Published on Monday, 30 July 2012 13:35
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In 1966 Oklahoma Region members Jim and Kathy Taylor became the first American entrants to finish the FIA Mexican 24 Hour International Rallye, in their Ford Falcon Sprint.  First run in 1957, noted automotive journalist Jean Calvin competed in and failed to finish the rally in 1965. (Sports Car Graphic September 1965) Calvin commented in 1970;  "The Mexican 24 Hour Rally is a tough one for Americans to win". 

Kathy wrote the following story about their exploits for the Gazette.  She, Jim and the Falcon are celebrities in Oklahoma Region lore.

Michael Eisenberg of Northridge California has restored Jim's Falcon and currently races it in the historic Trans Am Group. Michael has provided a photo from the July 25, 1966 El Heraldo Desportes showing Jim and Kathy on the trunk of their Falcon.

Michael also provided a photo of the Falcon in its current racing trim, and a link to a video of him racing at the May 2013 Sears Point vintage races.

 MEXICAN 24 HOUR INTERNATIONAL RALLYE

  You must know by now that my husband and I were in the Tenth International 214. Hour Rallye in Mexico City. Don’t be misled by the word “rallye”. What the Mexicans mean by “rallye” is a mixture of the U.S. interpretation, a road-race, an endurance run, and absolute insanity; all occurring simultaneously. The first inkling I had of this new concept was when I was given my bracelet identificating me and MY BLOOD TYPE!. The fact that I had revised my will just before I left Oklahoma was a great comfort to me through the whole rallye.

The rallye started atop a yellow ramp somewhere on the northwest side of Mexico City. The streets were buzzing with rallye spectators (and also the routine morning rush-hour traffics) There were children everywhere (all Mexican boys seem to love cars); quite a few goats; photographers, both amateur and professional; radio men; officials; vendors-if you bought a fudgicle-type creation, you got your car blessed as a premium. It was very much like a county fair, actually.

jim  kathy taylor

 (Translation) THE OKLAHOMA Team Taylor, on their Ford V-8 that almost did not finish. They arrived with the "muffler" of the car on one side, held on with wires...

At the signal you rolled down the ramp to an unappreciated speed of 35 mph. I say unappreciated because we didn’t know then that we would never be able to drive under 60 mph again. This slow starting speed was due to a bad wreck two blocks from the start last year, and it made everyone disastrously early at the first checkpoint this year. Unfortunately we didn’t find out until 4:30 the next morning that you can stop two inches from a known checkpoint and wait for your correct time, so we were 11 minutes early at this first one. Fifteen minutes early or 30 minutes late, and you’re disqualified.

There are no trick checkpoints, neither is there any attempt to get you lost - in fact you would have to work a little at getting lost. In the towns--which are tricky due to complicated, narrow, zig - zagging cobblestone streets - police direct the turns and stop traffic, and the walks are lined with people pointing out directions and cheering you on. One town gave each car a police escort at’ about 70 mph.

This rallye in Mexico is second only to their Grand Prix and every Mexican knew you were coming. On the hazardous mountain roads, the trucks and buses would put their outside wheels onto the shoulder so you could pass on curves and hills. If you met someone, he would also put his wheels on the shoulder, and you could scoot through the middle. Mexicans routinely pass on hills and curves, and you had better do likewise, if you plan to finish.

During the first part of the rallye, we were so high in the mountains that we drove through low—hanging clouds for about an hour or so and then, as we descended towards the Gulf, it became rain. The rallye times do not allow for concessions to the weather, so you just keep zipping along at your normal 90—100 mph and hope your bracelet stays on through the crash.

Gas is crucial on this run. There are only certain places where gas can even be purchased, if you have the time to stop. Jim had an extra tank put on the car in Mexico City, so we had no refueling difficulties; but otherwise we would have been in lots of trouble. We do have a sneaking suspicion that the first two gas stations got the better of us because the gas at these stations cost more than the gas for the rest of the railye combined. (Because of this unexpected high cost of gas, we used our entire supply of pesos. We lost a lot of time trying to borrow 2 pesos, 160, to cross the toil bridge that led to the end of the first leg where our friends were to meet. us with coffee and more pesos.) Running late from the toll bridge incident, we were hailed in the rain and dark by two he]et—carrying fugitives from a Mustang. (We learned the model later, at the time the car was out of sight, down the mountain.) They were unhurt, stated they “fell off”, leaped in, and held to the roll bar (with their feet in my cookies) to the midway checkpoint where we clocked in at 29. minutes, l5 seconds late-but still in the rallye, with a short rest stop and a new starting time ahead of us. (So who cares about points? We ended up with 10,145 points and the winner had about 2,300.)

We set out from the rest stop in more rain and fog, with warnings of rock and mud slides ahead. The slides were there, but not bad. Thanks to the airplane landing lights from Kendall and Johnson, neither rain nor fog nor dead of night could conceal the burros and cattle on the road, and we missed them all.

An amazing thing about Mexico is the fact that at all hours of the day and night there are Indians walking somewhere on the road. As darkness merges into dawn and they are still walking about, it causes you to wonder if they are part of a cast of thousands hired by the French Auto Club as local color for the rallye, or if these people actually have a destination.

There were two hill climbs; one in the first leg, and one in the last. The roads for the hill climbs were the only ones that were closed to on—coming traffic. All the rest were “business as usual” highways. (Later we happened to run into two separate sets of tourists who had attempted to navigate south on Highway 89 while the rallists sped north. Their reactions were similar - HELP!)

There were several speed regularities. On these you chose your cr speed before the rallye and then you were stuck with it. The two checkpoints here were unknown, and of course you couldn’t and didn’t stop. It was “on time--all the time,” which actually is pretty easy when you’re navigating with kilometer stones. You looked at the stone, the clock, and checked your rallye table; and knew instantly whether you were on time, ahead, or behind. You can run without an odometer at all, which was fine with us because ours was set for miles, anyway.

 During Leg 1 you were given a sealed envelope which contained the kilometer stone numbers at which your A-B run would start and finish. You could run this in any time interval you chose that would get you to your next checkpoint in time. Then during Leg 3 you received another envelope containing start and finish points for the X-Y run, which must be run in the same amount of time you chose for the A-B.

Of course, there were the usual Intervals,” which meant you could circulate in any direction - Ha! Ha! - if you’re not going straight ahead as fast as you can, you’re in real trouble. In order to complete 1175 miles in 22 hours, you need to average 59 mph, so there is no time to fool around.

If you plan to go to show the Mexicans what great rallists “Gringos’ are forget it, you’re wasting your time. We watched one Canadian, a veteran of the Shell 4000, spend his pre - rallye days explaining how a rallyes should be run. I doubt if anyone cried when he happened to be the first drop out?, somewhere around the sixth of 159checkpoints, as I recall. (Of forty-four starters, 18 cars did not finish, due to “drop-outs”, disqualifications, and three accidents.) Go to railye “Mexican Style”, and you won’t find a more helpful, friendly people. Without their help and friendship, you can’t possibly finish. For example: We tore our tail pipe and muffler section loose, and had to wire it on with wire from my board lamp-fortunately it as dawn by then and I no longer needed the lamp light. Later we got three short pieces at a gas station. When it came loose for the third time and began dragging, a rallye car stopped and unwired his spare tires to give us wire, just as Jim was cutting some barbed wire from a fence. The driver of this car came in third in the rallye, and may well have sacrificed first or second place in order to help us.

At gas stops all along the route, we were made to feel that the other drivers wanted us to finish as badly as we wanted to ourselves. In fact, from the moment we arrived in Mexico City, we found all the rallists and the French Auto Club members more than willing to help us with anything from gas tanks and driving suits to where to find the best restaurants. We also discovered that the broadcaster of the rallye told everyone where “our friends, the Taylors' were, rejoicing each time we were seen to be still in the rallye.

falcon

 Michael Eisenberg in the Taylor Falcon.

Video from Sonoma 2013: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmcBNJgtQts

Each entry drives to win. Everyone is very frank in telling you that they hope to win this year. Most of them have been driving the roads and working on their cars since February. A couple even marked a lot of roads with red paint to teil them where to shift down in order to keep their times. But even with all this preparation; they recognize that only one will win. So they go merrily along; helping anyone who asks.

Let me list some reasons why YOU should consider this rallye for next year’s vacation: 1) Mexico City is an ideal spot for Oklahomans who are looking for cool spots in the world. It’s about 70-80 degrees during the day3 and you need a sweater or coat at night. 2) The rallye keeps a husband busy preparing the car and talking with rallists, and a wife is free to shop and sight-see to her heart’s content. 3)The Mexicans want foreign entrants and will pay half your motel room at a very nice motel for ten days; and cheerfully refund your entry fee if you cross the starting line (not to mention numerous pre and post rallye parties). 4) Five thousand U.S. dollars are divided among those who place in class and overall winners, which is something to think about.

See you in Mexico next year?

Kathy Taylor