Soap Box Derby

Cambridge District Scout Archive

The local records show a short but successful period of involvement in this event.

Cambridge Archives

At least two different troops entered for the National ‘Soap Box Derby’, being for pedal cars built by boys, this took place for two or three years.’  Ken North 70 Years of Scouting

1939 This cutting is from the 12th scrapbook. It does not give details of competitors or why the 12th kept the page.

D Pettit, P Marshall, D Millard, A Gray (in car), P Anderson, D Simpkin

The photo above has been identified as being from the 1930’s by Helen Gray, daughter of Tony Gray in the drivers seat. Tony Gray recalled the event in 2002 for The Link 12th newsletter. He does not give a date but that the cars were not aerodynamic, reflecting general design at the time and that it was held at Brooklands. Further details of the occasion are lacking. It may be directly connected to the 1939 Scout cover above.

12th Cambridge Pathfinder 2

1952 23rd Cambridge The AGM reports the 23rd entering and reaching the finals. They won the Concours d’Elegance Prize for the best presented car.

1954    5th Cambridge             ‘L Sunderland of the Squirrels, aided by a team of volunteers from many patrols, designed and built a vehicle to enter the Scout Soap Box Derby: and to London it went one Saturday morning with drivers and mechanics. No victories came our way this year but a  great start has been made.’

1955    5th Cambridge             ‘..took a small expeditionary force off to Morecambe so that Prometheus II could enter the Cub and Scout Class Finals.  In a thrilling series of races B Pope won outright his heat, semi final and final, and the team returned victorious in the Scout class.  In the Cub class too, the car was finely raced, and M Ashbourne was unlucky not to reach the semi final.  Pope shares with L Sunderland the cars designer and chief builder, a magnificent prize awarded by Vauxhall Motors Ltd: a Gilwell Hike Tent in an engraved presentation tool box.’

A picture can be seen in Perse 400 years

1956    5th Cambridge             ‘LS Sunderland Prometheus III was raced to victory after victory in the Midland Semi final at Nottingham.  Cub, scout and senior scout drivers all won their places at the final, and in addition all won the Midland Trophy for their class.  D Neale put up the fastest time of the day – 22.4 mph over the quarter mile course.

1957 Prometheus and Cambug II of the 23rd on display (only mention in newspaper report)

23rd Cambridge from 1957 (from Rob Farrington)

1971    Soap Box Derby postponed.   Cambridge Scout Gazette August

1984 The Unipart National Scoutcar Races were being advertised to the County.

1982 1983 The 1st Sawston, then part of Granta District, also entered and raced in a number of seaside resorts around these years. Two largely identical carts were made by a Marshall’s worker and are still retained by the Group. In 2021 it was proposed that they be retained by Cambridge District either as a pair to be loaned to Groups or as part of the Archive Collection.

National Scout Car Races

The first Soap Box Derby (later the Unipart National Scoutcar Races) in Britain was held in 1939 and resumed in 1950 – 1956 and 1959 to date.

For some years it was run at the Crystal Palace and Donington Park motor racing tracks during scheduled race meetings. A Grand Prix event was successfully introduced in 1980. Teams of 4 drivers, endeavouring to cover as many laps as possible of a 500 yard circuit in 20 minutes, with drivers taking it in turns to complete one lap.

These events continue to be run yearly see

5th Cambridge
5th Cambridge 1956
3rd Place National Scouts Final 5th Cambridge 1956

JWR Archivist Jan 2019

5th Cambridge 1956 Regional trophies