Say It Isn’t So! My Grandpa Morrie Was Right! “Drive-on” Roller Coasters For Your Car

Hi Gang…

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:

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Here he is on the day we got my 1962 Shark running in 1981:

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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.

1929_July_Modern Mechanics_2

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”]

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Summary:

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…

Geoff

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Comments

Say It Isn’t So! My Grandpa Morrie Was Right! “Drive-on” Roller Coasters For Your Car — 7 Comments

  1. Having been born/raised in Chicago, I’m trying to relate this to anything from my 65 years and the only thing seems to be the demolition derbys we went to a few times. As the boards cracked under the strain, was this the start of demo derbys? LOL

  2. I don’t think would ever go over in todays world..Just ripe for lawsuits..But it sure looked like it would have been fun..

    Mel

  3. My grandmother, who remembers wooden sidewalks in Buffalo, N.Y., and was “lucky to get an orange at Christmas”, told me of her salad days as a newly wed and how it was all the rage for people to drive their cars onto a roller coaster for cars….in this instance, she described a dirt track which had been manicured to produce the ups and downs with the perfect slope and if the driver attained the proper speed the passengers would become weightless at the crest. Too fast and the car would hit too hard for comfort, Dukes of Hazzard and MotoCross had not yet been invented” and the natural speed limit for the track was everyone’s underlying concern for the upper limit of their springs as the tires kissed the undercarriage. My cousin and I looked on in amazement at the “good clean fun” and the innocence of my grandmother’s “racy days”.

    Or maybe it was just granny that was innocent, it could very well be that the boys in the car where noticing the momentary weightlessness of “other things”, wink wink, nudge nudge.

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