We already had a QOTD for today, but the sight of this demo derby car got us thinking about what our preferred contender might be. Perhaps a Big Bird (72-76 T-Bird)? We’ll let you set us straight on the ideal demo derby car in the comments below, as many of you are undoubtedly more qualified to tell us. In the meantime, feast your eyes on this box Caprice, dubbed “Painkiller.”
…and how do we know it’s a Caprice? This is how; I had to reach above my head with the camera and take a shot of the interior. Otherwise, the car’s unrecognizable.
Actually, the outline of the “Chevrolet” badge is also discernible, though I didn’t notice that until I took the last picture here.
The painkiller stencils, though, are more clearly legible. That rear wheel looks like it’s been shoved a bit further forward than it was pre-derby. If this car is no longer drivable, I wonder what did it in. A broken U-joint, perhaps?
…or was it the engine and transmission being pushed back enough for the mounts to break? If they have been shoved back, and the rear axle shoved forward, something has to make room for all that crushing. What’s usually the first to go? Again, please fill us in!
Remarkably, the front bumper and the frame rails behind it haven’t been tweaked much at all. That’s completely opposite of what we see happened to the back of the car, but that seems to be the general deformation pattern for these cars. Are head-on hits verboten?
Side hits are apparently okay. This car has open gashes in the doors on both sides, but Chevy made a big deal about adding impact beams to the ’71 model and the deformation of the door skins confirms this car has them as well. And if that’s not enough protection, drilling holes in the doors, threading wires through them and tying them up around the pillar seems to be an effective measure against their opening, mid-battle. As this isn’t a hardtop, such efforts were also employed around the window frames.
The mud on this derby dueller looks fresh. It seems that someone has been cramming as much fun as they can during these last days of summer. For many of us at CC, the destruction of a car as old as this one is nothing to celebrate, but as it’s not an entirely rare model, it’s hard to get too upset about it all.
Related reading: A Night at the Fair
I’m no demo derby fan, but a lot of people around here are. I have seen a lot of good parts cars being ruined and usually the extra pieces end up in the dumpster.
Around here all Chrysler Imperials are banned. They must be built like tanks and have an unfair advantage.
Imperials are banned in pretty much every demo derby nationwide because they are damn near indestructible in a front collision – though their differentials are just as vulnerable as every other rear-wheel drive car. There is a very heavy brace that goes across the front, ahead of the motor, that is like battleship armor. These Imperials can smash their way through the fronts and sides of tons of other cars before they take a critical hit to the radiator or motor mounts. No other car can compete like that, so they’re banned.
I can’t remember how far back this design feature goes….but the last Imp to be engineered this way is the ’68 model. The “fuselage”-era (’69-’73) and final C-body Imps (’74-’75) lack that ridiculously strong bracing, but usually the ban covers them as well.
Say what you will about sloppy assembly quality – but Chrysler sure as heck has a deserved reputation for over-engineering their cars….until the ’90s, that is.
I heard it was Imperials BEFORE the C-body based ’67 which were banned; I’ll take your word for it, though. Didn’t that affect their ability to crumple in a crash?
Imperials crumple in a crash? That’s what the other cars are for. 🙂 Seriously though, cars weren’t designed to fold-up in an accident then.
I figured by the late ’60s, some degree of “give” began to be built into cars, even if there weren’t crumple zones as we’ve known them since the ’70s. Silly me!
It was the Imperials where the front fenders and header panel were welded into a single structure that were banned. Not sure when that went away.
How timely; I went to a Figure 8 race on Saturday. It’s not exactly a demo derby, but much the same thing happens.
While far from being a fan of such races, there is a certain thrill to them, especially when using compacts. The quickest damage on the Figure 8 track is tires coming off the rims and broken rear suspensions. One car was dragging a rear tire that was still attached but had its entire rim face down on the ground.
Transmissions take a beating and engines are overrevved. Two V6 A-body Oldsmobiles totally annihilated everyone else until one started to shove others out of the way…goodbye transmission.
The Ford Fairmont wagon didn’t last very long. None of the Toyotas did either. The GM J-body cars did as did the Ford Tempo / Mercury Topaz entrants.
On the rear drive cars, front impacts happen but are frowned upon. If I could choose any car, it would be a full-size 1970s Ford or GM wagon. If newer than 1985 (a typical breakpoint these days, although I don’t pay much attention to it) it would be a GM B-body or a Panther. My father-in-law had an ’86 Crown Victoria he sold a few years ago; he learned it just went out in a blaze of glory at a demo derby.
A report from about two years ago is linked below.
Do they still run figure 8 and / or Demolition Derbys in L.A. ? .
It’s been over a decade since I heard of any .
” Train ” racing was always a favorite when I took my then young Son .
Irwindale. Night of Destruction. August 30th.
Head-on hits aren’t verboten, but the easiest way to get disabled is to destroy your radiator, so drivers tend to avoid it.
Hm, what was the largest air-cooled production car?
I think that would be a Franklin from the ’30’s. I doubt that anyone would be using one of them. However, that would surely give the driver a big advantage.
There are also combine demo derbies here in the Midwest. Those are interesting and kind of fun to watch.
Yup that is the reality that the driver will not ram a vehicle with his front end to protect his radiator and will do what he can to keep someone from hitting it. Now I have heard that intentional hits on an opponents driver’s side door area are stricktly prohibited and will get you a disqualification.
I saw a an early 70s model Olds Tornado one time at a derby, it did surprisingly well. The other competitors ganged up on the Olds and pushed his front wheels out of the ring. I’d pick the Tornado or a big Clamshell GM wagon.
Toronados should do well against comparably sized cars because you can smash into the back all you want because there’s no diff, driveshaft, etc to hurt back there. However, I suspect the other racers always gang up on a Toro the way it happened for you.
My cousins derbied a Toronado once. They said everyone was watching them closely, but they were sidelined early because their cobbled together shift linkage came apart.
The Clamshell wagons are or at least were the most popular car around here. I’m sure part of that was due to the leaf spring rear suspension and that the wagons were typically cheaper to buy than the sedans.
Frank Gehry’s proposal for the new GM headquarters building.
Most of the 1973-76 GM cars are good candidates because they had really burly (overdesigned) 5mph bumpers. The key is to first drill (drain) and then weld up the collapsable bumper shocks while cutting off the ends (so you don’t get hooked onto another car).
I ran a 1975 Pontiac wagon in a demo derby once, about 20 years ago. It was a lot of fun, but we made a few rookie mistakes (not tubing the tires, not welding rear diffferential gears, not welding aforementioned bumper shocks, etc) that resulted in our team getting knocked out (literally, onto a log on the border) early. Oh, and apparently adding a quart of Marvel Mystery Oil to the engine oil isn’t a good idea either (engine siezed up, hmmm, IT’S A MYSTERY!). Maybe only a half quart would have been better . . .
We actually could have reused the car again if we had found another engine for it, but we took our $120 in heat-race winnings and scrapped the car.
I’m still waiting for somebody to start SUV demo derbies (I have seen a light pickup demo derby once, as well as ones for school buses and combines) – it’s a shame, as Cash For Clunkers took a lot of potential demo derby fodder out of the pipeline.
Participated in a few demo derbies back in the day. Opinions vary on the best car to use, but we always had good luck with full size GM boats from the mid ’70s. Some of the folks around here would probably want to see me tarred and feathered for what we did to those old Buicks and Oldsmobiles, but back in those days they were worth their weight in scrap and no more. 4 door sedans were the preferred body, and it seemed that Olds and Buick engines would run longer than most after the rad got taken out.
Some guys preferred older Mopars because the leaf springs in the back weren’t quite as vulnerable as the coils in the GMs. They couldn’t take much of a front end hit though.
Big ’70s Fords were OK, but couldn’t run long after a rad hit. Everyone had their strategy and favourite model. A few beers ahead of start time helped as well. It was cheap fun and I don’t recall anyone ever getting (badly) hurt, but we sure made a lot of scrap metal.
I have no idea what people use now, I haven’t been involved for 30 years or so.
Any big cheap and plentiful car would be perfect. The ‘Shamu’ Caprice and its sisters as well as anything Panther based would be perfect. No real collector value in any of them, and remember: Demolition derbies prevent Donks!
For Panther’s you want the mid 00’s and newer ones since they have fail safe cooling which means they will keep running on 4cyls that alternate until the cylinder head temp gets to 260-270. Going into fail safe cooling mode also lowers the speed limiter setting to 50 or 60 mph but that isn’t something that you’ll see at a demo derby.
When my ex 87 Caprice Estate was in a demo derby the front looked like that and the dashboard was even moved a bit. That handle for the rear chain tightener on that trailer is sticking out too far.
2nd gen Honda Odysseys are one of the worst choices for Minivan Demolition Derbies. Underneath their front bumper cover is a pencil thin metal bumper and their front suspension is easy destroy because of that.
Some people would rather have this happen to a car than see it “Donked”.
I guess it isn’t the worst way for a car to end its life. But for perspective, look at what’s going around in this 1982 banger race. Can’t help but wish that more of these cars had been preserved https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXoLlE5Sb3o&safe=active
I once was watching a “compact” demo derby on TV the rules limited the vehicle to one that had an as delivered weight of 2600lbs IIRC. The interviewed on of the competitors who’s strategy was to take full advantage of that rule. As a result a early Comet 2dr met it’s fate as his researched showed that was the car who’s published weight was exactly at the limit. I almost cried watching it since I like the early Comet. The reality was that one of the slightly lighter FWD cars ended up winning. It’s rear end was crushed to the point that the rear wheels were not turning at the end but the back was light enough to drag around like that.
Some current rules here (for their different classes). There’s plenty of Must Do This, and just as much Can’t Do That–in response to stuff entrants have tried over the years. Lots of pragmatic safety stuff, too:
Very interesting, lots of rules specifically for 03 and up Panthers.
I’m trying to figure out what exactly is a sedagon though.
Ugh, this shit makes me sick to my stomach.
If I ever had unlimited money, I’d have a derby consisting of over-priced muscle cars bought from Barrett Jackson and the like.
INDEED! a derby of “tribute” cars is in order! You are on to something there, Jordan
+1 Jordan. Morons wrecking future collectible cars. Makes me ill.
However, if they want to do this with Focuses, Corollas and Elantras, go for it! 🙂
Can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of car demo derbies. Even if the cars are beyond restoration, there are still way too many irreplacable parts being destroyed.
On the other hand, one of my bucket list items is to one day attend the original combine demolition derby in Lind, Washington…..
Ever see a trailer race? Each car has some kind of trailer (usually loaded with some kind of debris) and the last car/trailer combo moving wins (at Waterford Speedbowl in CT). Pretty bizzare to watch. Same place does back to school-bus demo derbies. Those things are tough.
From what I have heard my first car (1982 Celebrity) acquitted itself well when it finally met its end in a demo derby. Though that doesn’t surprise me, given that the Iron Duke and TH125 were the most unkillable parts of that car.
One of our club members won 4 demo derbies with the same Humber Imperial sedan those and Super Snipes really are built like Tanks.
I posted this during Volvo week a few months back but I think it speaks for itself regarding which one I’d choose……..
All it takes is one good hit ta a front wheel breaking the upright or stub axle and any FWD car is out of action Volvo or not.
Truck drivers hate caravans. Hence, the caravan race.
I used to love seeing 1970’s LTD and Marquis crushed when they were 10-15 years old. Now, they are too old and rare.
On YouTube, there are videos of 1990s cars getting destroyed. There’s now FWD classes and I like seeing GM W bodies wrecked.
It’s when cars are way out of style, but not ‘nostolgic’ when they are prime Demo cars, I think. So, trash all those leftover NYC taxicabs.
Okay, everyone rent The Love Bug this weekend – the opening scenes are of a figure-8 race, at the end of which our protagonist (Jim Douglas) is introduced.
“You didn’t cut up the Edsel . . . ?”
School bus derbies are pretty cool…