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A Modern-Day Incarnation of Lincoln Cosmo Carrera Panamericana

Delightful tribute Rally Car showcases masterful rally mods

by Sajeev Mehta from with additions from Bandit and the Hamsters

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 Editor’s Note: This car brings back memories. I was a crew member/co-captain with its new owner Dr. Christian Reichardt or Doctor Hamster to you in 2005. It was originally raced in the ‘70s and the body was modified in the ‘90s. We worked on the classic mechanically and prepared the car for the 2005 La Carrera Pan Americana road race in the vintage class. We brought a 2nd Place trophy home. 
We drove it to the bottom of Mexico from Los Angeles, and then raced to the border over a week. Then we drove home. The entire run is covered in the article below on™.
The stories, the mods, the tears around a car like this never end. Each La Carrera Race took on the fiery glow of a world class adventure. I moved onto racing at Bonneville with the Salt Shaker the first FXR 120-inch, rubbermounted Panhead and we set records in 2006 and 2007. But the good doctor kept returning to Mexico. Originally from Germany, he enjoyed the Latin history and romance spread across Mexico.
Dr. Hamster and Bandit, photo by Wrench
Dr. Hamster and Bandit, photo by Wrench

After our 2005 effort the Doctor returned to rebuild the original 317 Lincoln engine, adding 341 heads, Egge connecting rods, and pistons. He replaced the steel carter carb with Edlebrock 4-barrel aluminum performance carb. Ronnie, a car guy who took over Will Phillip’s True Track business when Will passed away, handled the installation of the new performance crank, 332 Ford truck intake manifold, and ECU headers. The performance formula was reminiscent of the original Hot Rod Lincoln speed recipe in the ‘50s.
The team addressed a couple of major issues including a cross-over exhaust system with a pipe running under the front of the engine behind the radiator. With that header system gone and the rebuilt engine broke in, 2007 effort turned into a major 1st prize in the original class. Reliability had improved enormously. 
Another Hamster became Dr. Hamsters partner, Dan Roche, from Canada. Remember I said a couple of major issues. Well during that era the cross-over theory was popular including with Harleys for years. Because of colder climates a cross-over intake tube helped heat the heavy steel carb, but that became a vapor lock issue with an aluminum carb while racing across a blistering Mexican desert in the summer.
During each race day there were numerous occasions to meet and develop relations with the locals. In most cases they are immensely positive. On one occasion an older gentleman approached the good doctor as he stared under the hood with Dan and wondered how to cure the constant vapor locks. 
Hamster Dan Roche, photo by Wrench
Hamster Dan Roche, photo by Wrench

As it turned out this gentleman was a tech during some of the original races and knew exactly what to do. They were able to loosen the intake manifold with the cross-over just enough to allow Senor Lincoln to slip two Coca-Cola can chunks into place and block the over-flow crossing the engine adjacent to the aluminum Edlebrock carb. Ultimately, they also added a 1.5-inch phenolic block between the hot cast iron intake manifold and the carb body, vapor locks cured. 
In 2009 with a stock rebuilt hydromatic trans and the tough 317 reliable engine in place, they met their car at the race start at the bottom of the Mexican peninsula. All went exceedingly well, and they capture several firsts in the day-to-day event. On the last day they held tight to their second overall first standing, but the engine made uncomfortable noises. It wasn’t happy but continued to run. Just 10 miles from the final day finish line it sputtered and died ending their 2009 attempt. 
This time the car was shipped to Canada, where Dan owned several facilities capable of serious car reconstruction efforts. One of the other Lincoln racers, Brad Caplan wreck his car and the Doctor jumped at the chance to purchase his driveline and suspension components. The engine alone was worth over $30,000. 
“All these elements were major improvements to the car’s performance and handling,” Dr. Hamster added. Dan facilitated the installation of a new 700R4 transmission, but they burned up three gears driving the stout Lincoln during the 2015 race. By the time they made it to Chihuahua, 2.5 hours south of El Paso desperate measures were vital, and they found a place to replace the trans internals with heavy-duty truck parts. On the road again. The stories never end for efforts to compete in the grueling La Carrera Pan Americana road race.
New Owner, photo by Dr. Christian Reichardt
New Owner, photo by Dr. Christian Reichardt

One more brief story to round out this report. After the auction the good doctor was introduced to the buyers, the esteemed Mac Neal family of Weather Tech, who collect and race 300 SL Mercedes and Austin Martins, serious cars. One of the sons flew out to Los Angeles and Christian introduced him to the Lincoln, which he then drove 1085 miles back to Denver in 13 hours. No problems, he had a blast. The Stinkin’ Lincoln lives on… 
Check out the following article from Hagerty media: 
The Carrera Panamericana—a Mexican road rally for modified production cars—had a lasting impact on the automobile, and this particular car is connected to Porsche, for example, adopted the Spanish term “carrera” for numerous models, alluding to its success in the famed race south of the border. For those of us with inclinations of a Klockauian nature, however, there’s no doubt that the stock car class was the most influential, as it elevated heart rates with big-bodied Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles running the brutal, open road endurance race. It was Lincoln, though, that walked away with the lion’s share of accolades in the stock car class (ironically, three full years before Charley Ryan penned the famous rockabilly tune “Hot Rod Lincoln.”)
image source: Lincoln
image source: Lincoln

In 1952 and ’53, Lincoln finished 1-2-3-4 in Carrera Panamericana’s stock car division. The following year was a still-impressive 1-2 finish. The following year, the rally was cancelled due to the public’s distaste for human tragedies on public roads. Or, perhaps it was cancelled because the Mexican government’s mission to promote its new highway system had run its course. Either way, the Lincolns that won weren’t derivatives of Edsel Ford’s bespoke Continental, rather a series of leaner, meaner two-door Lincoln coupes derived from the third-generation Mercury Eight.

By 1952, the ball-joint front suspension and Y-block-powered Lincolns proved that the newly minted Lincoln-Mercury division had a winner on their hands, even if it wasn’t on-par with decades of luxury vehicles from its recent past.
image source: Lincoln
image source: Lincoln

Despite the departure from luxury, this era Lincoln still turns heads, especially as a rally racer, like the 1954 Lincoln Cosmopolitan Coupe Rally Car currently for sale on Bring a Trailer (click here).
This Cosmopolitan is a modern-day recreation, made to race in the late 1990s and now boasting a significant number of accolades. While the coupe isn’t one of the original Carrera Panamericana race cars, this tribute sports a truckload of upgrades for modern day rallying, plus curious body modifications like headlight buckets from a 1956 Oldsmobile and shaved door and trunk handles. To be fair, the Oldsmobile bits give the Cosmopolitan’s front end a more serious, intense face for motorsport.

The interior sports a roll cage with front hoop bars that avoid the dashboard, racing seats with five-point harnesses, a Hurst shifter controlling the GM 700R4 automatic overdrive transmission, and a bevy of niceties like an non-original armrest and aftermarket gauges.

While the GM overdrive transmission might upset purists, the Lincoln Y-block sports a host of worthy modifications: improved heads from the 1956–57 Lincolns, a high volume intake manifold from a Ford truck, lightened reciprocating assembly, aftermarket camshaft and headers, Edelbrock 600cfm carb, and an oxygen sensor/Pertronix ignition to ensure consistent performance in an endurance race setting.

Power is transmitted from the 700R4 trans to a Ford 9-inch rear, while Fox racing shocks (lowering front coil springs with a massive 1¾” sway bar) and drop rear leaf springs with a rear sway bar—reportedly cribbed from a Surburban—round out the package. Four-wheel disc brakes behind a staggered set of 15-inch steel wheels provide the stop and grip. Perhaps Lincoln could have easily scored another 1-2-3-4 win with this 1954 Cosmo in its arsenal instead?

No matter, because this is a fantastic combination of period racing ingenuity with a smattering of modern bits. Judging by the swag included with the vehicle and the years of participation, there’s little doubt this car is an absolute hoot to own, while paying homage to the original Lincolns that paved the way for its heroic rise to road rallying success. And the market agrees, as this Cosmopolitan sold for $44,172 including premium, or roughly $14 grand more than a stock version in perfect #1 (Concours) condition.

This Cosmo—and many other Lincolns of this era—is an interesting diversion from the common stigma that vehicles modified for motorsport (especially out of period) are less prestigious than a factory original. How much an all-original, perfectly-restored 1952–54 Carrera Panamericana Lincoln race car would even fetch these days is hard to say, but there’s something to be said for just driving the wheels off a tribute car without the baggage of historical preservation.
European Journalist and Dr. Hamster without his t-shirt. Photo by Wrench.
European Journalist and Dr. Hamster without his t-shirt. Photo by Wrench.

All images by Bring a Trailer (except where indicated)

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Reader Comments

Well written article super interesting.....

Scrub Hansen
Fountain Valley, CA
Sunday, June 19, 2022
Editor Response Thanks brother. More stories to come.
Aside from my own personal connections to many of the cast of afore mentioned characters, and being very familiar with the car itself, I found both of these 2 GREAT articles VERY informative and entertaining. Much of the info was new news to me, and I appreciated it immensely.

Congratulations to you Christian for all your accomplishments with this now historic 'Hot Rod Lincoln'

el Waggs
Oceanside, CA
Thursday, June 2, 2022
Editor Response Thanks brother.

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