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Radiator Gladiators

Baltimoreans Survive Their First Demolition Derby

By Brennen Jensen | Posted 6/6/2001

On Saturday, Saturday, SATURDAY!, June 2, upward of 4,000 people clambered onto the rustic wooden bleachers at Budd's Creek's Potomac Speedway to witness the great American sport of demolition derby. The St Mary's County event offered more noise, fire, and smoke than a year's worth of Kiss concerts--136 cars were reduced to twisted, steam-spewing hunks of steel and rubber. The mud flew, and the Bud flowed.

Among the bang-'em-to-death participants were a pair of first-timers from Baltimore, Kenny Vieth and Dan Elwood, whose road to automotive ruin was chronicled in last week's City Paper (Mobtown Beat, May 30) No, their $300 1977 Cadillac Eldorado didn't win. But Elwood had long said that just showing up would be a victory for the demo duo, who acquired their car less than two weeks before the race. They did show up, they did tear up the car, and they did almost claim victory. Well, not in the derby itself, but in the best-paint-job contest that preceded it. (Sporting a natty cubist motif of tasteful pastel shades, the Caddy was one of five finalists in this competition.)

During the actual metal-mashing action, Elwood piloted the handsome (albeit wheezing) car around the muddy oval track several times--sometimes backward--before the engine gave up the ghost and the Eldorado came to rest lodged hard against a silver sedan's hood. The right rear of the rig--tire included--was a shredded mess.

"That was incredibly exhilarating," Elwood said, crawling out the car's window "It's what driv[ing] in the city should be like."

After inspecting his car's damaged flank, Elwood gave the trunk a resounding whack. "I think our work is done here," he said. "Time for a beer."

The next Budd's Creek demolition derby is scheduled for Sept. 8. Vieth and Elwood plan to be there.

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