Cars We Love & Who We Are #10
Trusting in the public’s ability to practice proper Covid-19 guidance, the September Park Ridge Car Show soldiered on refusing to be a victim of pandemic panic. As a rare oasis of socialized car culture in the pandemic desert, the show’s magnetic draw surprised no one. With sunshine, blue skies and great cars, people desperately seeking relief from cabin fever flocked to an event that drew three times as many show cars as the previous year.
Always on the prowl for unusual stories, I moved through an eclectic array of beautiful and interesting examples of foreign and domestic vehicles from years past. While these exceptional automobiles more than merited my full attention, a most unusual site across the lot owned my focus. Show cars for the most part enjoyed the loving caresses of dusting brushes, microfiber cloths and detailing spray. Not so the object of my attention. This show car’s hood was about to bear the full brunt of a large sledge hammer.
Crash course for an underage driver
A crowd has formed around a competition prepped 1996 Honda Accord. The young owner has realized that people will pay to slam the hood of his car with a sledge hammer. Owner Christian Farquhar has no reservations about the blows to be inflicted. His logic, the blow might actual straighten out an existing dent. After all, his Honda has been prepped for a Demolition Derby.
When older car enthusiasts wonder where the new blood will come from, Christian answers that question both figuratively and literally.
It all started two years ago in 2018.
Far too young for a driver’s permit, Christian Farquhar, a high school wrestler with a stunt man’s heart climbed in through the driver’s side window of his 1991 Honda Accord. He had enjoyed watching such events on YouTube. But now, at the age of 14, it would be him behind the wheel and he would be in front of 4,000 screaming fans. For Christian’s parents, Tom and Lori Farquhar, who considered themselves well prepared for the event, their son’s first drive remains a vivid memory.
“Impacts are bone jarringly violent and louder than you would expect. All of a sudden it gets real, very real,” says Tom. Lori recalls, “walking in, I was cool with it.” Then the announcer called attention to someone lining up another car for a violent rear bumper to mid-ship T-bone special. Ooooh, ooooh, BOOM! Then she realized “that’s my son’s car,” She says, “On the video you could hear me screaming.”
Christian smiles, saying, “the crowd loves those hard hits. It’s just like football.” But it’s not football. It’s Demolition Derby.
Demolition Derby first caught Christian’s attention while wandering around YouTube. “I kind of liked it, says Christian. His father Tom adds, “As a child he was drawn to mechanical things and movement like a lot of kids. But he was more of a daredevil. He’d always be the first one to ride his bike down the crazy hills.” Christian adds, “as a kid, I’d do things making believe I was a stunt double.”
After expressing his interest in Demolition Derby over the dinner table, Christian’s parents would later surprise him with a trip to the Sussex County Fair Demolition Derby for his Birthday.
Soaking up all he saw, the excitement of the controlled chaos in the arena channeled directly into Christian’s consciousness. His father says, “We have a picture of him at his first Derby with this look of Amazement.“
It all came together at this first Demolition Derby when Christian heard there was a youth division. Yes indeed a separate division exists for drivers between 11 to 16 years of age. His father recalls, “He was like, WHAT?” Game on!
Christian’s first car for Demolition Derby was a 1991 Honda Accord, purchase price $300. He favors Hondas saying, “They’re just simple and easy and they’re tough.”
Vehicle preparation calls for removing all glass, interior, power steering, washer fluid and anything else you can detach. All airbags must come out or be detonated. All doors must be chained shut. Proper attire, helmet, neck brace and a roll bar are required.
Christian has learned quickly. “There are a number of interesting modifications,” Christian says, “just about everybody runs with a pillow brought from home placed on the driver’s left side and up against the driver’s door. If you get hit, there’s a real good chance of you smacking your arm against the exposed metal in the door. Worse after the car takes a hit, sharp metal could be sticking out with a real chance of cutting into your arm and shoulder.”
A ratchet strap holds the driver’s seat in position in case of a hard hit from behind.
Without the strap there exists a real danger of the seat just snapping straight back. Not good. The strap also provides the right hand with something to hold so as to prevent the driver’s arm from flailing around and potentially breaking due to the force of an impact.
Christian recalls his first ever Demolition Derby heat. It boasted a large field of 22 cars. He says, “It’s one thing to be watching on YouTube, but here I am entering the arena for the first time to actually do it.”
Christian remembers the experience saying, “Out in the arena I am backing up but too slowly. I get slammed in the side. Spun around by the hit, I nail the gas and bolt forward. I had a friend in this heat and our plan was to work together. It’s a short lived plan. The kid ran right through the back of me. My trunk lid shot straight up in the air.
I lunge forward and hit my alleged teammate. I immediately get nailed on the side and my battery breaks free from its mooring. With my ignition hot-wired, the loose battery rips of the wire to the ignition. I initially did not realize why my Honda would not start. Finally I find the problem. As I fumble to reattach the wire my hands are shaking as sparks shock my finger tips. Throwing my gloves off, I finally attached the wire. I figure, what the hell. I slam my foot to the floor and look for something to hit. The first car I see, I smash nose first. My target had an “old school” heavy bumper. I did more damage to my car than my target. My Honda’s plastic front literally disintegrates. If you watch the video you see people laughing in the background. I am learning.”
“My car has died. My target sits helplessly spinning her tires. A red flag is called to allow her to get the car moving. Returning to action, I throw the Honda into reverse and tag the first car I see. A group of cars bunch up. Not good. One guy takes a hard hit and goes over the wall. I get nailed in the side and my Honda dies,” Christian says.
Christian continues saying, “With its last gasp, my Honda fires up. I lurch forward just as my “teammate” nails me in the side and puts me into the wall. Not much left in the Honda. I floor it. Like one of those WWII submarine movies, I have a target in the crosshairs. The Honda screams as it climbs past 20 mph. I nail him at center stage in the middle of the arena. The crowd loves it.”
Christian’s noble Honda took it like a champ. It had given its all. The book closes on Christian’s first Demolition Derby. He will be back.
While it may not be some parent’s cup of tea, Christian’s parents are very supportive. I have a wrestling background all my life. He’s a wrestler. His brother was a wrestler. I’m fine will the roughness. I don’t get scared. I am exceptionally pleased that he has demonstrated such a high level of commitment and passion. Christian’s events are a total family affair. His younger sister even helps paint the car.
Lori, a special education teacher, finds her son’s passion and determination a source of great comfort as it has motivated him to develop skills that will serve him well throughout life. She says, “I love to see him outside rather than indoors on a computer. Over my years in education I have seen a lot of kids who suffer from limiting their involvement with the outside world.
She says, “I see him and his friend search for these cars. They knock on peoples’ doors. They’re introducing themselves. They’re negotiating for themselves. They engage people communicating face to face. What kids do that nowadays? Kids are not learning these skills today.”
Apparently, unlike his crumpled Hondas, for Christian Farquhar’s young life, Demolition Derby has had a major and positive impact.