2006 Carrera Panamericana

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The Carrera Panamericana is a 2,200 mile seven-day rally through the center of Mexico to Nuevo Laredo on the Texas border. When Mexico completed the Carrera Panamerica from border to border in 1948, it immediately envisioned a great race in the style of the Targa Florio, Le Mans, and the greatest of them all, the Mille Miglia.

Substantial prizes and the romance of the idea brought a flood of competitors from all over the world. Early stock car competitors with knowledge of Mexican conditions were quick to conclude that American sedans could compete successfully with Ferrari, Lancia, and Maserati on this brutal road race. Most U.S. entries ran with an unmodified drive-train. There were a few changes – some entrants lightened chassis, added long-distance tanks, and placed sirens on their roofs – but otherwise the cars were unchanged. Even the radios were left in place!

These shrewd decisions paid off. As more sophisticated European entries fell apart, Lincolns and Oldsmobiles plowed on to Nueva Laredo. The only miscalculation was with the drum brakes which rapidly wore out. Some drivers used periscopes to give an early warning of when the drums caught fire.

After a week of pounding across mountains and deserts, U.S. cars dominated the finishers and took all the places. The TBR Lincoln Coupe was Car 54, driven by Jimmy Hicks and Knobby Amos, of Houston. After four days in the top third of cars, Number 54 was unable to start and eventually placed 72nd.

Most U.S. entries were sold at the Border to take advantage of Mexico’s bizarre tax laws. Number 54 was luckier: she was shipped back to Houston, repaired, and shown for many years. At some point she slipped into obscurity, only to be discovered by great good fortune in a San Jose wrecking yard. By then she had been painted pink but the new coat was of poor and the old roundels were still visible. One look at the unmistakable chassis and long-range tanks and Number 54 was on the way back to action.

The Carrera continued for five years. All the great drivers and manufacturers competed (with the odd exception of Jaguar, which prepared a car but lost interest after the first of its Le Mans wins). Accidents were frequent and deaths far too common. In the golden days of open competition, rules were casual and far too many amateurs competed, sometimes with tragic results.

In 1955 the Mexican Government halted the competition. Two years later a huge accident on the Mille Miglia, killing sixteen, brought the great open races to a halt.

In the late Eighties, great interest in these romantic races brought them to life again as rallies. The Carrera is run with open sections where the cars can run against the clock but not, as they did in the Fifties, against each other.

Two Boars Racing supports the revival of this classic race. The Number 54 will ride again as a historic entry, still using the unaltered flathead V8.