutes wilderness, was preparation for our primary function of the weekend, the Hooptie-X. My team broke me in properly with some pretty wild driving, and even let me take some free time behind the wheel.
Our first night, we made it into the Deschutes forest. After quite a few trails and dead ends, we found ourselves camping out under the stars. Sleeping out under the open sky was very relaxing and gave us the rest we needed to take on the next day.
We got up the next morning and took a look at our Oregon state Atlas. We decided to go to an event called the Hooptie-X (hooptie cross), where you can take your "hooptie" gambler and drive it on course. We made a game plan and set out, eventually making it down to the event.
The course was pretty intense, and two of the three of us rallied the Honey Badger through the trail about four times over. It was here at the Hooptie-X even that I ran into a very unlikely Gambler. A Toyota Prius.
What About The Gambling Prius?
Kori and her boyfriend Shelby are just two people that love to have fun. Shelby, who heard about the Gambler through a friend, decided that he needed to join. After getting a Toyota Echo for himself, they also decided that a Toyota Prius Gambler needed to happen.
After finding a 500 dollar Prius, the two of them got to work. The modifications to the Prius are a 1.5" lift kit, custom hand-crafted skid plates, a snorkel, and larger tires (215/70R15 mud/snow). I do believe that I saw the heat tank removed from the car as well, which makes sense if you are going off-road.
They added some awesome Toyota Retro stripes (A little Ivan Stewart influence?), and the Prius was ready for action. Their Prius has been a weekend warrior/daily driver for the dynamic duo, and they have taken it to other events. The Prius has been part of the Gambler now for the past two years. It has also been to at least one autocross event as well.
Among all the cars that were present this year (attendance was far lower due to COVID-19), this was my personal favorite. As the hybrid guy, I may be a little biased, but hey, it goes to show you that anything can be done if you set your mind to it.
If you want to be a part of something super cool, check out the Gambler 500. It is a great way to have fun and also help out the environment. I thoroughly enjoyed sleeping under the stars and bombing around in the backwoods of Oregon in the Honey Badger.
I am not sure if I will gamble a Prius or what kind of hybrid I will use, but I can for sure tell you that I will be doing this next year.
I want to thank my team who took me on an adventure of a lifetime, Scott and Mike, you two are heroes in my book, thanks for putting up with me. Also, a big thank you again to Kori and Shelby for the pictures, and it was great to meet you.
Have a great day, everyone, and I look forward to seeing you all in the next story. What You Need To Know About Green Bean Battery Replacement For Your Toyota Prius.
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Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter is also an Instructor of Automotive Technology at Columbia Basin College. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting. Read more of Peter's stories at Toyota news coverage on Torque News. Search Toyota Prius Torque News for more in depth Prius coverage from our reporters.