We’ve talked about the early days of auto racing before. A time before modern safety equipment, when helmets were sometimes little more than leather hats, and seat belts of any kind did not even yet exist. This video, found at Devour features footage from the early days of racing. Judging by the quality and the cars we’d say the clips span in the neighborhood of thirty years, showing racing from the late 1920s or early 30s all the way up to the late 50s and possibly early 60s.
Starting off by showing a common for the time running start, racing typically did not feature the typical NASCAR rolling start with a pace car. Driver’s had to run to their cars, start them and take off. They weren’t on a grid but parked in a line on angles facing out. While we didn’t see a starting crash in this clip, starting area crashes weren’t uncommon with these style of race starts.
Crashes at high speed were sketchy. Some cars left the track, some went end over end, if a driver was fortunate he could bail as the car went over and stay clear of other cars, while also avoiding his own car running him over. Fire was probably a death sentence if you didn’t get out the moment it started. With fuel tanks mounted close the the driver and very little protection in the car from exposure to the flames or the fuel cars caught fire quickly and drivers had little time to escape.
Regardless of the crashes there are some very cool cars featured throughout this video. There’s all manner of early open wheel stuff, Model T’s, midgets, what could also be Indy, and perhaps LeMans.
There are several clips showing what could be the early days of NASCAR with old coupes tumbling off of a course. Some definite racing in Europe through streets and even in the rain. There’s plenty of dirt tracking on everything that looks like purpose built tracks to simply racing around hay bales in a bull ring. The video is worth a look alone just to see all of this classic iron on the track.
All these crashes may seem grim when you step back and look at it. Pay close attention to the video however, and you will also see that many of the drivers either walked away, were sitting upright and moving or were helped by others to walk away. If there hadn’t been survivors in crashes, auto racing probably would have been deemed too dangerous and outlawed at some point. The sacrifices that many of these early racers made led to the adoption of safety rules and equipment that evolved into what makes racing a much safer and enjoyable endeavor today. Would you have raced back then, despite the lack of safety equipment?