Student race car stolen

Police dust for fingerprints after project goes missing

Queen’s Baja Team’s car was stolen from a shop at McLaughlin Hall earlier this month.
Queen’s Baja Team’s car was stolen from a shop at McLaughlin Hall earlier this month.
Photo: 

On Saturday, July 6, an off-road racing car was reported stolen from a workshop in the back of McLaughlin Hall, located at 130 Stuart St.

The Queen’s Baja team had designed and constructed the car, resembling a dune buggy, to participate in the Baja Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) race at Tennessee Technical University earlier in April.

The team also participated in two other off-road competitions in June and July.

Kingston Police are currently investigating the theft. Officers swept the shop, which faces toward the main parking lot at Kingston General Hospital, for prints last Monday and are encouraging the public to come forward with any tips.

The custom-built black and blue race car has a Briggs & Stratton 10-horsepower Intek engine, provided by the Baja SAE, and runs at a maximum speed of approximately 50 km/h. The project cost over $10,000 to craft, an expense mostly covered by sponsors and designated club funding.

According to police, the thief had broken into a window that connected the shop to a graduate student lab in McLaughlin Hall. The University has subsequently installed alarms in the shop, and is looking into placing security cameras around the area.

The missing car marks a major blow to Luke Damron and the rest his team, comprising approximately 15 mechanical engineering students, Damron, the team’s manager said.

Each member put in upward of 50 — sometimes even 100 — hours per week crafting the design and manufacturing the custom parts that first began last September, he added.

“We put our blood, sweat and tears into it,” Damron, Sci ’13, said. “To see it disappear like that makes it really hard.” The shop where the car was stolen also housed a custom-engineered truck and another off-road race care built by graduate students, making the theft even more puzzling to team members.

The car doesn’t have a reverse option and its custom-built parts aren’t salvageable, meaning the car has little value on the black market, he said, adding that it’s difficult to get into the car without assistance.

“I don’t know what would incentivize someone to do it. It’s not as if it’s as good as an ATV,” he said. “It’s a student-built project that has more value to us than anybody else which makes it that much more frustrating.”

According to Baja SAE rules, the team is allowed to recycle parts of previously-built cars so long as the car placed out of the top 10 category.

The team had banked on reusing parts of the car to save costs and time, given next year’s team’s relative inexperience with the project.

Damron, who has been part of the team since his second year, said the theft could negatively impede the upcoming team’s performance at the annual races.

“They were going to reuse a lot of the vehicle because they have a very small and inexperienced team coming up to this next season,” he said. “I feel awful for them.”

Chris Carrick, who first reported the car missing, said his team next year is going to be “in pretty bad shape.”

“At first I thought someone at the team had just taken it out for a spin and forgot to tell us and then I called up everybody and realized that it was actually stolen,” Carrick, Sci ’14, said. “It’s kind of like a big slap in the face to us … we put all this time and effort into the car and somebody just comes and takes it because they just wanted it.”

“Once the people get bored of the car or it breaks on them they’re just going to dump it somewhere. Hopefully they’ll dump it somewhere and someone finds it,” he added.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.