The last time a Nebraskan won the “local champions” division of the All-American Soap Box Derby held in Akron, Ohio, was in 1967 when thirteen year old Ken Cline took home the trophy. Originally from Midland, Texas, the Cline family moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in the fall of 1966. Two of Ken’s brothers had won tournaments in Texas and competed at the national tournament in previous years, but they were unable to take home the national championship. Ken Cline was the first competitor from Nebraska to win the Derby since 1938 when it was won by Robert Berger of Nebraska City. In the years since Cline’s win, numerous Nebraskans have competed and done well at the Derby, but none have taken home the top prize.*
The Library/Archives Division holds a small collection of materials relating to Ken Cline’s win at the 1967 All-American Soap Box Derby, including this issue of the Soap Box Derby News and a copy of this booklet of Cline’s derby car drawings. The booklet states that Cline put in over 1400 hours designing and building his championship-winning car. He beat out 244 other local tournament champions from forty-six states and five foreign countries to take home the trophy and a $7500 college scholarship awarded by Chevrolet.
The NSHS collections don’t contain much information about soap box derby competitions in Nebraska, so if you have anything that you would like to share, we would love to hear from you!
-Tom Mooney, Curator of Manuscripts
*No Nebraskan has won the “Local Championship” since Ken Cline’s win in 1967. However, it should be noted that in 1995 Aaron Hoffmann of Papillion won the Super Stock division in the “Rally Championship” of the All-American Soap Box Derby.
For more information about the All-American Soap Box Derby, see their website, which includes lists of all previous years’ top finishers.