We’re pretty sure that–like the first races–the first driving stunts came about just minutes after the first car moved under its power. We know that stunt drivers captivated audiences early in the 19th Century, but perhaps no stunt team will ever top Joie Chitwood’s Thrill Show for notoriety and spectacle. Starting just after World War II, Chitwood and his stunt teams took their show on the road in front of thousands, perhaps millions, of gaping audience members.
These promotional films for Chevrolet feature the Thrill Show’s “Hell Drivers” wailing on then-new Chevys with formation driving, jumps, two-wheel setups and more. We love all of it, from the teetering body roll to the narration (which includes work from legendary journalist Chris Economaki in the 1966 version). We see a lot of wonderfully crazy things happening, but we’re big fans of the insanity of launching a bodyless Chevy frame over the ramps in the later film.
Chitwood didn’t just run a stunt show. He raced in the Indianapolis 500 seven times with three Top 5 finishes. Chitwood also crash-tested thousands of cars for safety investigations. While he died in 1988, his son Joie Chitwood Jr. is president of a little place called Daytona International Speedway.
Enjoy the show!