This Lincoln Cosmo 1950s Carrera Panamericana tribute car showcases masterful rally mods
The Carrera Panamericana—a Mexican road rally for modified production cars—had a lasting impact on the automobile. 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.”)
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.
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. 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.