Smash up to the bumper, baby

  • 2004-08-05
  • By Andrei Tuch
TALLINN - The first car I ever owned was a 30-year-old Volvo station wagon, which I purchased with the express intention of driving it until it disintegrated. This, however, it stubbornly refused to do even four months later when I drove it into the back of a van. Later that night some bastard set the car on fire, but the accident itself barely stalled the engine.

The only thing I regret about that incident (besides the increased insurance payments) was that I did not get to keep the car and turn it into a competitor in the most deranged autosport event ever created: the demolition derby.
The sport of people driving cars into each other for recreation started in America (where else?) some time after the oil crisis of the '70s - when prices for apparently molded out of a single block of pig iron dropped sharply, since nobody could afford to run them any more.
But now the "sport" is gathering momentum in Estonia, with a ready supply of Ladas, Volgas and even the occasional Pobeda available in the junkyards. They say the only non-Russian car that stands a chance is an old Volvo.
Besides being extremely fun, racing in the demolition derby is also extremely cheap - you can get an old Soviet-made beater for 100 euros or so. The rules actually forbid extensive strengthening; a roll cage is allowed, but not recommended - apparently all it does is add extra weight. Most of the required preparation involves a really big hammer, and the idea is to start off with a car that can be repaired using only two tools: duct tape and machine oil. Whatever moves and shouldn't, you fasten it with duct tape. Whatever doesn't move and should, you oil it up.
If this sounds like something you would like to try, there are people who will walk you through it. The car of choice is a small-engined Lada: the Russian four-pot may not make a noise as fantastic as a seven-liter V8, but it does keep running after you drain the oil and coolant from it. Smash the windows, paint the driver's side door bright red, and go to one of the events held all around the country throughout the summer. You need life insurance to compete, but not, curiously, a driver's license.
On the other hand, if you're not brave enough to get into a car and go out on the track, you can still have a blast watching others do it. The demolition derby rarely comes to big cities, but then, Estonia isn't exactly Texas either. The biggest event of the season is being held on Aug. 7 in the southern Estonian town of Antsla.
There shouldn't be any shortage of competitors; in fact some hopefuls have already been turned away. Tickets are available at gas stations across the country, and for just 100 kroons (6.4 euros) you can see the show of a lifetime - the show that put the "car" in "carnage." o

Demolition Derby
Aug. 7
Antsla Song Grounds
Tickets 100 kroons