|CREDIT: Paul vanPeenen/NOW|
|Craig Stewart, right, and Matt Wilke unload Engine 1, which they will race in Sunday's soapbox derby in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood. They're joined by team members Bubba Montabello and Cory Glauser.|
It comes complete with a siren and horn, but the latest contraption to emerge from Coquitlam Fire & Rescue is more likely to cause bodily harm than prevent it.
Four members of the department are prepping to take part in Red Bull Soapbox 2008, a 56-team soapbox car race set to take place in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood on Sunday.
"All of our captains are into it, the whole department, our union's behind us -- everyone's really into it," said team member Craig Stewart.
Stewart will be joined by Bubba Montabello, Matt Wilke and Cory Glauser in the event, and any proceeds the group manages to accumulate will be donated to charity. If they win the race, that amount could be as much as $7,500.
Close to 300 entries were initially submitted for the Red Bull event, though the Coquitlam contingent wasn't holding out much hope that its design would make the grade.
"We weren't really counting on getting in, because we just sort of threw our plans together, but thankfully we did get picked," Montabello said.
Come race day, the team will be judged on three components: the time it takes to complete the race itself, crowd response and a 30-second skit that the team will have to perform.
Competition rules stipulate that the designs have to weigh less than 79 kilograms, be shorter than six metres in length and less than 2.5 metres high.
Once the team selects who'll drive the vehicle, the brave soul will race down a 520-metre-long course that will run along West Fourth Avenue, between Vine and Burrard streets.
To top it all off, the Coquitlam contingent's entry will resemble the same trucks used by the local department, complete with lights and decals.
There's also talk of using the same horn as emergency vehicles, one that can emit 120 decibels worth of sound.
"It's going to be loud and bright," maintains Montabello.
Bells and whistles aside, putting together such a contraption has been no lean feat.
Stewart and Wilke have taken the lead on that front, working for the majority of the past month and a half at Stewart's home in South Vancouver.
The creative process first saw the group eying a three-wheeled, tricycle design, before tossing around the idea of a contraption with five wheels. Both designs were scrapped, and the team then took to the Internet for inspiration.
"None of us have ever done this before," Stewart said. "We were thinking that you just slap a couple of wheels on a two-by-four and you're good to go, but it has proven to be pretty difficult."
In fact, one of the group's first test runs saw Stewart used as a human guinea pig of sorts, as one of the preliminary designs eventually ended with Stewart getting up close and personal with the concrete in his family's back lane.
"The whole weight of the steering system was wrong. You turned it left and the weight went right," Stewart recalled. "I kind of got launched out of it. It was a bit of a disaster."
The design that the crew has finally arrived at will see the racer made of wood and foam siding, with the brakes operating via a lever system that pinches the back wheels.
"It's been a long time coming. We've tested it, broken it, flipped it over once," Stewart said. "We've certainly been learning a lot about steering, brakes and all that."
With more than a dozen test runs in the bank, and after series of technical glitches, group members think they may have the racer that could put them over the top.
"I'm sure there's other teams with more experience building soapbox racers," said Glauser. "We're pretty aggressive guys if we need to be, so we should be able to make a go of it. But more than anything, it's just to have fun, put on a good show and raise money for a good cause."