CNJ staff photo: Gabriel Monte Andrew Collings, 10, left, holds down the front axle of his soap box car while his father, Rick Collings, tightens the bolts to fix it to the car. Andrew is competing Saturday in the Clovis soap box derby for the first time.
By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer
Andrew Collings is spending at least two hours a day this week in the garage with his father building his first soap box derby car.
Following in the footsteps of two older brothers, Andrew, a 10-year-old Mesa Elementary School student, is racing in Saturday’s Clovis Rotary Soap Box Derby.
Derby organizer Larry Erwin said about 15 racers between the ages of 10 and 18 years old are competing this year.
Andrew said he practiced driving his brothers’ soap box cars. He knows keeping low in the car reduces wind resistance and helps him go faster. But he’s never driven on anything other than the family driveway.
Unlike his older brother Alex, Andrew said he hopes he doesn’t win his first soap box race. Racers who win local events can’t compete in them again.
“I really don’t want to win this time, because I want to have more than one year of racing (locally),” he said.
Construction of the pre-fabricated soap box car kit will take about 10 hours spread over a week, according to Andrew’s father, Rick Collings.
The soap box car he’s building with Andrew will look like a 5-foot long canoe on four wheels. The front axle is connected to a steering wheel meant to keep the car straight as it rolls downhill.
He assembles the car by following an instruction manual similar to the kind that comes with pre-fabricated furniture.
According to local race regulations, other than adding weights, racers can’t modify the soap box car kits in any way.
Cars can only weigh up to 230 pounds with the driver.
Need for speed
A soap box car can reach speeds of up to 35 mph. But going down the 900-foot stretch of Sycamore Street between Yucca Middle School and 14th Street, Collings said he expects to reach a top seed of 16 mph to 17 mph.
Collings calls his North Clovis garage a soapbox car factory because it contains three other soap box cars. Two of them have been used to win previous Clovis soap box derbies. The other one will be used in rally races next year in hopes of his eldest son, Eric, qualifying for the masters division of the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship in Akron, Ohio.
In the five years since the family got involved in soap box racing, Collings said he has picked up a few tips on making a winning soapbox car. Mainly, he checks to make sure the back wheels and the axles are aligned properly.
“It’s a learning experience every year,” he said.