The original 1955 Southern 500 ran for over five grueling hours. Lucky for us, here’s a newsreel version from back in the day that packs all the action into just a few minutes.
Years before Big Bill France built his high-banked temple of speed in Daytona, Darlington Raceway was NASCAR’s first and only superspeedway. And before there was a Daytona 500, the Southern 500 held at Darlington each Labor Day weekend was the sport’s premier 500-mile race.
The 1955 edition was historically important on several counts, not the least of which is this was the first big win for the Chevrolet small-block V8. But not the first NASCAR win—that came earlier in the year at Columbia, South Carolina. In any event, the writing was on the wall that year.
On the beach course at Daytona in February, only three Chevrolets made the race as the heavy hitters stuck with their their Chryslers, Buicks, and Oldsmobiles. The little Chevy gave up over 50 cubic inches to the big Detroit iron, and its sheet-metal valve gear looked highly suspect. But by Darlington in Septmember, there were nearly two dozen Chevy V8s in the 69-car field. And first among them, of course, was Herb Thomas, who switched from Hudson to Chevrolet in ’55 to collect his third Southern 500 victory.
There’s a lot to see here. Along with all the racing action and priceless historical detail, this great old film-to-video gives us a live glimpse of the era’s personalities: Thomas, Smokey Yunick, the Flock brothers, Fireball Roberts, Red Vogt, and many more. Suddenly these racers aren’t just names and faces on a page. The film brings them to life for us. Enjoy.