Sunday, January 06, 2008

What a small world we live in







How many times have we said, "What a small world we live in." For years I have been around and driven race cars and have been an active member with NASA for many years and even serve as a director. During the course of all this excitement it has made it possible for me to travel to lots of great tracks and meet many great personalities in the process.

Something that I found interesting while running in the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana was how many great people that we met that were from California. Not only do many of them live nearby but many of them are even members of NASA. Isn't it funny that we could all drive all the way to the south of Mexico and meet each other for the first time only to find out we are almost neighbors and how our paths have crossed.

One such team was none other than Carson Scheller and Shields Richardson. Carson drove car #433 which is a beautifully prepared 1954 Ford Vic which won the original Pan Am class. Carson also races vintage mustangs so you know he has to be an OK guy.

Something trivial that I found of interest is if you look closely at Carson's car you will notice the "Pegasus" or Flying Horse. The Pegasus Red flying horse was used as the winged mascot for the Exxon Mobil Corporation. The flying red horse, or Pegasus symbol, was used as early as 1911 and adopted as a trademark in the U.S. shortly after the organization of Socony-Vacuum in 1931. The Pegasus logo, a symbol of "speed and power" was first colored red by the Mobil Sekiyu in Japan.

The Pegasus has been involved in the motor racing world for many years. One such event was when it was featured prominently on the gas tank of the famous "Bathing Suit Vincent" motorcycle driven by rider Rollie Free. (See photo below) Thank God Carson and Richardson didn't attempt to dress like Rollie in a attempt to be more streamline. On September 13, 1948, he raised a motorcycle speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to a speed of 150.313 mph. The motorcycle he rode was the very first Vincent HRD Black Lightning, owned by the California sportsman John Edgar and sponsored by Mobil Oil.

I am proud to present Carson's well written memoir of the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana. Enjoy.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO
The Adventure of a Lifetime… by Carson Scheller

The Spirit of La Carrera Panamericana

The 20th anniversary of the modern running of La Carrera Panamericana took place this year, 2007, on Oct. 26 through Nov. 1. It is in a competitive vintage race / rally format consisting of a two person team in each car: a piloto (driver) and co-piloto (navigator). It is the only road rally in the world with velocity sections of unlimited speed in which the road is closed until the racers pass through on their way to the border.

A little history about the event: It all started in 1950 by the Mexican government, which invited international race car drivers and car manufacturers to come to race the newly paved Panamerican Highway through
mainland Mexico. It was a tremendous success and attracted lots of attention until the last race in 1954.

The logo of La Carrera Panamericana is a “spirit” relating to, I believe, the history of this unusual adventure. The varied domestic and foreign vintage cars from 1950 – 1954 and 1955 – 1965 and their crews and pilots
show that spirit. In addition, unexpected by me, was the enthusiastic response of the Mexican people who greeted us at every turn out in the country and the thousands that cheered us on in the major cities every
morning at the starting line and every afternoon at the finish in the next city.

The event started in the beautiful southern city of Oaxaca, Mexico. Three thousand kilometers north was the finish line in Nuevo Laredo. During the day we alternated between velocity and transit sections, winding
through the varied landscape and dramatic vistas of central Mexico. The race cars arrived each afternoon in the beautiful cities of Tehuacán, Puebla, Queretaro, Morelia, Aguascalientes and Zacatecas.

To round out my “team” I enlisted an old friend, Shields Richardson, who didn't even hesitate when I asked him if he would be interested in the voyage. So we two “La Carrera Rookies” traveled down to Oaxaca to start
this great adventure, not really knowing what lay ahead. Our “plan” was to start off like the “tortoise and the hare,” feeling our way around with the car and navigation stuff.

Well, the twists and turns in the mountains of Oaxaca proved too much fun for a couple good ol’ boys and we were surprised to win the first day (in our class – Original Panam), racing from Oaxaca to Tehuac├ín. Fortunately, after racing well for the next six days, we ended up first in our class and 31st overall.

The Mexican Board of Tourism, the organizers of the race, performed a tremendous job of hosting 100 cars, drivers and teams in first class hotels at every city. The nightly drivers’ meetings were held in beautiful
historic buildings in each city with awards, drinks and dinner. The Mexican Highway Patrol gave outstanding support the whole week. With road closures to move us through the country and into each city, the high
speed police escorts led us into the historic city center of each city. There we were greeted by thousands of cheering citizens. It was truly an emotional event for all – as each city had a huge fiesta planned and we
racers were the honored guests!

We had an exciting time in Mexico and came home knowing that the spirit of La Carrera Panamericana lives, just like the good old days.

About the Car:

My car, a 1954 Ford Vic, was bought from builder and racer, Tom Roland, Texas. Tom campaigned the car in 2004 and 2006. He sold it to me in California without the Y Block engine. (He wanted to go drag racing). After the car was shipped to California, the first order of business was to contact John Mummert, El Cajon,
California, to build an endurance 292 Y Block engine. By the time I got the motor into the car and ran three tanks full of fuel through it, it was time to get it on the trailer and head to Oaxaca for the start of the
race.

The car ran well, a tribute to Roland’s build and Mummert’s engine, even in the higher elevations up to 10,000 feet. The handling, suspension, steering and braking was all very predictable from the twists and turns to the high speed sections. Our top speed was 200 kph (120 mph).

Another invaluable part on this car is the Gearvendors overdrive unit which worked overtime and never failed. We couldn't have kept the car in the power band through the mountains and wouldn’t have reached the high
speeds without it.Engine
• 292 cui Y Block
• 113 iron heads
• Crankshaft – standard dia. with damper
• Rods – H beam chrome moly
• Pistons – domed
• Cam 292’/240’ .495
• ARP fasteners
• Rockers 1:45:1 ratio
• Alum timing cover
• Alum water pump
• Alum thermostat housing
• Alum blue thunder intake manifold
• Alum flywheel
• MSD distributor
• OEM valve covers with breather tubes
• Timing on Mexican gas 34-35’ 10-12’ initial
• Dyno 220 rwhp @ 5500 rpm

Car

• 1954 Ford Victoria Crestline
• Full roll cage DOM
• 22 gallon fuel cell
• Electric double fuel pumps and filters
• Recaro high back race seats
• Safety nets
• 5 point Simpson Belts
• Helmet intercom system
• Full set of auto meter gauges
• Monster autometer tach with shift light
• Tilt steering and disconnect wheel
• Rally computer
• Aluminum radiator
• Power steering pump
• Wilwood Brakes and clutch pedal systerm
• 12” front rotors with four piston calipers
• 11” drum rear
• 9” Ford rear end with 3 link system
• Front coil over and rear custom leaf springs
• Gel cell 12 volt battery
• 2 Main electrical shut off switches (inside and outside of car)
• 3 speed top loader with Gearvender overdrive
• Shocks and skid plates
• Hydraulic clutch
• Centerforce II clutch
• Custom coated headers
• Custom exhaust with Flowmaster

Thank you sponsors:
Red Barn Restaurant, Santa Ynez, California
Baja Cantina, Carmel Valley, California
Gear Vendors Under / Overdrive

Websites
www.lacarrerapanamericana.com.mx
www.panamrace.com
www.gofastsports.com
www.gtspirit.com
www.gearvendors.com

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