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Ye Grande Olde Chariot Race
Photo courtesy of the University of Toronto Archives and Robert Lansdale Photography

Chariots of Godiva

Engineering students use smarts and sabotage in a grand old race

Engineers have a reputation for rowdiness, and their traditions reflect their penchant for both working and playing hard. Ye Grande Olde Chariot Race sees rival teams of engineers hit campus with one-person chariots every January. Crews drag and push their creations once around King’s College Circle, while also trying to sabotage their classmates’ efforts – smashing and crashing competing chariots. The race takes place during Godiva Week, a second round of frosh celebrations that engineers observe in the new year. In the picture above, taken in 1948, one team poses with unofficial cheerleaders; the chariot is the drum-like contraption occupied by the gentleman on the right. In that year’s Engineering Society yearbook, the race’s casualties were listed as “four wounded, one missing in action.”

The chariot tradition began indoors, almost a century ago: on Engineering Society election nights, students pulled around anyone who was game on chamber pots threaded with tow rope. In 1947, the race was reinvented as a campus-wide event. However, the popular competition became so unwieldy that in 1953 it was restricted to its rightful owners: the engineers.

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