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Hemmings Motor News Blog

Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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Soap Box Derby Celebrating 75 Years

Posted August 22, 2012 9:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: racing soap box derby

I was watching TV a few Sundays ago, when I saw a story about the 75th anniversary of the All-American Soap Box Derby, and it really brought some great memories back to the front of my brain. I can remember my brother Pete receiving his kit in the mail in 1967 and helping him build his car from scratch. He was sponsored by a local Chevrolet dealership, Westfall Chevrolet in Altamont, New York, and the owner of the dealership came out to our house to pose for pictures that were used in the local newspaper.

The car was built from supplied and "borrowed" pieces, including the wheels, axles, steering assembly and instructions that came in the pre-packaged kit, plus an old tire for the brake, some cable and turnbuckles and some of my dad's good lumber. The car was raced in 1967 and '68 in the local Derby event in Albany, New York.

Although my brother never won a single heat race with it (some of the competition with deeper father's pockets had already discovered the benefits of aerodynamic fiberglass over the wood body), we learned quite a lot building the car, with some input from our dad, and later used the car to race down our driveway, until our legs were too long to fit in the cockpit.

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#1

Re: Soap Box Derby Celebrating 75 Years

08/23/2012 7:55 AM

Many thanks for this article dstrohl! It brings back a lot of good memories from way back in the late 60's. You and I must of crossed paths at the annual Soap Box Derby events back then. Anyhow, my next door neighbor, Glenn, built racers during those years with the help of his mechanic father and our neighborhood gang! I grew up in Burnt Hills, not far from you.

If I'm not mistaken, the annual Soap Box Derby races were held off of the northern end of Colvin Avenue in Albany, right behind the Armory Chrysler dealership, correct? It's been a while. I think that racing site is now a City of Albany park, if I'm not mistaken.

BTW, I never did race in one of those cars. It was just very cool to go watch my neighbor race his car (after begging my parents a GodZillion times until I wore them down enough).

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#2

Re: Soap Box Derby Celebrating 75 Years

08/27/2012 12:44 AM

I am assuming I am someone who is too young (wrong generation?) being I have never heard of soap box Derby races ever being held around here.

I have heard about them, seen them on TV, and in movies countless times and I for one never got the point of putting that much effort into a cart that only went down hill.

Growing up I always envisioned building one but still mine would have had an engine of some sort.

So what was the appeal of them anyways?

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#3
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Re: Soap Box Derby Celebrating 75 Years

08/28/2012 7:14 AM

So what was the appeal?? We had Gocarts in England. Handbuilt carts (a plank of wood with 4 pram wheels, the two at the front on a pivoting piece of wood...very basic!) that you shot down hill on at full speed with your feet steering the front wheels or in some cases a short rope for steering with your hands! Nothing was better than getting down the hill in one piece or having a spectacular knee skin removing crash to boast about when you were 10 years old! It's just like sledging on tarmac!

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