The elite men and women that made Auto Thrill Show History.
Timeline about the history, It's hard to believe, but there was a time when auto thrill shows drew larger crowds than NASCAR races. Spectators packed rickety wooden grandstands to watch daring young men in spiffy white uniforms do the "slide for life" or the "T-bone crash," to drive cars on two wheels, or to jump cars or motorcycles from ramp to ramp. In the late 1950s as many as 29 stunt shows - including Jack Kochman's Hell Drivers, Joie Chitwood's Tournament of Thrills, and Jimmy Lynch's Death Dodgers - toured, the country.
Hell Drivers - The frequently used term to describe, and the very popular title of, numerous automobile thrill-based productions performing at fairs and racetracks by various squads of stunt drivers since the 1930's. Earl "Lucky" Teter was ...the first to coin the phrase Hell Drivers, when began touring his show in 1934. Hell Drivers provided massive audiences with an always exciting show filled with precision driving and deliberate crashes.
The 5,600 seat Auto Thrill Stadium had a banked figure-8 track, the first such track to be created exclusively for stunt driving. Thirty "Hell Drivers" risked life and limb and vehicles, crashed cars and performed other stunts in a daring high-speed show. On the program were; four-car bumper tag, wing ski jumps (drivers careened off a low ramp on two wheels at 50 MPH), a crash rollover contest, and the dive bomber crash (off the ramp with an old car onto the top of a parked car). For the show's climax, a driver piloted a truck on a dangerous ramp-to-ramp flight, hurtling more than 70 feet through the air. Admission; box seats $2.00; center seats $1.50; general admission $1.00. Performances were four shows daily; six of weekends and holidays.
Featured stunts included driving cars on two wheels, crashing through flaming barricades, and jumping an automobile ramp to ramp through mid air. For many years, Hell Drivers were used to demonstrate the dependability of a manufacturers automotive product. Major Hell Driver automotive sponsors have included Chevrolet, Dodge, Chrysler, Ford, AMC Nash, and Toyota.
Later auto thrill shows coining the phrase "Hell Drivers" were launched by such famous drivers and race promoters as Jack Kochman, John Francis "Irish" Horan, Danny Fleenor, and Joie Chitwood.
General Manager of Kochman's troupe was Bob Conto. Conto, a native of Malone, New York in the state's North Country was a former radio-television announcer whose staccato delivery kept pace with the 50-mile per hour events.