In most 70s and 80s TV shows and movies, car chases especially when involving police cars were shown to slide sideways excessively even when driving at relatively slow speeds when going round corners.

Did car tires during this time have very low grip, or was this done just for dramatic effect?

  • 1
    mostly for effect - but I also once heart that especially US-drivers favored very soft shock absorbers - which on even roads made driving very comfortable - but easily make your vehicle unstable in curves - which often lead to your car sliding sideways excessively
    – eagle275
    Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 8:42
  • 5
    I assume you're asking about shots where the cars are shown from the outside. Jeeped's answer covers this. If it's about the cars appearing to slide around when viewed from the inside, it's because they didn't yet have the ability to safely mount a camera on a moving vehicle, so the actors and car were actually shot separately from the background, which was composited or projected onto a screen behind them while they just pretended to drive, so the motion never quite lined up properly with the shot... Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 19:48
  • 2
    Soft suspensions, soft rubber, hot asphalt, heavy cars with rear wheel only drive. A time when power trumped everything, especially weight distribution. eunt: fat, uncontrolleable, slides.
    – Stian
    Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 9:54
  • 5
    No mention of Rule Of Cool?
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 18:01

2 Answers 2

  1. North American car design of that era was geared toward a smooth ride in a straight line (Interstate highway) while European cars were made for handling twisting, turning roads. Think Daytona 500 vs. European rally racing.

  2. Radial tyres had not saturated the North American market. Bias-ply tyres (with less cornering traction) were still prevalent throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s.

  3. Electronic traction control was non-existent. Even anti-sway bars that provided a mechanical advantage to the roll experienced in a sharp corner were considered a racing accessory.

  4. Stunt drivers would often oversteer a vehicle causing the rear to lose traction and swing out on a corner. This ‘fish-tail’ maneuver would provide the illusion of speed. This driving exercice is not isolated to the 1970-80s; I am still amazed at how slow many chase vehicles are traveling yet still manage to skid their rear wheels out in a basic cornering maneuver then over-correct as the rear wheels swing back. At least most movies have budgets that can hire stunt drivers who can perform a controlled drift properly.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – A J
    Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 5:09

Most the stunt cars in ALL American movies and TV shows of the time were rigged with non-ratcheting E-brake pedals which the stunt drivers would "kick" when needed to induce a slide. Although many American cars of the era did have soft suspensions, the main reason tail out driving was so common in the movies was dramatic affect AND relatively high hp and torque which was common in American cars of the time. This contributed to easily induced power slides depending on the how they were driven.

  • So, basically the answer is that it was done intentionally, for effect?
    – DavidW
    Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 17:13

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