The first car to win Carrera Panamericana was an Oldsmobile 88
Oldsmobile 88 (1949-1999) was the best selling car of the brand from 1950-1974. It is popularly known as 88 too and this "boring" machine made one of the most epic moves in Americas Racing: She won the first Carrera Panamericana in 1950. Even though the model is one of the candidates to be the first muscle car in history (as it is not clear which car is and seems there are discussions about it), not all the olds 88 can be considered one of them. Here we have an example of another car as the winner of the race.
In the late 40's, the Mexicans decided to do a sedan and sports car race from border to border (andale, andale !) of Mexico; that’s over 2500 miles and the idea was to drive it in 5 stages. All 5 (1950-1954) of the Carrera Panamericana disputed had different start and finish points. They also changed the rules every year to make it a more and more competitive race. The reality is Carrera Panamericana was an amazing event, reaching popularity levels like Mille Miglia or Targa Florio.
Due to safety concerns and the cost to the Mexican Government the 1955 Carrera Panamericana got cancelled. At the moment there is a modern version, but nothing as epic as the classic one.
The first Carrera had drivers coming from all disciplines of motorsports, particularly the American ones, but they also had Formula 1, hill climbing, rally and drag racing. Some well known personalities participate in the race, but the vast majority (of the 132 cars) were unknown people funding the race themselves. As an anecdotic point as well, there were 9 women driving cars for the race.
The first 4 places (of the 1950 race) were won by American cars and American drivers. Hershel McGriff (and Ray Elliot) were the winners with his numbered 52 Oldsmobile 88, averaging 88 mph. The last day of the race, they did it with not enough oil on the engine! Still they won. They didn't really won any stage, but they managed to get the win. The race won a bad reputation for the death toll: sadly 3 participants and 1 spectator passed away too.
Carrera Panamericana has left some of the most beautiful pictures in American racing history, specially the ones of the Mercedes Benz 300 SL.
The Oldsmobile 88 3rd generation
The Olds 88 suffered different transformations along the origin in 1949 up to 1991. There are 9 generations of them with every transformation of the American car market suffered for those five decades. We particularly like the 3rd generation. The one who went from 1957 and 1958. For 1957 only, the basic 88 was officially named Golden Rocket 88, taken from Oldsmobile's 1956 Motorama two-passenger show car. However, the only badging was an "88" underneath each taillight. Also for 1957 the "J2" option was offered, with three 2-barrel (0.32 m3) carburettors, similar to the Pontiac Tri-Power. The Super 88 continued as the upscale mid-line series. Under the hood, the Rocket V8 increased in displacement to 371 cubic inches and 277 horsepower (207 kW) for all models across the board. Although rare, three speed manual transmissions were still available. Styling highlights were more evolutional than radical overall with three-piece rear window styling utilised on some models. Oldsmobile revived station wagons for the first time since 1950 with the Super 88 Fiesta being a four-door hardtop design. In 1957, Oldsmobile added a safety deep-recessed steering wheel.
For 1958, GM was promoting their fiftieth year of production, and introduced Anniversary models for each brand; Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Chevrolet. The 1958 models shared a common appearance on the top models for each brand; Cadillac Eldorado Seville, Buick Roadmaster Riviera, Oldsmobile Holiday 88, Pontiac Bonneville Catalina, and the all-new Chevrolet Bel-Air Impala. The 1958 model is best known in Oldsmobile as the year of the "ChromeMobile" thanks to tremendous splatterings of chrome trim on the body, particularly on the higher-priced Super 88 and Ninety-Eight models. The styling was advertised by Olds as the "Mobile Look." The Dynamic 88 debuted in 1958 and lasted through 1966 positioned as the entry level model below the Super 88.
Despite an economic recession that cut into new car sales industry wide, and especially affected the medium-priced car market that Olds competed in, Oldsmobile saw only a slight decline in sales for 1958 and even rose in industry standings to fourth-place behind the "Low-Priced Three" of Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth, while surpassing a now-floundering sister division Buick on the sales charts for the first time in many years. Oldsmobile was also way ahead of other middle-priced competitors such as sister division Pontiac, Mercury, Dodge and Chrysler, along with Ford Motor Company's all-new and ill-fated Edsel, and Chrysler Corporation's DeSoto - the latter two nameplates of which would fade into oblivion within the next three years.
Pictures from themusclecar.com, airportjournals.com, emercedesbenz.com, car.info and pinterest.com