Cepek and Thompson: Legendary Racers Selling ‘Go Fast’ Gear

Bobby Rahal, the famous American auto-racing driver used to tell his fans  “In racing, I wanted to be a winner and to be a winner you have to be willing to roll the dice.”

Most serious off-roaders will tell you, it’s ok to take some chances when you’re trying to finish first in a race, but “rolling the dice” on quality aftermarket prices is never a smart idea. However, if you do plan on going the frugal route on your truck or SUV, make sure you cheap out on sound system or custom floor mats instead of something fundamental, such as tires or wheels.

Just like your brakes and suspension, if you have a wheel or tire failure, you could be jeopardizing your life. The chance of an equipment malfunction becomes much higher once you take your ride off-road, too. Because of this, it is imperative for truckers and 4x4 racers to invest in the best wheels and tires they can afford. For most enthusiasts today, they look no further than the two biggest names in automotive racing: Mickey Thompson and Dick Cepek.

thomThe late, great Mickey Thompson
In the 1960s the two racers dominated the land speed and off-road circuits. Mickey Thompson continually went faster than any living human on a smooth paved surface while Cepeck spent all of his time ruling the off-road races in deserts and sand dunes. The two racers competed during the same period and had much in common, but until the year 2000, there companies were run as separate entities.

Tire Legends Are Born

If you ever travel the California Baja Peninsula in Mexico during the SCORE race, be sure to say hi to some of the older racers. There is a good chance that some of the old timers can still remember the glory days when Dick Cepek and Mickey Thompson used to race through the desert at break neck speeds.

According to the history books, Cepek was a man that most 4wheelers would admire. He spent most of his days fishing, hunting and exploring on his off-road vehicles. Originally from the southeast, Cepek moved to South Gate, California where he got a taste for sand dunes in his classic Range Rover. However, every time he pushed the limits with his 4x4, his tires let him down. Whether he was stuck or got a blowout, Cepek knew that his tires were no match for the desert.

Eventually, Cepek called around to tire and rubber manufacture around the country to see if they could make a custom tire that could handle the soft sand of California and Mexico. After a few months of hard work, he ended up with a tire that was based off heavy farm equipment. Four years later, Cepek started taking his tires to Baja to prove their “worthiness.”

cepHall of Famer Dick Cepek
Just like Cepek, Mickey Thompson was a man that pushed the limits of his tires to the max. In the late 1950s, there was no manufacturer that was able to produce a tire that could withstand the speeds that Thompson was trying to achieve. An entrepreneur at heart, Thompson went into business for himself to develop high-speed tires for funny cars, land speed machines and eventually his off-road racers.

Two Heroes Under One Flagship

Since Cepek died in 1983 and Thompson died five years after, neither of them had grand plans for how their legacy would live on. Luckily, Cepek’s son wanted the brand to continue to grow and in the year 2000 he signed a merger with Mickey Thompson Tire and Wheel Company.

For consumers, this means that any Dick Cepek wheel or tire will come with the same guarantees, promises and craftsmanship that has kept the Mickey Thompson Company in business for so many years. Because of both racers’ fierce racing careers, the quality of the wheels has been continually tested since the 1960s.

Their Legacy in Tire:

For both Cepek and Thompson, it was their tires that made them famous. Below are the two most popular tires from each company.

  • Mickey Thompson Pro Drag: Viewable from a quarter mile away, these big beefy drag slicks have the M/T logo stenciled on the sidewall to let the crowds know you mean business. These wheels are predictable, lightweight and warm up easily.
  • Mickey Thompson Baja Claw: This heavy duty and extra aggressive tire is perfect for mud, sand, dirt, snow or gravel. The deep blades and integrated tread design make it a must for off-roaders in extreme conditions.
  • Dick Cepek Fun Country: This super popular tire is great for off-roaders that appreciate a sweet and quiet ride on the highway. This is the one of the best all-around tires that doesn’t sacrifice performance in the sand.
  • Dick Cepek Crusher:Every tire company needs to make one product for the bad boys. The Crushers are one of the most intimidating tires on the market. Huge treads and wild sizes make it popular with the rock crawling crowd.
Whichever tire company you choose, remember that you can buy both brands with confidence. For the last 14 years, Mickey Thompson and Dick Cepek have joined forces to offer the off-road community with long lasting, extremely durable and “Baja Worthy” performance tires.

By Sean Bowes
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