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Off-Road Hall Of Fame Inductees
Mark Smith Year Inducted: 1980
In 1953 Mark A. Smith and a small group of Rotarians and friends figured out a way to draw visitors to their town, Georgetown, California: stage an annual Jeep vehicle trek across the Sierra Nevada Mountains by way of the old Rubicon Trail. The event has run continuously since then and Smith’s business has grown to host numerous Jeep Jamborees through out North America. In addition to organizing the events Smith has traveled the world by Jeep and is recognized for his exploration by the Explorers Club of New York.
Smith was born in 1926 in Arizona. His father a mining engineer moved the family from Globe, Arizona to eastern Nevada where Smith grew up. The young Smith had his first glimpse of a Jeep during news reel at his local movie theater. He knew from that first big screen sighting that he had to have a Jeep of his own some day. He drove his first Jeep while serving in the United State Marine Corps in 1944.

He and his wife Irene, moved to Georgetown, California in 1951. In 1952 Smith purchased his first Jeep to further explore the area. He knew he had world class Jeeping right out of his front door. He recognized the opportunity to share the trails with others while providing a boost for the local economy. Along with some friends and local Rotarians he hosted the first ever Jeep Jamboree. 155 individuals attended the first event. In 1954, Willys Motors, the manufacturer of Jeep vehicles at the time became involved with the adventure. The event has run every year since then.

Smith is by nature a person who seeks to explore the world and find adventures. He led the 1978-1979 Expedicion de las Americas, a 20,000-mile, 120-day odyssey from the bottom of South America to the top of North America, crossing the infamous Darien Gap. The Darien Gap is the section of land between Panama and Columbia where the Pan-American Highway has yet to connect through the jungle. The area is dense road-less jungle, which has only been traversed successfully by vehicle in a joint effort of the British Military and Columbian Military in 1972. Smith’s group of 16 North American’s is the only organized private group to traverse the distance. Smith’s group worked with the indigenous Choco and three Columbians to traverse the Gap. It took them 30 days to work their way through the jungle and by the time they had made it through the path they had cleared at the beginning of their journey had already grown over.

Smith’s adventures have gone beyond the tips of the Americas, he has driven a jeep on every continent except Antarctica. He organized and headed the 1987 Camel Trophy in Madagascar. The event pitted drivers against numerous challenges from swamp running at night to climbing nearly impassable steeps. He scouted trails around the world in places such as; Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, Australia, Europe, Egypt, China and South Africa. His exploration behind the wheel of a jeep has led him to a membership with the Explorer’s Club of New York.

In 1982 the Jeep brand of the DaimlerChrystler Company, recognizing Smith’s expertise with their products, offered him a consulting position. The position led to the expansion of the Jeep Jamboree event into a national tour. While the Rubicon Trail Event, still the cornerstone event, became part of a series of Jeep Jamborees throughout with stops in every major geographical region in the States. Beyond the events Smith has overseen the construction of numerous Jeep training and testing courses, helping to re-create the difficult conditions which Jeeps are designed to travel through. He has designed training ground for the Marine’s at Quantico and a test course with features similar to the Rubicon Trail at Jeep’s headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan at the Chelsea Proving Grounds.

Smith has contributed to the education of numerous Jeep drivers. He actively participates in the Tread Lightly principles. He has worked towards education the participants in his Jamboree’s the importance of landscape which they have come to explore. He has also been instrumental in the training of U.S. Military Special Forces and Law Enforcement agents throughout the country in the handling of four wheel drive vehicles through a series of seminars. For the every man he has published a glove box sized handbook, Mark A. Smith’s Guide to Safe, Common Sense Off-Road Driving.

Today Smith is still working with the Jeep Jamboree program along with his daughter Jill and her husband Pearse Umlauf. The Smiths other three children, Mark, Gregory and Patti all have actively participated in the family adventure business.

Sources:

Smith, Mark A. 2004. Driven By A Dream, Mark A. Smith’s Journal. Georgetown, CA.: Mark A. Smith Off-Roading, Inc.

Mark A. Smith http://jeepjamboreeusa.com/aboutus.htm

Founder

Interview with Mark A. Smith, July 2006.
 
 

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