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Off-Road Icon Mark A. Smith Passes Away

By SEMA Editors

Mark A. Smith

Mark A. Smith, 87, off-road icon and founder of Georgetown, California-based Jeep Jamboree USA, passed away June 8. Smith was an early pioneer of the sport of "Jeeping" in 1953, and in an effort to boost the local economy, he helped organize the first-ever Jeep trip on the Rubicon Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In 1954, Willys Motor—the manufacturer of Jeep vehicles—began sponsoring the off-road adventure.

Smith was a Jeep brand consultant and conducted intensive training for U.S. Army Special Forces and other agencies. In 1982, he founded Jeep Jamboree USA, which offers more than 30 annual off-road excursions across the country exclusively for Jeep owners.

His spirit of adventure led him to create and conquer the longest overland 4WD journey in history—the 1978–79 Expedición de Las Américas—a 20,000-mile, 120-day journey from the bottom of South America to the top of North America. His team was the first non-military group to achieve a vehicular crossing of the notoriously rugged Darién Gap between Panama and Colombia. Smith also headed the 1987 Camel Trophy in Madagascar.

In 1980, Smith was inducted into the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, and in 1986, the United Four Wheel Drive Association named him “Four Wheeler of the Decade.” In 1989, Smith was inducted as a member of the Explorer’s Club of New York.

Smith was an inspiration to many and believed, "If you have a dream, make sure you pursue it." He is survived by his wife Irene; his children Robert, Patti, Greg and Jill; three grandchildren; and two great grandchildren.