My grandfather – Grandpa Morrie – told me the best car stories I ever heard – and was there working on every “first” car I owned. Here he is working on my 1955 Cadillac – circa 1979:
Here he is on the day we got my 1962 Shark running in 1981:
And the stories he told me of cars mesmerized me every time. You see, he grew up working in a junkyard in the 1920s and 1930s. And he sold new Chevrolet’s from 1955 through about 1980. I used to go with him where he worked at Keystone Chevrolet in the 1970s – even after they purchased Nickey Chevrolet (you race car fans out there will know all about “Nickey” with the backwards “k”).
But there was one story that he told me I found hard to believe. “Geoff…” he once said, “we used to drive our car in Chicago to a roller coaster and they would let us drive on it. The coasters were for cars and their drivers, and they had a wood fence on each side to keep you from flying off.”
Sounds like something I would say to my kids if I had any – and other scary stories that I could think of and they couldn’t verify that would make me sound brave with a dash of “devil may care” attitude.
But then something strange happened. I found out his story was true. Simply amazing! Here’s the story I recently found along with a video for your enjoyment.
Off we go!
Thrills of Driving Own Car on Auto Roller Coaster
Modern Mechanics: July 1929
The surface of this elevated roadway shown above is perfectly smooth—-smooth, but not level. A succession of dips and rises that range in depth from five to ten feet afford motorists, running their cars over the course, all the thrills and pleasures of a roller coaster.
Recently opened in Los Angeles, the new “road ‘ is operated in conjunction with an amusement park. People drive their cars into the entrance, purchase a ticket that entitles them to ride once around the “wavy road” and begin their journey.
The road is constructed entirely of wood. Its circumference measures 2,243 feet, and a railing protects cars from skidding off the edges.
It is wide enough to allow two cars to pass easily, but only one-way traffic is permitted. Drivers are instructed to follow the white guide lines painted on the surface of the roadway.
Regulations are also placed on the speed at which a car may be driven over the coaster. Although the curves are banked to make it practically impossible to turn over when rounding them at a fast rate of speed, the dips and rises will throw a car out of control if driven too fast.
And Now….The Video
I poked around a bit more and found something astounding – a video of one of these “auto roller coasters” in action. Let’s have a look at it – it’s about 30 seconds long.[vsw id=”98TXefUxF4g” source=”youtube” width=”600″ height=”486″ autoplay=”no”]
I love how the article agrees with my grandfather by saying that a railing “prevents” the cars from skidding off the edge. Oh boy!
Now “Grandpa Morrie” did this in the Midwest and not Los Angeles, so this must have been a nationwide phenomenon since this article shows one in California. I wonder how many of these were out there? Maybe some of you have more history?
And who knows….perhaps this is a “timeless” idea that has come to age now in 2013. If so, go get ‘em gang and let me know when you build yours and when it will open. I imagine “insurance” won’t be a problem at all. And when it opens, the closest I’ll get is behind the guardrail – somewhere south of the stands 🙂
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…