The 30th run of La Carrera Panamericana starts on Friday the 13th. It’s a 7-day, 3000 km, high speed, stage rally in vintage cars. The race runs between Queretero and Durango, over some challenging backroads.
There are some interesting cars running the race as usual: Several Porsches, quite a few Studebakers, Mustangs, a couple of Beetles and at least one Chevy Bel Air, to name a few.
Alaska has a lot of summer visitors, one is the Rufous hummingbird, the only hummingbird that visits the Last Frontier.
At only 3″ tall, with a wingspan of about 4″, the Rufous is quite the robust traveler. They winter in Mexico, start their crossing of the Rocky Mountain states in late spring, and spend the summer in the Northwest, Canada and Alaska. For many of the speedy flightsters, it can be a 7800 mile round trip.
They are quite territorial over both nesting and food sites, and have been known to attack chipmunks that get too close to their nests. The main, natural predator is snakes, which makes Alaska a wonderful breeding ground.
This 1956 VW Bug, is said to have ran La Carrera Panamerican in 1996. It is now for sale in Mansfield, OH for $5600.
The original Carrera Panamericana, introduced when the Pan-American Highway in Mexico was completed in 1950, was a border-to-border, open road race, that ran between 1950 and 1954. It was considered at the time, to be the most dangerous race of any kind in the world. The first winner of the race was Hershel McGriff who drove an Oldsmobile 88. The car cost McGriff $1900, and the race prize was $17,000.
The race was revived in 1988, allowing 100 cars to line up in Southern Mexico to race the 2000 miles north. La Carrera Panamericana lasts a week, with both experienced and novice racers running on public highways at top speeds, with the Mexican Highway Patrol clearing the roads ahead.
A video of a VW Beetle racing in Mexico in 1996. There’s a great moment at about 1:20 where the Bug is passed by an old Studebaker
The 27th Annual Pan-Am Race will run October 17-23, 2014.
I made what was meant to be a quick stop at the hardware store late this afternoon, because I was roped into a quick repair job for someone’s mother. In the parking lot was a ’66 Series Ex-Mod pick-up with its parking lights on. My intention was to hunt down the owner right away, but I ran into someone who I hadn’t seen in quite a while, and became distracted. Finally, someone came in to jog my memory by asking, “Who owns that Jeep?”
“It’s a Land Rover,” I said with disgust. “I don’t know who owns it, but I was going to try to find out.”
“It’s mine,” a voice calls from somewhere in the store.
“Well, your lights are on,” said the guy who can’t read name plates. He then left, after giving me the evil eye. The nitwit.
A young college kid comes up and asks about his lights, and I tell him that the marker lights are on. He then informs me that he’s not worried about it, because the truck has a crank start. That makes me chuckle a bit.
So I ask him questions about his Rover, and he’s more than willing to answer them. One of the employees asks what year it is and he tells them it’s a ’66. Then she asks me what year mine is.
“You have a Rover?!” That’s when the fun really started up.
We compare parts and upgrades and both of us had seen the recent ad for a ’67 that’s rotting away among the spruce south of Fairbanks a ways (see above). Eventually, the kid realizes we had met before when I describe my Rover. I remembered him then, but the truck was painted two-tone awful last time, and it’s looking sharp now in a more traditional desert tan.
I tell him that I had The Rover down in Mexico, and then he promptly tells me that his goal is to take his Ex-Mod down to the tip of Argentina. My eyes grow as big as saucers, and the entire contingent of hardware personel exclaimed various phrases such as: “Holy shit, there’s another one! How can there possibly be two of them?!” He looks puzzled, so I have to tell him that Mexico was the warm-up trip, and my goal is to drive The Rover down to Tierra del Fuego. Then another round of Rover stories and suggestions flood the store, to the point that we were now boring the hell out of the employees.
It turns out that he did have an idea for my running hot issue. He has an oil cooler that normally would run on the Ex-Mod, but he doesn’t need it, because he has no reason to install it. Afterall, this is Fairbanks. He suggested that we exchange phone numbers & email, which I promptly did because I know the first thing I do when I go home will be to google that Series oil cooler.
Kind of pointless in Fairbanks at all times, unless you’re towing (since I’ve been back, The Rover has been running around 180 when I’ve taken it on the road), and far from ideal at -50, but for a long trip south, it is worth looking into.
After crossing back into the States, one of my camps was in Columbus, NM at Pancho Villa State Park. It’s a cool, little park in its own right, with a cactus garden and some interesting long-term tenants… but it was the history tied to Pancho Villa that caused me to stop here over other parks.
I received an extremely enthusiastic greeting upon arrival by a passionate museum volunteer. I parked The Rover in the primative area, which happened to be by the very first grease pit used by the U.S. Army, then explored the museum that is at the entrance to the park.
The museum was great, with an even-handed viewpoint of the Columbus Raid, and exhibits were in both English & Spanish. The museum staff was phenominal in their knowledge & attitude.
9 March 1916 Pancho Villa’s troops raided Columbus, New Mexico. The reason’s for the raid, and why Columbus was chosen, are still being debated, but the acquisition of supplies was certainly a goal. The battle lasted for an hour and a half. 75 raiders, 10 American civilians, and 8 U.S. soldiers were killed. Several buildings in Columbus were burned to the ground. It is doubtful that Pancho Villa ever entered the town.
The park museum has exhibits from both the Villa raid, and the Punitive Expedition that General Pershing led into Mexico from Columbus. It features a Curtiss “Jenny” bi-plane, a Dodge staff car from the Pershing era, a Jeffrey Quad armored vehicle (precurser to the tank), and a Dodge convertible that was riddled with bullet holes as its occupants fled Columbus and Villa’s men.
(Would it be a good time to mention that I saw SUV’s in Mexico with similiar inflictions? Of course, those had been torched, as well as shot.)
My favorite vehicle, however, was the FWD truck built by the Four Wheel Drive Auto Co. out of Wisconsin.
My home for a few days as I explored The Emerald Coast, Papantla and Tajin. The family here that run Mar Esmeralda were simply wonderful. This is the place to stop along this little run of beach. Even their kids got into the act asking about the different flags on the window, and the little boy was intrigued by the plug hanging out of The Rover’s grill. Try explaining having to plug in your car to an 8 year old kid using broken Spanglish…
Well worth the effort.