In my thread entitled "Cabinet Door Build - Recommendations From
Painter" I mentioned that I knew a guy that painted a Soap Box Derby
car with 22 cans of Rust-Oleum spray paint. He was forced to do this
because he had used Rust-Oleum primer, which apparently contained fish
oils. When he tried to get the car painted at a body shop, the body
shop said that they could not get their primer or paint to stick on
top of the Rust-Oleum primer.
This first picture is of the spray painted car surrounded by our
racing team. The smiling guy with the beard is the guy that painted
the car. He repairs and re-finishes pianos for a living. He's
certainly not a rookie in the finishing arena, but even he was
surprised at how well the car came out. I am the guy with the 35 on my
back. (more on that later)
In the following picture, you'll see a similarly shaped car, on a
trailer, with the number 35 on the rear. That's my son's car being
brought back to the top of the Akron race track after he won the World
Championship in 2003. We painted that car with an air-powered spray
gun in the driveway of the Soap Box Derby genius standing next to the
owner of the orange car, wearing the Soap Box Derby t-shirt. That guy
is the brains behind both cars in these pictures.
The major (major!) differences between those 2 cars is that the orange
car is completely hand built, other than the axles and the wheels. The
white car started as kit that came with a wooden floorboard and a 5
piece fiberglass shell and then was highly customized. The orange car
was known as a "stick car" because the shell was constructed by laying
thin strips of wood on a series of curved frames of diminishing
diameters. After all of the "sticks" were in place, the car was
wrapped in 3-4 layers of fiberglass.
As the talent pool of those able and willing to build stick cars dried
up, the All American Soap Box Derby organization needed a way to keep
the Masters division alive. In the late 90's they introduced the kit
that we built my son's car from and began to phase out the stick cars.
You could basically put the kit together and send it down the hill or
you could spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars customizing
the kits. Guess which cars won all the races?
Eventually it got to the point where the talent pool (or "willingness"
pool) to customize the kits started to dry up and the division began
to fail again. Families knew that if they didn't put hundreds of hours
and thousands of dollars into the kits, they weren't going to win,
regardless of how good their drivers were. Eventually the AASBD
imposed some very strict restraints on how much customization could be
done to the kits. No more building the kit really small, then wrapping
it in layers of fiberglass to bring it back up to specifications like
we did with my son's car. No more homemade axle mounts, steering or
braking mechanisms or other internal parts. By the time my daughter
reached the Masters division, you had to use only the parts supplied
by (i.e. bought from) the AASBD. The only allowed alterations to the
shell was the use of Bondo to fill the seams where the fiberglass
parts went together and the shaping of the helmet cup to fit the
driver. My son's car was a single, solid, sleek fiberglass "unibody".
My daughter's car was a fiberglass shell screwed to a flat wooden
floorboard. They both started from the same kit, but they were very,
very different cars.
As much as I hated the ever stricter restrictions imposed by the
ASSBD, I understood the reasons. It got to the point where it was
getting tougher and tougher to get hold a Master's division race
because there just weren't that many families willing to (or being
able to) build a competitive car. Once they imposed the restrictions
on customizations, families jumped back in so their kids could race
for a few more years.
Back when I was a kid growing up less than 35 miles from Akron,
thought the kid had to build his own car.
Times must have changed over the intervening 60+ years.