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“Smashing Through” – Stock Car Racing at The Brafield Stadium Concrete Track

In the 1950s stock car racing found its way from the United States to England where it quickly became a very popular spectator sport. Soon a number of quarter-mile oval tracks were built around the UK. You will find the feature, an early-1960s film on video “Look at Life – Smashing Trough,” interesting, informative, and entertaining.

By watching the film you will also learn all about how British stock cars were constructed in the period. The great majority of these machines are modified pre-war American cars, some of which were produced in automaker’s factories in the UK. The other cars are “specials” built by using a wide variety of parts and pieces found in junkyards. Most of the racing machines are powered by flathead Ford and post-war o.h.v. American designed V-8 engines.

The races are handicapped with four different classes of drivers: the least experienced are behind the wheel of “white tops” (painted roofs) and the fastest drivers are piloting “red tops,” in between there are are the “yellow” and “blue tops.” This contest was run on the Brafield Stadium track that at the beginning had a dirt-surface that was later paved with concrete in 1959. The Stadium was located in Brafield-on-the-Green and was in operation between 1949 to ’67.

Share with us what you find of interest in this video.

  • A pile-up involving the “White Tops” during the 20-laps eight mile race on the quarter-mile oval track.  

  • You will view the number 21 car driven by an expert, it is one of the fastest “Red Top” specials.

  • The finish of the feature race at Brafield Stadium.

  • “Look at Life: Smashing Trough” film on a video.

20 responses to ““Smashing Through” – Stock Car Racing at The Brafield Stadium Concrete Track

  1. It’s interesting to see the many right hand drive UK cars racing in the counterclockwise direction in the video. There’s lots of disputed reasons offered in online forums as to why racing, whether running, horseracing or vehicles, is conducted one way or the other. For vehicle racing, many of the forums (or “fora” if you prefer) seem to conclude that keeping the driver farthest from the outer wall (said to be apt to be hit with greater force than the inner wall) is safer. Of course, for open-wheel racing such as F1, it’s a moot point.

    • Since, on road courses at least, the preponderance are run in a clockwise direction which results in more right-hand turns per lap than left (360 degrees more to be precise) it is deemed advantageous to be on the “inside” both for weight distribution and visibility of the corner’s apex. Consequently RHD tends to be the norm.

  2. Damn, that racing is more dangerous than NASCAR.., No barriers, no rules, no safety harnesses, no crash helmets. That was stock car racing in my day. Crash and Burn and pray .

  3. Thanks for a great little film clip. I wonder how common serious injury or fatal accidents were. Certainly the spectators were at risk by the looks of it.

  4. The Rank Organisation was a British entertainment conglomerate founded by industrialist J. Arthur Rank in April 1937. Although they branched out into other aspects of the entertainment industry, they made movies from the ’30’s to the ’80’s, including the iconic 1948 movie “The Red Shoes” and the more pedestrian 1976 “Bugsy Malone.” Us oldsters remember their opening logo on films. A large sweaty man hitting a huge gong followed by the text “A J. Arthur Rank Production”

  5. What a great film, captured the open-air parts depot, mumzie running the chicane, super safe safety harness because safety is a top priority and “so many wrecks its pretty dicey.”

  6. As a Brit, I hate seeing these old “Destruction Derby” films because those races finished off most of the UK population of 1930s US cars that survived conversion into ambulances – and even armoured cars – at the beginning of WW2. The right-hand drive Americans either built especially for the British market or assembled over here are quite rare. Most that survived have had a hard life – and show it unless expensively restored. I had to go all the way to northern Michigan to get a good ’34 Hudson !
    Incidentally, on YouTube there’s another one of those British “Look At Life” film about 1960s recycling efforts in which an apparently beautiful 1936 Series 40 Buick sedan with sidemounts gets put in the crusher – don’t get me started about that one !!!

  7. Back in about 1953/4 my father took me to, what I am led to believe, was the first “Stock car” race in UK. It was at the New Cross stadium and one of the drivers was one Raymond Mays, who later became the “M” in “BRM”. He was a top end car dealer at the time and arrived at the starting gate in what looked like a “brand new” 1948/9 Ford V8 saloon painted in brightly painted red Duco with NO protection of any type. The only difference to a road car was that it had the headlight and window glasses removed. Needless to say, all of the other drivers in their bangers headed for the Ford at every opportunity until it was an unrecognisable wreck. Everybody loved it and gave Raymond Mays a fantastic round of applause at the end of the race. The biggest thrill of all to me as a young lad was to see another Ford V8 turned over onto it’s side at the same meeting. In later years in Durban, South Africa, I used to visit the Alan Ford stadium to watch the bangers and American V8 Sprint cars race which was also very exciting, especially the V8’s that would lift their front inside wheel under acceleration coming out of the left hand turns. As it was a very short track those guys spent most of the lap on 3 wheels!

  8. I caught a glimpse of Pete Tucker in his 34 Ford Coupe Number 85. Pete’s race cars were always the tidiest cars on the track. When he stopped racing he went on to become an important figure in the American car preservation and restoration scene in the U.K.

  9. The coloured roof system is still used today, with the “red tops” still starting at the back of the field. In 1976 BRISCA (British Stock Car Association) added a subdivision within the red tops – “Superstars”, who were the really top drivers. Their cars are fitted with flashing lights so that spectators can easily identify them.

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