I have chatted with the organizers of this year's annual get-together, and we all are in agreement -- this year, we're going to have us a little gravity-powered derby.

A bunch of years ago, I was at ECB's garage, and he had this funky little car in a glass cabinet. It was made from the valve cover of some small engine, probably a Pinto, boasted four wheels, and a little decorative flair. I was floored; I'd never seen anything like that before, and wanted to know the back story. It looked "Full Race," as it were.

So, yeah. He is part of the hot-rod scene -- as well as the old boat, old Tudor sedan, horseless carriage, slot-car, memorabilia … whatever transportation-related hobby circles there are. In one of those, valve-cover racing is a thing, and he's got a pretty good idea of how they're supposed to go.

We’re not going to be able to afford to mimic the sanctioned VCR circuit too much — but only because it’ll be kind of hard to make the full-on competition stuff his other clubs have worked super-hard for years to refine happen.

Maybe, if this catches on, but not on our first attempt.

Bruce’s an awesome dude who’s got a whole list of good suggestions, and he’s right that there really ARE some official rules. I really do like a handful of them, like there should probably be a weight limit, a governing body (as such), a set venue, and a smooth track surface. There ought to be a size limit, and there ought to be a set number of wheels allowed on the cars.

I consulted the gentlemen who are putting together the weekend for us; Ed and Alan, as well as Piperato (always "good" counsel), Nichols the Younger (an eager young man who knows too much about Pinewood Derby stuff), and my wife, Jeni. The consensus was that this event should be held on either Friday or Saturday at the showfield, depending on weather. If the weather's nice, maybe Friday could be a test-and-tune day, and the Marshal (TBD, but I'm leaning toward Mossberg or Wild Bill) can run cars through Tech.

We also floated weight, and feel that the cars should weigh less than one and-a-half pounds. A scale will be on-site, but probably won't be used on anybody's car except Fincher's. He'll probably bring a three-wheeled dump-truck valve cover and fill it with concrete and rebar.

We felt the valve cover used for a contestant's car should reflect the spirit of our event; four or six-cylinder engines have significantly smaller valve covers than, say, an Oldsmobile Rocket. My thought is that the cover should somehow be connected to the Speedster, Spyder, MG, or Fiero you bring to the event (but not from your *actual* car!).

Max gets to bring a Fiero. Nobody else does.

They should have at least four wheels -- of which, four touch the ground when the car is in motion.

And paint. Some kind of paint. Decorate with welding, putty, parts, windshields -- whatever. And some kind of identification number would be nice.

In my mind, we're looking at the asphalt stretch nearest the fence -- the one which goes up the hill to Trailer Land and the Autocross track. In a perfect world, Ed will be able to bargain us an hour or two wherein that particular 50 yards is closed for our use. We'll see, but it might draw spectators if management puts it on the official Carlisle Events schedule. That would be fun. 

I'm going to make ONE trophy out of leftover sh*t in my garage, topped with a Hubley Indy car toy I bought last week that I'm going to paint with some kind of cool gold paint. Totally garage art -- intended for the overall winner. If y'all want to make something for other "winners," by all means … I believe there'll be room at the dinner Saturday for a few presentations.

Feel free to float ideas here. I mostly read the facebook page for this group, but I'll check in here from time to time.

2007 JSR 2.4-L Mutt Speedster

The Hoopty

Last edited by Cory Drake
Original Post

I vote for a "Safest Driver Award" for the slowest car. This is not something one wishes to win. Derision and insults will accompany said award.

We had talked about 4 wheels on the ground no more no less...and gravity powered only. Type 1 Valve cover w/a overall maximum weight of 1.5 lbs. I think a maximum of 5 lbs  using any valve cover might be interesting and allows for more ....diversity.  Real Valve Cover Racing has Official Rules found on line and utilizes a plywood starter ramp and all that nonsense.

Last edited by Alan Merklin

If this is a thing, and I'm not saying I'm participating even if it is, the rules/parameters for the cars need to be decided and agreed upon. This needs to happen soon, so those building cars can build and NOT have to change what they're doing to adapt to new rules. Wheel size, attachment points(wheels first, or behind front of valve cover? Inside or outside of cover?). Final max weight? Height, length, etc.

The length of the track matters, and quite honestly a 5 pound car can be moving very quickly at the bottom of the proposed hill and quite probably hurt someone. There needs to be a plan to stop these things that doesn't involve someone trying to catch them. Gravity, you know, it's a thing.

                                       Valve Cover Racer General Rules

The Race Marshalls:  Cory and Jeni Drake

The Cars:

Cars will be subject to some minor inspection so as to adhere to the rules and may very well be laughed at.

A valve cover must be of the type designed for a internal combustion car engine only

Dimensions: Max 24" in length,  12" in overall width,  10" overall height 

Valve cover in race ready form may not exceed five ( 5 ) pounds.

No engines or propulsion in any form other than gravity 

Cars must have all four (4) non metallic wheels on the surface at all times and not exceed six inch (6") in diameter.

Wheels may be affixed to the valve cover in any manner either inside or outside of the cover. If outside, the wheels may not extend forward of the leading edge of the valve cover

No part may  extend forward of the leading edge of the valve cover

Weights are permitted in any solid form (no liquids) but may not be of a variable type  i.e. move while racing

Track type and distance to be determined and shall have rolled blankets - pads  or similar item to arrest the movement of the cars.

The Race:

Should two racing cars should exit the track or have a mechanical failure prior to reaching the designated finish line, the car that has traveled the further distance shall be the race winner and advance to the next race.

If one car crashes into the another car or restricts the other car's performance the offending car shall be disqualified and the other car shall move on as the winner to the next race.


Last edited by Alan Merklin

"Track type and distance to be determined and shall have rolled blankets - pads  or similar item to arrest the movement of the cars."

Can't we just lay down SOC members as side barriers along the track?  



Thanks for putting this together.  For the people interested in participating, do some searches on 'valve cover racer" to get ideas - some get pretty creative.  I've attached a couple of photos to give an idea of what mine looks like. It is an old Pinto valve cover and uses wheels off an old skate board.  Most of the rules have max weights of 10-12 pounds but I believe that might be too high although I'm not sure a max of 5 pounds is high enough...we'll see.    Should be fun.     


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Got an email today. The Carlisle Poohbah, Ed Buczeskie, thinks this is a stellar idea—pending thoughtful consideration by any adults who might be above him (or next to him?) in the pecking order and the settling on rules and regulations to ensure the safety of all concerned.

I sent him a copy of the proposed rules (above) and a link to this thread. Please keep the online shennanigans here at mild thermonuclear test levels. 

Don't be self-censoring, Danny. Until we get word in writing "Thou Shalt Not Signal The Race Start By Lighting Off An M-80 In A Bucket Of Chicken Wings," we should assume it's fine.

(edit: reference):

stupid nicks



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Last edited by edsnova

This is going to be a hoot. Or "an hoot," if you have an MG.

I have located four Type IV valve covers which are going to be sacrificed on the Altar of Madness. I'm absolutely building four different cars from them -- one for Chris, one for Karyn, one for Jeni, and one for myself. Even if it's just the four of us, by gum, we're doing this.

I'm also scrounging up old tools to weld up into a trophy of some kind. That might be more amusing than the valve cover cars are. However it works out, I'm really glad to see the interest and humor at work here.

I sent an email this morning to both Eds (our guy and the Carlisle Events gentleman) asking that this not be put out to the attendees at large. In the event that is gets cancelled, which would be a shame, that's one more thing to put on the list to notify all hands and the ship's cook about.

Jeni's car is done. Three more to build. I found a source for skateboard wheels and trucks on ebay, and got several sets of hardware for $20. A couple rattle cans and a quick look around the garage for odds and ends, zip-zip with the welder, and bam. Kinda looks like a cross between an Army Jeep and an MG. Weighs about four pounds.

Pictures to follow at some point. Anybody else making progress, or has this virus thing got us all on the edges of our seats?

CDC's initial guidance is to avoid  " gathering " for 60 days.  Carlisle is still some 59 days out, much can and will happen between now and then and things change daily.  I know that we all will be cautious and not get too rambunctious and panic as the weeks roll by but do keep positive that we will have our Carlisle ....Hey we're all Family !  .....Danny said it best :  Stop already, before you start. We're not changing our plans, or even considering it, yet "

Last edited by Alan Merklin

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