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The Red Bull Soapbox Race in Los Angeles is more than a week away, and the 40 teams selected to compete are undoubtedly wrenching away in their garages, concocting all types of sizes and shapes of what they deem to be soapbox cars. We followed one team --Team Import Tuner -- in their quest to build the fastest non-motorized soapbox car the L.A. streets have ever seen.

Soapbox racing has a long history in the United States and is one of the original American past-times. It all started off in the ’30s when a newspaper reporter saw some kids racing down a hill in their engine-less, home-built cars. He decided that this would make an interesting article and told the kids to invite their friends the next weekend to race. Around 19 kids showed up that following weekend and the rest is history.

While soapbox racing started as a kids activity, the Red Bull Soapbox Race is a perfect chance to let the grown ups have their play time.

Team Import Tuner

Team Import Tuner is one of 40 teams to be selected to compete in the May 21 Red Bull Soapbox Race in Downtown Los Angeles. “Import Tuner” is actually a magazine about fixed up cars and is made up from a bunch of guys in the auto industry who do a variety of things.

Here's the breakdown of the team:

Gary Castillo from Design Craft Fabrication: He builds fast cars. 

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Troy Sumitomo from Five Axis: He builds cool cars. 

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Daijiro Yoshihara: He drifts fast cars.

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Philip Chase from Tein: He works on suspension for fast cars.

Import Tuner magazine: They get to write about fast cars.

When the team found out that Red Bull was bringing the Soapbox Race back to Los Angeles, they knew it was a competition they had to be a part of. They did a little Internet research and quickly found that the modern day soapbox car is no joke. There’s quite a bit of engineering and fabrication involved into making these things go as fast as they do. Team Import Tuner have experience with motor powered cars but the whole concept of being powered by gravity is entirely new to them.

The rules for building a Red Bull Soapbox car are pretty straightforward:

  • The craft must be entirely human powered and cannot use any stored energy (no external energy sources). So forget about the slingshots, catapults or anything besides your own burliness and gravity.
  • The craft must have operational brakes, steering and a horn
  • The craft must weigh less than 176 lbs. (not including the driver)
  • The driver must be at least 18 years old
  • The craft can be a maximum of 20 ft long x 6 ft wide x 7 ft tall; and no more than 7 inches from the ground.

The Chassis

With these rules laying the groundwork for our build we set off and building the chassis:

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Here’s the basic layout of the chassis.

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Mock up for the control arms.

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Dai sitting in the chassis for a test fit.

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Wheel design.

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Wilwood brake setup.

By the time race day comes the chassis will feature a dual a-arm setup with full suspension to help soften the landing on those pesky jumps the course has.

With Gary making some headway on the chassis Troy got working on the body. For the body Troy took these renderings to make a mold, from there he’ll fiberglass the body to make a shell to go over the chassis.

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Computer rendering.

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The mold for the rear bumper.


For more on the build up check us out on Facebook: facebook.com/importtunermag

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