History

In the wake of the first car races, local kid auto races took place in the US at a very early stage. In 1914 the motion picture Kid Auto Races at Venice starring Charlie Chaplinwas shown in the cinemas.[1]

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….”[2]

The following year, the first All-American race was held on August 19. The national winner was Robert Turner of Muncie, IN, who made his car from the wood of a saloon bar.[2][3]

In 1935 the race was moved to Akron because of its central location and hilly terrain.[4] An accident in 1935 captured the public’s interest, and boosted the event’s profile. A car went off the track and struck NBC‘s top commentator and sportscaster Graham McNamee while he was broadcasting live on the air. Despite a concussion and other injuries (which would necessitate a two-week hospital stay), McNamee described the collision to his listeners and finished his broadcast.

In 1936, Akron civic leaders recognized the need for a permanent track site for the youth racing classic and, through the efforts of the Works Progress Administration (WPA),Derby Downs became a reality.

In 1946, the town of Mission, British Columbia acquired the rights to the Western Canada Soapbox Derby Championships and the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce, previously named the Mission City & District Board of Trade, organized the event annually until 1973.[5]

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 would gather 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. In 1947, actor James Stewart was appearing in the Broadway play Harvey; in order to attend the event, he cancelled a weekend’s worth of performances and refunds were issued to ticketholders. At its peak, the Derby was one of the top 5 sporting events in terms of attendance.

Starting in 1993, the All-American Soap Box derby began the Rally World Championship. The Rally derby, works on a grand prix style of race where each district, 10 in all, send back a number of champions based on number of racers and races in each district.

Today there are broader categories that extend the age range to younger racers and permit adults to assist in construction. This is especially helpful for younger children who cannot use power tools, as well as to provide an outlet for adults.

Modern soapbox racing

Modern Derby Cars

Using standardized wheels with precision ball bearings, modern gravity-powered racers start at a ramp on top of a hill, attaining speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. Rally races and qualifying races in cities around the world use advanced timing systems that measure the time difference between the competing cars to the thousandth of a second to determine the winner of a heat. Each heat of a race lasts less than 30 seconds. Most races are double elimination races where a racer that loses a heat can work their way through the Challenger’s Bracket in an attempt to win the overall race. The annual World Championship race in Akron, however, is a single elimination race which uses overhead photography, triggered by a timing system, to determine the winner of each heat. Approximately 500 racers compete in 2 or 3 car heats to determine a World Champion in each divisions.

There are three racing divisions in most locals and at the All-American competition. The Stock division is designed to give the first-time builder a learning experience. Boys and girls, 7 through 13 compete in simplified cars built from kits purchased from the All-American. These kits assist the Derby novice by providing a step-by-step layout for construction of a basic lean forward style car. The Super Stock Car division, ages 10 through 17, gives the competitor an opportunity to expand their knowledge and build a more advanced model. Both of these beginner levels make use of kits and shells available from the All-American. These entry levels of racing are popular in race communities across the country, as youngsters are exposed to the Derby program for the first time.

The Masters division offers boys and girls, 10 through 17, an advanced class of racer to try their creativity and design skills in. Masters entrants may purchase a Scottie Masters Kit with a fiberglass body from the All-American Soap Box Derby.