Celebrating the Historic Mexican Road Races of 1950-1954

Cars, Drivers and Crew from the Five-year Racing Span to Convene at Petersen Automotive Museum May 6, 2000 Cinco de Mayo, "Fifth of May," 2000, will be the 50th anniversary of the inaugural Mexican Road Race. To commemorate this historic...

Cars, Drivers and Crew from the Five-year Racing Span to Convene at Petersen Automotive Museum May 6, 2000

Cinco de Mayo, "Fifth of May," 2000, will be the 50th anniversary of the inaugural Mexican Road Race. To commemorate this historic event, also known as La Carrera Panamericana, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is gathering the cars, drivers and crew for a special evening at the Museum on Saturday, May 6, 2000 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $45 per person.

The winner from 50 years ago, Herschel McGriff, will attend with an exact replica of his winning Oldsmobile. Other famous driver/car combinations in attendance will include Phil Hill and his second place 375 Ferrari and Ak Miller with his replica Caballo de Hierro Hot Rod, 1953/54. Featured drivers include Jack McAfee, Carroll Shelby, Chuck Daigh and many more.

In the post-World War II years, a major highway project was started in Mexico; connecting their northern border at Juarez, across the Rio Grande from Texas and their southern border 2178 miles away at El Ocotal on the Guatemalan border. The Panamerican Highway was to be completed in mid-1950 and an all-out road race was sanctioned by the government of Mexico to promote tourism and commerce the length of the country. Cinco de Mayo, a national holiday celebrating Mexico's defeat of the invading French army at Puebla in 1862 was chosen as the starting in Juarez.

One-hundred thirty-two cars, mostly U.S. sedans, were entered in the first event which covered nine legs over six days. Herschel McGriff of Portland, Oregon did not win a single leg but drove a smart race in his 1950 Oldsmobile 88 to outlast the hard chargers and win the first Mexican Road Race. Total time was 27 hours, 34 minutes at an average speed of 78.421 mph.

For the races following, the direction was reversed; starting in the South at Tuxtla Gutierrez and ending after five days at the northern border in Juarez. Worldwide publicity created an aura about the event and attracted between 100 to 200 entries each subsequent year. Public concern about driver and spectator fatalities during the races caused the Carrera Panamericana to be canceled after race number five in November 1954.

For event information call Susan Garcia at 323-964-6359.

General Information The Petersen Automotive Museum is located at 6060 Wilshire Boulevard (at Fairfax) in Los Angeles. Admission prices are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students with ID and $3 for children ages 5 to 12. Museum members and children under five are admitted free. Covered parking is available for $4 per car. Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For general Museum information, call 323/930-CARS or visit the Museum¹s website address at www.petersen.org.

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