A Life In Cars

The life story of Dickie Sutherland

Playing the back yard in our Soap Box racer Gerty, imagining all the races we could have won and staging crashes and turns.

1958

Racing at Victor Harbour

I remember racing in a spectacular Soap Box event at Victor Harbour.  It seemed like there were hundreds of Soapbox Racers attending, of all types and styles. 

Around the time I was 12, Donald convinced my dad that I should have a crack Soap Box Derby racing.

The stage was set for a race at Victor Harbour.

In preparation, Donald rebuilt the lightweight car and my contribution was to paint the name of the car, on the front; “Gerty”.

The event at Victor Harbour was spectacular.  It seemed like there were hundreds of Soapbox Racers attended, with of all types and styles of cars.  There was everything from the local kids’ home-built cars to some highly professional units, built by dads who were professional cyclists.

I can remember that the pits were buzzing with people preparing for the racers.  There were many conversations discussing various ideas for the design and preparation of the cars.  Tips like pumping the tyres up so tight that a tune could be played on the tyre with a set of tyre levers.

This place had all the excitement and enthusiasm of a Formula 1 motor racing event; for a lad of about 12 years, this was near enough to be the real thing.

I only got one downhill race, placing second.  However, my time was not fast enough to make the finals.  I recall thinking that simply competing was reward enough for me.  Just to be there and take in all the excitement of the event, felt like a win to me.

But I didn’t come home empty-handed.  I was presented with a “you-beaut” pocketknife as a participation trophy.  This became a much-cherished souvenir of the event.

Staging a race in the backyard.

Living the soap box dream

One Sunday, a primary school friend from Grade 7, Bobby, came over to play.  Bobby was mad about racing cars.  It wasn’t long before we had the lightweight soapbox racer up on a stand on the back lawn, pretending we were racing.

With a box camera, we photographed each other in the car. We were pretending we were racing, staging the occasional spectacular racing crash or turn.

It was an afternoon of “living the dream” thanks to Bobby’s exceptional imagination.  So much fun.

Finding these photos of Bobby and myself sitting in the soapbox-racer, was a reminder of our imagination, and our dreams of downhill racing and all the races we could have won.

Imaginations running wild.

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