Archive for The First Swamp Buggy

The First Swamp Buggy

The first Swamp Buggy was invented by Ed Frank, in Naples, Florida as a vehicle
with which to traverse the vast, boggy swamps of the Everglades during early
development in the 1930s and 1940s.

The original Swamp Buggy, known as "Tumble Bug", was a tall, ungainly and
strange looking vehicle, riding on huge balloon tires, which could be used for
everything from hunting expeditions deep into the Everglades to Sunday
afternoon outings. 

An editorial in the Collier County News, a local Naples newspaper, claimed swamp
buggies were "as important to Florida as the cow pony is to the west, in that
they are the only practical means of transportation once off the main road."

The Early Years 

As more and more hunters built swamp buggies, they would gather together to
share a few homespun-engineering tips, and before long, one hunter would
challenge another to a race through a muddy bog on Raymond Bennett’s potato
farm, which, according to swamp buggy inventor Ed Frank, "was the biggest hole
in the vicinity of Naples." 

The first organized races took place on Mr. Bennett’s potato farm around 1943,
featuring a dozen or so local hunters.

By the late forties, 30 to 40 racers would gather the week before hunting season
to race for the valued prize, which was usually a new shotgun donated by a local
merchant.  On November 12, 1949, the first "Official" Swamp Buggy Races were
held, with a field of almost 50 competitors, in Naples, Florida. 

The mid 1950s saw continued growth of Swamp Buggy Racing. American Broadcasting
Company ABC’s Wide World of Sports (US TV series) Wide World of Sports featured
the mud madness in a national television special and Hollywood stars like Gary
Cooper were seen in Naples riding Swamp Buggies.

The Mile O’ Mud

The potato patch has now evolved into the [ Florida
Sports Park and the once unruly bog has been groomed into the famed "Mile O’
Mud" it is as known today.

The  "Mile O’ Mud" is a seven-eighths of a mile oval, featuring racing lanes
which are approximately 60 feet wide, with a one-eighth mile diagonal lane
slashed through the center.

The depth of the mud is hard to gauge because brown swamp water covers every
inch of the track, making it appear to be about a foot deep, although it drops to
between five and six feet deep in three places.

Buggies driving through these holes often disappear up to their steering wheels
and exhaust pipes.

The largest pit, located in front of the grandstand, is the treacherous "Sippy
Hole", named after "Mississippi" Milton Morris, a legendary driver who could
almost never conquer the hole without stalling.

Present Day High-Tech

As the popularity of the sport has continued to grow, cash prizes purses of
several thousand dollars replaced the shotgun, and the incentives to go faster
also grew, until the swamp buggies became far too fast and too loud to be used
for hunting wild game. 

Today’s high-tech buggies are designed for racing only. 

The pontoon-like bodywork fully encloses a powerful racing engine, and rather
than relying upon big fat flotation tires, they stand upon tall and skinny
tires, with paddle treads on the rears designed solely for forward motivation
and almost bicycle-narrow front tires for rudder-like steering.

There are three races a year, January, March, and October, and all three races
are taped and televised by the Sunshine Network. The races have also nationally
televised by the National Geographic Channel, TNN, ESPN and the Travel Channel.

Before every October Race there is a Swamp Buggy Parade in downtown Naples.
Each of these events finds Naples pulling thousands of spectators from many states,
and gives Naples and the Swamp Buggy sport extensive publicity.


Give us a call and design your own Swamp Buggy Adventure…

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