Ford vastly improved their 1950 model line over the course of its lifecycle with a plethora of new equipment and mechanical enhancements. Many of these upgrades aimed directly at the average American buyer, but none of these upgrades had a deadly, 3,507-kilometer race across public roads in Mexico in mind.
After the Mexican section of the Pan-American Highway was completed In 1950, a nine-stage, five-day race across the country was organized by the Mexican government to celebrate its achievement as well as to attract international business interests. This gave birth to the Carrera Panamericana, a road race that ran almost the entire 2,178-mile length of the newly completed highway. This exciting event was however eventually canceled after just a few short years due to the extreme danger involved. Claiming the lives of nearly thirty victims, it quickly became one of the deadliest races in motorsports history.
In the inaugural Carrera Panamericana, three Fords managed to survive, with the marque’s best finish of 14th place claimed by the American team of Kasold and Contesetto. The early ultra-endurance entries forged a lasting road-racing legacy for the classic Ford enthusiasts.
The car on offer here, Chassis #MPC723418B156, is a 1950 Ford Custom Club Coupe and is somewhat of a spiritual successor to those courageous Ford V-8s who took on the Carrera Panamericana all those years ago. With the expense of construction, development, and modification thrown entirely out the window between 1995 and 1997, this car was fitted with all of the vital rallying equipment. This included auxiliary lights, a Halda rally timer/odometer, a full complement of racing instrumentation, and five-point harness Sparco seats. A fully thought-out interior space with an integrated roll cage, custom fabricated control panel and a Hurst shifter that navigates the car’s five-speed manual transmission.
The rear wheels are driven by a 239-cubic-inch flathead V-8 blueprinted engine built by Motor City Flatheads, right here in Dundee, Michigan. The motor and fuel system is not without modifications, they include, Tilton master cylinder, high-output alternator, auxiliary fans, a cold air intake, an ATL reinforced fuel cell, and competition-grade fuel lines. Wheels are billet and are provided from American Racing accompanied by Michelin Pilot tires.
As noted, the inspiration for this car was the 1950s Ford V-8 cars that ran in the Carrera Panamericana, so it is quite fitting that its first competition appearance came at the 1997 Peking to Paris Motor Challenge. The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge was a race held in 1907 for automobiles to traverse from Peking, China to Paris, France, a distance of roughly 10,000 miles. There were no rules for this race, outside of the winner receiving a magnum of Mumm champagne. In that period, cars were fairly new, and they traveled through remote areas of Asia where people had no experience with motor vehicles. In 1997 things were certainly easier than in 1907 but hardly any less impressive. On this car’s initial attempt it performed wonderfully, finishing in 4th overall and second in class driven by the American team of John Jung and Andy Vann. They traveled through China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and France. The trip took nearly two months!
Competition experience did not end there for this Ford. Its legacy also came full circle, entering in the 1998 Carrera Panamerican Revival as well as the 1999 La Carrera Nevada, piloted by John Jung and Elizabeth Frank.
Maintained wonderfully throughout its ownership, this Ford rally car presents in excellent driving condition and is ready for its next challenge. The list of machines that can survive the mechanical abuse this car endured is short, to say the least. Only the most disciplined and skilled drivers can take on such a challenge as Peking to Paris and the Carrera Panamericana. This unique Ford Custom Club Coupe has a record that proves, in proficient hands, it is a wonderful and highly successful rallying tool.