All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron displays cars for its 75th anniversary

AKRON, Ohio - All -American Soap Box Derby officials are showing off some old cars, champion plaques and other memorabilia ahead of the 75th running of the event in Akron later this month.

They've dusted off 77 cars and other items that had been stored in a basement and a trailer and are displaying them in an outbuilding at the race site that they've dubbed the Hall of Fame and Museum.

"I said, `Why not put these where people can really enjoy them?"' President Joe Mazur said.

The cars make up roughly half of the 140 winning vehicles to date. The winning cars were supposed to be retired, but a lack of storage space meant some were trashed or taken home by their owners. A derby volunteer kept about 40 cars in a trailer, and race alumni provided others.

Among them is a replica of a vehicle that raced in the Dayton event that led to the first Soap Box Derby in Akron. Bob Gravett's car, now the derby's official emblem, was constructed of old lumber, tin and wagon wheels.

There's also a replica of the winner from 1973, when a racer put a magnet on the nose of his car in a cheating scandal that led to a closer examination process for racing vehicles.

For this year's racers, that process starts this week. The 450 competitors will send their cars to Derby Downs in Akron for inspections ahead of the July 21 championship.

Up for grabs will be thousands of dollars in scholarships for the top finishers.

Mazur has been working to rebuild the popularity of the nonprofit organization, and the museum could be an added draw. It will be closed during most of July for the championship but will open to the public during derby office hours starting in August.

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