Mexico, May 1950. The first Pan American Road Race is staged and run amid great fanfare. 22 year old Hershel McGriff wins the inaugural event. Publicity filters back to the USA. Marine industrialist Carl Kiekhaefer takes notice and keeps tabs on the race. He decides to field a two-car team less than a month before the start of PARR II in November 1951.
Tony Bettenhausen, in Carl Kiekhaefer’s Chrysler Saratoga Club Coupe, blitzes the last two legs of the 1951 race and finishes 16th. Tony’s speed demon antics get Carl’s normally simmering competitive juices to virtually boiling over! Carl was now more determined than ever to win the race.
In November 1952, Carl Kiekhaefer returns to Mexico for the third running of the Carrera Panamericana. He expects to build on his debut from a year earlier, with the right combination of preparation, engineering, driving talent and type of automobile. He enters a 1951 Chrysler and a brand new, limited production 1953 Lincoln Cosmopolitan.
Carl feels confident in his chances, but has no idea what’s coming from Ford. FoMoCo has provided critical factory-backing to a racing operation headquartered in California and supervised by Clay Smith and Bill Stroppe. The Smith-Stroppe Lincolns dominate the race’s stock class.
Carl, unhappy with how the factory-backed Lincolns performed in the 1952 race, goes into overdrive preparing for the 1953 PARR. He gives his drivers plenty of time to conduct practice runs in Mexico, and knows that success in the 1953 race depends on the special, 280 hp New Yorker Club Coupes built by Chrysler. Leaving nothing to chance, Carl believes he has afforded himself the best opportunity to win the fourth running of the Pan American Road Race.