Saturday, December 01, 2018

Soap Box Derby, Toledo Ohio, June 1967

For today's "Anything Goes Saturday" I have a series of photos from a 1967 Soap Box Derby in Toledo, Ohio. There's no bone-shaking rumble of engines revving, no smell of high-octane fuel and burning rubber... just the old-fashioned pleasures of gravity-powered cars built by boys and girls (and their parents). Did you know that, at its peak, Soap Box Derby racing was one of the top five sporting events in terms of attendance?

Here is a group of steely-eyed contestants, with their hand-made beauties loaded onto the back of a flatbed truck for an upcoming race. 

According to Wikipedia, "In 1933 Myron Scott, a photographer for Dayton, Ohio, newspaper Dayton Daily News, put together an impromptu race for 19 boys. There was so much interest that Scott arranged a bigger race, with prize money for August 19. "An amazing crowd of 362 kids showed up with homemade cars built of orange crates, sheet tin, wagon and baby-buggy wheels....".

I like that retro look of #9 in the upper left!

The tension is so thick, you can cut it with a knife!

During the All American Soapbox Derby's heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, when Chevrolet was a sponsor and famous TV and movie stars made guest appearances, as many as 70,000 people gathered in August to eat snow cones and cheer hundreds of youthful racer/builders (boys only in early years) ages 11–15 who were the champions of local races around the nation and from several foreign countries…  John DeLorean ended the 35-year Chevrolet sponsorship in 1972, claiming that the Derby was outdated and too expensive to hold. Curse you, John DeLorean.

This is not a soap box racer (it has a motor), but it sure is a sweet little vehicle! The Chevrolet logo is on the license plate, so perhaps this was a display from a local dealership.

"Cash in a Flash", this kid should have won a special award just for the name. 

As a person who never had a soap box racer, and never experienced the sensation of racing down a long hill at 30+ miles per hour (which I'm sure felt pretty darn fast in those tiny vehicles), it looks like it must have been pretty fun!

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to Toledo's Soap Box Derby.


TokyoMagic! said...

I noticed that all of the cars have the same wheels. I'm guessing that there must have been a "regulation" wheel that all of the contestants had to use?

And I certainly hope that all of the kids remembered to properly bend their cotter pins, after inserting them through the axles. Otherwise, they might have a wheel fall off during a race. It happened to Davey Hansen!

K. Martinez said...

I remember going to soap box derbies when I was a child. Such a cool time to be a kid. And speaking of wheels, I'm headed off on the wet and rainy "Highway to Hell". Thanks, Major.

JC Shannon said...

How cool is building your own car and then racing it? I never attended or participated in a derby, but at one time, in the 60s, I remember seeing one televised. I wonder how many of these kids went on to become engineers and mechanics. Cool shots today Major, thanks.

Nanook said...


My personal favorite is the "Jolly Green Giant" - Ho Ho Ho.

1967 is just a few years before the '1973 scandal', in Boulder, Colorado, involving the use of an electromagnet in the nose of the car. LOOKIE HERE

I loves me a good scandal-!

Thanks, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, yes, the wheels (and other things) are standardized. Those darn cotter pins; Davey could have been KILLED.

K. Martinez, you’d think that Huntington Beach would be a good place to have a soap box derby. Skateboarders might be good at building their own little cars! But… no such luck.

Jonathan, was the soap box derby that you saw on TV aired on the “Wide World of Sports”?? They would do weird stuff like that once in a while. Howard Cosell could do it all.

Nanook, oh, I am well aware of that scandal. That’s when America lost its innocence! ;-)

stu29573 said...

Although I never raced a soapbox derby car, my grandfather made me a coaster car when I was about seven. No regulation wheels there- just good ol' Radio Flyer wagon wheels from Ace Hardware!

Chuck said...

This seems to have been held in or around Scott Park based on the "Connelly Field" painted on the side of the baseball dugout in the second photo; Connelly Field is the home of the University of Toledo's baseball team. Looking at old aerials and topographical maps, I'm having trouble figuring out where the downhill slope was located, and current maps aren't helpful since the road alignment has been completely altered since then. My memory isn't much help, either, since I only drove past the place once 14 years ago.

Neat seeing the white car in the third photo sponsored by Jim White Chevrolet, whose advertising I remember in the Toledo area. Although their Chevrolet dealership closed years ago, the family still operates other dealerships in the area.

And while I've never had anything to do with soap box derby racing, my first job was delivering papers for the Dayton Daily News.

Fun set today, Major!

JC Shannon said...

Major, it could have been, that was a long time ago, early 60s probably.

Dean Finder said...

One of my co-worker's daughters races in soap-box derby and qualified past the state level. The competition cars are super-regulated in design and parts.

I wonder if that powered mini car was a model of the GMX Stilletto