Lucky Teter (or perhaps one of his stuntmen) jumping over a truck, 1930s.
Back in the early 1930s a man by the name of Earl “Lucky” Teter formed a troupe of eager thrill-seeking stunt-drivers for his daredevil extravaganza “Lucky” Teter’s Hell Drivers. It would mark the first time that a traveling “auto show” would put on as a “traveling” attraction.
Ward Beam’s signature ‘Dive Bomb’ or ‘T-Bone’ stunt, 1920s.
Inspired by the balls-out stunts by Ward Beam’s “Thrill Show” from the late 1920s who in addition to performing a wide array of stunts also played a bizarre game involving speeding cars and a giant ball called “auto pushball” or the Jimmie Lynch Death Dodgers who were getting started during the 1930s as well, Teter began trying to perfect his own “ramp to ramp” style stunts that had him hurtling over several cars or a city bus—a stunt that would ultimately take his life in 1942. Though his career was tragically cut short when his car failed to jump two Greyhound buses, Teter was the first person to coin the name “Hell Drivers” which would go on to be used by many other groups of adventurous automobile enthusiasts who would continue on with the legacy established by both Teter and Beam. Speaking of the crash-happy types of drivers here’s a want-ad that was posted by Beam in the Amherst Bee (a New York based newpaper) on August 6th, 1931 that will give you an idea of what it took to be a part of Beam’s “Congress of Daredevils.”
Wanted: Single man, not over 25 years, to drive automobile in head-on collision with another car at the Albion Fairgrounds in connection with the Congress of Daredevils on August 19. Must crash with another car at 40 mph and give unconditional release in case of injury or death. Name your lowest price. Write B. Ward Beam, Albion, N.Y.
I’ve been to exactly one demolition derby/car stunt show in my entire life and I was completely fucking terrified the entire time. That said, the images in this post don’t look much like what I lived through but they are still full of high levels of reckless and eminent danger, or in other words good old-fashioned family entertainment. Loads of pictures of the Death Dodgers, Lucky Teter in action and more pre-Dukes of Hazzard fun with cars follow.
A driver for Jimmie Lynch’s Death Dodgers driving through a wall of flame.
More thrilling photos (and film footage) of these old school automotive daredevils, after the jump…