The Miracle of Mexico 1954 – How Ferrari Was Saved

The “Carrera Panamericana” Mexico might have enjoyed a brief run, but it left a legacy as being one of the most dangerous and thrilling rally series in history.

Between 1950 and 1954, the race covered a 2,178-mile stretch of Mexico’s Pan-American Highway, taking nine stages and five days to complete. One of the tales to emerge from these races is the story of how a small Mexican body shop played a quirky role in saving the Ferrari brand.

It’s too good not to share. We’ve found this story on several sites and social platforms, but aren’t sure the correct author. If you know the original author, let us know, we’d like to give them credit. 

As legend has it…

The poster for the first Carrera Panamericana race

“In 1950, the Pan American Race emerged. One of the most demanding endurance races in history that tested the best cars and the most experienced and daring drivers of the time.

In 1954, the last of five races, Umberto Maglioli in his Ferrari 375 Plus was leading the fourth and final stage of the race. Shortly before finishing stage four, his car began to fail. His Ferrari 375 Plus had an oil leak through a hole in the crankcase. In the middle of nowhere and without a spare part for this vital part of the car, hopes of finishing the race were practically nil. On the fifth leg of the race and when the car was practically about to stop working, Umberto Maglioli made a stop in the middle of the road when he saw a small workshop called “El Milagro.”

Umberto’s car in the flesh and in 1/43 Scale by Art Model

Maglioli was received by Renato Martinez who was the owner and sole mechanic of the workshop in the middle of nowhere. Renato Martinez confirmed to Maglioli that it was in fact an oil leak in the crankcase and that he had a “creative” solution to repair it in moments. At least to be able to finish their journey.

Renato Martinez caught a bucket and a big bar of soap. He also took three small bottles of Coca-Cola and gave them to Maglioli saying, “While you drink this Coke I will repair your car.” An Unbeliever Maglioli could only sit, drink the coke and wait for a miracle. Meanwhile, Renato Martinez dismantled the Ferrari and using the bar of soap began to gradually rub the carter with it. By friction, the soap melted and created a paste that sealed the leak hole. Soap “cuts” the oil and adheres to the metal in the crankcase and when solidified it became hard as a rock.

Amazed, Maglioli thanked Renato and pulled out of Ferrari a small Rolleiflex camera which he used to capture that miraculous moment. Workshop “El Milagro” and Renato next to the Ferrari 375 Plus under repair were immortalized.

Umberto Maglioli in his Ferrari 375 Plus, finished the fifth stage of the race in the first place and changed Ferrari history forever.

While Ferrari was a well-known car in Europe, it wasn’t in America and the brand was far from being an economically viable business. Ferrari desperately needed to prove to America that their cars were superior, fast, and reliable. Winning the race would bring them recognition and with its sales in the United States, would help them save the brand from bankruptcy.

Sometime later, Renato Martinez received by mail the printed photograph Maglioli had taken of that moment. The photograph was signed with “To my friend Renato M. From Umberto Maglioli.” The photograph came along with a letter thanking Renato and said: “Renato, The Mexican Miracle that helped Ferrari.” That letter was signed by a man named Enzo Ferrari.”

We believe somebody needs to make a 1/43 Scale diorama of this scene! Once done we would love to show it off, contact us at


How wrong can we be?  A lot!  This photo is already what we asked for. Felix Hernandez took the photo and build the diorama in it! The actual workshop burned down a while ago.  Check out the Diorama here.  And thanks to Karl for letting us know.



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1 year ago

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, as they say! The B&W photo IS the diorama already! For sale now, along with the story…
BTW, it ain’t cheap! 🙂

Mike Blatz
Mike Blatz
1 year ago

What, pray tell, is a “carter”?

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