The car was started for the first time on Labor Day weekend, 1999. It was licensed for road use and we put 1,000 miles on the clock before trailering the car to Tuxtla Gutierrez, capital of the state of Chiapas, Mexico, just a few miles from the Guatemalan border, and starting point of the race. The car passed technical inspection and left the starting line on October 23. The Corvette proved to be brutally powerful, reliable, a total crowd pleaser, and an awesome sound experience for spectators when it was at full song. This wild Corvette stands ready to go on to a successful vintage racing career that started in its 34th year, or it could be returned to its stock configuration.
The Mexican government sponsored the original La Carrera Panamericana race in 1950 to celebrate the then recently completed Pan American Highway, which runs the length of Mexico. The race immediately became internationally famous, and was run until 1954, when it was cancelled because of a large number of spectator fatalities. The original Pan Am was flat out road racing from the start-which was Tuxtla Gutierrez even then-until the finish line at the U.S. border at Texas. The race was resumed in 1988 in modified form. The wide-open, frontier mentality of Mexico in the early '50s is simply no longer the case, and the population is too dense to tolerate the former style of racing that saw European marques such as Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Mercedes competing against many American-manufactured cars like Hudson, Mercury, and Oldsmobile.
Beginning in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the race covers 2,300 miles in six days, currently ending at the border town of Nuevo Laredo. In its modern day format, the race is part rally and part speed sections (velocity stages), but it is still run on public roads and highways, with the cooperation of the Mexican Federal Highway Patrol. The course starts at sea level and quickly climbs into Mexico's central mountain range, reaching elevations of 7,000-8,000 feet, and returns to sea level for the final day's numerous velocity stages to the border, across Mexico's northern, near-desert terrain. The race covers about 400 miles per day, with rapid changes in altitude, and includes velocity stages through several extremely difficult mountain sections. All in all it's a difficult challenge for the cars and teams, requiring close coordination between driver, navigator, and maintenance crews. It is not surprising, therefore, that the race is internationally famous, and generally considered to be the crown jewel of vintage road racing. Typically, about 80 to 90 cars compete each year, with entrants from Europe, South America, the U.S., Mexico, and sometimes as far away as New Zealand. Because of the difficulty of this speed and endurance event, only about 60 cars typically cross the finish line under their own power.
We are obviously very proud of the fact that we put our Corvette together in only about six months (working every weekend-we're both employed full time, and live in cities a good distance apart), were successful in the car's first competitive event, and above all we are proud of the fact that this is the only Corvette to ever win this race in any class!