1954 Cadillac La Carrera Panamericana Race Car Rides Again
52 years ago, Keith Andrews and Blu Plemons competed in the 1954 Carrera Panamericana - the Mexican Road Race.
Their privately funded 1954 Cadillac Series 62 coupe challenged the factory-backed teams, beating all of them on the final two stages.
Mr. Plemons has vivid memories of that race, recalling with delight the adventure by "5 ordinary guys from Colorado". With a car ’loaned’ by a local Colorado Springs independent car dealer (Barry Motor Sales), Andrews and Plemons were joined by three friends to take on a factory team that arrived with 28 mechanics, a doctor, a cook, a p.r. man, four cars and drivers, not to mention two photographers. In spite of the daunting odds, Andrews and Plemons almost won it all.
This year a "new" 1954 Cadillac "Carrera Panamericana" has taken shape at GM’s Performance Division in Warren, Michigan. The re-creation was a "frame-on" restoration beginning with a vintage car discovered in GM’s vehicle inventory that matched the original racer’s specs ...even in color.
"We made updates that would enhance the vehicle and occupant safety but maintain the original design intent," said Al Oppenheiser, GM Performance Division director of concept vehicle engineering.
"We kept the project in-house utilizing the Performance Division Garage, the pre-production trim shop and the show car paint team. For example, the instrument panel is as we found it but the seats and soft trim had to be reupholstered."
The Andrews/Plemons Cadillac completed the 1907-mile race over treacherous highways and dusty cart paths in less than 21 hours. In winning the two final stages, their Cadillac averaged over 115 mph for the final 410 miles.
"Their performance in 1954 is consistent with Cadillac’s DNA" said Kevin Smith, Manager Cadillac Communications. "Cadillac’s introduced America’s first V8 in 1914, the first V16 in 1929 and the first high-compression OHV V8 in 1948. Today, the V-Series CTS, STS and XLR express Cadillac’s performance heritage with power and style".
The partnership of GM’s Performance Division and Cadillac delivers exciting benefits to people who have a passion for driving great cars. The V-Series Cadillacs, developed by the Performance Division, are some of the most powerful ever, offering levels of style, performance and exclusivity clearly projecting the ’Breakthrough’ attitude that defines the brand.
Current plans have the 1954 Carrera Cadillac entered in this fall’s restaging of the Carrera Panamericana. At the starting line in Oaxaca, Blu Plemons will be reunited with this replica of the car that he and Keith Andrews entered 52 years ago. Andrews, unfortunately, was fatally injured in a crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during practice for the 1957 Indy 500.
The Carrera Cadillac re-creation is just one of the more than 700 vehicles found in the GM Heritage Collection of historically significant vehicles that date back to the early 1900s.