The Grand Ol’ Dame of Off-Road Racing, Judy Smith, on Episode 154


Judy Smith, the Grand Ol’ Dame of Off-Road Racing was honored by the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame in the Class of 2008. Having moved from Connecticut to SoCal in the 40’s, she was introduced to off-road with her husband in the 1960’s. Over the years she told many a racers stories as they competed in the desert. Her favorite column was the “Losers” where she interviewed those who didn’t make it to the finish line.

Rich got a chance to interview Judy by telephone with her nurse, Jennifer facilitating the call. In Judy’s own words, she doesn’t get out much anymore, but the spirit is willing if you’d like a companion to a race. The oral history of the ones who came before is such a treasure. Thanks for paving the road, Judy.

Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.


6:14 – back then, California teenagers were very different from Connecticut teenagers

10:59 – that’s good for women, and I wondered what I could do?

19:13 – I was always happy if there was another racer broken in the same place

23:25 – no one was there to say, “you didn’t do that right”

30:06 – I remember one guy telling me if I ever beat him, he wouldn’t come back – I don’t know whatever happened to him.

38:56 – how could you be that dumb on a place like the Peninsula and not know where South is?

Take a look at one of Judy’s “Loser” stories here:

Digitizing Dusty Times has been an ongoing project of the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, we are fortunate to get to access the writing of history.

Special thanks to the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame for their support of this podcast. Legends live at


[00:01:14.940] – Big Rich Klein

On today’s episode of Conversations with Big Rich, we have Judy Smith, the 2008 Ormhoff Inductee for Journalism.

[00:01:24.980] – Big Rich Klein

Judy has spent many years covering Baja racing and not from just the normal who won, but more importantly, I think, is who didn’t. We’ll get into all of that and talk to Judy about her days at Dusty Times and other publications and also her time racing cars. Hello, Judy. How are you doing today?

[00:01:50.600] – Judy Smith

And you are?

[00:01:51.780] – Big Rich Klein

My name is Rich Klein. Hi. I do a podcast about the history of offroad by those that live the lifestyle.

[00:02:03.210] – Judy Smith

Really? When?

[00:02:04.380] – Big Rich Klein

I started this just about three years ago.

[00:02:09.020] – Judy Smith


[00:02:09.780] – Big Rich Klein

Really? ORMHOF, the Offroad Motorsports Hall of Fame, has asked me to do all of the inductees.

[00:02:18.020] – Judy Smith

Oh, wow. Who have you done?

[00:02:21.120] – Big Rich Klein

I have done a couple of the new rock crawlers, Lance Clifford from Pirate 4×4, and Brad Lovell. He races short course, desert, one of the BFG Ford racers. And he rock crawled as well. I’ve done Frank D’ Angelo. Oh, really?

[00:02:41.560] – Judy Smith

oh, really?

[00:02:42.520] – Big Rich Klein

Did Bob Bower, which ended up being two episodes. And then I just did Marty Fiolka.

00:02:51.720] – Judy Smith


[00:02:52.420] – Big Rich Klein

Yeah. Okay. And I did Dean Bulloch.

[00:02:57.440] – Judy Smith

So then where do all these things show up? You do your own interview and you send it out yourself, right?

[00:03:06.340] – Big Rich Klein

correct. It goes out through all of the podcast hosting platforms. Apple has their own. There’s one with Spotify and YouTube. And then we have our own website called Big Rich Klein. The interview is called Conversations with Big Rich.

[00:03:31.760] – Judy Smith

I’d like to be able to get to it somehow and hear what it sounds like.

[00:03:37.440] – Big Rich Klein

Oh, absolutely. I can send the link through email.

[00:03:41.630] – Judy Smith

We may have to do some horsing around to figure that out, because I haven’t played around with that since I’ve been here. So I’ll get Jennifer here to help and we’ll get it figured out

[00:03:52.960] – Big Rich Klein

yeah, I’ll email the links to Jennifer, and then she can figure that out for you and get you to listen.

[00:04:01.470] – Judy Smith

Okay. So what’s most on your mind?

[00:04:07.000] – Big Rich Klein

I would like to know about your life and history. So I have some questions for you, and if you’d like, we can get started on that. Okay. All right. You were born in Connecticut and then moved to Southern California, and you were still in high school. Was that a move for your parents chasing work, or what facilitated that?

[00:04:32.620] – Judy Smith

Chasing work. My stepfather worked for Howard Hughes.

[00:04:36.980] – Big Rich Klein

Oh, for Howard Hughes?

[00:04:39.270] – Judy Smith


[00:04:39.900] – Big Rich Klein

What was he doing for Howard? Well, they.

[00:04:42.740] – Judy Smith

Were building… I don’t know what they were building, some critter thing that flew or did something down by the beach. That was the original business.

[00:04:58.830] – Big Rich Klein

All righty. And that was while you were in high school. Did you already have a year in high school in Connecticut and then move?

[00:05:07.940] – Judy Smith

I was right, yeah. I came out here in the 11th grade.

[00:05:13.220] – Big Rich Klein

11th grade. And what was that like transitioning from the East Coast to the West Coast in a very important time in your life?

[00:05:23.420] – Judy Smith

It was scary. It wasn’t just that the places were so different. Connecticut to Southern California, completely different part of the world. But the people were different, clothes were different. Kids wore different kinds of clothes to school. It took some doing to get reorganized.  READ MORE

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