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What is a Demolition Derby?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2016
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Demolition derbies, which are a US invention, first began in the 1950s, and may have occurred even earlier. They are a public event that makes use of older cars that are junked, for the sole purpose of doing as much damage to these cars as possible. The demolition derby could be describes as real life bumper cars with real danger. Drivers specifically ram into each other to destroy other cars when they can. A winner of a demolition derby is usually the person whose car is still running by the end of a derby.

It’s unclear why these derbies are so popular. Fans cite that the destruction of cars, and the accidents in a relatively “safe” environment are fascinating and exciting to watch. There are occasional accidents resulting in major injuries, and some drivers may sustain small injuries. Some precautions are taken, like installing special seatbelts in cars and removing all glass parts from the cars, like mirrors and windows, so that glass injuries don’t take place.

Europeans have demolition derbies too, and they are particularly popular in the UK, where they may be called banger races. Concern abut the amount of pollution from spilling gasoline, motor oil, and auto parts has led to some European nations barring the demolition derby as bad for the environment. Further, many derbies feature cars that cannot pass smog testing, and this too remains a concern.

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Demolition derbies normally take place between cars built in the 1960-70s, with the Chrysler Imperial® being considered one of the ultimate cars for drivers when they want to demolish other cars. The trend toward building compact cars in the 1980s has often lead to special “compact car” events. It would be unsafe, and usually unfair to expect a compact car to compete against the sedans and station wagons built earlier. Another popular event at demolition derbies is the destruction of old school buses, making the derbies quite popular with children.

There are a number of varieties of the demolition derby. Sometimes cars are demolished using tractors or monster trucks during Monster Truck rallies. Minivan demolition derbies have also become popular given the high number of them owned by people.

As a sport, the demolition derby has been a popular one, with some telecasts of events throughout the years. Most often, people prefer to see a derby live. They may take place at fairgrounds, during country fairs or events and provide great entertainment.

Perhaps some of the thrill of the demolition derby is seeing the destruction of things we are all too familiar with, the automobile. With more and more people commuting in cars and spending so much time in them, seeing these things destroyed may be a cathartic experience. They demonstrated at once the power of the automobile and its restrictive and confining qualities. On the other hand, fans of demolition derbies may just enjoy the crash and clang of metal, and be there to see a good smash up of cars in a fairly safe manner.

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