Cherished soapbox cart that raced in popular Vancouver event stolen from family’s garage

A Vancouver family is asking for help after a cherished soapbox derby cart — which once competed in Kitsilano summer cart races — was stolen from their garage early Friday morning.

It’s been decades since Ian White raced his cart in a soapbox derby, but when he was 11, the handcrafted green wooden cart with a bright blue nose was his most prized possession.

“As soon as you see the empty spot where it once existed, your heart kind of sinks” said White, who is staying with his parents due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I couldn’t believe it, honestly.”

White, 29, built the cart named Car 54 Where Are You? — after an early 1960s American TV sitcom — with his entire family. His childhood nickname for it was the Ocean Bullet. 

He says he can still feel the excitement of rolling down West 4th Avenue.

“It was nice to have the wind blow past you as you were picking up speed,” White said. “It was actually nice to make it to the finish line without having anything fall off or go awry.”

Families gathered each year during a weekend in June, along a sloped stretch of West 4th Avenue in Kits, for the kids’ soapbox derby. The community event ran until 2007. (Carol White)

Starting in 1990, crowds packed a stretch of West 4th Avenue for one weekend every June as the street transformed into a raceway. Young drivers, aged nine to 13, raced each other in their homemade carts, competing for awards in best design, fastest time and best engineered carts.

The wheels fell off the community event in 2008 when a major sponsor took it over, making it an adult-only race for competitors across Canada.

The Whites have surveillance footage of the cart being stolen from their garage on West 16th Avenue, and police have been notified.

“It’s got no actual value, but the sentimental value is pretty big because my dad and I built it over many years,” White said. “It was the highlight of the summer.”

Former premier Gordon Campbell was a regular attendee at Kitsilano’s soapbox races. He awarded Ian White the safest driver prize in 2001. (Carol White)

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