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      All American Soapbox Derby    

HISTORY

It's been called "The Greatest Amateur Racing Event in the World". "The Gravity Grand Prix", and many other expansive euphemisms-but to most of the more than a million youngsters who've participated, it's just the "Soap Box Derby." And a "Soap Box Derby" it was christened back in 1933, when a Dayton (Ohio) Daily News Photographer encountered three boys racing home-made, engine-less cars down an inclined brick street. Myron E. ("Scottie") Scott was known at the News for his creative thinking as much as for his photographic ability, and one of the best ideas of his life hit him at that moment: Why not hold a coasting race and award a prize to the winner? He told the boys to come back to the same hill with their friends a week later, and they could participate in a race with a "loving cup"- as it was called in Depression America-as a prize.

The week passed, and nineteen boys arrived at the site in suburban Dayton to contest for honors. One of the cars-which did not win the cup-personified Scottie's vision of a "Soap Box Derby" racer. Obviously handcrafted, painted black with a big white "7" on it, the racer had been built by Robert Gravett, son of a Dayton metal stamping plant employee. "Scottie" got his pictures-and "Old No. 7." as he christened it, would become the symbol of the Derby for the for the next thirty-five years.

 

But now Newsman Scott wanted to expand this rolling-down-a-hill fun into something much bigger. If these kids would race just for a trophy and the fun of it with so little notice, what number of boys might come out to compete for grander prizes? "My boss agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to let me promote a race," he related to another reporter some years later. He was allowed a princely (in those days) sum of $200 to finance it. The event was to be held on Saturday, August 19, 1933, and an amazing crowd of 362 kids showed up with homemade cars built of orange crates, sheet tin, wagon and baby-buggy wheels and almost everything of "junk value." No doubt one was actually made from a soap box, although there is no record of such a creation. The police and the Daily News estimated that there were 40,000 watchers along the hill.

 

After this auspicious beginning, Scottie planned an even bigger event; a national competition! A story in Editor & Publisher magazine brought the idea to the attention of many other newspapers. Scottie wisely copyrighted the name and symbols, then talked to his friend Varley Young in the publicity department of the Campbell-Ewald Company, an advertising and public relations agency whose clients included Chevrolet. Scott and Young sold Chevrolet officials on the event. Akron Beacon Journal sports editor Jim Schlemmer took over the local, preliminary race, and he garnered a lot of support from the four tire companies headquartered in Akron. Certainly Chevrolet's announced national sponsorship had caught the eye of the tire manufacturers, and Firestone, Goodyear, Goodrich and General were eager to bring the race to their home city.

The race in Dayton was a huge success, with champions from thirty-four cities, each sponsored by a newspaper. A handicap system was introduced by Scott and his committee. Based on times in previous heats, a car thought to be vastly superior from Omaha, Nebraska was required to start down the 3/8 mile course 5.7 seconds behind one with baby carriage wheels built by Robert Turner of Muncie, Indiana. Another car with better times from Chattanooga, Tennessee started rolling 4.6 seconds after Turner. Neither was able to catch the chubby eleven-year-old lad from Indiana, who won the $500 first prize by 1.4 seconds.

Shortly afterwards an Akron delegation met with Chevrolet officials to discuss long-term sponsorship of the Derby as an annual event. Schlemmer of the Beacon Journal, B.E. "Shorty" Fulton of the city administration and Thomas Aspel of B.F. Goodrich-representing the rubber industry-sold the idea to Chevrolet. Scottie was hired as an assistant advertising manager to direct the Derby as Chevrolet's national youth promotion. A national technical committee for the All-American formulated rules to be followed in construction and competition. Harold Blanchard, technical editor of Motor magazine, headed a committee of editors from Boys' Life, Popular Mechanics, American Boys, Automotive Daily News and Popular Science. Regulation had come to what had been a just-for-fun, anything-that-rolls contest.

For the sake of "fairness"- in whose name it had been instituted-the handicapping system that had decided the first All-American was eliminated. Contestants would draw for positions and line their cars up in threes. The winner of each "heat" of three would then face other winners in single-elimination competition. Most of the other rules governed dimensions, allowing a maximum height of 36 inches, a maximum overall width of 42 inches, and a maximum weight of 250 pounds not including the driver. Height was not to exceed width, and all ballast weight had to be securely fastened. Tires and bearings could be of any type, wheels could be no more than 20 inches in diameter and brakes were required.

 

Tallmadge Hill in Akron, which had been used for the local race the previous year, was also the site of the 1935 race. Fifty-two cities had held local races and sent champions to Akron. Air ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker and cowboy Tom Mix were on hand, as were some of America's top newspaper and radio news and sports personnel. Graham McNamee, regarded as NBC's top sportscaster and feature commentator, covered the race for the second year running with his regular partner, Tom Manning.

 

Then an extraordinary accident occurred, one that would have a far-reaching effect on the growth of the Derby. McNamee left the finish-line bridge to broadcast from track side. At the same time a car driven by Paul C. Brown of Oklahoma City went out of control and hit both MacNamee and Manning.

 

A newspaper story said that the man who had broadcast from airplanes, submarines and blimps without a problem was thrown five feet in the air and hit the track with a thud. A concussion and other injuries required a trip by ambulance to a hospital, where he spent the next two weeks. All of this was caught on newsreels by three companies filming the race, and the wire services picked it up for the newspapers. Manning explained it all to the NBC listeners. His injuries were minor and he stayed with the race until its end.

 

This incident-fortunately resulting in no permanent disability for the famous sportscaster-created more interest and publicity than any other event in the history of the fledgling competition. The number of local races increased in 1936 to 117, and Norman Newman from Pretoria, South Africa, who reportedly spent $200 to build his car, became the first foreign entry.

 

Chevrolet gave a $2000 college scholarship to Maurice Bale of Anderson, Indiana, winner of the second All-American. The second- and third-place winners received prizes of lesser cash value at that time-a Chevy Master Coach and a Chevy Standard Coach!

 

Nineteen thirty-six would be a climactic year of growth, establishing the Derby as a national institution. Derby Downs, the first racing complex of its kind, was approved as a WPA project and constructed as promised in a city park near the Akron Municipal Airport and the huge Goodyear Air Dock where the blimps Macon and Akron were housed. The 1600-foot cement-paved raceway was divided into three lanes each ten feet wide. Fulton, who was manager of the adjacent airport and a prime mover of the track construction, became the track manager. The actual racing distance was 1175 feet with several hundred feet of pavement above and below the course. An extra 200 unpaved feet at the foot of the track extended the run out area.

 

At the time there was no restriction on former local champs from competing and winning a second try at the All-American crown. Thus, Bob Turner and Maurice Bale each returned to compete for a second chance at winning the race. Paul C. Brown, who made a hit with McNamee the previous year, was also entered. Brown lost his first heat and the other two boys won one each before being eliminated. Herbert Muench of St. Louis won the All-American race before a crowd estimated at 50,000, and then easily defeated the South African champion for the international title. Chevrolet automobiles again went to second-and third-place finishers.

 

Changes took place for the 1937 race; the age limits were changed to 9-15 years inclusive, from the original 6-16; car cost was limited to $10; and a city champion could no longer race a second time. Other new rules more carefully eliminated "adult" or "professional" construction of the car, which had to be "boy-built." Scottie returned to the Dayton Daily News in early 1937 and J.P. Gormley of Chevrolet took over the directorship of the Derby. Even though the city of Akron owned the new track, Chevrolet began sending a crew of workers each year to spend four to five months maintaining the grounds and reinforcing and renewing the physical facilities. Chevy now owned all rights to the name "All-American Soap Box Derby: and its spin-offs of emblems and designations.

 

The B.F. Goodrich Co. supplied volunteer car handlers for "Topside"-the area of the top of the Derby hill where cars were stored and inspected. Goodrich also developed wheel sets and axles that boys could buy at cost for six dollars. These eventually became the required standard for all cars. The race had already become a part of Americana, an annual event that took its place with many boys' activities, one that inspired family interest and backing. In fact, the All-American Soap Box Derby was well enough known to attract 25,000 local entrants in 120 races and an estimated 1.5 million spectators. The attendance may have been exaggerated a bit, but there was no doubt that the Derby had become a national youth sport. South Africa again sent its champion; there was also an entrant from Canada and one from Hawaii. But Robert Ballard, twelve, of White Plains, New York, won the '37 All-American and easily dominated the international heat too.

 

When eleven-year-old, sixty-two-pound Cliff Hardesty, also of White Plains, New York, reported to Topside in 1939, he received a rather formal welcome from the officials. The rules were now very clear-the boy must build and drive his own car. There were no less than fifty-two letters of protest from Cliff's hometown concerning the car that had preceded him by two days. Flawless in workmanship, radical in design and riding on a sophisticated suspension, the car was something to behold. And it was made by an eleven-year-old boy?

 

The inspection committee included two top officials of vocational training in the Akron Public Schools. For three hours the twelve-member committee questioned the youngster and when he polite commented, "Gentlemen, you forgot to ask me how I balance my wheels," his elders decided to send him to bed at midnight and resume the discussion in the morning.

 

The next morning-the day before the race Cliff was taken to a garage, supplied with tools and materials and instructed to duplicate the front suspension of his racer. The boy worked for only half an hour before the committee stopped him; he had built a better system then the one on the car! "I'm sorry", he said, "but I can't quite get the feel of some of these tools and lathes. If I were in my workshop back home, I think I could do a better job."

 

He had impressed the committee. But his difficulties weren't over. That afternoon Cliff smashed up his car during his test run. The car was wrecked and Cliff was taken to the hospital. The inspection committee felt obligated to have the car put back together again. They worked all afternoon and through the night to put "the perfect car" back into its original condition. The technical advisors and able mechanics found that it wasn't easy-but they got it done a few hours before the race began. Cliff was patched up too; he came to the track after the hospital released him, put his racing uniform on over his bandages, and drove five perfect heats to win the sixth All-American championship over 113 other contenders.

 

The Derby continued to grow during the next two years, both in popularity and prestige. Speed had increased greatly, and the course was shortened to 975.4 feet to compensate for it. That would remain the official distance for twenty-five years. Panama, Canada and Mexico now had entries in the race, although none had yet defeated a U.S. champ. But then came December 7, 1941. The next day letters went to all newspapers, key workers and Derby suppliers, The Derby was suspended "for the duration of the emergency."

 

After four war years Akron and Chevrolet were already to welcome back Soap Box Derby. Myron Scott returned to Chevrolet and became Derby director again, and Derby Downs was face lifted and readied for the 30,000 spectators seated in the stands and for the 20-30,000 more watching from the grass on the hillsides. The international race as such was dispensed with and foreign cars were blind drawn in the heats with the American racers.

 

Gilbert Klecan of San Diego stood out in the crowd as the "angel with the dirty face," while zooming to victory in close race after close race. The fourteen-year-old champ, the first from the west coast had smeared his face and his car with graphite to "cut down wind resistance." Several other boys saw that he was winning with graphite and they followed suit-but "Gib" was the only one who made it work. The crowd started chanting for "Al Jolson," and they cheered him all the way to victory after he had nosed out the Akron champ.

 

Firestone Tire & Rubber Company was playing a larger role in the Derby by putting on a fine vaudeville show for the champs during a week of activities in Akron, and had created a new prize for the winner; a plane trip to New York with a weekend stay for the champion and his family. Unfortunately, bad weather postponed the trip and Gib's prolonged stay in Akron almost ended in disaster. Warner Brothers was filming a short subject about the Derby and since Gib was there, he was asked to be in the film. Two days later a truck with a cameraman in the back took pictures of Klecon coming down the hill in his winning car.

 

The head cameraman called out, "Stop," meaning stop the camera. The driver heard him and though he should stop the truck. Gib, who said his brakes had given out at the run out area after the championship heat, ran under the vehicle's rear end. He suffered two fractured vertebrae, skinned knees and a black eye. The fractures fortunately proved to be minor, and after two weeks in the hospital, he was able to fly in the Firestone plane with his parents and sister for his long-delayed trip to New York.

 

Klecan's performance prompted two new rules to go into effect the following year; graphite or similar slippery substances on a car or driver were forbidden-and never again was a motor vehicle allowed on the Derby hill when a Soap Box racer was on the track.

 

Two great Soap Box Derby fans, General Jimmy Doolittle and actor Jimmy Stewart, were guests of the All-American in 1947 to share the visitors' spotlight, Stewart was starring in the Broadway show Harvey between film engagements. The show closed for the weekend and refunds were made because he didn't want to miss the Derby. Both guests enjoyed the race so much that they returned in 1948. In fact Stewart would demonstrate again that nothing could stop his string of Derby visits. In 1949 he postponed his honeymoon with bride Gloria McLean-whom he brought along to Akron for the long weekend. When he introduced her to the 50,000 fans at the track the couple was greeted with thunderous applause.

 

West Germany held a series of local races and sent its first champion to Akron in 1948. Wilbur Shaw, winner of three Indianapolis 500's, suggested that a ring be designed for the All-American winner, and from 1949 through 1974 such a ring was donated by the same Indianapolis company that makes the ring for the "500" champ each year. The first promotional Oil Can Trophy Race-in which celebrities race down the hill in specially-built oversized cars-was held in 1950. Shaw came out second best to Jack Dempsey, the former great heavyweight boxer. Jimmy Stewart took a leisurely third place. Likewise, the '51 Oil Can Race was all show business. President Ronald Reagan, then just Actor Ronald Reagan, came in second to ventriloquist Paul Winchell and his dummy Jerry Mahoney, but ahead of 325-pound character actor Andy Devine.

 

In 1952 Soap Box Derby was perhaps the most dramatic of them all. With a record 154 cars-four of them foreign-a little boy from Thomasville, Georgia captured the hearts of over 50,000 people and the race as well. Joey Lunn had built his car in his uncle's garage in Columbus, Georgia, raced there and won the local Derby. Little Joey, eleven, whose father had left for parts unknown three years before, quickly gained the crowd's sympathy when he won his first heat only to smash his car on the kick boards beyond the finish line.

 

Joey's car was extensively damaged. Fortunately Joey wasn't. He had scrapes, bruises and cuts but nothing broken. A nurse tended to him on a cot in the first aid tent. Meanwhile, a team of three men on Topside tried to figure out how to make his car well. The front axle was twisted, the axle tree splintered, the wheels were reined and the entire front third of the car was broken into many pieces. But they were able to straighten the axles, and to reinstall and readjust the steering cables, which had snapped loose in the crash. By using strips of tin from a donated lunch box, Goodrich mechanic Joe Chassagne directed his helpers in putting the nose back together with wood screws, nuts and bolts. The front third was then reattached to the rest of the car with the help of many feet of adhesive tape. The Topside crew was able to put new wheels on the car, and it was approved for another run down the track-a mere twenty-five minutes after the repairs had started!

 

Topside workers often help put damaged cars back together, but this was the worst wreck they had reassembled. They were happy, as they felt they had at least given little Joey one more ride down the hill. It didn't take long for the crowd to start cheering for "The Ramblin' Wreck From Georgia." And amazingly, the fast little car-which eventually posted the fastest time of the day despite its rather wobbly nose-took its second heat, then another, another and another-and won the championship, much to the delight of the crowd, and the astonishment of the Topside helpers!

 

For the 20th All-American in 1957, a "guest race" was instituted to select the fastest foreign entry. Of course, the overseas champs still competed in a blind draw with the American boys-although no foreign entry had yet won the All-American. Also in 1957, the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company replaced their traditional three-day trip to New York City for the champion with two weeks, all expenses paid, in Europe. The happy winner was Terry Townsend of Anderson, Indiana. His brother Barney, who had lost in the final '57 heat at Anderson, duplicated Terry's feat in 1959 for the first victory by the brother of a previous champion. Jim Miley of Muncie, Indiana, had won the 1958 race between the Townsends in a low-profile, handsome and streamlined black beauty, which required six-foot-tall Jim to bend virtually double to get in.

 

The celebration of the 25th All-American Derby was a gala one. Chevrolet doubled its college scholarship money for the top nine contestants to $30,000. First place received $7500, with each position declining in value to $1000 for ninth. The largest field yet signed in for that 1962 race; 183, including the first champion from Okinawa, who had traveled 7000 miles to race on a beautiful August day. It was also thought to be the largest crowd, estimated at 75,000. David Mann, representing Gary, Indiana, became the eighth Hoosier champ. His black and silver fiberglass car won the final heat by about three feet. He praised the suspension, which had become one of the key elements in a top car according to Derby buffs. "It's four-point with rubber cushions in the front," Dave explained to Chevrolet general manager and performance mavin Semon E. "Bunkie" Knudsen as they were photographed together. In 1964, several streamlined cars had appeared with a design that required the boy inside to lie almost flat on his back while driving. Midland, Texas had been the breeding ground for this innovative Derby design, and even though none of these cars won top prizes, many people thought they could well be the hot speedsters of future Gravity Grand Prix. In fact, after more conventionally-designed west coast cars won in '64, '65. and '66, Kenny Cline's needle-nosed car brought middle America back into the winner's circle in 1967. His green "Grasshopper" from Lincoln, Nebraska was a refined version of the Midland racer but required the driver to lean forward instead of back. Kenny actually was from Midland, where his brothers had won the local races in '64 and '65. The Cline family had moved to Nebraska less than a year before Kenny became the All-American champion. Requiring 1400 hours to build, Kenny's car featured a long nose, a short wheel base and virtually no rear deck.

 

The proponents of the layback car were cheering again in the '69 race as Steve Souter of Midland took first place. His red, torpedo-shaped car set the fastest time of the day without anyone coming very close. Layback cars dominated the 1970 Derby record field of 260 champions. Seven of the top nine were of that design and the champion from Durham, North Carolina, Sam Gupton, zoomed to victory with the fastest time since 1965; 27:12 seconds.

 

Derby officials felt that the growing popularity of the "layback"- with its increased speed and decreased visibility-warranted another shortening of the track, and so in 1971 it was cut to 953 feet, 9 inches. A total of 272 contestants raced in the All-American, which remains the record to this date. Girls were admitted to the Derby for the first time and five qualified for the All-American, one winning the first heat. By 1972, twenty-seven of the 251 champs were female, many of these sister of former male contestants. Two placed in the top nine.

 

Then, on September 29, 1972, disaster struck. "Chevrolet Quits Soap Box Derby" screamed a heavy black headline of the Akron Beacon Journal. It had been rumored and feared ever since the maverick, John Z. DeLorean had taken over as the division's general manager. The official word came through Chevy's general sales manager Robert D. Lund, who said "With today's changing life-styles, young people in America have different needs, attitudes, and interests. To keep pace with the changes, we must develop creative new programs that are responsive to modern attitudes." DeLorean's decision saddened many boys, girls, parents and Derby fans throughout the world.

 

Chevrolet graciously conceded all rights to the All-American Soap Box Derby and its various properties-the grandstands, the copyrights, etc.-to the Akron Chamber of Commerce. The auto maker also donated $30,000 in scholarships and $50,000 in administrative funds for the 1973 race. But with no loyal sponsors in many areas, as Chevrolet dealers and many newspapers and civic organizations dropped out of the Derby, entries fell to 138.

 

The cousin of the previous year's winner, Jim Gronen of Boulder, Colorado, prevailed as champ. But for the Derby, his victory delivered another blow. An examination after the race found that an electro-magnet had been cleverly hidden in Jim's car, so that the metal baffle plate at the starting line would pull the car forward to overcome inertia. The second-place car driven by Bret Yarborough of Elk Grove, California was elevated to the championship, and all of the rest of the runners-up were advanced a position. But the scandal would cost the Derby its chances of finding a new corporate sponsor. There had been a number of large corporations looking at the Derby as a possible youth promotion. Now almost all of them turned away. Not since the Graham McNamee accident of almost fifty years previously had the Derby received such national publicity; regrettably this time it had the opposite effect.

 

Akron's Jaycee organization took over the Soap Box Derby on a one-year trial basis for 1974. Ron Baker, a Jaycee and bank employee. became the Derby director. Many Derby fans and friends helped stage races throughout the country and a financially-restricted All-American race was administered on an $85,000 budget. Curt Yarborough, brother of the boy raised from second place to the championship the previous year, was elk Grove's second consecutive winner, taking home a scholarship of $3000.

 

Without a national sponsor in 1975, the Derby was kept alive largely through the generous contributions of Akron area businesses. Only eighty boys and twenty girls were entered in the All-American finals, which were won in a photo finish by Karren Stead-the first girl to grab the championship.

 

Hopes for the continuation of the Soap Box Derby were growing dimmer when, on November 24, 1975, a dramatic front-page headline proclaimed: "Barberton company saves Soap Box Derby." James H. Ott, known as the electronic "whiz kid" of the Akron suburb of Barberton, pledged the backing of his Novar Electronics Corporation to the '76 Derby to a maximum of $165,000-double what was available for the previous two races put together! Without the generous support of the Novar Company, the Derby would surely have foiled that year. Today, Novar remains by far the Derby's largest sponsor, even though there are other continuing companies, and has already pledged to continue its support for the eleventh year in 1986.

 

Nineteen seventy-six also brought a major rule change, separating the All-American entries into two age groups with separate races. There would be a senior division for ages 12-15 and a junior division for ages 10-12. To make car construction easier for the juniors, a "kit car" was designed by Richard Reichert, an Akron teacher and member of the Derby's control board. The hardware were included in the kit. Seniors still had to build from scratch. The seniors are regarded as the "true" All-American champs, and receive the top prizes, including college scholarships. Juniors, who can race again by competing as seniors, receive plaques and lesser prizes than the older group.

 

The 1976 senior champion was Joan Ferdinand of Canton, Ohio. She won the runoff of the first dead heat for the championship in Derby history. The first-ever junior champ was Phillip Raber of Sugarcreek, Ohio. A total of 156 participants had competed in the two races; ninety-seven seniors, fifty-nine juniors. Approximately 12,000 viewed the All-American, as it began its long march back from near obliteration.

 

One hundred seventy-three contestants for the two All-Americans kept the race going in 1977. Some of the glamour of the past days began to return in 1979 when ABC filmed the race week festivities to use on The Wide World of Sports. The All-American Derby continued its renaissance with a boost in the scholarships from $6000 to a total of $10,000 for 1980 when the senior winner was Dan Purol of Fair Oaks, California.

 

The largest crowd in nine years, close to 15,000, watched 181 junior and senior contestants competed in the 45th All-American Soap Box Derby in 1982. The track was extensively repaired for the first time in ten years. New official racing wheels had been developed by Novar; they were made of fiberglass-reinforced nylon, as metal wheels had become far too expensive to produce in such small quantities. Matt Wolfgang of Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania won the first place $5000 scholarship as senior champ, and Carol Ann Sullivan, ten of Rochester, New Hampshire took the junior crown-first time for a girl-in her bright pink racer and received power tools as a prize.

 

Matt Sheffer's father told him last August 10 to "have fun and do your best." And Matt did just that, exceedingly well. The fourteen-year-old champ from York, Pennsylvania drove very smoothly on the second hottest day in the history of the All-American and certainly had fun. He crossed the finish line first in each heat and had became the winner of the 48th annual Derby's senior division! Matt took home a $5000 college scholarship, and he and his parents received a trip to New York City. Junior champion Michael Gallo, twelve, tearfully accepted his huge trophy and said, "This has been my dream for six years, and it finally came true." Michael also took home a set of power tools.

 

The All-American Soap Box Derby has traveled a long road, both uphill and down, since Myron Scott first photographed three boys and their engine less racers. Today, Bob Gravett's "Old No. 7" -although no longer a part of the official Derby logo-still represents the Derby in parades and brings nostalgic tears to the old-timers' eyes every time it's shown. Gravett hopes to take his grandchildren to see the 49th race on August 9, 1986. It will undoubtedly be a great day for all Derby fans, a celebration of the glorious past and the again-certain future of the premiere automotive youth event in America.

 

The All-American Rally Program started in 1986, sending three in each division to the All-American championships.

 

The Soap Box Derby Continues

1987 - present

By Jeff Iula

 

The state of Connecticut made a sweep of the winners' circles at the 50th All-American Soap Box Derby in 1987. After a year of planning and a week of special Golden Anniversary festivities Brian Drinkwater, fourteen of Bristol, captured the senior title and eleven-year-old Matt Margules of Danbury won the junior crown. For their victories, Brian received a $5000 college scholarship for his senior division win, while Matt won an assortment of power tools.

 

There were 163 champions competed in the 50th All-American Soap Box Derby. As part of the 50th Anniversary All-American Soap Box Derby, 37 of the former World Champions gathered for the parade and race. The Golden Anniversary Parade Marshall was non-other than Bob Turner, 1934 and first World Champion. The theme was "Paint the Town Gold."

 

The 1988 All-American was Novar's thirteenth and final year as national sponsor. The 51st All-American will go down in history as the second hottest in history reaching 94 degrees by race time. The winner in the Kit Car (junior) division was Jason Lamb eleven, of Des Moines, Iowa and in the Masters (senior) division was 130 pound David Duffield, 13, Kansas City, Missouri.

 

In September, 1988 First National Bank of Ohio took over the following year as primary sponsor of the Derby for the next four years. A new era for the Derby included a new Executive Director. In March, 1989 Anthony DeLuca, a former Derby celebrity coordinator took charge. The Derby track was resurfaced. This was the first year for the official welcoming ceremonies were held at the University of Akron campus.

 

The 52nd All-American Soap Box Derby Kit Car division was won by David Schiller 12, Dayton, Ohio. Masters division was won by Faith Chavarria, 12, of Ventura, California.

 

In 1990, Mark Mihal, age 13 won the Kit Car division representing Northern Indiana (Valparaiso). His Derby Director was the silver anniversary World Champion, David Mann. The Masters division World Champion was "Singing" Sami Jones from Vancouver, Washington representing Salem, Oregon.

 

One hundred sixty three champions were represented in the 1991 All-American Soap Box Derby. Fifty years after becoming Akron's first World Champion, Claude Smith was this years parade marshall. The World Champions were; Kit Car 13 year old Paul Greenwald, Saginaw, Michigan and Masters division Danny Garland, 14 from Studio City, California.

 

Ground was broken in Akron for the new Headquarters building of the All-American Soap Box Derby, which was dedicated in December, 1992. 1992 was the first year for the new Stock Car division, a prefabricated, assembly type car kit. The winner of the first Stock Car division championship was Loren Hurst, 10, from Akron, Ohio. The Kit Car World Champion for 1992 was Carolyn Fox 11 from Salem, Oregon. Masters Champion was Bonnie Thornton, 12, Las Vegas, Nevada. The Derby mascot, Ducky Downs, was introduced this year. A new family event was started this year with Adventure Akron. The number of champions was 210 representing 34 states and five foreign countries competed. The Derby announced its fourth corporate sponsor in history, Leaf Inc.

 

There were 232 participants in the 1993 All-American Soap Box Derby with contestants from Canada, Germany and the Philippines. Kit Car champ was Danielle DelFerraro, 12, from Stow, Ohio representing Akron Suburban, Ohio. Masters champion was Dean Lutton, 14, from North Central Ohio; and the second Stock Car champion was Owen Yuda, 10, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The 1968 champion Branch Lew was back as parade marshall.

 

In 1994, 240 champs representing 35 states and six foreign countries were in Akron for the 57th All-American Soap Box Derby. March saw the death of the second world champion Maurice Bale, Anderson, Indiana. In June, Robert Gravett, who built and drove Old No. 7 the prototype for the Soap Box Derby cars died of a heart attack. For the first time in Derby history, 13 year old, Danielle DelFerraro of Stow, became the first two time world champion; last year in the Kit Car division, and this year in the Masters Division. Joel Endres, 14, of Barberton, Ohio won the World Champion of the Kit Car division. The Jamestown, New Yorker who snagged top honors in the Stock division was Kristina Damond age 13.

 

In March of 1995, the Derby's first World Champion, (1934) Bob Turner, passed away. Bob was 72 years old. At his funeral, there were three world Champions as pallbearers and a hearse carried him down the Muncie, Indiana Derby hill for his last time. The hearse was preceded by two Derby cars. A fitting tribute to the man from Muncie.

 

The development of the Super Stock Division was born in time for the 58th All-American Soap Box Derby. The Kit Car division made its last appearance in the Rally program. Karren Stead Young, first female World Champion was parade marshall in 1995.

 

Karen Thomas, 11, also from Jamestown, New York won the 1995 Stock Division championship, Darcie Davisson, 11 was the first Super Stock champion from Kingman, Arizona, and Johnathon Fensterbush, 11 also from Kingman, Arizona won the Masters.

 

The 1996 - 59th All-American Soap Box Derby hosted its largest number of participants 274 in total in all divisions plus the rally program champions. Matthew Perez, 12 of North Canton representing the Akron Suburban Ohio race was the winner in the Stock Division. Super Stock winner was Jeremy Phillips, 14 of Charleston WV; and the Masters Division winner went to 12 year old Tim Scrofano representing Northeast Ohio. The Masters Rally World Championship went to 15 year old Danielle DelFerraro who also won the Kit Car and Masters world championship earlier. Her total scholarships are worth $9,500.

 

The 60th anniversary running was held August 9th concluding a week full of festivities. The parade was special this year because of The Cadet-ettes final appearance for the Derby. Derby founder, Myron "Scottie" Scott was the Grand Parade Marshall, coming to Akron from Dayton, Ohio. It was the first time in 40 years he had been back to the Derby. Crowned were Stock World Champion 13 year old Mark Stephens from Waynesboro Suburban Virginia. Super Stock World Champion was 13 year old Dolline Vance from Salem, Oregon. Masters Division World Champion was Wade Wallace from Elkhart County Indiana. For the 10th consecutive year, WVIZ televised the entire derby. A new "Hall of Fame" was started this year. The first inductees were: MYRON SCOTT, BAIN E. "SHORTY" FULTON, JIM SCHLEMMER, JIMMY STEWART, and WILBUR SHAW. A total of 283 champs participated in this 60th running of the All-American Soap Box Derby named "A True Diamond Tradition".

 

Participating in the 61st All-American Soap Box Derby were 295 champions Winners were Stock Division World Champion Hailey Simpson, age 10 from Salem, Oregon; Stacey Sharp, 14, from Kingman, Arizona won the Super Stock World Championship; and Masters Division World Champion is 12 year old James Marsh from Cleveland, Ohio. Inducted into the Derby's Hall of Fame were Howard Flood, Mason Bell, John S. Knight, Jim Ott, and George Brittain. Crowds were estimated at 15,000, the former Adventure Akron was renamed Derby Fest to reflect more on the Derby. Race day temperature was 95 degrees. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company became the major sponsor.

 

1999 was a year for firsts! NEW GRANDSTANDS, NEW MASTERS PREFABRICATED KIT, THE NEW FOR 1999: SCOTTY SPECIAL WAS INTRODUCED, NEW GRANDSTANDS AND THE 953' TRACK WAS RESURFACED! It was a very hot July 31, 1999, 97 degrees and heat index at 104 . Normally we would be running the 62nd All-American the first Saturday in August, however the National Football League had different ideas. The Hall of Fame event in Canton is usually the second Saturday of August, the new Cleveland Browns expansion team, played the Hall of Fame Game on Monday night televised and due to all of their changes, the All-American had to be backed up to the last Saturday in July. We were so proud of our new look for 1999 using the 1.3 million dollars from the City of Akron we had new grandstands, and we were shinning like a new nickel. Crowds were estimated at 15,000; as the Manchester High School band lead the parade. We also have a new resurfaced track for 1999. No vehicles were permitted on the new track, everyone either marched or were brought down in golf carts. The International Soap Box Derby was presented by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, national sponsor for 1999. Goodyear=s President and Chief Executive Officer, Samir Gibara was present along with the Mayor of Akron, Donald Plusquellic. We had the look and shine like that of a brand new automobile. It was the best All-American ever. The number of champions representing 118 locals throughout the US and Canada, Germany and Philippines were totaled 352; record number of those were rally finalists numbered 66. For the second consecutive year, the Marketing Place did the marketing of the Derby to expand our sponsorship base. The winners were Justin Pillow, 12 from Central Florida in the Stock Division; Alisha Ebner 15 of Salem Oregon won the Super Stock Division; and Akron Ohio=s own Allan Endres, 14 won the Masters Division, in the new Scotty Special masters car. The County of Summit has contributed $250,000 for a new finish line bridge which will be completed for the 2000 race. The 1999 Hall of Fame Inductees were Ralph Iula, Loris Troyer, Ralph Barnes, Marie Wright & F. A. "Whitey" Wahl.


The 63rd All-American Soap Box Derby was held on Saturday, July 22, 2000. This has got to be the best race ever!! Race week started with the corporate Thrill of the Hill Adult Race, sponsored by National City Bank. The weather during the whole week was fantastic, 75 degrees and beautiful race day. We were proudly shinning in the sun with the new steel and concrete bridge with the second year grandstands. Continued thanks to the City of Akron and County of Summit for their assistance in making our old facilities new. Race day was the best ever with the great weather, 15,000 people in attendance, new food vendors with great food, and free admission and parking. As a thank you to the citizens of Akron and Summit County, Dairy Mart Convenience Stores sponsored the free ticket give away. It could not have been a better celebration of the first race of the new millennium. We had 358 champions coming from 121 locals from throughout the United States. Germany and Philippines were also represented. The 2000 winners were Rachel Curran, 13 from Akron Ohio winner of the Stock Division; 11 year old Derek Etherington from Anderson Indiana Super Stock Division; and Cody Butler, 12 from Anderson Indiana winner of the Masters Division. Hall of Fame Inductees for 2000 are: Bruce Buchholzer, a community leader who was the first president of International Soap Box Derby, Inc., and has devoted more than 25 years service as officer, trustee and producer of the annual Race Day awards program. Bob Gravett, 1933 participant. His racing car was the inspiration for the official organization of the Soap Box Derby. His "Old No. 7" race car is the key element in the Derby program's logo. Ron Baker, served as chairman of the "Save the All-American Committee" in 1973 and later as the program's general manager. Ron was instrumental in assuring the survival of the All-American Soap Box Derby as an Akron-based youth activity.

 

The 64th All-American Soap Box Derby was held on Saturday, July 28, 2001. Race week began with the corporate Thrill of the Hill Adult Race, sponsored by National City Bank. Goodyear was Title Sponsor for the third year. The weather during the whole week was fantastic. Race day was 85 degrees and beautiful. This year, we are showing off the new 10,000 square foot cold storage building at topside on George Washington Blvd. Continued thanks to the County of Summit for their assistance in making this additional building possible. It was used to hold some of the 389 championship cars that came to Akron this year. Not only was race day’s weather great, there were again close to 18,000 people in attendance, once again another record, food vendors with great food, and free admission and parking. As a thank you to the citizens of Akron and Summit County, Dairy Mart Convenience Stores sponsored the free ticket give a way. We had a total of 389 champions from 142 local races in the United States. Germany, Philippines and for the first time in our history, Japan were represented. There were 299 local champions and another 90 rally champions racing in the 64th. The 2001 World Champions were Chad Eyerly, 11 from Altaloma, CA winner of the Stock Division; 12 year old James Pata Rogers from Hilton, NY, Super Stock Division; and Michael Flynn, 12, from Harrison Twp, Michigan winner of the Masters Division. Hall of Fame Inductees for 2001 are: Don Meech, an Akron area auto dealer, devoted 55 years as transportation chairman for the All-American Soap Box Derby. He made certain champions and their families, visiting Derby officials and celebrities were driven where they needed to be for Derby Week festivities. Tom Kilroy, as executive vice president of Novar Electronics, he persuaded his company to become national sponsor of the All-American Soap Box Derby beginning in 1976, when the youth racing program was at a financial crossroads. Tom Kilroy’s enthusiasm and support made a difference. Don Lenox, was the longest-serving active local director, Don has inspired boys and girls in Lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for 27 years. He is dedicated to promoting the ideals, goals and benefits of Soap Box Derby competition. For the first year, the Derby’s official I-Team made possible the complete Heat Result Book on our website, as well as continuing their webcast coverage of race week activities, articles, photos, and up to the minute racing results on race day.

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