Auto Racing Must Be Outlawed!

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This was the rally cry of senator Richard L. Neuberger of Oregon, in this January 1959 article from Mechanix Illustrated. Four years after the Le Mans disaster, a year Brock Yates labeled “one of professional sports car racing’s worst years,” Neuberger decried auto racing as “wanton, tragically unnecessary bloodshed.” In an age where it was considered safer to be thrown out of a car during a crash, where Moss and Jenkinson set a record speed of 100mph on public roads, before FIA-approved race suits and crowd safety barriers, Neuberger found the only rational choice was to ban all forms of auto racing in America—before a disaster like Le Mans struck the greatest nation on Earth.

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To Neuberger, auto racing was equivalent to the bloody Roman gladiatorial battles or Spanish bullfighting: a degrading spectacle that cheapened human life and corrupted youth—much like comic books or rock n’ roll (hey, it was the 1950s!). “Does it make any sense to permit continuation of a sporting activity when the death of a driver or two in a major race is considered normal?” he asked. Was auto racing an affront to a “civilized nation?” Was it a Red Menace (the red being the blood of innocent spectators, of course) that threatened to destroy the very values of America that separated us from the barbaric Soviets? Either way, it’s an insight into a period when auto racing was genuinely dangerous enough for politicians to call for its abolishment.
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AUTO RACING MUST BE OUTLAWED! (Modern Mechanix Blog)

22 Comments

  1. So…if Auto Racing is Murder and Meat is Murder….then Auto Racing…is MEAT!
    That would explain my sudden urge to fry up some bacon and watch old IMSA GT tapes.

  2. I would bet this guy always finished last in everything he did. Except of course win a Seat in office. Then hell rains down on all who punished him.

    1. That was the IIHS that did that, to "celebrate" their 50th anniversary. I you watch the video carefully, you can see the air cleaner go flying off of the '59 (it's a straight six). Fortunately it was just a six-banger, three-on-the-tree Biscayne. I emailed them after the video, and they sent me links to some hi-res pictures of the test, which were cool.

  3. Life causes death. So, you can either sit around worrying about all the stuff that will kill you, or live life to the fullest. I'm not saying we should do stuff with the intention of dying, and I strongly believe that safety measures should be taken whether you're using a table saw or racing a car, but the safety mentality has to be balanced with the ability to do something that brings you and others enjoyment.
    My health nut coworker has had more go wrong in the last several years than I have, and I'm a fat, lazy slob. Screw it. Pizza, beer, watching racing videos and an occasional trip to the gym to assuage any guilt are all I need.

  4. Hey, why is that a few minutes after I post a comment, then try to post another, IntenseDebate tells me my session has timed out, and I need to login again? It's annoying.

    1. I've been getting that on and off today, too. So, I just never leave Hooniverse.
      That and our office is moving and all I have right now is the internet. Screw it, I'm going home.

  5. The wildest old film I've see is one of a crash in the '60s where one of the cars goes over the banking and the Armco, and you see trees bending over as it disappears behind the banking. Yikes!
    And yes, IntenseDebate just did it to me again (session timeout). Gah!

    1. Clear cookies
      Close Browser
      Open Browser
      Log in again
      Celebrate with beer.
      Repeat.
      Always repeat.

  6. I started looking at the reprinted article, and soon lost interest because of the nifty old ads. Hey, look, an ad for Channelocks when they were something new! A 12 transistor radio you can build yourself! I love this kind of thing.

  7. I love how in the title pic the only real tool visible is a ball-peen hammer. What an odd tool to take to an accident, although I bet it was just what was in his hand when the wreck went down.
    Many years ago, while just a kid and still learning how to drive a Truck (back then they just made sure you knew the basics and then they turned you loose, "Figure it out!") I witnessed the first of many bad accidents. The sudden "Ball of Dust" in the median meant something had gone horribly wrong, and everybody in both directions pulled over. Running down to the accident scene, I noticed the Yellow Freight driver that had stopped right in front of me had a three foot crow-bar in his hand, and immediately went to work on the over-turned Suburban's driver door. The thing was still in gear with the engine racing and the tires in the air spinning and everybody inside screaming and fuel and oil pouring out all over…… God, it was terrifying.
    He got the door open and reached in and turned the engine off, and then calmly turned around and asked, "Anybody got a two-way?" (radio, this was long before cell-phones)
    "Um, I got one…"
    "Well get on it, Kid! We need two (looks inside where everybody's still screaming) No, three Ambulances and we're at the 245 stick (mile-marker) east or west doesn't matter, they're in the middle."
    I called Dispatch and they called the Highway Patrol and everybody was O.K., just a little beat up.
    I wish I had got that Driver's name, because I'd like to forward all the kind words that have been sent to me from people that have gotten my name off their own accident reports in the years since. That guy taught me more in twenty minutes than I had learned in the twenty years beforehand.

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