Saturday 18th April 2020
Since we’re all on lockdown and facing a lower work volume than usual, now seemed like an opportune time to get on with some of those jobs that we just never seem to get around to. Soapy’s engine has been on that list for quite a while, and a reasonably large one too. We’ve owned Soapy for over three years now, and most of that time the car has been sat at the back of the workshop collecting dust, and it deserves better. The plan is to get the engine rebuilt and up and running again, and better than ever. We’ll inspect the rest of the car (not that there is much to inspect given that it is a stripped back race car), and then we may even assess the feasibility of getting it to a road legal status. There may be some challenges to this given there is no US paperwork with the car so registering it may be quite difficult – and thats without considering the need to add things like brake lights, indicators and other necessary items. It would be nice to be able to use the car. regularly and properly enjoy it, and I hope that it is possible, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Monday 2nd October 2017
We’ve recently been back to Brands Hatch to take some photos of Soapy with our 1941 Ford Coupe. It was nice to see the two cars together, as they make a nice pair and have a certain amount of similarities. The ’41 Coupe ran beautifully as it always does, but sadly it was at this point that Soapy has truly given up the ghost and wouldn’t restart whilst we were on the track, and even the slight incline towards Paddock Hill Bend becomes a huge effort when you’re trying to position a car for some photos.
Sunday 25th June 2017
We were invited to take part in some display laps at our home race circuit, Brands Hatch, along with a few other stock cars. Soapy once again didn’t run without issues, but looked fantastic out on track as shown in the professional photos below.
Saturday 13th May 2017
We decided to take Soapy to the Santa Pod Raceway, to see how the car performs and just to enjoy the atmosphere. It’s the first time I’d been to Santa Pod and it is certainly an experience, with a wide variety of cars lining up to have a go. Sadly Soapy didn’t perform very well, only managing around 34mph and one of the carbs starting leaking fuel onto the top of the engine – which is obviously quite a concern. Its one of those jobs that will need investigation at some point. We did manage to get some great photos from the official track photographer though, which you can see below.
Soapy has recently arrived after being purchased from the Coys Auction at the London Classic Car Show at the ExCeL. Like a lot of toys I have no real need to own a ’30s stock car, but it was sold at a very reasonable rate and who wouldn’t want to own a classic race car?
The reason this particular Ford Tudor is called Soapy is explained below, in an excerpt from the auction listing from the Coys website:
‘Neil “Soapy” Castles was born 1st October 1934 in Charlotte, NC. Castles competed in the Grand National and Winston Cup ranks for 19 years before retiring from the sport in l976. He was nicknamed “Soapy” from his boyhood competition in soap-box derbies. A true ‘Redneck’, it was said that if you wanted somebody whacked, “Soapy” would do it for $300, and if you wanted flowers, it was $5 more. His NASCAR Grand National Division debut came on 20th June 1957 on the half-mile Columbia Speedway dirt track, driving Bill Champion’s No: 5 Ford.
Castles was to start 17th and survive the race to finish 18th – and unharmed. He returned at Darlington Raceway, driving his own No: 68 Ford in which he was to make a further three appearances for a total of five professional major league races that year. Throughout the ’60s “Soapy” maintained a highly competitive career, spending four seasons in Buck Baker’s cars and finishing 8th o/a in the point standings in 1965 and 9th o/a in the final standings in 1966. Other than those years, Castles fielded his own cars and was considered one of the leading “independents” (those without a factory-backed program). He was 8th o/a again in the standings in his own cars in l967 and then 12th in l968. His best seasons came in 1969 and 1970 when he was respectively 4th and 5th in the final point standings.
During his long career he made 498 starts and although he never scored a victory, he had 51 top-five finishes and 178 top-10 placings. He also performed stunt driver duties in the Warner Brothers film “Greased Lightning” alongside Wendell Scott.
Proudly wearing the later Soapy Castles’ race number #06, this 1938 Ford Tudor ‘Sportman’ stock car comes from the now defunct Rod Long NASCAR Museum. Restored several years ago at a cost of over $30,000, this original warhorse was prepared especially for Neil “Soapy” Castles to demonstrate at NASCAR events. A high specification ‘Sportsman’ class racer – it features period Edelbrock aluminium race heads on its flathead V-8 engine, fuelled by twin Stromberg 94 carburettors via an original Fenton dual intake. A massive roll cage protects the driver, while safety hubs ensure that he will not lose a wheel during contact with another racer. Wide ‘dirt’ race wheels are employed, which give the car a menacing stance and straight through pipes emit a thunderous presence. With all this ‘go’ on tap – it’s reassuring to know that the brakes on this racer use ’40 ‘juice’ (hydraulic) brakes rather than the earlier rod type. This is no ‘Jalopy racer’ but a professionally restored survivor. The car has been maintained regardless of cost since being imported to the U.K and has recently been fully serviced and rolling road tuned for an appearance at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed Press Day and a subsequent track day at Goodwood Motor Circuit, where it stunned onlookers with its spirited performance!
Here is an evocative NASCAR racer that has already been seen and much admired at the 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed and the 2013 Press Day. Most recently it took part in the 2016 Goodwood Revival performing faultless demonstration laps on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Eligible for the current vintage stock car series it would be welcomed at both demonstration events and in flat out racing if you dare.’