Porsche 550 Carrera Panamericana
Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:56 AM
Pan.JPG 44.08K 0 downloads
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.
kling.JPG 23.9K 1 downloads
For the first year, the race was for stock passenger cars, so big powerful Lincolns and Ford's ruled the roost.
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.
Merc.JPG 27.39K 1 downloads
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.
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.
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.
Posted 16 April 2012 - 01:53 PM
And thanks for the informative piece Tony
Posted 16 April 2012 - 04:33 PM
Posted 16 April 2012 - 05:31 PM
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.
Posted 16 April 2012 - 05:34 PM
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.
Posted 16 April 2012 - 05:40 PM
Posted 16 April 2012 - 05:52 PM
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.
Posted 16 April 2012 - 06:59 PM
Posted 16 April 2012 - 10:01 PM
Edited by jpflip, 16 April 2012 - 10:02 PM.
Posted 17 April 2012 - 12:49 AM
Posted 17 April 2012 - 05:24 AM
It's difficult to imagine how bad the conditions must have been racing it through the desert..... .....it looks so tiny next to the 599..
MOTORHEAD - 21ST CENTURY - MOTORHEAD ALRIGHT!!!
Posted 17 April 2012 - 06:31 AM
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.
linc.JPG 31.68K 0 downloads
Posted 18 April 2012 - 07:01 PM
Agree 100% !!!! Have to admit that I am anxious to see the 959 Dakar rally from TSM....
Posted 18 April 2012 - 07:45 PM
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