So I was approached the other day by someone who had a specific request and was looking to me for some help. Right away I thought to myself “I do not have time for this”, I have my summer lined up with projects that need to see completion before the snow flies. Out of courtesy I gave this individual a few minutes to state their case before I proceeded to tell them no. It turns out that their freedom was at stake. They had been feeling the pressures of life and they needed something new and exciting. They are confined close to home due to physical reasons and need to rely on others to take them places and help them accomplish certain tasks. At this point in life this individual is really incapable of providing for herself. As I listened to this person’s story I tried to maintain focus, my game plan was simply to listen and kindly, and respectfully, dismiss this person. As she continued to talk it turns out she was in need of a whip for herself, to help her go places and see the world. She thought it was time for her to step into car ownership. When I began to quiz her regarding just want is involved in obtaining and maintaining a vehicle I was met with a blank stare. Obviously this person is in way over her head and it became very clear that she would require a high level of help. I could feel myself getting sucked into her plea; I resisted and attempted to fight the sympathy I began to feel. I worked to maintain a cold heart and tried to emit an uninviting composure. It was no use; she was determined to get her way. I had enquired regarding the financial side of things; apparently this person has no resources or money to fund the project. When I asked what skills she possessed or where she thought she could make a contribution I was told that she can design and paint. Well at least I’m getting something out of her. After further discussions she was able to break me down. I started off strong and in the end I crumbled.

 So here is the new plan, my 5 year old daughter needs a “soapbox” car. I am going to try and squeeze it in between my other planned projects. My daughter came up with the concept drawing so between the 2 of us we will try and build something that resembles her vision. As far as specs go there is an issue. In the part of the world we live in there is no standardized soapbox derby racing. There are many towns in the surrounding area that hold their own derby’s however each town also makes all there own rules in regards to car design. If there was an existing standard already established then I would follow it but I have decided to spec the car the way I want and choose not to run it in derbies. In the area of town I live in we have lots of fresh paved hills in the area that have low, or no, traffic. The car will be built purely for enjoyment.

 The budget is low. The idea is to be inventive and use as many parts I can that I already have lying around. We are also going to build on the fly, obviously there is a rough game plan in place but how exactly everything is going to fit together is not yet known. With a couple lengths of 1 x 1 x .065” square tubing I had laying around they were cut to length and then run through the metal bender to get some radius. Using some leftover .5 x .5 square tubing from the railing project I was able to tack together a basic tub. I’m going for the classic derby looking cars with the tear drop shape.

 So the client and I headed out to pick up the supplies to create the rolling chassis. Wheel selection is a big one. Initially some pneumatic type wheels were considered however in the end we decided to outfit the car with a set of  10″ x 2.25” higher quality speed wheels. The front steering is going to feature a set of steering knuckles coupled to some adjustable tie rod ends. The steering column will involve connecting the steering wheel to the knuckles through a solid mechanical means; we’re not using cables or ropes. This thing has to be able to rail through the corners. The front axle will incorporate a way to build some positive caster in as well as front toe will be fully adjustable. We’re shooting for 0 degrees of camber. Because the chassis is not sprung we do not anticipate any flex in the front steering therefore 0 degrees of camber will give us maximum tire contact patch. We will decide on the front caster angle as time goes, I suspect anywhere between 8 – 14 degrees will give is some nice straight line stability.

 So as things sit now the tub is mocked up and the majority of the components have been collected. The basic shape has been built and we are onto axle fabrication. We will work to get it to rolling chassis stage and then we will be able to figure out cockpit size and placement. The build won’t be overly pretty and it will not scream precision engineering or built. As long as it is functional, safe, and gives my daughter and I an oppurtunity to have some fun I will consider to project a success. For now the gazebo railings are sitting at the powder coaters waiting for completion so this will be a good project to fill the gap.



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