87-Year-Old GR Man Racing Old Soap Box Car From 1930s

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — An lifelong resident of Grand Rapids is taking a trip down memory lane – all the way to the fast lane.

Growing up on Worden Street, Henry Bloem used to ride around Grand Rapids on his soap box derby racer as a child. Now, he’s 87 – and hitting the track again.

He’ll be racing in the Immanuel Reformed Church’s Third Annual Soap Box Derby on Saturday.

Bloem found the old racer in his Eastern Avenue garage attic about a year ago. It’d been up there for almost sixty years – ever since he moved there in 1958.

“It’s been so long ago that I can’t even recall some of the old times that I’ve been on it,” Bloem laughs.

“I was surprised when I even saw it. It was still up there.”

Bloem says he spent six weeks putting new wheels and brakes on the car, along with an old ironing board for more stability.

Otherwise, it’s still the same wood it was built with more than 75 years ago.

He took it to the church simply to show it off.

“And they said, ‘Hey, jump on and go down the hill with it,’ Bloem says. “So that’s what I did.”

So how was the first ride in seven decades?

“Felt great,” he says. “It did! And it rolled down good, rolled good and the brakes work and everything.”

Now the whole congregation is waiting for the race to see Bloem hit the road.

“Before the service (last Sunday,) they said, ‘Henry Bloem’s gonna race his derby too – and he’s 87 years old,” he laughs again.

The Derby runs from noon-4:00 Saturday at the church (1300 East Beltline) on the southeast side of Grand Rapids.

Bloem will be the race’s oldest participant.

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