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Swamp Buggies

Tumble Bug

Naples is the birthplace of one of the most unusual sports in motor racing history – swamp buggy racing.

Local historians credit a Naples resident, Ed Frank, as the “father” and inventor of the first swamp buggy. He developed his original skeeter between 1918 and 1920 for hunting in Southwest Florida’s boggy forests and prairies, using parts from junked Model T Ford and an orange crate for a seat. As time went on, Frank perfected his design and added an extra transmission, tire chains, and upside down axles to give more clearance for driving over tree stumps.

The first swamp buggies, mud buggies, hunting wagons and woods buggies were used for everything from a Sunday afternoon outing with the family, to hunting trips into the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp. The sport grew in popularity in Collier County after World War II, when huge airplane and tractor tires became readily available.

On November 12, 1949 Naples hosted its first official Swamp Buggy Day Parade and Celebration. In the mid-1950s, cash prizes replaced the turkeys and shotguns that were awarded to winners in the past. Today, drivers compete for thousands of dollars in prize money and race three times each year, in October, March and May.