Whether you call it a soapbox car, a soapbox cart, go-kart or go cart, many a boy and girl’s days have been filled with building and racing a billy cart.
For the record, billy carts are motor-less vehicles usually with only space for a small, fearless driver. Using gravity and the steepest hills in their neighbourhood, billy carts have been known to reach speeds of 50 km/h and more.
Billy carts were originally built from wooden crates used to transport soap (thus the name soapbox car) and wheels stolen from roller skates. As with most things, however, the modern billy cart is now a little more sophisticated. While many billy carts are still made from wood, these days you will find some with materials such as aluminium, fibreglass and carbon fibre. There are even purpose-built wheels available.
In the search for improved speed, comfort and safety the billy cart has certainly changed.
While billy carts are usually the domain of children, these days it’s also not unusual to see adults having a go. With the advent of organised competitions, often called billy cart derbies, adults have also caught on to the fun and excitement of strapping themselves into a light machine and hurtling themselves down a hill.
While many of these competitions are more about fun and fundraising than performance, in Australia there is a national championships held annually in Corowa. Held on Easter Saturday, the Australian Billy Cart Championships is labelled as an event for all ages. The event sees competitors racing down the main street of Corowa in their home-made or professionally developed machines.