Back in the 1950s, stunt car veterans would hand a young Bob Hanna a set of keys and give him some rather empty advice.
“There’s the car, kid. Good luck if you survive. You can do something else then.”
Hanna, bewildered, asked how the stunts were done.
The vet’s response? “Figure it out.”
More than five decades later, Hanna says he’s a lot wiser and not just because he’s retired from doing the stunts himself.
“I grew up the hard way,” says Hanna, who for years went by the barnstorming pseudonym Dusty Russell. “You get hurt a lot doing that.”
Hanna hopes to keep his stable of stunt drivers safe at his fourth Auto Daredevil Show at the Port Angeles Speedway on July 11.
With a number of drivers from the first three shows “retiring” from stunt work, Hanna has a new group of eager yet inexperienced drivers gearing up for this year’s event.
Stunts include the Domino Crash, Slide For Life, Outlaw T-Bone, Human Battering Ram, Motorcycle Fire Walls, Ice Wall Crash — featuring 10,000 pounds of ice stacked eight feet high — and, to cap it all, the “death-defying” Dive Bomber.
The rollover contests figures to see at least four drivers competing, Hanna says, including Tina Killam, of Quilcene, the show’s first female stunt driver.
Killam, who has a background of running mud bogging events (four-wheelers through mud) and big truck racing for the past five years, says she’s psyched about the event.
“I’m not worried about it — you only live once,” Killam says. “Bob had seen me jump my truck … so he knows I’m kind of crazy. I’ll flip (the car). That’s why (Bob) called me. He knows I can do it.”
Says Hanna, “You have to be a little bit half-crazy and you have to have a passion for it.”
The stunts are drawn from “old-time” thrill shows Hanna and colleagues used to put on in California and much of the West Coast. He started his career with famed stuntman Joey Chitwood and his daredevils in the 1950s, when Hanna was 15. Since then he has performed in more than 750 shows in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and South America. He claims to have demolished more than 3,000 cars, jumped more than 12 miles through the air and, among other feats, been blown up with more than 1,000 pounds of dynamite. His resume includes a 176-foot world record jump at the Atlanta 500 in 1973 and he even appeared as himself in a movie called “Steel Arena” (1973).
Since 2005, Hanna has brought one show a year to the speedway and has drawn crowds that filled the speedway grandstands — and then some.
“I want (the show) to be something people will remember,” Hanna says.
That’s not easy in an age of Internet, television and movies, the stunt car veteran admits.
“These days, there’s so much movie competition, so much TV competition. People say, ‘You can do a lot more. You can put a roll-bar in the car.’ I say, ‘Well, I can’t compete from a set-up standpoint with what’s done on TV and in the movies.’ It’s cost-prohibitive for me. I have to do it the old-fashioned … dangerous way and just try and be a good teacher.”
The show kicks off with music from Chantilly Lace and, at 8 p.m., skydivers from Kapowsin Air Sports are scheduled to land on the track, beginning the stunt show. During the show, Peaches the Clown entertains youths and the show organizers host a raffle with more than $2,500 in prizes.
Sponsors include Pen Print, 7 Cedars Casino, Wilder Auto, High Tide Seafoods and Maxxim Power Sports.
A rain date is scheduled for July 18.
Auto Daredevils stunt show
Date: Friday, July 11
Time: Gates open at 5:30 p.m.; music, 6:30-8 p.m.; stunts, 8 p.m.-close
Location: Port Angeles Speedway, 255678 Highway 101
Features: 20 car stunts including the Domino Crash, Slide For Life, Outlaw T-Bone, Human Battering Ram, Motorcycle Fire Walls, Ice Wall Crash and more
Extras: Music by Chantilly Lace, skydivers to open stunt show, clowns, raffles
Cost: Adults, $15; children (11 years old and younger), $5