Junk in their trunks: Kids race derby cars made from garbage

Brooklyn Paper
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Photo gallery

Imagination race: Tommy Gottlieb, Alex Gottlieb, Zephyr Weinreich, and Val Blayer won a prize for creativity thanks to this imaginative racer.
Candy cruiser: Jack Klock called his set of wheels “Candy Cart.”
Down Slope: Eleanor Macks raced this wooden bomber in the Slope.
Speed racer: Quinn Opdyke sits atop his wooden speedster.
Zoom: A Kings-County tyke satisfies his need for speed as he barrels down 17th Street.
Shark week: Ethan Wind created this monster, called “Sharkie,” for the soap-box derby race on Aug. 27.

One man’s trash is another kid’s race car.

Kings County youngsters sped down 17th Street for the ninth annual South Slope Derby on Aug. 27, piloting homemade soap-box racers that organizers say they fashioned almost entirely from curbside junk.

“We collect all kinds of material from the neighborhood, from construction sites, stores, recycled bicycles, old strollers, and out of this we then make those cars,” said Monica Wuhrer, executive director at Open Source Gallery, which runs a six-week workshop for kids, where they learn to turn trash into downhill bombers before the big race day.

This year’s derby featured around 45 kids and 30 racing contraptions, which went bumper to bumper in categories including design, creativity, and speed.

After laboring all summer, plotting out designs, sawing wood, and screwing on wheels, it felt good to roll out a racer and find it handles like dream, according to one speedster.

“It drives super nice,” derby pilot Ethan Wind said of his shark-themed racer, which one him a trophy for best design.

Some of the speed demons went so fast, race officials had to dive into the street in a mad dash to slow them down — an outrageous interference, as far as the pint-sized pilots are concerned.

“It kind of sucks,” said 10-year-old Val Blayer, whose team won a prize for creativity. “We would have gotten second in speed and that would have given us an even higher trophy.”

All in all, it was a good way to put junk to good use, and learn a thing or two about engineering, according to Wurher.

“We started nine years ago as a fun talk about how to make use of all this garbage, and we just put out an e–mail and a lot of kids came back very happy,” she said. “It’s a hands on way to learn.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Car Expert says:
The cars would run more quickly if they weren't weighed down by all the bed bugs that live in the discarded trash.
Aug. 30, 2016, 7:16 am

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