Lincolns Go South of the Border

Mexican Road Race

On Wednesday, Nov. 19, 1952, drivers and cars lined up for the start of the La Carrera Panamericana or Mexican Road Race. The race had classes for stock cars and sports cars. A team of Lincolns ran as stock cars. The “race course” included 1,938 miles of road from Tuxtla Gutierrez, near Mexico’s southern border to Juarez up north. It was a treacherous route.

The Lincoln drivers and co-drivers were Chuck Stevenson, Clay Smith, Johnny Mantz, Bill Stroppe, Chuck Daigh, Captain Bob Korf, Duane Carter and Walt Faulkner. The 205-hp Lincolns were actually the first 1953 models to leave the production line. After the first day’s 330-mile leg the Lincolns held five of the first six places.

Mexican Road Race

Excited people enjoying a national holiday cheered the racers. At one point, Faulkner hit a bump and went airborne, but he landed on all four tires without loosening a rivet or upsetting wheel alignment!

By day 4 cars were starting to drop out and the Lincolns were moving up in their division. Day 5 was a 230-mile leg from Chihuahua to Juarez that Stevenson’s car did in just under two hours!

Stevenson wound up winning the race with a total time of 21 hours, 15 minutes, and 38 seconds. Johnny Mantz came in 31 seconds slower and Faulkner took third, less than five minutes off the winning time. A Mercedes 300SL driven by Karl Kling came in first in the sports car class.

Mexican Road Race

In all, 10 of the 27 sports cars that started the race finished, 29 of 68 stock car class entries made it to the finish line. Lincoln made hay of its strong performance in Mexico and used the results to promote its new, re-engineered ’52 models. “Powered to leave the past behind,” was a sales slogan used after the big win in Mexico to drive home the point.

About John Gunnell 143 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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