Can a soapbox race be about creativity, the human spirit and tapping into the zeitgeist in addition to being an ultimate childlike thrill? Apparently so as today, absolute grown-ups participated in the 2011 Red Bull Soapbox Race with some 200,000 people watching in downtown LA. There's a fuller story and final results can be also seen, but this slideshow takes a look at it strictly from a creativity and design standpoint. Rate the designs from "what a piece of junk" to "now that's a sweet ride downhill". Most photos by Roshin Mathew with a few by me.
This slice of pure Americana -- such wholesome fun so rare in these modern times in a big global city -- was all of the fun you would expect but there were also flashes of great ingenuity, engineering, and for most, humor. For most folks with their designs, they spent anywhere from 3 to 12 weeks building these non-motorized vehicles and budgets from a few hundred dollars to four thousand. Really.
There was the sleek. The "Wayne's World" team car -- a replica of the AMC Pacer Mirthmobile from the movie -- was certainly an inspired choice but also a challenge to match the look and feel of it so perfectly. But they did and it was one of the coolest designs in the field of 38 vehicles, as evidenced by the team's interview on geeked-out G4 television channel. Another leader on the sleek side of designs would have to be team "Import Tuner" with their very Japanesey rendition of a Scion FR-S concept car.
Perhaps being in Los Angeles, there was a good showing of Mexican street life inspired designs, all of which did well in look as well as navigating the curves and bumps of the downhill course. There was a taco truck from "Team La Cuca Roacha", a Mexican wrestling ring and wrestlers from "Team Lucha Libre", and an ice cream cart from a team called "Give 'em Hell-ado". The latter, was one of the more interesting because two people were on it, one inside the cart, one on top of it, and boy, it sure moved down the hill with a lot of arriba arriba.
Then there's the derbys of the Zeitgeist for lack of a better phrase. One that was a giant Angry Birds cardinal, feathers flying off as it went downhill. Another that was Lady Gaga-inspired with her much talked about egg that she was carried in at the Grammys. And, especially for those familiar with Southern California political scandals, there was the floating jail cell on wheels created by "Team City of Bell Pickpockets"
And probably no derby is complete without trucks and jeeps. From the crew called "A-Team" in its van of the same TV show to "Green Army Men" with their all green jeep (as in color, not its eco-friendliness exactly), "Team Under The Top" and their 18-wheeler cab (unclear whether a Mack or Kenilworth) among others, these rigs prove to be major crowd pleasers. There was a truck rig replica carrying exaggerated costumes of Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant and Pau Gosol, which coincidentally won the overall competition. "Team Hold On to Yo Butts" rounded out this field with a jeep replica from the movie Jurassic Park.