Watch Rod Millen Party Like It’s 1999 in This Racing Toyota Tacoma

The 100th running of the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was special this year for many reasons. On Sunday, June 26, drivers attacked the 14,000-foot mountain in Colorado in everything from weird purpose-built racecars to vintage cars and motorcycles. But fans of the hill climb, and fans of Toyota, watched Rod Millen attack the mountain in his 25-year-old winning Toyota Tacoma race “truck” that was built for Pikes Peak in the 1990s.

This video shows Rod Millen’s entire run

This particular Tacoma has a history. Millen drove the truck in the Pikes Peak hill climb race in 1998, 1999 and 2000. It’s come out for the occasional show, like the Goodwood Festival of Speed, but generally was moth balled for the last 20 years. Yeah, it looks nothing like a Tacoma. It’s a custom-built racecar that has more in common with 1980s IMSA prototype racers than trucks. So, if Toyota wanted to call it a Tacoma, so be it.

Millen finished 8th this year, at age 71, in the 25-year-old truck. This year’s race was won by Robin Shute in a Wolf TSC car with a time of 10:09:525

Millen still has the skills, almost 30 years after setting a record

Race driver Rod Millen shown at the 2016 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Rod Millen attends the 42nd Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach | Leon Bennett, Getty

In the video, Watch Millen jerk the tiny red steering wheel as he muscles the Tacoma around the road, and his left hand works the shifter. Sure, he has a hand brake to the right side of the wheel, but it doesn’t look like he ever touches it during the run. As Millen starts the run, he’s clearly moving quickly along the straighter portions of the first sector. You can hear him use engine braking to slow the “truck” down as he hits each apex and uses every section of the road. At about 2:15 you can see him really turn on the gas. At 2:44 he saves the truck from a scary-quick slide in the wet under braking.

From the multiple angles you can also see how steep the drop-offs are. Putting a wheel wrong could spell big disaster for any of the drivers, and it makes you really appreciate the efforts of drivers who did the hill climb before the road was paved.

Millen is a longtime racer for Toyota at Pikes Peak

In 1998 Rod Millen raced the same truck up Pikes Peak before the road was paved.
Rod Millen at the 76th annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb | Photo By Andy Cross The Denver Post via Getty Images

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In 1994 he set a record for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb of 10:04:06 in an all-wheel-drive Toyota Celica. And it looks like he remembers the road well. Newer Toyotas are branded Gazoo Racing, but this truck predates that branding.

You can really get a sense of how grueling the road is once you reach the 10:00 mark and see Millen struggling to keep the truck between the lines on the road that is snowy, damp, and foggy. Near the 11:00 mark, it gets completely disorienting after the fog really sets in at 12,000 feet. One of the wildest parts is how close spectators are to cars and trucks going more than 100 miles per hour on the climb. They line the road either separated by a thin rope of caution tape, or they’re simply having a tailgate at a corner completely unprotected if a car missed an apex.

The cars that people prepare for the hill climb are also totally wild. This year, racers like Ken Block prepared specialty racers for Pikes Peak. The cars look so wild because the rules allow almost anything to compete.

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