Monday, April 02, 2007
A very good friend of mine, C. Van Tune, recently wrote telling me about the recent death of Robert E. Petersen, the self-taught publicist turned publisher and real estate magnate whose fortune gave Los Angeles one of the world's great automotive museums. Not only had he worked for Peterson as Editor-in-Chief of MOTOR TREND and traveled the world working with Peterson and his wife but in fact bonded what was a life long friendship.
How ironic that I realized this evening that in one of Peterson's publications there was an article back in the May 2000 issue that tells of the starting date of the very first La Carrera Panamericana race which was May 5 1950. Coincidentally the date of this years La Carrera Corral get-to-gather at Sears Point Raceway. As most of you know, the race ran for several years but was stopped due to the number of deaths. However, thanks to it's resurrection in 1988 by Eduardo León this years running of the La Carrera Panamericana will be the 20th anniversary. Regarding the La Carrera Panamericana, this is part of what Peterson published during a celebration that was held at the Peterson Museum.
They did it for the first time on the 5th of May, 1950, to celebrate the completion of Mexico’s Panamerican Highway. It was an open test of speed called La Carrera Panamericana. And it is legendary in auto racing as one of the most dangerous torture tests of all time for man and machine.
It was the equivalent of the toughman contest for race car drivers. A 2000-mile road race through the wilds of Mexico. The cars were nearly stock. There were no real rules, no support crews to speak of, and very poor maps. The whole idea was simply to get from here to there as fast as you could, no holds barred.
The Panamericana has been compared to the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans and to the Mille Miglia, but as many drivers conceded after competing in the Mexican grind, “They don’t come any tougher than this.”
The Panamericana was contested for only five years, 1950 through ’54, but garnered instant fame for drivers and their vehicles. Some of the greatest names in auto racing—Carroll Shelby, Phil Hill, Jaun Manuel Fangio, Mickey Thompson—all raced the Panamericana.
I tip my hat to the great men like Peterson and those before him that loved not only automobiles and racing but in fact all things automotive and helped make it possible for each of us to be part of what we love so much and to take part in making history. I would also like to take time to personally thank Eduardo León for his vision and passion that have made this dream a reality for those who wish to live the dream.