’53 Olds Runs Mexican Road Race

'53 Olds Runs Mexican Road Race

Driving a big ‘53 Olds Super 88 sedan over Mexican roads at speeds up to 138 mph is no picnic, but Ed Gut’s car completed La Carrera Panamericana – an epic Mexican road race – revival four consecutive times between 1994 and 1997. That was before Mark Gosh of Pittsville, Wis., bought the car.

“Ed and his son Mike built the car in the early ‘90s,” Gosh told Racing Junk. “It was one of probably three cars out of 100 that drove from Chicago to the start of the race in southern Mexico, raced the 1,900-mile course and drove back to Chicago. And they did that all four times.”

'53 Olds Runs Mexican Road Race

During the revival of the Mexican Road Races (the original races took place in the early ‘50s), this Olds finished as high as 10th overall out of 76 entries. It also came in third in the Turismo Major class.

Gosh bought the car from Roger Schmutzer, an old hot rodder from Wausau, Wis., who had rescued it after the Guts let it sit several years. Gosh first saw the Olds at the Iola Car Show and started a conversation that led to his buying it. He did some minor modifications to make the car run better.

'53 Olds Runs Mexican Road Race

“Now, it’s ready to run to California tomorrow,” he said. “It was modified for endurance, not for speed, although it did reach 138 mph at one point during one race.”

The Oldsmobile also crashed during another race. It went into a roadside ditch and still has the dent to prove it. Under the hood, the Olds has a Chevrolet ZZ3 350 V-8 that puts out about 345 hp. Behind it is a Turbo 400 automatic transmission with a shift kit and a Buick 10-bolt rear. The car has disc brakes up front and stabilizers at the rear. It has cruise control that was added to make the long trips to and from Chicago more comfortable.

'53 Olds Runs Mexican Road Race

“They were thinking about the ride,” said Gosh. “So, they put some bucket seats in there from a Mazda RX7.”

“To build a car for the race, you have to make certain modifications,” Gosh explained. “You can go to the La Carrera Panamericana Website and see photos of all the competitors. There’s photos of this car there and they have a most-asked-questions tab that tells you things like how to deal with the Mexican police. They tell you how much money to bring, and you have to get Mexican insurance.”

Gosh said that he likes taking an old beater, fixing it up and “driving the heck out of it.” His Olds sounds like the perfect car for the job.

'53 Olds Runs Mexican Road Race

About John Gunnell 141 Articles
John “Gunner” Gunnell has been writing about cars since ‘72. As a kid in Staten Island, N.Y., he played with a tin Marx “Service Garage” loaded with toy vehicles, his favorite being a Hubley hot rod. In 2010, he opened Gunner’s Great Garage, in Manawa, Wis., a shop that helps enthusiasts restore cars. To no one’s surprise, he decorated 3G’s with tin gas stations and car toys. Gunner started writing for two car club magazines. In 1978, publisher Chet Krause hired him at Old Cars Weekly, where he worked from 1978-2008. Hot rodding legend LeRoi “Tex” Smith was his boss for a while. Gunner had no formal journalism training, but working at a weekly quickly taught him the trade. Over three decades, he’s met famous collectors, penned thousands of articles and written over 85 books. He lives in Iola, Wis., with his nine old cars, three trucks and seven motorcycles.

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