For generation X, Y, and Millennials, the term soap box derby most likely does not resonate the same way as it does for their parents. Some may remember watching the All American Soap Box Derby on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, as it would air annually live from Akron, Ohio. Mostly these generations’ strongest reference to this gravity driven grand prix is the soap box derby race from the 1994 re-boot of The Little Rascals where the final scene revolves around Spanky and Alfalfa beating out their arch nemesis Worm and the new rich kid. This point of reference is about to change for the people young and old of Muscatine. A re-boot of Muscatine’s annual soap box derby is in full swing. According to organizers, 20 plus cars have been registered for the 40 available slots. Muscatine will have two divisions. The Speed Division will be for serious racers, and the Art Division will be an opportunity for vehicles to be creatively designed and entertain the spectators.
One team who will be participating in the derby is the team of Erik and Trea (pronounced Tr-ay) Purdy. The Purdy brothers are lifelong residents of Muscatine who had remembered family stories about the original soap box derby in Muscatine. Trea and Erik recalled stories about their father Pat and uncle Mike racing in the derby and remember thinking the family still had their dad’s car somewhere in the attic of a garage. Sure enough, after clearing out some space they found their father’s original 1961 soap box derby car.
The boys began to think about their father. They lost their dad in 1986, and now 30 years after his passing, they wanted to rebuild his car and race it in his honor. The car was built out of reclaimed wood from a home that was being demolished. Pat and Mike Purdy took on the project of pulling all the nails out of wood and sanding it down and shaping it into the derby car. Pat and Mike originally built the car as a Boy Scout project. They painted the car and they received a sponsorship from Omar Whitlow Excavating. Trea said, “As we looked into it more and more, it made more sense to preserve my dad’s car as memorabilia.” So, they have decided to build a new car.
The boys, along with their friend Bill Reimers, are putting together a team to build a new car. They found a used soap box car on Craigslist, and they are working to make it as fast as possible. When asked about the project, Erik said, “I think this is really cool. I want to see some really fast cars.” The rules state that each team cannot spend more than $500 to make the vehicle and an $80 registration fee. The Purdy brothers’ car will be driven by Trea’s sons Tyler and Taj.
This project has meant a lot to Trea and Erik Purdy. Much like their dad and uncle 55 years ago, they are teaming up to build a race car. They plan on displaying their father’s car during the July 4th race to show the history to the community. “This means a lot to the boys,” said their mother, Patty Searcy. “They miss their dad very much and this will make them proud.”
To register a car in the derby go to www.muscatinederby.com.