Tony Troilo's divine inspiration: Kids, community embrace dealer-sponsored Soap Box Derby

Sept. 1, 2003

Last fall, Tony Troilo and three of his colleagues were trying to come up with a way to thank the community of Brandy Station, Va., for supporting Rosson & Troilo Motor Co.

Their brainstorming proved unsuccessful until an idea suddenly popped into Troilo's head: "Soap Box Derby."

"You kidding?" asked one. A derby had not been held in the area -- a small town adjacent to Culpeper, Va. -- since 1949. "Why not?" said another, and they were off and rolling.

Tony, president and owner of Rosson & Troilo and Modern Tire Dealer's 1995 Tire Dealer of the Year, did a little research on the subject and decided the idea was solid. But he also concluded that there was too much to accomplish to get ready for the 2003 event.

He told his sister, Frances (Frankie) Troilo, the company's sales and marketing manager, that Rosson & Troilo would sponsor the Soap Box Derby for the town's children, but not until 2004. "End of subject," thought Tony. Frankie, however, had other ideas.

"She came back to me right after the first of the year and said, 'We're doing it, and we're doing it in 2003."

Frankie had contacted other communities that held Soap Box Derby events, and talked with Soap Box Derby officials about what to expect. She decided the company could pull it off for its 75th anniversary.

From February until the All American Soap Box Derby was held in Akron, Ohio, in July, not a week went by without a committee meeting, not a day went by without some action being done in preparation for the big event.

From the start, the Troilos were amazed at the enthusiasm and support from the community. Not once did they receive a "no" when asking for help, not from the town council, not from the police -- even though the derby necessitated closing an incline on Blue Ridge Avenue in Culpeper for the races. "Every time we asked for help, we received it tenfold," says Frankie.

Thirty-five children, ages eight to 16, took part in the races in the wooden, hand-made cars. But it seemed that the whole community got involved, according to the Troilos.

Rosson & Troilo also paid expenses for the first-place winners in the Stock and Super Stock Divisions to go to the world championships in Akron. Other companies in the community helped sponsor the race or helped pay for the drivers' cars (which cost from $450 to $500 each).

"We did this strictly as a thank you to the community for our 75 years. It turned out to be the best, most rewarding thing we've ever done," says Frankie.

An editorial in the Culpeper News said, "The company gave wings to its vision. Hard work and local support made possible a very special day."

Although the company won't reveal the money involved in sponsoring the derby, the Troilos say it was worth every penny. "New customers come in and tell us they're here just because of the derby," says Tony.

The company already is compiling a list of children who want to participate next year. "We started out knowing nothing about putting on a Soap Box Derby to becoming 'Race City'!" says Frankie.

She adds that thanks to a "race bible" the company created, next year's derby will be a snap.

About the Author

Bob Ulrich

Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000 and retired in January 2020. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and had been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993. He won numerous awards for editorial and feature writing, including five gold medals from the International Automotive Media Association. Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University and has a law degree from the University of Akron.