The Sports Archives – All About Auto Polo

Let’s face it. People can get pretty creative when it comes to creating sports. Fencing, cricket and the luge are just a few examples of the more unique sports in existence. How about cars? Of course there are all sorts of races and even demolition derbies but would you ever play polo in a car? As it turns out a hundred years ago people did.

Auto Polo from Collier's MagazineThat’s right, auto polo was a sport invented in the United States and played in the early nineteen hundreds. It had rules similar to polo but using cars instead of horses. Each car carried two people, one was the driver and the other used the mallet to hit the ball.  Although it existed in most parts of America and even Europe it was particularly popular in the Midwest. Common venues included fairs, exhibitions and sporting arenas.

Does this sound dangerous? It should because serious injuries were common but somehow there was a surprisingly low number of deaths.  Cars would crash into other or roll over and it was inevitable that a mallet man would end up flying out of the car and get hurt. It wasn’t just the participants that got hurt as it was fairly common for spectators to wide up with injuries as well.

The game played out much like regular polo but it required far less space and could even be played in large indoor venues if need be, hence making it popular in cold weather areas. Each team would have two cars on the field on the field at any given time. Each car had a driver who was belted in and a mallet man who would stand on the side of the car and try to hit a basketball with his mallet. Due to the fact they weren’t belted in mallet men had a very high injury rate and would usually end up on the ground at some point.

The cars started off as small  steam-powered cars but soon moved to stripped down Model T’s and other used cars that had no doors, top or windshields. As the sport progressed they did eventually add roll bars to the vehicles.  Cars would often smash into each other and by the end of the match the cars were severely wrecked or generally ruined. To give you an idea about how much damage they incurred; the Hankinson British and America auto polo teams in 1924 reported a total of 1564 broken wheels, 538 burst tires, 66 broken axles, 10 cracked engines and 6 totaled cars all in the course of one year!  Eventually people realized that while this sport may be awesome, it was also incredibly dangerous and its popularity faded for more reasonable sports in time.

Jeff Jordan writes about cars, education and history. A used car finder can help you locate your next vehicle.

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