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Porsche 550 Carrera Panamericana


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#1 OFFLINE   tonyg54

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:56 AM

While reading a Phil Hill biography recently I became intrigued by one of the top road racing series he competed in, the La Carrera Panamericana racing series. The series ran for 5 years from 1950-1954 and was first established to celebrate the opening of the Pan-American highway system. The course ran ~2,100 miles (3.4K kms) and took 6 days, averaging 100 mph to complete.
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The top drivers in the world were drawn to the race (Gurney, Fangio, Hill, Ascari, Thompson, Lang,Taruffi) and was thought of as the Latin Mille Miglia or Targa Florio. Some would spend 6 months running the course, learning the danger spots and getting familiar with the often barely passable road ways. The race course notes system that Rally racers use today were first developed in this race. It was a very dangerous race and often had serious injuries or fatalities. It had 6 stages with 1 minute staggered starts for each car. Chasing each car would be their support team (such as the TDF bike race), some cars such as the Mercedes and Lancia’s were driven so fast that their support planes couldn’t keep up! And this was often done on dirt roads, traversing through small towns with people and animals crossing the course in front of the speeding cars. The "locals" even played a part in the race.
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For the first year, the race was for stock passenger cars, so big powerful Lincolns and Ford's ruled the roost.
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In the following years, the 130+ entrants were divided up amongst different classes, defined by engine capacity, which now gave the smaller manufacturers a chance to grab some wins. Amongst those new classes were fledgling manufacturer’s Ferrari and Porsche. This was one of their earliest road race endurance series and became vitally important to them to do well in so that they could establish themselves as auto manufacturers and gain some visibility in the American market. But the likes of Mercedes, Lancia, Jag would not make it easy for them and brought in the best cars, the best drivers and all the support the works cars needed to do well. These were often the cars that had recently won in 24 Hours of Le Mans.
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The 1953 race was a deadly affair with 11 drivers losing their lives, the first fatality happened almost immediately when a Ferrari blew a tire at speed killing driver and co-pilot. Despite the turmoil, bloodshed and deep pocketed works teams, the fledgling Porsche team was able to finally score their first class win with the Porsche 550-02 claiming victory in their 1,600 cc class. The win was so important to Porsche that the Carrera name is still used in modern day 911’s and on their supercar in honor of this particular race win!

After looking around for a model of this important win I found that True Scale Miniatures (TSM) has just released one of the class leading Porsche 550’s in 1/43rd scale, the #154 which won several stages but had bad fuel and distributor problems near the end of the race handing the win over to the sister car #152 550 driven by Herrate and Gonzalez. There is no model of the class winner yet so I decided to buy a model of the version that led so many stages and was poised to win class that year but succumbed to mechanical failure, the #154 driven by Juhan & Hall. It was also one of the closed coupe Spyders and I think it's even more beautiful than the Spyder (that's saying something!). The 550 Panamericana is even featured in this month's Excellence with Jerry Seinfeld sharing his restoration story. I wish I had a small Fusili Jerry to display next to the piece below. :nice:
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I received the model the other day and it sits atop a nice wooden plinth and crystal clear plastic cover which sits low and wide.  The presentation of the model is done so well and the look of the model appears so correct to the photo’s I’ve found on the that it is one of my favorite 1/43rds now. The decals are crisp, applied level and even cut around the door jams. The rims are also done very nicely, and the plates are separate pieces instead of just decals which is accurate to the 1:1. Overall, it's a great little piece and I would recommend this 1/43rd to any small scale collector.
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Here is a comparison of it to a 1/43rd Ferrari 599XX, these cars are insanely small. I can't imagine how hot, cramped and uncomfortable it was to ride in this in the Mexican desert for 6 days. It's really a testament to the men and machines that got these across the line.
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#2 OFFLINE   guywithazonda

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 01:53 PM

Wow that thing is TINY! Really puts it into perspective when compared with the Ferrari.
And thanks for the informative piece Tony  :occasion14:

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 04:33 PM

Wow the lines are not what I expected, differs quite a bit on the rear.  Neat racer though.  Funny how Mr. Seinfeid has his hands on anything good from Porsche, I'm jealous!

#4 OFFLINE   model collector

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 05:13 PM

Beautiful presentation, and I prefer this covered version to the AUTOart's convertible

#5 OFFLINE   simondc07

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 05:31 PM

Nice one Tony. Road races like the La Carrera Panamerica, Mille Miglia and Targa Florio are close to my heart. The idea of full-blown race cars on, in some cases, poorly surfaced roads brings an extra element of excitement and danger. This Mexican road race is long reknowned for being dangerous and tough on vehicles and I think that adds to the romance considerably. The fact that, IMO, cars that competed in the original La Carrera Panamerica had some of the best liveries makes them even more collectible.

Given your interest in this particular Porsche, Tony you may find the following video to be of interest:



Fast forward to 1:49 and you will see it there. Tristan attended this event last year and was impressed.

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#6 OFFLINE   tonyg54

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 05:34 PM

Thanks guys,

Kraftig, interesting you mention the fins. Did you know the only reason the 550 had those fins in later models was because the car was unstable at high speed so those fins were added to provide stability. Those fins are really the pre-cursor to aerodynamic design. While the problem with the high speed instability wasn't solved with the fins it helped a little. I found it interesting to see early aero development in the early 50's.

Thanks for the video, Simon. It is a very beautiful design if you ask me. The car featured at 1:49 is Seinfeld's car, they spent more than 2,500 hours hammering out the body. That's a quarter of a million dollars alone just to do the body! It was also the first true Porsche racer with a Porsche engine and gearbox whereas my peddly little 1/43 was a Porsche design with VW mechanicals sadly.

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 05:40 PM

I did not.  Honestly don't know much about the 550 and the racing heritage :(

#8 OFFLINE   tonyg54

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 05:52 PM

View Post[KRAFTIG], on 16 April 2012 - 05:40 PM, said:

I did not.  Honestly don't know much about the 550 and the racing heritage :(

Yeah, I didn't know much either until recently, I'm a Ferrari guy just peeking over the fence to be nosy. But I have to say I am always drawn to the stories of man v. machines. If you look at the Mercedes windshield, a 20lb vulture literally crashed through the windshield and hit the navigator (Klenk, a former Luftwaffe pilot) square in the face knocking him out. Not wanting to lose, once he regained consciousness and with a face full of glass shards and vulture carcass, he made the driver, Kling, continue on. They wound up winning the Carrera that year. Truly impressive stuff.

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 06:59 PM

Yup I've seen the photos, quite shocking...

#10 OFFLINE   jpflip

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 10:01 PM

NIce car!!! I am waiting for the auto art 1/18th 550, already put a deposit but it was suppose to arrive between the 12th and the 15th of april.....Still waiting....

Edited by jpflip, 16 April 2012 - 10:02 PM.


#11 OFFLINE   Zuugnap

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:49 AM

its a wickid model .... love it ... 2 bad they dont produce this baby in scale 1:18 ..... congratzz anyway :nice:
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#12 OFFLINE   mairandeddy

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 05:24 AM

Super little car Tony, and thx for the pics and info!  :occasion14:

It's difficult to imagine how bad the conditions must have been racing it through the desert.....  :omg: .....it looks so tiny next to the  599..

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#13 OFFLINE   tonyg54

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 06:31 AM

Thanks guys, it is unbelievably tiny (that's what she said lol)

jpflip, I'd have more interest if Schuco/TSM made a 1/18 model of the 550 Panamericana. AUTOart uses way too much plastic for my liking and in older race cars the engines had much more metal than a Gallardo would use so I know the AUTOart would be a let down imo.

But in any event, yes, we need some 1/18's of these milestone race cars. I would also love to see the Lincoln's that raced in the series as well. They were cool as hell. They shared the same technology and drivers from NASCAR.

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#14 OFFLINE   jpflip

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 07:01 PM

jpflip, I'd have more interest if Schuco/TSM made a 1/18 model of the 550 Panamericana. AUTOart uses way too much plastic for my liking and in older race cars the engines had much more metal than a Gallardo would use so I know the AUTOart would be a let down imo.

Agree 100% !!!! Have to admit that I am anxious to see the 959 Dakar rally from TSM....

#15 ONLINE   tonyg54

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 07:45 PM

I am anxious to see anything from TSM. I know their factory screwed them recently but their 1/18 release schedule is is pitiful lately.




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