"Feeling the wind in your face, and hearing the screaming tires and roaring motor, and then knowing that you've mastered a wildly skidding car...all are a big thrill."-Lucky Teter
Earl "Lucky" Teter was an American stunt driver in the 1930s and 1940s who was an innovator and the first to use the label "Hell Drivers." Teter started out as a race driver of both autos and motorcycles and had been a former gas station attendant and weekend test driver. While making his own car polish and selling it at county fairs a passer-by offered him $300 if he would roll a car...from that the life of a "Hell Driver" was born.
Teter along with Robert "Spooly" Hutchinson went on and formed the "Lucky Teter Hell Drivers" in 1934 when Lucky decided to continue to try his hand at the thrill driving trade. The two men grew to a crew of sixty, and had hubs in Atlanta, Indianapolis and Langhorne, at the Langhorne Speedway. They put the hell drivers on the road and traveled as far as Cuba wowing audiences by flipping cars, leaping through the air on motorcycles and mastering precision driving skills. It was the first time the auto thrill show was conceived as a traveling attraction.
As the show grew larger it consisted of precision driving of new automobiles over elevated ramps, reverse spins, and added stuntmen to the show acting as 'daredevil clowns.' By the late 1930's, Lucky had started performing ramp to ramp jumps over large trucks or transcontinental buses earning around $50,000 a year.
On July 4, 1942, 41 year old Teter announced it was his last show prior to closing for the war effort. He made 3 jumps over a panel truck that day, each attempting a world record, beginning at 135 feet. His 4th and final jump was 150 feet and was dedicated "to all servicemen everywhere." Some reported they could hear the engine missing in his bright yellow 1938 Plymouth as he accelerated onto the launching ramp while attempting to jump two Greyhound buses, his car came down short at the edge the landing ramp. The crash broke his neck and he lost his life as the jump fell short just a few feet.
The "Teters" Hell Drivers were disbanded in 1943.
After Earl "Lucky" Teter's fatal crash at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis in 1942, the late stunt driver's show equipment was purchased by Jack Kochman, who debuted his World Champion Hell Drivers that summer and the show went on, but that's another story.