I’m not what you’d call “handy” or “crafty” or generally “a maker” of any sort. So I’m not sure what inspired me to try to build a soapbox car other than how much fun The 2nd Annual Madison Soapbox Derby here in Decatur, Ga., looked in this video. So I signed my three kids up for the 3rd annual race this past weekend.
We chose the Doctor Who Tardis, partly because I love Doctor Who and partly because building a box seemed easier than, say, this Star Wars fighter:
Some quick online research found plenty of people who had built a replica Tardis, but no one who’d tried to make it roll down a hill with their child inside.
I started by buying a whole lot of lumber on my first of many trips to Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware and Hancock Fabircs—all of whom should sponsor next year’s race. (This year’s race raised more than $10,000 for the local Boys and Girls Club). Building the box and attaching wheels and axels (threaded 1/2” pipes) was fairly straightforward, but I still had no idea who to give this thing breaks and steering.
Breaks turned out to be easier. I went with a simple lever made out of a PVC pipe with a roller-skate break screwed onto the end. For steering, I attached a garage-door cable to either side of the axel and dropped a steering column through the top. The steering column was a miniature 2-D version of the Tardis’ interior controls, painted by my kids. We used an old booster carseat bolted to a platform on the floorboard, and added an LED light for the front/roof.
The finishing touch was the addition of a few bumper stickers befitting of the Doctor.
Unfortunately, she turned out to be as delicate as the one driven by the good doctor. Someone lifted the car by the steering column, loosening the tension in the wire and making steering nearly impossible. Thankfully, the track was lined with hay bales, and all of my kids made it across the finish line—with some manual course corrections from dad.
See more of the amazing cars from the race here.