Carrera Panamericana Cadillac on Amelia Island
When a dirt-covered 1954 Cadillac, bearing the markings of a vintage Mexican Road Race car, rolls into the driveway at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island on Friday, March 9, it will represent living history.
This replica of a famed Carrera Panamericana (Mexican Road Race) Cadillac road racer, created by the General Motors Performance Division, was driven to the island by a group of journalists who began their trek in North Carolina .
“With this year’s theme of the Amelia Island Concours being “The Great Road Races”, bringing Cadillac’s heritage to life seemed a natural fit”, said Cadillac Division General Manager Jim Taylor. “It only made sense to drive a great road racer to the Concours, not haul it there in a trailer.”
The story began in 1954, when Keith Andrews and Blu Plemons entered a Cadillac Series 62 coupe “borrowed” from a local Colorado Springs independent car dealer in that year’s Carrera Panamericana – the sixth round of the 1954 FIA World Sports Car Championship – against heavily funded factory teams.
Andrews and Plemons finished third in class and 11th overall, completing the 1,907-mile race over treacherous highways and dusty cart paths in less than 21 hours. Their Cadillac averaged more than 115 mph over the last 410 miles to outrun every other stock car over the final two high-speed stages.
"Their performance in 1954 is consistent with Cadillac’s DNA" said Taylor . "Cadillac 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".
In 2006, a replica of that 1954 Cadillac took shape at GM’s Performance Division in Warren , Mich. The frame-on restoration began with a vintage car discovered in GM’s own vehicle inventory matching 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.
The partnership of GM’s Performance Division and Cadillac delivers exciting benefits to drivers who have a passion for 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 that define the brand.
The Carrera Panamericana Cadillac re-creation is just one of the more than 700 vehicles found in the GM Heritage Collection of historically significant vehicles.