Auto Polo: A.I. Investigates This Insanity From Another Time

Find out more about auto polo in this reblogged post from

With the automobile’s invention in the late 1800′s, the possibilities for competition-based motorsport events in America was inevitable. After all, the first Indy 500 race happened in 1911 so it was apparent that the alluring evolution of speed (and the daredevils who faced it) created a massive buzz amongst nearly everyone that breathed the air that we breathe. Yet somewhere along the competition-based side of the automotive coin, things got a little… erm, nuts.

Enter Auto-Polo. Auto-Polo doesn’t seem that difficult to describe, as apparently it’s as straight-forward as it sounds; basically substitute horses for cars and a basketball for the usual ‘polo-ball’. Insert silly-pill into beverage as well, I’m guessing… The *ahem* sport, was bizarrely constructed by a flamboyant and successful dirt-racer and Model-T dealer from Kansas named Ralph Hankinson. Throughout the entire Midwest of America (and eventually throughout parts of Western Canada) this new-fangled sport was drawing larger and larger crowds at each State and County Fair it was displayed at. The excitement and sometimes-deadly crashes were perfect for in-between dirt track races when there was always a lull in the action that promoters/organizers desperately wanted to fill.

Enthusiasts, racecar drivers and mechanics would strip Model-T’s to their bare-bones, leaving only the running gear, a place to sit, and the frame itself. Each car had 2 people aboard; one to drive and a ‘striker’ to stand on the running-board and wield the wooden-mallet at the ball. Insane.

Games were made up of varying teams encompassing an equal number of stripped cars. When the referee/starter person gave the signal, the teams would charge at the ball and try to score on each other’s net/goal-posts, often ending in a grand display of carnage.  Playing fields were varied in size from a mere 40 yards all the way up to a massive 300 yards…! Again, insane.

Eventually, Hankinson persuaded matches between British and American teams in Topeka, Kansas where the sport appealed to thrill-hungry motorsport crowds, not unlike the more modern-day spectacle of Demolition Derbys. Drivers were strapped into their vehicles with a simple leather strap that usually broke during impacts, sending the occupants flying through the air, and sometimes to their death.

It was mostly popular within the midwestern States such as Indiana, Illinois Kansas and Iowa but eventually gained mass exposure via New York’s Madison Square Gardens – again, not unlike the Monster Truck and Figure-8 racing spectacles of more recent times… As the sport grew ever more popular and the competitively aggressive tendencies behind the wheel ramped up, roll-bars were eventually introduced and bolted onto each car for safety concerns… and also because roll-over bars aided in helping the cars roll back onto their wheels post impact- therefore, a lessened interuption of action, y’see…

With America’s 1917 entry into the First World War, the sport itself was put to rest. Yet the downfall was already in its state of decline – leading up to the War, the sport had already been banned in several states as a result of many people (even spectators) becoming injured, crippled or killed whilst a match ensued. The US Government itself even urged Ford Dealerships across the land to halt all promotional efforts towards the growing sport…

Quite for certain and without a doubt though, this would have been strangely alluring and a train-wreckedly hilarious display of vehicular violence to have bared witnessed to. Indeed.

What do you think. Time to bring it back yet…?

(posted by Blake J.,

About automotiveiq

Automotive IQ, a division of IQPC, is the number one choice for information exchange in the automotive industry. Our comprehensive events provide an unbiased, focused forum where you can discuss and learn about the issues most important to you. We put a range of industry challenges under the spotlight in our events and articles to examine how to solve these issues in the context of todays business climate. Keywords: Management Conferences, Congress, Seminars, Networking, Management-Konferenzen, Weiterbildung, Wissensaustausch, Networking-Events, Automotive Events, Automotive

Posted on October 27, 2011, in ALL. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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