Paul Russel Swift, known today simply as Russ Swift, has a passion for cars began at an early age, and as soon as he learned how to drive one, he immediately turned to motorsports, regularly entering Autotesting competitions. And growing in a sport that requires precision driving in tight spaces, it's easy to see where Russ picked up his talent. What began as a hobby forty years ago has now evolved into an adrenaline-pumping live performance that has taken him to over 50 countries and set three Guinness World Records.
All in a day's work
2011 marks the Russ Swift Stunt Show's fifth year running at the Manila International Auto Show, where it serves as a regular attraction to all of its 80,000 visitors. Wearing his trusty pair of racing shoes and his signature cap, Russ transforms what used to be an empty parking lot into a stage. In the 30 minute exhibition, spectators are treated to high-flying antics such as high-speed J-turns, handbrake parallel parking maneuvers, and driving up the car on its side on two wheels. With backing from Motor Image Pilipinas, he tears up the tarmac on a fleet of Subaru's with a special dance routine on an Impreza WRX and ends the show with an STI donut finale. Executing all those stunts in such a tight space behind the World Trade Center is a feat on its own, but according to Russ, he can actually pull off faster and more spectacular stunts if space wasn't so restricted.
Besides the exhilarating feats, part of the excitement comes from Russ' enthusiasm and colorful character as he constantly interacts with the audience. Speaking of audience interaction, Russ spices up the show by grabbing several lucky audience members to sit onboard with him for a heart-stopping roller coaster ride. This is one man who really knows how to put on a good show.
Taking a break
The Russ Swift Stunt Show runs on all four days of the Auto Show and plays three times a day. With no stunt double to take his place and only a 30 minute break between sets, we can't help but wonder if he ever gets tired. When asked about the circumstance, he gave us a more than pleasing reply.
“I love it. When you perform for such nice people, it keeps the energy up. It's all about the atmosphere in the show, and if I get a lot of feedback, I feed off that and makes the show far more enjoyable,” Russ commented. If only he heard the children in his shows. They refer to him as no less than a champion, excited as their fathers were throughout the entire segment.
No stranger to the Philippines, Russ has fallen in love with the country and its people. “I could honestly say that the reception I get from the show is the best of anywhere in the world,” he said. And judging from the amount of cheers and applause he receives in each of his shows, we do agree. “It's nice to be appreciated and it helps me make a better show. It's just lovely to be here,” he added.
In fact, he loves it so much here that he's actually taking a few days off after the Auto Show for some sun, surf, and sand in the beaches of Boracay, a much-needed vacation for a man who works this hard.
On a day off
In our short chat with Russ, we tried to find what other things he loved in life, apart from cars. But try as we could, all he wanted to talk about were engines on four wheels, otherwise known as cars. As we found out, when he's not busy pulling off one of his stunt shows or signing autographs, every summer when the weather is calm and cool, he takes one of the classics from his collection for a long relaxing drive on the countryside. And contrary to his live performances, Russ actually drives very sedately.
Some of the cars in his collection include two Mark I Ford Escort's, two Jaguar E-Type's, two VW Beetle's, some classic Mini's, and his pride and joy, a sassy new Bentley Continental convertible, perfect for those sunny days.
With a career that spans more than four decades, it seems that there's no slowing down for a man who lived his life on the fast lane. Even at the ripe age of 60, as long as he feels that he can still do as good a display as he ever could, he's more than happy to do it. Appearing on several TV shows, a couple of YouTube videos, and more than 8,000 shows under his belt, he doesn't consider himself as a celebrity. As humble as he is skillful, Russ never lets fame get the better of him and would even go out of his way just to sign autographs for hundreds of people waiting in line. According to him, he's just “someone who does what he does, and if people enjoy it, they remember me.”
When Russ began performing shows over 30 years ago, before the days of drifting or anything of the sort, people thought that it was quite unique. Nowadays, the man we know as Russ Swift has broken new ground in the form of entertainment with cars. Although you might see him on TV or over the internet, nothing compares to the experience of watching the Russ Swift Stunt Show live.
But after all the dust has settled, it's all about having fun and making people happy. Looking back, Russ comments, “I can't believe where the time's gone, and I still enjoy it as much as I did then. Certainly, it'll be a sad day when I have to stop.”
More photos from the Russ Swift Stunt Show: