How Soap Box Derbies Got Their Starts

Cars and racing have always been a call of the wild for young boys everywhere. Something about controlling a moving vehicle, especially against other people, is inspirational to kids around the world. So it was out of this youthful enthusiasm for competition and machinery was born the great Soap Box Derby. If you need a good used vehicle try used car dealers for a great deal today.

Kids racing make shift cars have existed pretty much since the time the automobile was first invented. It didn’t take long for kids to put two and two together and come up with their own, smaller version of gravity operated mobiles. As far back as 1914 saw the famed Charlie Chaplin make a motion picture entitled Kid Auto Races at Venice.

In 1933, Myron Scott, a photographer for the Dayton Daily News, in Dayton, Ohio, saw some boys playing with their cars and thought it would make a great photographic event. He then organized a race of about 19 kids. It went over so well that Myron pitched a larger one to his editor who supported the idea. Chevy loved the idea as well and signed up as an official sponsor. History was made.

The first official race was in August of 1933, reports vary but it is said that over 300 kids showed up with cars made from crates, sheet tin, baby wheels and anything else they could find. Even more so, an astonishing 40,000 people showed up just to watch the races. For Chevy, it was a marketing home run.

The winner, Robert Turner of Munice, IN, whose car was made from scrap wood taken off a saloon bar, had discovered a trick that his car would go faster if he took the rubber off the wheels. Ironically enough, right after he crossed the finish line, all four wheels fell off, but he had won. His win earned him a $500 dollar scholarship prize.

Chevy decided to sponsor the event annually and they put Scott in charge. They decided to move the event to Akron, because it was much hillier and the event grew in popularity throughout the United States. Soon Chevy began bringing in celebrities to promote the event including the likes of Abbot and Costello, Roy Rodgers, Pat Boone and James Stewart. At one point the event was considered one of the top five attended sporting events in the United States, with 70,000 people showing up to watch. One time James Stewart even cancelled a series of stage performances so that he could watch the races.

The derbies biggest days were in the 1950’s and 60’s as a more formalized national and regional circuit emerged with official sets of rules and regulations. Chevy sponsored the event all the way to 1972, instilling its place as American deep within the hearts of the American Public. The races still take place today, and are still held at the Derby Downs in Akron, Ohio.

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