Swamp buggy races have a deep and long history in Naples, Florida and its surrounding areas. This exciting and high-action sporting event is well-embedded in the region’s traditional practices. Historically, the region is quite difficult to navigate, especially in the Everglades area, with its murky bogs and thick woods, getting from one point to another is hard, and people usually used rafts and small boats to get around.
Luckily, a man named Ed Frank from Naples, Florida thought of a great solution. He invented what we know today as the swamp buggy and this vehicle proved valuable as the Everglades was first starting to move on to progress and development back in the early nineteen thirties and forties. Originally named “Tumble Bug”, the prototype was a tall and strange-looking vehicle and was used for virtually everything from hunting expeditions around the area or as a family vehicle used in Sunday afternoon outings.
After the Second World War, aircraft tires and other war surplus vehicles such as the jeep found their way into the region and it was not long before these and many other parts were incorporated into the Tumble Bug. Fast forward several decades later into the eighties and nineties, tractor tires that were commonly used in agriculture became popular to be used in what was already then called Swamp Buggies. The state of Florida also recognizes this invention and was used in law enforcement as early as 1930’s.
The swamp buggies became more and more vital to the daily lives of the people from southwest Florida, even just after just a few years of its conception. This led to more and more hunters and farmers building their own swamp buggy. These machine addicts would then gather together and share a few engineering secrets here and there and it wasn’t long until they challenged each other for a few races. They held the races in the potato farm of one Raymond Bennett which according to Ed Frank was “the biggest hole in the vicinity of Naples”. So, with a few dozen hunters, they’d organize a little race and these fun but intimate events took place around 1943.
Later in that decade, these races grew in size. Around 31-41 racers would gather the week before hunting season to compete for a prize, which was usually a shotgun. On November 12, 1949, the first official Swamp Buggy Races took place and it was attended by 50 competitors from Naples, Florida and was attended by a huge crowd. The races only grew in size and popularity in the next decade, a race was featured in national television and was attended by a few Hollywood stars.
Today, the sport continues to grow and is an important part of Naples, Florida’s tradition and history. Organizers don’t award shotguns anymore but several thousand dollars instead. And they have become too fast and too loud because of modifications, no longer practical for hunting but still perfect for some good old racing. Come, visit Naples, Florida to witness the exciting, high-powered racing action. Races are still held every November, January & March. Visit www.swampbuggy.com for more information!