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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

The Police and the River Road

By Dave Williams

Recent online stories of the River Road brought back the memory of an incident that happened there in, I believe, 1956. The River Road runs between the north end of Griffith Park and the LA River. It was a natural spot for speed contests. The LAPD would make raids occasionally, but normally everyone was left alone. The cops put out the word that they wanted to hold a meeting there on a particular night and no one would be arrested. On that night, a crowd of easily 50-100 showed up to hear what the cops had to say. 

Before the police showed up, several cars were racing. A pair of cars took off and raced west. At about this time the police showed up and parked their car on the opposite side of the street from where everyone was gathered. The cars that had just raced came racing back. Unfortunately, there was a bend in the road and the racers couldn't see the cop car parked halfway into the road. One of the cars was a '33 Plymouth coupe with an Olds in it. He rounded the bend with the other late model car next to him. He had no place to go.

He got hard on the brakes and slid into the police car. The picture is still burned into my brain. The police car, with red lights flashing, slid backwards down an embankment. The little Plymouth spun out in the middle of the street. The cops gave their speech about the dangers of drag racing there as just amply demonstrated and called for a tow truck. No one was cited and nothing more was ever said. Drag racing, however, moved to the LA River channel near downtown LA.

Dave Williams


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