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1968 Volvo Powered Burro Racer

1968 Volvo Powered Burro Racer


Year Started: 1968

Bob Sinclair was born in 1932 and raised in a Philadelphia suburb, where he excelled in music as a talented pianist. As a young adult, he found success racing in gymkhanas, rallies and ice-races. His love of cars led him into what became a notable career in the auto industry, almost entirely with Swedish manufacturers Volvo and Saab.

In 1966, he was transferred to California as CEO of Volvo’s operations in the West. Within a year, Bob started an off-road racing program that would result in raising awareness of the Volvo brand. After much research, the Burro dune buggy being made by Tiny Thompson in Santa Ana CA was the platform of choice. Burros were usually made for Volkswagen engines and building a frame for the much larger Volvo B18 engine was a challenge that required significant design changes. The result was the inimitable Volvo Burro.

In 1978, Bob was named CEO and Chairman of North America for Saab, where he is credited with the concept and introduction of the 900 Turbo Cabriolet 1983. 

Bob and the Volvo Burro saw success in an unusual way in the 1968 Baja 1000. He and his co-driver Bob Anderson were 60 miles from the finish line when the left-front wheel was ripped off in a crash. Sinclair was thrown out of the car, but not seriously injured. Their solution was to switch the good front wheel with the opposite rear wheel, giving the buggy enough front-end clearance to drive. They became the first car to finish the Baja 1000 on three wheels and came in 4th in class and 21st overall.

Volvo Burro 1

1968 Stardust 7-11 in the Volvo Burro. Driver was Tiny Thompson & Co-driver was Les Choat. Buggy finished 2nd in class behind Malcolm Smith and 13th overall.

1969 Baja 500 in the Volvo Burro. Driver was Bob Sinclair & Co-driver was Bob Thomas from the Los Angeles Times. Finish was a DNF due to a failure in the frame.

1969 Mexican 1000 in a Volvo Powered Meyers Manx Toad. Driver and owner was Fritz Warren & Co-driver was Bob Sinclair. Finish was a DNF.

Bob Sinclair also served as the Chief Steward for the 1971 Mint 400 off road race.

After his off-road racing activity, Bob turned to offshore powerboat racing. He combined Marieholm boats with Volvo Penta engines. During this time, he broke a world speed record off Redondo Beach and set the speed record from San Felipe to La Paz in the Sea of Cortez. Bob’s offshore powerboat activity was the subject of a television show called The Thrill Seekers hosted by Chuck Connors.

He was responsible for the Barber Pro Racing Series, which used a spec car with a Formula Ford 2000 design powered by a turbocharged 16-valve Saab 16v engine. Bob Sinclair retired from SAAB in 1991.

Submitted by: Steve Heckert
Created: February 08, 2023