Channel that inner Thor: Take a swing

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Ritual demolition

Story by Reba Lean

Car Bash quotes

Car Bashing at Starvation Gulch 2009 photo by Jesse Hoff/jessehoff.comCar Bashing at Starvation Gulch 2009
photo by Jesse Hoff/

Pity the poor Saturn sedan.

The 13-year-old car was reduced to ruins in the span of a bonfire.

“The attraction of it is just the ability to beat the crap out of some thing and have a good time doing it,” senior Joe Hunner said as he collected fees from prospective car bashers.

Other students watching the destruction in the flickering light of Starvation Gulch bonfires sounded just as excited. “It’s totally worth the dollar,” one student said, encouraging others to get their two hits. “Breaking things feels good,” said another satisfied customer.

1969 image photo from 1959 UAF Yearbook

Ritual car destruction at UAF dates back to at least the ‘60s. In recent years, the event has been a production of the Residence Hall Association. “My junior year I think was the first time we didn’t have the car bash,” RHA president Hunner said, “we didn’t get it going fast enough.” He wanted to make sure it was back this year.

Orchestrating a legal car mauling isn’t simple. This year’s Gulch sideshow required weeks of planning. Hunner started by calling John Clendenin at UAF’s Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management. Clandenin wanted to make sure the event would be cleaned up, swept up and no one would be hurt, so he told Hunner to have all the fluids emptied from the car, and to make sure bashers wore safety glasses and gloves.

Joe HunnerJoe Hunner finishes off the bash
photo by Joe Hunner

Gabe’s Towing Services was hired to deliver the sacrificial vehicle to the Taku Parking Lot and afterward haul the remains to Action Auto Parts. The towing company had one requirement: tires had to be preserved so the mashed, shattered, Nanook-bludgeoned sedan would still roll.

Hunner then needed to find a suitable victim. University Chevron’s Brad Davids happened to have a clunker he was keeping for parts. “I was going to haul it to the dump anyway,” he said.

Davids had already removed the engine, so most of the prep work was had been done. He finished removing the brake fluids and it belonged to Hunner’s campus group.

Gabe’s Towing dropped the Saturn on Saturday at the Gulch. Starting at 10 p.m., willing participants began taking their shots with the sledgehammer. Two hours later, only the car’s color was recognizable.