Behind each of the breathtaking events on the Hell Drivers' program lie years of careful planning and varied experience by auto thrill show producer Jack Kochman.
While still in his early twenties he became one of the country's most successful auto racing promoters, drawing featured Indianapolis Speedway drivers to his own Hohokus Speedway, where he staged races that are still talked about whenever speed drivers meet.
I guess you'd say I was born with racing in my blood," Kochman explains. The roar of engines, the whine of tires, the sharp smell of exhaust — they've always had a thrill for me. And I guess they always will."
Sparked by his love of engines and speed, he acquired a motorcycle track circuit in the eastern United States; attracted 50,000 fans to the Langhorn Speedway in Philadelphia for 50-car, 100-mile midget auto races; and promoted indoor midget racing during winter months at the Kingsbridge Armory in New York City. But perhaps his greatest pre-war racing promotion success took place at the Nutley Velodrome in New Jersey, where auto pilots raced on the only banked board oval in the world.
"That track became the tops in the country outside Indianapolis," Kochman recalls, "and it was particularly satisfying to me because many auto racing experts had told me the venture was bound to fail."
During World War II, with gasoline and tires rationed, Kochman went to work in a defense plant, but even there another ingenious auto venture was planned. I was all set
to race cars on their rims," he laughs, using the same propane gas they use in cooking stoves."
"It would have worked, too. In fact, we tried it a couple of times. But the war ended before we really got it underway, and I started up my present troupe."
Beginning with 10 cars, among the first produced after the war, Kochman and his four original drivers took over the state and county fair circuit formerly played by the famed Lucky Teeter, who was killed in 1941, and currently perform at more than 100 fairs and exhibitions throughout the country.
"This business of auto thrill driving is not a new one," Kochman points out, "but it's growing every year. We change our act each season, adding new and more spectacular stunts, and fairs that we've played for a number of years have larger attendance with each succeeding edition.