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A Speedy Tale of Beverly Hills Race Car History

A Speedy Tale of Beverly Hills Race Car History

The Indianapolis Speedway was first built as a test track. Soon, it was discovered that it could be used to as a spectator venue for car racing. Until then, motor cars sped along country roads where drivers (pilots) rode with their mechanics (mechinicians) in case the car broke down during the race.

1920's photo of Beverly Hills Speedway

Tracks began popping up all along the East Coast. Finally, in 1919, Jesse Lasky, Cecile B. DeMille, Billy Durant (head of GM) and a few others bought land in Beverly Hills between what is now Lasky (formerly Speedway) and Beverly Drives, south of Wilshire Blvd. They developed a mile and a quarter oval track with steep banks that propelled cars to high speeds.

1920's photo of Beverly Hills Speedway

The Beverly Hills Police Department had to create a beat to cover this new part of town. Back then officers didn’t have personal badges. At roll call they would be assigned a badge, like the Beverly Hills Raceway Police, for the beat they were to cover that day.

Beverly Hills Raceway Police Badge

In the 1920s, cars were built with a top speed of 40mph. The city speed limit was only 20mph. However, on the oval board tracks (or toothpick tracks as they were built with 2 x4 planks), cars could fly at over 100mph! No wonder these races drew crowds of 80,000 people. The race car drivers were celebrities of their time. The most famous was Jimmy Murphy, also known as King of the Boards.

1920's photo of Beverly Hills Speedway

Jimmy Murphy began his career as a mechinician for “Fast Eddie” Rickenbacher (who gave up racing when he became a flying ace in WWI.) Eddie recommended Jimmy as a new driver for the Dusenberg brothers, who already sponsored racing great Tommy Milton. After Jimmy's first ever race at the Beverly Hills Speedway, that they would take the engine out of Jimmy's car and used it for the Super Car they were building for Tommy at Daytona. However, Jimmy test drove it in Florida and broke the speed record before Tommy ever had the chance to drive his car. This sparked their lifelong rivalry.

Oval tracks changed car design. Two-man cars raced on the tracks until 1922 when they were converted to driver only cars, as there was no longer a need for the mechanic in the car.  

1920's photo of Beverly Hills Speedway

In 1924 the Beverly Hills Speedway was dismantled and moved to Culver City. The land was then sold to William McCarty.

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