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Demolition Derby Cars: Building Tips to Avoid Destruction

Updated on June 30, 2015

Joined: 5 years agoFollowers: 70Articles: 14
Keeping away from the barriers, which this driver is not doing, is important during a demo derby. It's easy to get stuck on a barrier.
Keeping away from the barriers, which this driver is not doing, is important during a demo derby. It's easy to get stuck on a barrier. | Source

Ouch! That hurt

No, that won't buff out. But that crumpled metal is okay because you were going to junk that car anyway.
No, that won't buff out. But that crumpled metal is okay because you were going to junk that car anyway. | Source

The brakes squeak. The exhaust is rusted. And it's going to cost too much money to fix that junk vehicle. What can you do with that clunker?

Many scrap yards accept used car donations and will give you a few hundred dollars for them. You can also donate your car to charity, which is noble and provides a tax deduction.

But if you want to have a little reckless fun, consider turning your clunker into a demolition derby car and smashing it up at a county fair.

A demolition derby is a survival of the fittest contest for your vehicle. You, along with 5 or more vehicles, ram, smash, and crash into each other until only one vehicle is still operational.

This motorsport usually takes place at a county fairgrounds in a dirt field or gravel circle. Often, the track will be soaked with water so the cars will have to contend with mud, which slows down their speed.

There are safety rules and fair-play guidelines for a demo derby to make sure people don't get hurt and that there are no sand-baggers (cheaters).

Best Demolition Derby Cars

Some vehicles are better demolition derby cars than others.

Older full-sized sedans and wagons do the best in competition. Vehicles from the '60s and '70s are heavy, tough-as-nails, and have strong frames.

Despite being from a classic muscle-car era, these machines don't make good drag race cars because of their weight.

But a big and heavy automobile, which has more mass and more inertia, makes for one of the best demolition derby cars due to the damage it can inflict.

Autos such as the Chrysler Imperial are so tough that they are outlawed from many competitions.

Compact cars, however, are plentiful and have started to gain in popularity for demo derbies.

As a result, a compact car class is usually added, which means you can use your clunker and then donate your car to charity and help less fortunate.

Video: Demolition Derby in Action

Before Race Day

Your junk vehicle needs a few tweaks before it can be officially considered a demolition derby car ready for competition.

The interior and many exterior parts will need to be removed. Gutting out the interior trim, plastic, front and rear lights, and glass is important. All these pieces could come loose and represent a potential hazard.

Your factory paint job looked nice when it rolled off the showroom floor, but now is the time to get creative with cans of spray paint.

But what if you only have a can of neon green and purple spray paint? No problem. Those mismatched colors will be right at home on this clunker.

Demolition derby cars are notorious for garish, loud paint jobs. You can put slogans, names, and numbers on these automobiles.

Modifications beyond making the vehicle safe for competition are not needed, but some people take derby cars to another level. They modify their cars for competition performance.

For instance, they make the sheet metal wheel wells bigger by trimming the steel around the tires. This to make more room between the tire and any potential crumpled metal once the cars start colliding into each other and the destruction begins.

Those who build demolition derby cars will remove bumpers, weld or chain the doors shut, and relocate the battery, gas tank, and radiator.

They may also weld the spider gears in the axle differential, which is a lot of work.

Compact automobiles make good demolition derby cars because they are abundant.
Compact automobiles make good demolition derby cars because they are abundant. | Source

Prepare to Win: Don't Drive Like a Bull in a China Shop

Preparation is the key to winning destruction events, but most people are just interested into having fun crashing and bashing their junk vehicle.

Winning requires that your destruction derby car does not have a mechanical breakdown, which requires preparation.

You'll be able to last more than 30 seconds if you don't go into the race like a bull in a china shop, smashing fenders and hoods, breaking engines and transmissions.

On the other hand, you can't hide out, trying to miss your other opponents and hope you will survive.

Your opponents (and officials) won't like that. Besides, the point of demolition derby is destruction!

Tips and Tricks

You want to try to avoid any large hits from your opponents. To do this, stay out of the corners.

When you are in a corner, an opponent has a running start to plow into your auto and wreck it. This can cause serious damage, which you want to avoid.

Staying out of the corners has an added benefit: You're less likely to get caught up in the barriers.

Another good tip is to drive backwards and use your trunk as a battering ram. This is effective because it keeps your engine from absorbing damage.

Your goal should be to smash into your opponents front end and ruin their engine, knocking them out of contention.

Always drive in a counter-clockwise fashion, which will keep your passenger door pointing to the outside of the track.

With the driver's door pointing towards the inside of the track, your opponents won't be able to broadside you because it's a no-no to hit the driver's door.

It's also a good idea to keep your demolition derby car moving. Sitting still means you are a victim and will soon feel the impact of another vehicle.

Keep moving to avoid getting stuck and to avoid impact from another driver.
Keep moving to avoid getting stuck and to avoid impact from another driver. | Source

Sometimes, though, sitting still is all you can do, especially when you are stuck.

A fender may be caught up in the tire, your tire may be flat, or you may be axle deep in mud.

You're stuck, and you need to gently rock the car out. If you slam the throttle to the floor expecting to get out, good luck. This will just make a deep a rut in the mud, and you'll never get unstuck.

Often, another car will see that you are stuck and aim for your drivetrain compartment. This can be good because you may get unstuck, but it may also be bad for your engine.

A front-end impact may damage your engine, which you want to avoid.
A front-end impact may damage your engine, which you want to avoid. | Source

The Aftermath: Picking Up the Broken Pieces

After the adrenaline of the derby has worn off, and you realize you have a car to bring back home with you, you have a couple options about what to do with it and may still be able to junk your car for money.

The car may have been knocked out of contention early on because a belt broke, a tire came off the bead, or any number of silly mechanicals.

This means your vehicle is ready for another derby. You could bring the car back home and save it for next year's destruction derby.

You also could try and sell it on craigslist or eBay.

More than likely, though, it was a junk car to begin with, and it'll be a junk car when you're done.

The auto salvage yard will accept it as a used car donation and will still be willing to give you the price of scrap metal for it.

You can also try to donate your car to charity. The charity will sell it as scrap, also.

Remember, it's for a good cause: You got to have a little (w)reckless fun with your junk car and still got a tax deduction for one of those well-used demolition derby cars!

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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 14 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      This was a real interesting hub about demolition derby cars. Lots of great facts about what to do with your cars, before and after the competition. Thanks for sharing, Tim! Congrats on HOTD!

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