It didn’t take long after cars were invented for adrenaline junkies to want to start doing crazy things with them, just for the fun of it. There’s no record of exactly when the first ever car stunt was performed, but it no doubt evolved out of the jumping-on-and-off-trains stunts you commonly see in westerns.
These daredevil feats were designed to entertain primarily the movie-going public and reached a peak from the 1960s to around the 1980s, when cars were finally powerful enough to hit the speeds necessary to perform death-defying leaps and mid-air acrobatics.
Once computer wizardry was perfected, though, there was less of a need for real-life stunts. CGI backgrounds and digital imagery replaced the stuntmen and cars supplied solely for the purpose of being wrecked.
However, while this golden age might have passed, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still loonies out there willing to risk life and limb just to get a buzz (not to mention a few million views on YouTube). Indeed, the video sharing platform has provided an outlet for almost anyone who wants to get behind a wheel and create a car stunt that really makes people’s jaws drop.
With this in mind, we’ve rounded up three of the best car stunts in recent history for your viewing pleasure. And, in the interest of balance, we’ve also found a few of the worst to prove that when it comes to this kind of thing, you’re probably better off leaving it to the professionals.
1. Hot Wheels comes to life
Anyone who ever played with Hot Wheels as a child probably imagined themselves behind the wheel of those tiny little cars, but stout driver Tanner Foust turned that dream into a reality in 2011 as fans of the Indy500 in the USA waited for the 100th anniversary event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
His team had created a life-sized version of the Hot Wheels V Drop gravity track, which memorably used an extra-long plastic track that you could hang over the back of a door. You could then hoist your Hot Wheels car up in a lift before letting go and watching it slam into your mum’s best wallpaper at the other side of the room.
As racing fans watched open-mouthed, Foust drove off the 27.5-metre ramp, descended the equivalent of ten storeys and leapt a record 101 metres at 161 kilometres per hour. You can watch the video below and we defy you not to feel a lurch in your stomach as Tanner sits at the top of that track.
2. A long jump off a short pier
Red Bull are renowned for their stunts and the New Year No Limits show in 2009 saw one of the best for petrolheads. Travis Pastrana used a Subaru STI rally car to leap off Long Beach’s Pine Street Pier in Los Angeles, all 82 metres across the sea to a floating barge anchored in Rainbow Harbor.
It nearly didn’t turn out too well after he found himself going sideways upon landing, but some thoughtful person had thankfully erected a barrier at the far side that aided stopping and Pastrana also became an unscathed record-breaker. Check it out.
3. A flipping Mini
Using traditional skis is enough for most people who want to zoom down mountain ranges in the snow, but not for extreme ski world champion Guerlian Chicherit. He decided one day that he’d quite like to do it in a Mini Countryman.
Four years of preparation later, Guerlain put the pedal to the metal on a snowy mountain, maintained an optimal 60kph and became the first person ever to perform a 360-degree backflip in a car. Watch it here and feel your heart in your mouth as he comes back to earth.
1. Where’s Frank? He’s going to be so mad
This really popular YouTube video shows a camera crew waiting to film a shot in an unnamed location for an unnamed film. Suddenly, a car leaps over a ramp, hurtles out of control and almost takes out the camera crew.
Clearly, the people involved were too embarrassed to reveal what the stunt was for, but speculation suggests it was an American crew in China. You can hear someone wondering where Frank is at the end, but it’s not clear exactly what they thought he could do about the sorry situation.
2. Surfing in Saudi Arabia
A video surfaced a while ago that showed a man in Saudi Arabia attempting to surf on his car on two wheels as he sped along a highway. Unfortunately, the car slams back onto two wheels and the man falls out and lands on his face. Apparently, this dangerous stunt is a really popular thing to do in the desert nation, but clips like this show exactly why it shouldn’t be.
3. There goes the air pipe
A less high-profile clip, but this gem from YouTube shows three bored men attempting to turn their car into a submarine. Needless to say, it doesn’t go well and the stuntman disappears with the car beneath the surface of the lake for several long moments before finally resurfacing unhurt. Once you know he’s okay, you can really appreciate the hilarity of the remarks “that’s the air pipe” (as it sinks without trace) and “I think our submarine diving skills need a little bit of improvement”.
There are thousands of YouTube videos that show car stunts going horribly wrong and not all of them have happy endings, so here’s the bit where we say ‘don’t try this at home’ – please do leave it to the professionals and keep your car and yourself intact!
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