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.
The Rover after pushing through a blizzard near Flathead Lake, Montana
It was six years ago, when The Rover & I traveled through the portal and back into Montana, en route to Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. I could use a good, long-distance road trip now, as much as I did then.
The Frozen Foursome swung by Naples to explore a private car collection at the Revs Institute. To say the collection is vast and impressive would be an understatement.
Upon entering the “museum”, we were told that the Porsche part of the collection alone, “rivaled Stuttgart”.
1953 Porsche 550 Coupe: Flat four, air cooled, pushrod engine. Won its Class in Carrera Panamericana IV
1961 Porsche RS-61L Spyder: Flat eight, air cooled, twin overhead cam, 210 HP @8200 rpm.
1967 Porsche 911R: Flat six air cooled, rear mounted, single OH cam, 210 HP @ 8000 rpm. The most successful 911R ever built with wins that include the 1969 Tour de France and the Tour of Corsica.
1935 Duesenberg SSJ: Straight eight, twin OH cams, 500 HP @ 5000 rpm. This car belonged to Gary Cooper.
1928 Stutz Black Hawk: Straight eight, single OH cam, 115 HP @ 3600 rpm. This car, driven by Dud C. Wilson, raced at Watkins Glen in 1948. Twenty years after it was built.
298 cubic inch Black Hawk engine
“Leonidis”;1935 MG Type PA/PB: 4 cylinder inline engine, single OH cam, Marshall Roots-type supercharger. A regular on the ARCA circuit with driver Miles Collier. Collier became the first driver in a decade to race at LeMans with “Leonidis” in 1939.
1950 Cadillac Series 61: Eight cylinder, 331 cubic inches, 160 HP @ 3800 rpm. Dubbed “Petit Pataud” by the French, Miles and Sam Collier entered this ’50 Cadillac in the 1950 LeMans. This Cadillac Coupe finished 10th out of 60 racers, averaging 81.5mph for the 24 hours.
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport: 377 cu in V8. What’s in that damn, dinosaur? It went by me like I was stopped!”—AJ Foyt at Sebring on the Corvette.
In 1963 at Nassau Speed Week, these Corvettes were finally able to run head to head against the famed Cobras, finally getting out from under the GM ban on racing. With drivers: Roger Penske, Jim Hall, Dick Thompson, John Cannon, and Augie Pabst, the Corvettes simply demolished their Cobra rivals.
1967 All American Racers; Gurney Eagle F-1 race car: 12 cylinder, 60 degree vee engine, 183 cubic inches. Dan Gurney won the Belgian Grand Prix with this car in 1967. Gurney was only the second American to drive an American car to a Grand Prix victory.
Another La Carrera Panamericana runner is on the auction block. A 1956 Dodge Lancer Custom Royal D500, which is said to have won the Pan-American race twice, as well as the Silver Sate Classic Challenge once, although no details are provided.
The classic Dodge sports a 315 ci Hemi, with 67,000 miles, and a push button 3-speed transmission.
The car is for sale on ebay out of San Diego, with a reserve not met.
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.
The Pan American World Airways once serviced Alaska. In fact, they had quite the history in the early days of aviation in the state. Here’s the Pan Am DC-4 “Clipper Reindeer” at, I believe, Weeks Field in December 1946.
Photo courtesy of the Pan Am Historical Foundation
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.