About Me

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
My passion is also my business, as I am with the Toronto based Hav-A-Kar Auto Group. I sell or lease any make of car, van or truck available in Canada. My interest in all things "car" has helped me with my many clients in Ontario over the past 20+ years. Please give me the opportunity to assist you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Oct 6: Car thrill shows - where are they now?

Remember when? Probably not, since I lived in a smaller city and I hardly remember those days and those shows. What am I talking about? Of course, if you see the hard to miss ad on the left, you know. I'm referring to the good, ol' auto thrill show, the thrillcade, the auto dare devils, the hell drivers. Any of those phrases could describe the show that rolled into town once a year, like the circus, and set up shop at the local raceway or possibly the horse racing track.

Just look at what one of these shows offered......28 hair raising and death defying stunts. Now I wouldn't be too worried about any deaths, but hair raising? Now, that would be a concern. Also, see a new convertible shot out of a cannon. Who wouldn't line up for that sight? But, the thing that would really rope me in would be the funny clowns. I mean, aren't clowns supposed to be funny? Ah, the good old days!

Note the name in the title "Joie Chitwood". For over forty years, Joie had the most famous of these travelling thrill shows, so famous in fact, that a family member still runs these shows today (trivia - Joie Chitwood III is the pres of Daytona International Speedway). But, I guess that they frequent the small towns, since I had to do some research to find out that they still existed.

These shows have been around since almost the first automobiles. Someone had the brain wave to do things with a car that, most of us (all of us?) could or would never do. Neat to see others perform those risky feats, though. Shows like the Lucky Teter Hell Drivers. Did Evil Knievel get his ideas from these guys?

The world might have been edging towards the next war at the time, but as long as cars could jump over trucks, all was a-ok.

Another use for a convertible, besides being shot out of a cannon. Safety first? Maybe, but not all of these drivers wore helmets. Wonder if any had tire marks on them after the show?

And speaking of funny clowns........

......it might take more than a little good humour, not to flinch, when those two Dodges swept by at a fairly good speed. By the way, the car manufacturers usually supplied the cars, as this was excellent advertising and showed how tough their cars were, in case you planned to do any of these stunts with the neighbourhood kids.

Just a man's sport? Not according to the Rotroff International Auto Thrill Show.......

This was equal opportunity territory.

And if you liked a bit of the circus, with your car stunts, then the Swenson Thrillcade was your cup of tea......

"Suicide stunts"........I guess that sums it up. Suicide for the drivers or that poor pachyderm, suckered into holding that American flag, as a high flying Ford takes flight over top of him. I'm not sure that would work today.

Ok, let's be real here, obviously there was some risk of injury, whether to the car or the driver. In this case, the car seems to have taken the biggest beating, at least until the thrill show owner got hold of the driver after the show.

But, just possibly you like a little more skill in your slam bang auto thrill show action? Look no further than this death defying "ride the car on two wheels" stunt. Take a photo, otherwise no one back home will believe you.

And, just in case you thought that those funny clowns were a thing of the past, check out this more recent thrill show poster.......

........note clowning amongst all the exciting things that would be taking place. Sure, it's not right up there with the human cannonball, but it gets better billing than the fire and pyrotechnics. Some things never get old(?).

Being in the big city, one never sees these thrill shows anymore, but I know that they are still travelling around the county fairs, putting on the shows that keep the crowds filling the stands for those death defying stunts. Maybe, in the big cities, we see enough of these strange things our the expressways everyday, so that watching a group of new Mustangs tailgating, just doesn't have the same thrill as it used to........

But surely, seeing a car shot out of a cannon over a big truck would still be thrilling?

What do you think?

Until next time.......


  1. I saw a few thrill shows when I was considerably younger. I remember seeing two cars, like those two Mopars, go up the ramps and onto two wheels and perform some maneuvers before gently setting them down again. I remember my Dad commenting: "I'd say they've done that before." I always like the car ballets more than the jumps but they were all exciting.

    1. George, these were big events from my youth in New Brunswick. Usually held at the local harness racing track, talked about them for days. And I agree the close moves took more skill and caused more excitement than the jumps. Never saw a car cannonball, though.
      Happy Thanksgiving!