Thursday, January 6, 2011

Another win for Fangio

What better was to advertise a shiny new highway than to race cars on it? Ahh, the 1950s, a golden era of fast, unsafe, motoring madness. Pictured below is the car which won the race from one end of Mexico to the other, the Carrera Panamericana, in 1953, the Lancia D24, driven by none other than Juan Manuel Fangio, the greatest driver of all time.

Not only did the Lancia win the race, it also came in second and third, for a finish that race
teams dream of. The D24 was very advanced for 1953. With a light, sleek aluminium body by
Pininfarina, it weighed only 760kg. Powered by a 3.3 litre 60° V6 which made 260bhp
@ 6200rpm, it was good for 265km/h (165mph). With its welded steel tube space frame
and inboard-mounted drum brakes, it was an advanced design, a race winner not only in
Mexico but also in Italy's Mille Miglia (Ascari driving) and the Targa Florio (Taruffi).

This nice little model is a 1:43 scale piece by the Italian company, Brumm.
Let's go for a drive in one. Shame we can't understand a word the guy says, but it doesn't matter, it's all about the car, not him...

What the other competitors briefly saw of Fangio's car in 1953.
What the hell, one more video, old footage from the times. Check out the slow wipe-out of the large American competitor around the 51 second mark...

Finally, a few notes on the Carrera Panamericana, only if you're interested. All of this is gleaned from the Wikipedia entry on the topic here.  

The idea for the race, from one end of Mexico to the other, started off with the completion of the Panamerican Highway in 1950. To publicise the road, they decided to stage a race. The first series of races went from 1950 to 1954, by which stage 27 competitors had died. And so, for safety reasons, it was closed down. It has been resurrected in recent years.

1950: the first race went north-south from the Mexico-Texas border down to the Guatemalan border. It was won by an Oldsmobile at an average speed of 88mph (142km/h).

1951: reverse direction, south-north, won by the Ferraris of Taruffi and Ascari. A notable effort was El Paso salesman Bill Stirling's third place in a Chrysler Saratoga.

1952: getting serious now with more factories involved, and the Mercedes 300SL's win (driver Karl Kling). (They almost didn't make it to the finish line, after just surving a collision with a vulture which came through the windscreen while doing 200km/h.)

1953: Fangio's win, with the Lancia D24's 1-2-3 team finish.

1954: Ferrari win, driven by Maglioli.

As mentioned previously, with so many deaths the race was a dangerous thing for all concerned, and so it was cancelled, only to be resurrected in recent years. I've always wanted to have one or two Carrera Panamericana cars in my diecast cabinet, and this Lancia is probably the pick of them. But a 300SL Merc wouldn't go astray either, so I have my eye out for one of those, too.

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