• Mar 23rd 2010 at 7:58PM
  • 13
Mercedes Gullwings on the trail of the Carrera Panamericana – Click above for high-res image gallery

Once upon a time, long-distance road rallies were all the rage in motorsports. Sportscars raced down open roads across countries from sea to shining sea in spectacular form. But while two of the most famous took place in Italy – the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio – another took place right here in North America.

The Carrera Panamericana was held in the early 1950s in Mexico and was widely regarded as one of the most dangerous races in the world. In 1952, Karl Kling and Hans Klenk took the checkered flag in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL "Gullwing", but only after a collision with a vulture – yes, a vulture – heavily damaged the car and Herr Klenk's head in the process (hence the grille bars on the windscreen). To further cement the feat, a second Gullwing finished second, giving Mercedes a one-two finish.

The race has long since been canceled, but like the Mille Miglia was revived recently as a classics rally, and the vulture-smashing original is to retrace its routes together with the modern Gullwing, the SLS AMG. Our man Paukert is doing just that as you read this and it should be a brilliant trip down memory lane. The initial crop of photos from the event are beginning to trickle in. See for yourself in the gallery below and scope out the details in the release below the fold.

[Source: Mercedes-Benz]
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Two Gullwings on the trail of the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico
  • The victorious Mercedes-Benz 300 SL of 1952 leaves the Mercedes-Benz Museum for Mexico
  • Joining the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG along a stretch of the original race route

Stuttgart - The original winning car from the 3rd Carrera Panamericana Mexico in November 1952 is to return to the scene of its great triumph. The 300 SL racing sport car (W 194) will temporarily be removed from the "Races and Records" display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, in order to join the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and set off once again along a part of the original route through Central America.

The 3rd Carrera Panamericana was one of the top international races of the 1952 season. The double victory achieved by Mercedes-Benz there ranks as one of the brand's most spectacular successes. Karl Kling and co-driver Hans Klenk won the race, a long-distance event covering 3111 kilometres, against strong international competition at an average speed of 165.011 km/h. Second to cross the finishing line, also driving a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, were Hermann Lang and co-driver Erwin Grupp.

Kling's collision with a vulture at 250 km/h, which left his car with a smashed windscreen and Hans Klenk with head injuries, went into the annals of racing history. In addition to replacing the screen, the mechanics also immediately fitted eight thin vertical metal bars to protect vehicle and driver in the event of a similar collision – still the vehicle's most distinguishing feature.

About Daimler

Daimler AG is one of the world's most successful automotive companies. With its divisions Mercedes-Benz Cars, Daimler Trucks, Mercedes-Benz Vans, Daimler Buses and Daimler Financial Services, the Daimler Group is one of the biggest producers of premium cars and the world's biggest manufacturer of commercial vehicles with a global reach. Daimler Financial Services provides its customers with a full range of automotive financial services including financing, leasing, insurance and fleet management.

The company's founders, Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz, made history with the invention of the automobile in the year 1886. As an automotive pioneer, Daimler continues to shape the future of mobility. The Group applies innovative and green technologies to produce safe and superior vehicles which fascinate and delight its customers. With the development of alternative drive systems, Daimler is the only vehicle producer investing in hybrid drive, electric motors and fuel-cell systems, with the goal of achieving emission-free mobility in the long term. This is just one example of how Daimler willingly accepts the challenge of meeting its responsibility towards society and the environment.

Daimler sells its vehicles and services in nearly all the countries of the world and has production facilities on five continents. Its current brand portfolio includes, in addition to the world's most valuable automotive brand, Mercedes-Benz, the brands smart, Maybach, Freightliner, Western Star, Fuso, Setra, Orion and Thomas Built Buses. The company is listed on the stock exchanges of Frankfurt, New York and Stuttgart (stock exchange symbol DAI). In 2009, the Group sold 1.6 million vehicles and employed a workforce of more than 256,000 people; revenue totaled €78.9 billion and EBIT amounted minus €1.5 billion.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      The Carrera Panamericana was resurrected in 1988 and it has continued since then. It's not exactly as it was in the 50s, the roads are closed along the way, but it is still done over public highways. I watched it many years in a row while living in Chiapas, which is where it started in Tuxtla Gutierrez, and ended in Nuevo Laredo. The last two years the starting point was moved, and I don't know about the finish line. The cars always had to be at least maybe 30 to 40 years old, but could me modified in any way.
      • 5 Years Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Is it bullet proof?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Some here, including autoblog need to get their facts right. Every October and for the last 20+ years the new era of the Carrera Panamericana has been running again from South Mexico (normally Tuxtla Gutierrez), to North Mexico (Nuevo Laredo) with 100 cars in different classes. Its on public roads and people from all over the world come and race it. Last year for example, the winner was no other than Stig Blomquist, the WRC champion. So its not something new or just revived because of a brand is interested again to name or promote a product. Its a race that is still there for some to accept the challenge of finish it and if you can, win it.

      Get more info here:
      • 5 Years Ago
      Tell Paukert those pics are gorgeous.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Carrera Panamericana...as in the two cars Porsche manufacturers?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes , both names of Porsche cara were choosen to honor the Mexican race
        • 5 Years Ago
        Carrera was chosen because they won the race in the fifties.

        I had planned to do the race with a 54 Lincoln a few years ago that I had but the cost of the entry and expenses was more than I figured it was worth. Like $25,000- to go and do it right. These are not hobbyists, this is the Mille Miglia crowd... There is a video of the thing done by Nick Mason - the Pink Floyd drummer and it is pretty good. Last year two lunatics in a 53 Studebaker did 300 KPH (c.186 MPH) on the freeway in Mexico City in one of the open stages. This is not a race for those without experience in racecars either. Or tons of money to build a tube frame hot rod that will run like that. My Lincoln had a stroked 460 in it and would run pretty fast as well....
      • 5 Years Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why does the old SL Gullwings has bars in the windshield?????

      (Please avoid racist jokes)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Maybe it has something to do with the 6th picture were the guys head was used as a windshield? I guess it's to protect to windshield...

        OR....it's to protect him from Mexicans trying to sell chiclets. I'm Latin I can totally say that :)
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