Gravity power motivates Hyundai’s newest design concept

The soapbox derby-style car is designed for families to build at home

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Hyundai Soapbox
Designed and engineered at Hyundai Europe, this soabox derby-style vehicle can be built using materials available at DYI home centers, and Hyundai shares links to webpages with full instructions | Hyundai Europe Design Center photos

When you were a kid, you might have built a soapbox derby-style downhill racer using roller skates, an orange crate and some scrap lumber. Or perhaps you were more sophisticated and actually built a real Soap Box Derby entry and maybe you even got to race it on the famous hill in Akron, Ohio. 

Apparently during the coronavirus pandemic, the staff at Hyundai’s Europe Design Center in Russelsheim, Germany, had some time on its hands and the designers and engineers decided to design and build a “soapbox ride” that families or friends could build themselves using affordable and easily available components.

Of course, being automotive designers, the team decided to model its gravity-powered rider after the Hyundai 45 concept car.

“In recent months, spending time together as a family has become more valuable to people,” Andreas-Christoph Hofmann, vice president of marketing and product for Hyundai Motor Europe is quoted on the project webpage. 

“We wanted to create a fun project that would give families and friends an enjoyable project that brings them together. Of course, the Hyundai Soapbox had to stay affordable, so our designers developed it using materials that can be easily found in a local DIY store.”

Although the project was given the same approach as the design of a motorized vehicle, and at first that resulted in bodywork with double-curved surfaces the team realized would be very difficult to duplicate in the home-garage environment.

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“When designing the Hyundai Soapbox, it was important for us to ensure feasibility,” said design team leader Eduardo Ramirez. “We didn’t want to disadvantage parents for the sake of staying true to our original design. So when the design got too complex, we needed to take a step back and rethink.”

“In the car industry we get so used to thinking within certain boxes,” added Hyundai Europe Design Center head Thomas Burkle. “But this time, the door was open. With this project, we were free to be creative and think outside the box.”

On the webpage, Hyundai explains, “The development team wanted the soapbox ride being simple yet demonstrating advanced thinking. So instead of using a conventional steering wheel they adapted the joystick steering concept from (the) Prophecy show car. However, to allow homemade build, the joysticks were made of purchased screwdrivers.”

The soapbox rider is constructed from wood, metal rods, brackets and screws and rides on wheelbarrow wheels. And while it was designed for children, it also was designed to carry an adult’s weight.

The vehicle is 39.4 inches wide 69.3 inches long, the idea being that it could fit into a typical crossover utility vehicle for transportation to hills. 

“The powertrain is gravity,” Burkle reminds. “Your own motivation. The power of your own two legs when you push it back uphill.”

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Hyundai also shares instructions for building your own version on its webpage, and adds: “The Hyundai soapbox instructions are just a basis to help people get started – parents and children should feel free to upgrade and personalize their own versions however they want.”

“I don’t think the point is for people to build what we design and that’s it,” Burkle adds. “Children are full of creativity, full of fantasy, and we need to leave room for that fantasy.

Below is a video summary of the assembly of the Hyundai Soapbox and here is the link to detailed instructions you can print.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Sorta seems like cheating if used for the real derby.
    I could see Ronald MacDonald in that thing with his legs hanging over the sides handing out “Happy Meals” then going across the field in slow speed NASCAR style and being towed back by a Hyundai Santa Cruz.

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