- Eyes On
For decades, demolition derbies have been the last hurrah for countless cars.
A quick look at the math â 88 counties in Ohio, 88 county fairs: thatâs a lot of demolition and a lot of cars.
And thatâs just Ohio.
Then in the wake of the oil crisis of the 1970âs Detroit stopped building cars like tanks.
The shelf life for derby cars is, obviously, very short. Even for the oneâs built like tanks.
For the hard-core derbiast, finding the perfect derby car is getting more and more difficult.
Ryan Place, of Cridersville, has been competing in demolition derbies for 15 years, often hitting multiple county fairs in search of that adrenaline rush.
But now the cost of competing is limiting him to just one a year.
And he had to go all the way to Wyoming to find the car he drove Thursday in the Auglaize County Fair derby.
âTheyâre scarce now, which is driving the price up on them,â he said. âItâs getting expensive to derby. Itâs a lot of time and a lot of money.â
Place said his car of choice is any GM product built between 1973 and 1976.
âItâs seems like the sheet metal, the frame, the drivetrain â itâs just a heavier duty car,â he said. âEverything back in the â70s was built better.
âThose are my preferred cars. A lot of derbies are going with like â98-â02 Crown Vics, police cars. Thatâs the new age car.â
Placeâs first derby car was a four-door 1968 Chevrolet Impala.
â[I was] scared to death,â Place said. âI thought I had to use the restroom right before I went out. Didnât know what to expect. Once you go out there, your nerves go away when you make that first hit.
âI was hooked from that first hit. All the nerves went away and youâre just out there having fun.â
Place has taken â and dished out â a lot of hits over the years. The worst, he said, was three years ago, a hit that left him seeing stars.
âWe were allowed leaf-springing the axles back then,â he said. âWe hit back end-to-back end with Jeff Schaub with almost a full-track shot each. That hurt the most.â
Schaub and Place squared off again on Thursday in the Smash-It class, with Schaub outlasting Place for the win.
As long as he can still find cars to smash, expect Place to be back in the pit on derby night.
âYouâre always taught not to hit cars when youâre driving,â he said. âBut you go out there and hit cars. Breakinâ the rules. Itâs an adrenaline rushâ