Soap box car racing a hit

By Derik Vanderford dvanderford@civitasmedia.com

March 14, 2014

UNION COUNTY — One of the newest clubs in Union County’s 4-H program — the Union County 4-H Soap Box Car Racers — has been a hit with children and adults.

Union County 4-H leader JD Trammell said his nephew, Tyler Trammell, is responsible for the idea to start the soap box car racing club in Union. Last summer, Tyler found an old newspaper article with a photo of his father — Timmy Trammell — and his uncle — Russell Trammell — racing soap box cars.

Tyler asked JD, “Why can’t we do that in 4-H?”

JD found out they could indeed start such a club through Union County 4-H.

“We had a program available through 4-H to help kids build and race the cars safely,” Trammell said.

JD and Russell put together an eight-hour curriculum to teach children about simple construction and machines, forces and gravity, gears and pulleys, and more.

“We’re making sure they can do something with their hands, not just their thumbs,” Trammell said, commenting that a growing number of children spend most of their spare time playing with their phones or video game consoles.

The group then began to build and test cars at Union County Fairgrounds last fall. Once the cars were built, group members were able to take them home and be creative with painting and design. Last month, they had their first practice race.

“The kids love it; they’re having a ball with it,” JD said, adding that he is amazed at their enthusiasm and willingness to fix problems.

“Even if something messes up, they go into ‘fixing mode.’ If a new toy from a store breaks, they’re devastated, but this gives them a different attitude. They built it, and they know how to repair it.”

Trammell said the club is still open for people to join. He said six more cars have been ordered, and they will organize another build and practice day before the first race. Trammell said this club is perfect for parents or grandparents who are looking for activities or projects in which to participate with their child.

“Any kid can be successful building a car and driving it down a hill,” he said. “I always loved building stuff with my dad when I was little. He was usually putting me to work.”

JD’s son, Jay (a.k.a. “Jaybird”) pitches in by driving the tow vehicle which pulls the cars up the race ramp.

The club has sparked the interest of 4-H groups in other nearby counties including Newberry and Richland. The group from Union has planned to put on a demonstration for the Richland group.

“For the most part, those groups will be coming to Union County to race,” Trammell said.

As with most 4-H clubs, cash prizes will be incorporated and long enough participation can lead to college credit.

The group’s final race of the year will be held at the 2014 Antique Farm Show, which is held annually at the Union County Fairgrounds.

For more information or to join the Union County 4-H Soap Box Car Racers club, visit the local Clemson Extension Office, located at 120 Kirby Street in Union, or call (864) 427-6259, Ext. 113