Demolition Derby Hall of Fame

This page is dedicated to the original Icons of our beloved sport. Without some of the original promoters we would never have the great sport we have today.

History of Demolition Derby

Here's the best history information I have to date. If you have any more information please contact Tory Schutte.

The term Demolition Derby was added to the Webster's Dictionary in 1953. I have articles from a Swedish newspaper in 1952 showing a Demolition Derby in Sweden. They state in the article that Demolition Derbies were already very common in America.

During World War II all automotive plants shut down car production to build guns, tanks, airplanes. After World War II, all the GI's returning were buying houses and new cars that were rolling off the assembly line now for the first time since before the war. At this same time Automotive Racing, Thrill Shows and anything on wheels were booming. Most racers were racing the newest, fastest cars rolling out of Michigan. In order to get rid of the un-desirable pre-war cars Demolition Derby was born.

Some of the first recorded Demolition Derbies were in the late 40's at three popular midwest racing tracks, O'hare Airport, Soldiers Field and Hales Corners Speeday near Milwaukee WI. They would hold Figure 8, exhibition racing and demolition derbies at the end of the night of racing. One of the central characters during this period was "Crazy Jim" Groh who ran a local car dealership in Hales Corner, he took all the old cars off his back lot and let his friends smash them at the track. Wisconsin boast the most racetracks per square mile of any state.

Team Demolition Derbies like those run today at Route 66 Speedway today and in the past at Sante Fe Speedway were first started in the early 1950's at 87th St and Blue Island Raceways in Chicago. These continue today and have been featured on many TV shows, including Lucas Oil's "On the Edge" and Discovery Channel's "Head On".

In 1958 Larry Mendelson of Islip Raceway is credited with bringing Demolition Derby into mainstream America by broadcasting them on National TV on ABC's Wide World of Sports. This brought an explosion of derbies across the nation, become the mainstay at every county fair in the nation.

Crazy Jim Groh of Hales Corner Speedway Milwaukee WI

Larry Mendelson of Islip Raceway Long Island NY

Chester Rotroff of Rotroff's Calvacade of Thrills

W. Jay Milligan of JM Promotions

Walter and Bill Williams of Thrill Show Productions

I know there are many more pioneers of the sport, if you feel someone should be included in this list please email me a I only need a brief bio and pics if you have them.