The last street race at Watkins Glen: American sports car racing got its start on a 6.6-mile circuit through the tiny town of Watkins Glen in upstate New York. The picturesque spot was an ideal place for tourists to come and spend their money as they watched the mostly European sports cars and their rich American owners challenge the partially paved country roads. In the 1952 event, however, Fred Wacker's Allard J2 brushed the crowd that pressed along the edges of the main street's curbs, and 12 people were seriously injured and a 7-year-old child was killed. But the race survived, moving to a permanent circuit in 1953 and becoming the eventual home to the United States Grand Prix Formula One race in the '60s and '70s.
Greta Molander: Norwegian rally legend Greta Molander won the ladies cup in the Monte Carlo Rally in a Saab 92 two-cylinder sedan. Molander had won the ladies division of this rally before the war, competing in a Plymouth. She was a true pioneer in the sport of rallying in the days before such women competitors as Pat Moss and Rosemary Smith.
Bentley Continental R: Fantastically expensive, fantastically refined, fantastically fast. Buyers included the Shah of Iran, Prince Frederick of Prussia, Briggs Cunningham, Aristotle Onassis and Ian Fleming. The Continental R was incredibly beautiful, with a sloping fastback roof and gracefully sculptured front and rear fenders. Its proud upright radiator grille and flying B emblem left no doubt this was indeed a true representative of the best of the British Empire. The 3,700-lb automobile had a top speed of 120 mph, and the prototype was used as an official course car at the 1952 Le Mans 24 Hours. Of the 208 Continental R's made, all but 11 still exist in the hands of their lucky owners.
The birth of Road America: In the early 1950s, American sports-car racing was in its infancy. Racing on closed public roads was readily accepted, and from 1950-52 the small village of Elkhart Lake, north of Milwaukee, Wis., was the scene of one of the country's original races. But its own success was its downfall, as crowds of more than 100,000 and serious racing Ferraris, Cunninghams and Jaguars couldn't be contained by hay bales and snow fencing. In 1952, even as the final street race was being run, plans were underway to build a permanent racing circuit near the picturesque town. The first event at the 4-mile Road America track took place in 1954, and the place remains one of America's most beautiful and picturesque racing circuits.
Sydney Allard wins Monte Carlo Rally: The Monte Carlo Rally was always considered the biggest event on the international rally calendar. In 1952, not only did Englishman Sydney Allard win the event, he did so using a car of his own manufacture, a P-Type sedan powered by a Ford flathead V8. Young Stirling Moss finished second in a Talbot 90.
Air conditioning, 1952: General Motors became the first automaker to offer air conditioning as an option on some of its models.
BMW begins the climb back: BMW's first post-war car, the 501 began production.
La Carrera Panamericana: That year saw the most active European factory participation in the annual 2,093-mile Mexican road race. There were three Mercedes-Benz 300 SLs, four 4.1-liter Ferrari Coupes, a Porsche 1.5-liter Speedster and entries from Gordini and Lancia. The Mercedes-Benz sports cars finished first and second, with a winning average of 102.6 mph.
Erik Carlsson's first rally: Rally legend Erik Carlsson from Sweden ran his first rally in 1952, after several years of motorcycle competition. His first rally car was a Saab 92, and he later made his name in the tiny cars from Trollhtten as a world famous rally competitor and as a Saab company spokesman.