Soapbox (car)

Soapbox (car)

:"Or see Kart (disambiguation)."A soapbox car (also variously known as a soapbox cart, and especially in Australia, billy cart) is a motorless vehicle capable of holding a driver (usually a child) built for the purpose of racing or recreation. Propelled by gravity, soapbox cars can reach upwards of 50 km/h (30 miles per hour). Originally, soapbox cars were built from wooden soap (or orange) crates and rollerskate wheels, but have grown more sophisticated over time, with materials like aluminum and fiberglass being utilized.

In the United Kingdom a soapbox car is called a buggy, trolley, cart or cartie. It is also sometimes called a go-kart, although that more usually refers to a similar vehicle with a motor. In Scotland and northern England they are described as a bogie.

In addition to being something often built by children, there are organised competitions and races ("soapbox or billycart derby") that often engage the enthusiasm of adults. However, these things are usually entered into in a spirit of fun rather than serious competition. Often these will be fund-raisers for charity. Many, but not all, events impose the following rules:

*The car must have no motor
*The car must have at least 4 wheels
*The car must have some type of brakes
*The driver must wear a helmet
*A push at the top is allowed for extra speed

Soapbox cars weigh an average of 150 pounds and reach top speeds of 30 to 50 km/h (19 to 30 mph). [] Many cities have permanent tracks where drivers compete for prizes.


A typical soap-box cart is usually made of steel, and has 4 wheels, arranged as a fixed rear axle, and a steerable front beam axle - usually with a very simple single central pivot. A seat is arranged at the back, and perhaps the seat area is enclosed, as in the original soap-box design. More sophisticated designs might employ a fully-enclosed body. The types of wheels employed vary according to what can be obtained easily - wheels from baby carriages, pushchairs, prams, and discarded bicycles being common. Ready-made wheels are also available from hardware suppliers. Steering is typically actuated using a rope connected to the ends of the steerable beam (which can then double as a useful manual pulling device).

More sophisticated steering methods are rarely seen. Brakes are also not commonly used, though some soap-box cart racing contests require these. Often a simple friction brake operated by a lever which bears on one of the tires is all that is needed, which will be of dubious effectiveness.

Soap-box carts are unpowered, and are either pushed by willing helpers, or are run down a suitable slope. Races will usually take place downhill and the most efficient and skillfully driven cart will win - gravity applying equally to all.

Soap-box carts also make great construction projects for children, requiring only an intuitive sense of engineering, and a few basic construction skills. There are also predesigned kits available, though for many this defeats the purpose of the exercise.

History of the Soap Box Derby

In 1933, "Dayton Daily News" newspaper photographer Myron Scott of Dayton, Ohio had covered a race of boy-built cars in his home community and was so taken with the idea that he acquired rights to the event; the national-scale Soap Box Derby grew out of this idea. In 1934, Scott had managed to persuade fifty cities across the United States to hold soap box car races and send a champion each to Dayton for a major race, later held in Akron. Scott later went on to work for Honda.

In the UK, soap box derbies have recently become more popular, brought to the masses by large events such as the Red Bull race and that held between 2000 and 2004 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Now, many small hilly communities organize their own races, such as the Catterline Cartie Challenge in Scotland and the Belchford Downhill Challenge in Lincolnshire.

Billy Carts

In Australia billy carts tend to conform, even in the 21st century, to a more traditional or rudimentary specification often being constructed informally by juveniles from found or inexpensive materials with minimal adult input and used without safety equipment. However even when construction of vehicles is more formally organised, such as for the annual Blacktown and District Cub Scout Billy Cart Derby at Rooty Hill, NSW the vehicle is still constructed to a deliberately relatively unsophisticated design although safety is a consideration.

In Indonesia, billy carts are also known as 'gokar'. They are raced in different regions as a community social activity. The form of the cart is similar to the Australian one however the wheels are often motor cycle wheel bearings.

ee also

*pushcart derby
*Pinewood Derby
*Thomas Kreuzer (soapbox stuntman)
*Goodwood Festival of Speed (hosted its own soapbox derby between 2000 and 2004)
*Red Bull Soap Box Race
*Lotus 119
*Catterline Cartie Challenge

External links

* [ San Fernando Valley Illegal Soapbox Federation]
* [ Category at ODP]
* [ "The Object at Hand," Smithsonian Magazine, May 1995]
* [ Educational Resources for Children (with pictures)]
* [] German Soapbox-Derby Website
* [ The Catterline Cartie Challenge.] - Cartie racing near Stonehaven in the North East of Scotland.
* [] Soap box racing in Belchford, Lincolnshire, UK.
* [ Sekolah Pelita Harapan, Sentul Billy Cart Project]

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