It didn’t have the horsepower that the Coca-Cola 600 will bring to Charlotte later in May – just two launching ramps, a hill and gravity to power these race cars.
But a race is a race.
And the Cub Scouts in Packs 1, 3 and 777 who competed in Saturday’s second annual Cubmobile Race felt the speed, competition and the adrenalin on a slight hill at McDonald Avenue and Ideal Way in the Dilworth neighborhood.
“I had this adrenalin rush right as we took off,” said Lucien Broadwell of Pack 777, who raced against his brother Landon during time trials. “My brother came up on my side and I got nervous. But I won and that’s thrilling.”
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The cars are made of plywood, laminated veneer lumber, hardware and wheels. They were designed and built by Charlotte builder Bill Platt, Pack 1’s assistant Cub master, and painted by scouts in the three packs.
Platt used drawings from a 1968 Bear Cub manual owned by Charlie Ashing IV, Pack 1’s Cub master. Platt was told by “old-timers in their 70s” that Cubmobiles were once raced on Tyvola Road in the 1960s.
But the race disappeared from Charlotte, until Ashing brought up a near-50-year-old dream he’d had to start a race.
I had this adrenalin rush right as we took off. My brother came up on my side and I got nervous. But I won and that’s thrilling.
Cub Scout Lucien Broadwell, who raced against his brother at Cubmobile Race
That dream was launched in 1968 in Cincinnati, Ohio, during the race to the moon. Ashing was a 7-year-old Cub Scout and his pack had built rockets from balsa wood and raced them against other packs.
In his manual, he saw the drawing of Cubmobiles and suggested to his den mother that the pack build these crude racing carts.
“It was more of an undertaking than I think she could handle,” Ashing said. “And then my family moved away, so I don’t know if it ever got off the ground. Since then, I’d wanted start to a Cubmobile race.”
He got his chance when his 5-year-old son Charles V became a Cub, and he got involved with Pack 1. It rained hard during last year’s inaugural race between Packs 1 and 3 on the same hill.
But as fathers lifted the first two cars on the side-by-side starting ramps, Ashing felt a lump. “I definitely got emotional,” he said. “A dream fulfilled.”
After that race, the 50-pound cars were redesigned with bottoms “so kids couldn’t stop with their feet,” said John Kincheloe, a Pack 3 father whose sons Hatcher, 9, and David, 8, also raced. They steer with rope and their feet.
I was very nervous because I’d never started before on that steep of a ramp. It looked very steep, but when you looked down the hill it didn’t seem like you’d go very fast. But it did. I was impressed with my skills.
Cub Scout Alex Lowe
Saturday’s race was won again by Pack 1, which will keep the traveling Cubmobile Cup for a year. A bagpiper played for the opening ceremony that included the crowd reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the scouts cheering on their pack-mates.
During time trials, 7-year-old Alex Lowe of Pack 1 raised his right fist in victory as he crossed the finish line. “I was very nervous because I’d never started before on that steep of a ramp,” the boy said. “It looked very steep, but when you looked down the hill it didn’t seem like you’d go very fast. But it did. I was impressed with my skills.”
As he walked away, a schoolmate named Kathryn, shyly blushed and told him: “Alex you looked great out there.”