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Hyundai Santa Cruz Gets ‘Minimal’ Off-Road Tweaks to Tackle Famous Rebelle Rally

The rugged Santa Cruz will be piloted by friend of The Drive and former weekend editor, Kristin Shaw.

The Hyundai Santa Cruz has been making a name for itself in the compact pickup market, and for good reason. The cool-looking and capable truck is tailor-made for those with active lifestyles and a love for adventure. Now, the Korean automaker is once again taking its truck to the famous, women-only Rebelle Rally, with the Santa Cruz granted some overlanding upgrades for the purpose.

When building the Santa Cruz for the event, Hyundai noted only “minimal” modification was required to get it up to scratch for competition. The truck was given a custom front bumper and a skid plate to protect the underside. Upsized 17-inch Falken Wildpeak tires were fitted for greater ground clearance, along with a Truxxx lift kit which raised the truck 1.5 inches up front and 1 inch in the rear. Auxiliary lighting and a front recovery point were added, along with a rear-mounted spare tire, a shovel, and a set of MaxTrax recovery devices.

The eighth annual Rebelle Rally will take place once more in the deserts of California, starting on October 13. The navigational challenge runs over eight days, with drivers and navigators banned from using GPS or Internet-enabled devices. Navigation over the rugged routes is done the old-fashioned way, by compass and paper maps. The Santa Cruz had its GPS antenna removed to comply with these rules, while a Terratrip rally computer was also fitted to handle timing.

The Hyundai entry will be piloted by automotive journalists Jill Ciminillo and Kristin Shaw. Shaw, a former longtime weekend editor of The Drive, is an avid adventurer and has been involved with the Rebelle Rally for several years in various capacities. We all wish her and her co-driver the best of luck in this year’s competition.

The duo, known as the “Brute Squad,” will take on the rally with a Santa Cruz for a second year. “We know that Santa Cruz is capable and rugged from our experiences at last year’s rally and through multiple training sessions,” said Shaw in a press release. “Every mile we travel gives us more experience and a better connection with the vehicle.”

The truck wears a wrap created by Matt Marble and Kellen Gustine of Hyundai Design North America. The aesthetic draws inspiration from typography and 1970s designs, according to Hyundai, while using large blocks of color to create a vivid contrast to the desert terrain of the racing course.

It’s neat to see Hyundai taking its small pickup truck out for a tear through the desert. It has us wondering as to the possibilities of an uprated off-road trim for the Santa Cruz in the future. With the smaller end of the pickup market becoming a hotter battleground of late, it could be a neat differentiator for Hyundai’s pint-sized contender.

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