Western Fair Demolition Derby…

The name says it all – find a cheap car and strip it bare save for the wheels, drive it into a concrete-encircled pen smaller than a hockey pad, add another 10 cars or so.

Western Fair demolition derby
How metal is this? The Western Fair demolition derby was a literal smash! Photo: Allan Lewis

Put your car in reverse.

Hit the accelerator.

See what happens.

Rural north holds forth

The clamour for the Western Fair demolition derby started early Sept. 17, with people lined up hours before the official 6 p.m. start time. Expectant fans lingered in the sun with pizza, pretzels and cans of Monster, creating an atmosphere at the grandstand that was half ballgame, half wrestling card.

Rural North America held court. Country standards and crossover ballads poured from loudspeakers as people filed in.

People who love demolition derby don’t fake how they feel. They don’t hide their love under their pillow like it’s an Oasis album. For fans and drivers, derby love is real.

High stakes

It’s a game of continual love and loss for derby drivers. There are no contracts, no newer circuits or classes. If you win, you receive, as Paul Eyndhoven puts it, “a big old trophy, some respect, and $350. Oh, and a jacket.”

Demolition derby driver Paul Eyndhoven (right) and crew.
Demolition derby driver Paul Eyndhoven (right) and crew. Photo: Allan Lewis

Three hundred and fifty dollars. And a jacket. For a summer’s worth of grease, labour and travel. It’s a break-even game at best.

Mike, a London driver competing in Thrill Show’s Full Size Straight Stock race, said he will buy a “Shitty V6 for $300 and run it as long as the drivetrain doesn’t go.”

Mike builds his cars in his cousin’s driveway, swapping in cheap, salvaged engines and hammering out mangled bodies in time for the day’s race. He can easily kill three cars in a weekend.

That’s dedication

Derby drivers are rock stars. They’re introverts. They’re middle aged men with families, fathers and sons. They sit at the wheels of careening metal death traps weekend after weekend, in pursuit of glory and the chance to rebuild.

Western Fair demolition derby
Fire in the hole! You can extinguish the flames, but nothing can douse the excitement of a smash up derby. Photo: Allan Lewis

Josh Archibald traveled from Owen Sound to run the previous night’s derby in Binbrook. After beating 24 other cars he drove back to Owen Sound and built a new car before doubling back to London for the Western Fair.

It’s a familiar cycle.

Get the car onto the trailer, into the pen, back onto the trailer. Get something to eat, get something to drink, get something on the radio, and then get home.

From there it’s to work in the morning, rebuild during the week and get ready for the next weekend. Maybe with a better car.

Dress code in effect

There are no uniforms for derby drivers. Josh competed in the same clothes for the derby that he wore to rebuild his car that morning.

Helmets are the only common element. Most drivers wore jeans, t-shirts and steel toed work boots, with the occasional pair of navy blue coveralls.

Western Fair demolition derby
Dallas, Tanner and Mike hang out in the pit before the Western Fair demolition derby Sept. 17. Photo: Allan Lewis

Despite the beat up appearance of the vehicles themselves, the beauty of demolition derby is in its simplicity.

The excitement is in its spectacle.

The comfort is in its violence.

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