For many years now, the name ‘Carrera’ has been associated with Porsche sports cars. But the story of how the fledgling 356 first got its ‘Carrera’ name is a fascinating one. This required the far-sightedness of the company founder, Ferry Porsche, and a young engineer who was prepared to think outside the box. This story follows a long and twisty road which started in far-off Mexico and involved significant engineering prowess, commitment and endurance.
History of the Carrera name
In studying the origins of Porsche’s Carrera badge, it is important to understand the circumstances in which this model name came about, and to grasp some of the ambience surrounding the world of motorsport in the 1950s. Things were not quite so complex back then and legends were sometimes born out of simple traditions, and usually unintentionally.
At the end of the 1940s, the combined countries of the Americas agreed to resume the building of the highway, effectively uniting the two Americas by way of a north-south road. Known as The Pan-American Road, it covered a staggering 16,000 miles, stretching from Alaska to Chile.
In celebration of the completion of the Mexican section of the road, and in order to attract public attention to the project, the Mexican government proposed the creation of an international border-to-border road race. It was planned that top rate drivers would be invited to participate, a concept that was self-fulfilling as the event was being billed as a tough challenge. If one well known driver signed up, the others couldn’t afford not to be there.
The name given to this great Mexican event was simply, ‘La Carrera Panamericana’ and was first held on 5 May 1950. Although it was officially classified as a rally, in reality it took the form of a no-holds-barred race across some of the harshest and most dangerous terrain in motorsport at that time. Drivers had to tough it out over the 2000-mile course with little in the way of maps, or even support crew, for some. Rules were sketchy at best, and so the race became an all-out contest to get from the start line to the finish line as fast as possible, with the mere 2000 gruelling miles separating these two points.