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Homepage. This page: Original poster promoting a stock-car racing meet, in the 1950s/1960s.

Harringay Stadium poster.

If there's one subject almost guaranteed to get a majority of old-car fans slightly hot under the collar, is the subject of destroying old cars in the name of entertainment - often at a b*nger-racing meet. Not so much smashing up, say, ten-year-old ex-rental blandmobiles, but events geared especially towards the destruction of 40+ year-old "classics", whose numbers continue to dwindle, on a week-by-week basis. A few of the cars may be beyond recall, and a few may donate parts to help preserved examples enjoy their retirement years. But, I suspect, most old-car fans would rather even the most derelict of cars, rest somewhere quietly - as a reminder of motoring's byegone years - than be destroyed for ever, after a few minutes spent charging around a loosely-surfaced oval.
Once they're gone, they're gone, but equally true is the fact that not every old car can be saved. Properly rare cars should escape such a miserable fate though.
In some quarters it seems that the more rare the car is, the more kudos there is in destroying it. On the flip side though, many racers also keep their own restored cars safely tucked away, for road use. Personally, I don't "get" the notion of fun being derived from smashing anything up, especially rarities, but others will have their own views on this, and that's how it should be I suppose. I was persuaded to visit a b*nger meeting many years ago, but it came across as being something of a free-for-all, with cars going in all directions, and marshalls running for cover, seemingly never far from becoming part of the carnage. Things have probably improved since then. The motive at this meeting was the destruction of all rivals, ie to be last man standing. Stock car racing, while also being destructive, seems to have more of a race element to it.
Smashing up elderly cars is not a recent phenomenon though (check out this selection of old stock car racing photographs for example). In earlier times, the more destructive gatherings were known as "Demolition Derbies".
One of the best-known venues for high-speed vehicular disembowelment, in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, was the Harringay Stadium situated in North London. At its opening in 1927, greyhound races were hosted there, followed in 1928 by the first motorcycle speedway meetings. In 1937 there was even a Cheetah race, but enthusiasts of stock-car racing would have to wait until 1954 for the first derby to take place within its confines.
Meets were held in 1954 and 1955, before a five year absence. Stock cars returned in 1960, but if the date of this poster is anything to go by - Saturday June 17th - then I think this flimsy advertising poster dates to the following year's meet, in 1961.
Harringay stock-car races poster
The poster is printed on the thinnist paper imaginable. But as it was only designed to live for a few days leading up to the meeting, before being consigned to the bin, it didn't matter. How this one survived is anyone's guess. Most will have been pasted onto fences and boardings around London, this one somehow escaped being pasted onto anything. The tears around the edges suggest that it may have been pinned to a noticeboard, then was torn down and maybe chucked in a drawer and was forgotten about for many years. It popped up on an internet auction, and as it was inexpensive, I had a go and was surprised to win it. Perhaps there are hundreds of them out there!?
If this does date to 1961, then few if any people would have been particularly upset at a ragged assortment of 1950s(ish) cars being raced around, banging doors with other old wrecks, in a bid to earn their owners the spoils of victory, before undertaking a one-way trip to the scrapman's cutting torch. They were just old cars, not chosen to annoy preservationists, simply plucked out of scrapyards and seedy "bomb-site" dealers' yards for a few bob, before being stripped and beefed-up, for a final competitive outing. I doubt many - if any - participants went out of their way to acquire particularly rare vehicles, just to amuse their buddies, and raise the hackles of restorers and preservers alike (vehicle preservation being in its infancy in that era). Cars of the 1930s through to the early 1950s would be sought out, simply because they tended to be built from heavier-gauge steel, their bodies often mounted on substantial chassis. This enabled the cars to continue in action, despite multiple attacks from competitors' cars, long after later monocoque cars would have collapsed in defeat.
Clearly, many cars met their maker shortly after an appearance at Harringay's famous stadium. But what of the venue itself? Sadly, the entrance gates were locked for the final time in 1987, and the wrecking ball quickly made its presence felt. In its place now? a supermarket.
Few clues as to the goings-on at the former Harringay Stadium remain, although undoubtably the disturbed souls of many a battered Buick and badly mauled Morris lurk in the shadows, after the final shoppers have left for the day, in their shiny Kias, Audis, BMWs and VWs. Not for them the tearing of bodywork, the squeal of spinning crossplies, nor the scream of a tortured engine bellowing its final breath before detonating its innards on the earth beneath its buckled wheels.
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