Soap Box Racing 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 Chaplin was shown in the cinemas. 

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...."

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.

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.

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 playHarvey; 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.

The National Adult Soapbox Derby Association has changed the focus of the racers just being kids and the fathers doing the work of building the cars to the adults now being able to race what they have built. The construction guidelines are different as well as the racing style. Competition is still a key element but it is now between the big kids!

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