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Posts Tagged ‘Soaring with the Eagles’

Burn Rubber

Posted by Admin on March 19, 2022

When someone in a car burns rubber it means they have accelerated so quickly the wheels have spun causing smoke to come off the tires. In most countries, burning rubber and burnouts are against the law with punishment for doing so varying in degree of severity. Of course, burn rubber often enough and the tires and brakes on that car are going to have to be replaced.

When no car is involved, burning rubber means to leave a place or situation as quickly as possible.

In the 2018 book “Soaring with the Eagles” by former corporate pilot Ron Little, in the segment titled “Waller Administration 1972 – 1976”, the author wrote:

Landing at an airport in north Mississippi with the governor once, a Trooper met us to take the governor to a meet with town officials. There was a dirt road from the airport with a turn off about a mile to the paved main road. The governor up front and pilots sat in the back. Waiting for instructions from the boss, the governor asked, “Can you drive?” The Trooper replies, “Yes, sir.

The governor said, “Come on, man. Burn some rubber, we’re late.”

Off we went, as the speed passed seventy, we in the back seat could hear the gravel hitting the wheel wells and thought, “This is it, we are goners.”

Cameron Tuttle wrote in the “The Bad Girl’s Guide to the Open Road” published in 1999 with another edition published in December 2012 that “no one will mess with a chick who burns rubber.” The author then goes on to describe how to burn rubber when the car is an automatic and how to burn rubber when the car is a stick-shift.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1: This isn’t Cameron Tuttle’s only Bad Girl guidebook. There are three others: A Guide to Getting What You Want, A Guide to Getting Personal, and A Guide to the Party Life. This particular book has a 4 1/2 out of 5 stars rating with helpful positive reviews.

The Gap Band released a song in 1980 that was on their album The Gap Band III titled “Burn Rubber.” The song wasn’t about cars or racing. It was about a woman who did a man wrong. One of the most telling parts of this romance gone wrong were these lyrics:

You told me to go up the block
To get you a strawberry pop
When I got back to the flat
You had burned rubber out the back.

I went to the closet and saw no clothes
All I saw was hangers and poles
I went to the phone and called your mother
And told me that you had burned rubber on me, Charlie

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 2: Brothers Charlie, Ronnie and Robert Wilson originally named their band the Greenwood, Archer and Pine Street Band in 1967 in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The group shortened its name to The Gap Band later on.

In Volume 176, Number 6 of Popular Science published in June 1960, the literal sense of burning rubber was eloquently described in describing the Dart in the article “Torture-Testing Cars for Police Patrol” by Bill Carroll. The article described in detail how Lt. Ron Root of the Pomona Police Department and Officer Gordon Browning of the Los Angeles Police Department put the following cars through their paces: Plymouth, Dart, Dodge, Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Ford.

The Dodge Dart was in production from 1959 through to 1976 with model years from 1960 through to 1976. The 1960 – 1962 models had a 118-inch wheelbase, which was four inches smaller than the usual Dodges. It had long rear quarter panels with red reflector buttons set into the bad edges of each fender just above the tail lights.

From a standstill he crosses the quarter-mile timing line at 80 m.p.h., reaches 115 on the 0.7-mile straight, brakes to 75 for the first sweeping left turn and to 60 for a right-angle bend, slams into second gear for a dangerous reverse left under a bridge. Full throttle now, rear wheels biting deep to burn rubber around a rough left at 75 and ease right between too-close telephone poles. Then up to 90 on the short back straight, brake again, drift right over a spring-bending hump, hold 80 around a sweeping “U.” The short straight is good for 100; brake to 65 for Turn 11 and again up to 100 — 110 — 115 on the long straight. Brake to 75 and start another lap.

In seven minutes, the Dart finishes four laps.

This description makes the Dart sound almost romantic in an automotive sense, don’t you think? It’s easy to see how burning rubber could become popular with teens and young adults in the 1960s.

But burning rubber was happening long before then. In fact, in a letter from the War Department Air Corps dated 6 April 1942 and addressed to all Americans, Colonel R. J. Jones of the Air Corps spoke about ways to help the war effort which had created shortages in crude and synthetic rubber. Among the items that required these were car tires.

Don’t speed around curves. Fast turns burn rubber off tires.

This means Americans were aware that burning rubber was happening during the WWII era and they knew how burning rubber happened. But they weren’t the first generation of drivers to burn rubber.

In an advertisement placed in the September 1933 edition of Popular Mechanics promoting the use of Ethyl at the pump, the copy began with: “Yessir, I used to burn rubber with the best of ’em. Now all the wife lets me do is read the news of the tracks. But I still use Ethyl in any car I drive.”

Idiomation couldn’t imagine this expression go back this far much less further yet, however research found the term used in an April 1921 article “Traffic Perils and the Law: How Can Safety be Assured to Motorist and Pedestrian?” written by Bailey Millar, author of Paradoxes of Prohibition and published in Volume 46 of Sunset Magazine.

A ball is tossed into the street and half a dozen little chaps run after it, stringing out in such a way that a motorist, driving at twenty miles an hour, finds it impossible to dodge them all, while the ever-so-quick setting of the brake, particularly on a down-grade, is of no avail. The driver may burn rubber for ten yards and yet have to endure the soul-sickening experience of running down and maiming or slaying one of that merry little party, all innocent of a fact, which looms like an Alp to most motorists, though many parents will not concede it, that in these days of the flying car and delivery truck no child should be permitted to play in the street.

Yes, it may seem darkly humorous that burning rubber and only driving twenty miles an hour are found in the same sentence, but readers need to remember cars were new-fangled contraptions back then, and not the technologically advanced transportation cars are these days.

Prior to this article, Idiomation was unable to find the expression as it refers to operating cars, tires, and speed. Idiomation did find, however, a number of articles throughout the 1910s that spoke of the process of vulcanization used to makes tires where it was repeatedly stated that the process did not burn rubber.

Idiomation therefore pegs the first published mention of burning rubber as we understand it to mean in 2022 to the article published in Sunset Magazine in 1921 which indicates that some time in the 10 years preceding this article, the term came to be understood to mean what it means today.

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