August 18, 2010
America On Wheels Mini Exhibit Salutes Soapbox Derby
Display Highlights Classic Derby Cars Over Seven
Allentown, Pa - America On Wheels (AOW) introduces its
new rotating "Mini-Exhibits" with a display of more than
two dozen Soapbox Derby cars representing more than 70 years
of the American youth racing tradition affectionately known
as the "Gravity Grand Prix."
The Mini Exhibits will be on display for approximately
six weeks and are designed to increase the flexibility of
the museum's display space, allow for more frequent rotation
of popular trends in transportation history and encourage
repeat visits from AOW's growing fan base. The Soapbox Derby
exhibit includes some of the most notable homemade cars
in the history of the Derby, including several raced locally
over the years.
"This really is a unique exhibit for America On Wheels
because it provides a glimpse of a great American tradition
and a sport that encouraged family involvement through the
years," said AOW Executive Director Linda Merkel. "The Soapbox
Derby introduced generations of boys and girls to the thrills
of racing and helped instill a passion for racing and automobiles."
The brainchild of a Dayton Daily News photographer, the
All-American Soapbox Derby began in Dayton in 1933. The
first race drew 362 boys and 40,000 spectators and an institution
was born. Today 550 youths ages 8 to 17 compete from 155
cities - including the Lehigh Valley, 40 states and several
other nations compete in the All-American Soapbox Derby
World Championships each year in Akron, Ohio. The Lehigh
Valley Soapbox Derby has been run in Easton every June for
the past 15 years, said organizer Kent Finkbeiner.
"The Derby is still a great family sport because it takes
the whole family to make it work," said Finkbeiner, who
raced the local derbies as a youth. "The exhibit is a good
cross-section of the history of the Derby with good representation
through the years."
Derby cars on display include a replica of "Old No. 7,"
the car that inspired the Soapbox Derby and was driven by
Robert Gravett in 1933. Other cars on display include:
- The 1935 "Silver Bullet" car driven by Loney Kline of
- A 1971 car from Hazelton, Pa. that was built and raced
by the first girl to compete in the Derby championships;
- A 1982 car built and raced by All-American champion
Matt Wolfgang of Pennsburg;
- And a 1975 car built and raced by Karrin Stead of Bucks
County, the first girl to win the All-American Soapbox
America On Wheels opened in April 2008 as the cornerstone
of the City of Allentown's redevelopment plans for the Lehigh
River waterfront between the Hamilton Street and Tilghman
Street bridges just off Front Street. Since the opening
it has drawn more than 41,000 visitors, including dignitaries
such as U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray
LaHood, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, Italian automobile collector
Nichola Bulgari and famed Indy 500 racer Mario Andretti.
Easily accessible to a half-dozen other renowned cultural
institutions in Allentown, AOW celebrates our nation's love
affair with motorized and non-motorized over-the-road transportation
and its permanent exhibits range from the Nadig - one of
America's first automobiles, produced in Allentown - to
the massive Mack Trucks that helped America become the most
powerful nation in the world.
AOW also offers hands-on playtime exhibits and learning
centers for the children and a souvenir shop for race fans
and anyone with an affinity for our automotive legacy.
For more information: Call the museum staff at 610-432-4200,
or e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
America On Wheels is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to
Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Ticket prices are
$7 for adults, $5 for senior citizens, $3.50 for students
ages 6 to 16. Children 5 and under are admitted free.