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You can be as cool as Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furious - without breaking the law!

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

You can be as cool as Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furious - without breaking the law!

Martin McAllister
January 8, 2007

Over the past few years, street racing has steadily gained in both popularity and credibility as a sport. However, the image of street racing is not a recent one; in fact, the idea of the renegade street racer has been a prevalent image in western culture for decades now, as well as a popular subject in films. From "Rebel without a Cause" to the street racing scene in "Grease", motor racing films have captured the public consciousness through a variety of storylines.

Take George Lucas' 1973 cult hit, "American Graffiti", starring Richard Dreyfuss and former Happy Days pin-up, Ron Howard. In the film, as the two central characters are faced with leaving for college in the morning, they spend a final evening "cruising the strip" before having to face their future - ultimately helping to immortalize the status of street racing on screen.

A similar theme was captured in the public imagination by Hal Needham's 1981 film, "The Cannonball Run", which featured a medley of movie stars including Burt Reynolds, ‘Charlie's Angel’ Farah Fawcett, ex-James Bond Roger Moore, Sammy Davis Jr. and even martial arts icon, Jackie Chan. In the film, an illegal cross-country car race is organised, and in order to win, all the contestants stoop to newer, lower levels of dirty tricks and cheating.

More recently, street racing has been portrayed on screen by The Fast and the Furious trilogy, which helps to glamorize the culture of illegal street racing that has spread throughout the United States and across the world since the 1990s. However, as street racing has gained irrefutable popularity as a sport, its legality has also spread. The legality of street racing can be determined by a variety of factors - including the environment within which the racing is taking place, safety precautions taken and general racing practice. And though street racing remains illegal in many parts of the world, there are certainly ways to practice the sport in a legitimate fashion.

A number of online street racing forums exist which provide motor sport enthusiasts with an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and become part of the wider street racing community. These forums also offer a means by which to track legal racing venues and motor sport clubs in your area, as well as to visit various blogs and view photos on street racing. True motor sport fanatics will also be able to find resources on drivability, on-track performance, fuel-economy, frame design, engineering, and a host of other specifics on automobile functionality.

So, if you're a true street racing enthusiast, you'll find that it's still possible to be as "cool" as James Dean or Vin Diesel on the road - but without breaking the law, of course! You just have to know which resources to turn to.

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