Volume IX, Issue 4, Page 16

The Thrill Is Gone

Don’t be fooled. This isn’t how they park your car in Manhattan. It’s a photo from a driver’s ed safety booklet showing the proper way to overtake and pass another car.

Racecars keep getting quicker and faster, restorations keep setting higher standards of authenticity. The bar keeps getting raised in every facet of the automotive hobby.

Except one.

Auto thrill shows just ain’t what they used to be. The epitome of motorized mayhem, thrill shows, with their daredevil deeds of destruction, elevated mere car abuse to an art form. Compare this to modern day demo derbies and car-crushing monster trucks---boooring!

One of the greats in the thrill show biz, was

“Lucky” Lee Lott in a 1962 photo. He was a stand-in for Steve McQueen in the film, “The Sand Pebbles.”

“Lucky” Lee Lott. He set a world record by demolishing a documented total of 17,981 cars--in only 23 years. Now, if "Lucky" Lee Lott isn't a household name among some of you younger readers, it's because Lee be­gan doing his thing in the 1930s, and he retired from the business in 1955. Mr. Hell Driver himself, Maestro of the Motorized Mash, Lee wrote the book on stunt driv­ing and car crashing for fun and profit.

Lee began his stunting career in 1932 at the age of 17 the way most people ended theirs—by jumping off the 218-foot high tower of the Perkin Bridge into the Illinois River. Parade magazine recorded the event, and it netted the young daredevil $500. But this was Lee's second dive from the span. The first one was performed a week earlier— for free—on a dare. Lee continued his high-diving ways by performing at the 1934 Chicago World's Fair, diving off a 75-foot tower into three feet of water.

Lee's harum scarum antics caught the attention of a friend in the talking pictures (movies) business, and he offered Lee $125 to drive a race car through a board fence in the film, “Hot Tires.” Today, stuntmen get about 12 grand for the same deal. “Hot Tires” began a long association with films and TV shows, where Lee did stunt work involving horses, motorcycles, cars and airplanes. He's stunt-doubled for celebrities such as Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen. Some of our mature readers may remember the black and white TV series, “The Cisco Kid.” Well, Lee doubled for Duncan Renaldo (The Kid) and invented the famous "limb jump.” That's where he's being chased by the bad guys at full gallop, and he grabs an overhanging tree limb and pulls himself up into the tree, eluding his pursuers. Lee's also appeared in 73 motion pictures and did on-camera stunt work in four different TV series.

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