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Having a Pack Christmas Party? Pinewood Derby Cars make a great gift. Now is the time to start getting ready for the Big Race!
Chaparral District Flyer
- Location: St. Ann’s School Gym
- Registration: 8:00 am
- Races Start: 11:10 am
- Cost: $5 per person.
For more information, contact Matt Vercher at (432) 638-4014 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comanche Trails & Big Bend Districts
- Location: Asbury United Methodist Church, 4001 E University Blvd, Odessa, TX
- Registration: 9:00 AM
- Races Start: 10:30 AM
- Cost: $5 per person.
For more information, contact Michael Adam at (432) 553-3433 or email@example.com
Lone Star District
- Location: Snyder Elementary School Cafeteria, 3601 El Paso Ave, Snyder, TX 79549
- Registration: 10:00 AM
- Races Start: 10:30 AM
- Cost: $5 per person.
For more information, contact Zack Mullins at (432) 212-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Pinewood Derby
- Rev Up Your Imagination
- Power Up Your Design!
- Step Up to Race!
- Know the Rules
- Pinewood Derby® Rules
- How-To Resources
- Pinewood Derby® Checklist for Adults
- Checklist for Running a Pinewood Derby®
- Methods of Scoring a Pinewood Derby®
- Other Competitive Methods
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Take Your Place in History
- Results that Last a Lifetime
- Sportsmanship – The Big Win
- Fun Facts
As soon as your pack’s Pinewood Derby® date is announced, it’s time to DREAM! Start planning the coolest car design you can imagine.
Inside your official Grand Prix Pinewood Derby® car kit you’ll find wheels, axles, and a wooden block – everything you need to get started.
Think about your dream car and how you’ll build and decorate it. Include themes that are special to you and let your creativity and personality shine through!
Your adult assistant can help you find the perfect design; one that’s a fun challenge, but not overly difficult to build. And, you need to be sure it meets the Pinewood Derby® requirements of your pack’s race. You’ll also learn about other Pinewood Derby® awards your pack might have, such as: Fastest, Best Looking, Most Original, Best Craftsmanship, Most Colorful, and more.
Be Prepared™ to ensure your best BUILD yet.
Make some drawings of the car you want to build (graph paper can make it easier and even more fun). With your adult helper by your side, sketch the outline on the side of the wooden block.
Shape the car using a small saw and other woodworking tools. It’s OK to let the adult help you with the more difficult steps. He or she can also help you make sure the axles and wheels fit the car body at the correct angle; be sure to remove them until you’ve painted the car.
Use sandpaper to smooth the surface of your racer.
Paint your car. Two or three coats of spray paint will make the finish really stand out. Or, use one of the new easy-to-apply “skins”, available from www.scoutstuff.org, in place of paint.
Install the axles and wheels, making sure the wheels spin easily.
Now you can add decals (there are several great decal designs available from www.scoutstuff.org). Also, if you want to add them, glue in place a driver, exhaust pipes, fenders, spoilers, and any other accessories.
Derby day is a blast! Cub Scouts and adults will cheer for you and your team. After all your hard work, there’s nothing like watching your creation race to the finish!
Racing against other cars is an exciting part of every Pinewood Derby®. But the real fun is the adventure itself – the whole process! Whether you take home first place or not, you can be proud of how hard you worked and the memories you and your adult helper created.
If the pack is planning to participate in either district or council races, your Pinewood Derby® committee needs to make sure that their rules don’t conflict with those of the district or council in order to ensure their members can participate in events at those levels.
Each local Pinewood Derby® committee will determine rules for building and racing its pack’s Pinewood Derby® cars.
Here are the basic rules taken from the BSA’s Cub Scout Leader How-To Book:
- Width shall not exceed 2-3/4 inches.
- Length shall not exceed 7 inches.
- Weight shall not exceed 5 ounces.
- Axles, wheels, and body shall be from the materials provided in the kit.
- Wheel bearings, washers, and bushings are prohibited.
- No lubricating oil may be used. Axles may be lubricated with powdered graphite or silicone.
- The car shall not ride on any kind of spring.
- The car must be free-wheeling, with no starting devices.
- No loose materials of any kind are allowed in the car.
- Once the final weigh-in has occurred no alterations may be made
- Repairs to the cars will be made by the Derby “Pit Crew,” unless otherwise directed
To ensure the highest level of success and fun in your Pinewood Derby® experience, make safety your top priority. David Meade, author of Pinewood Derby® Speed Secrets, offers useful guidelines for maintaining safety:
- Gather your safety essentials: dust mask, goggles, and latex gloves.
- Wear eye protection at all times.
- Monitor Cub Scouts’ use of tools.
- Wear dust mask when appropriate.
- Work in a well-lighted and well-ventilated area.
- Consider wearing gloves when using sharp tools.
- Do not wear loose-fitting clothing.
- Do not melt lead; handle lead with care.
- Follow all safety rules and precautions listed on the tools and products you use.
- Keep your work area clean and organized.
There are valuable books and handy guides with detailed, step-by-step Instructions on how to build a winning racer available at your local Scout shop or at www.scoutstuff.org, including Cub Scout Grand Prix: Pinewood Derby® Guidebook, Pinewood Derby® Designs & Patterns, and Pinewood Derby® Speed Secrets.
- Choose your favorite design. Outline it onto your paper template or graph paper. Remember to maintain a width of 1-3/4 inches where the metal axle is to be inserted. Then outline the bare block of wood onto the paper. Keep the design simple enough to avoid overly intricate or detailed cutting.
- When deciding how detailed you want your car to be, keep in mind the tools you have available: saws, drills, sanders, etc. Consider safety as well. Usually, the adult makes the major cuts with the power tools and then lets the youth file and complete the sanding.
- Check the axle grooves to ensure that each is at a perfect 90-degree angle to the car body. A car with untrue axles tends to steer to one side or the other, causing it to rub up against the side of the lane strip, slowing it down.
- Cut away the large sections of waste wood to get close to your etching of the final design. This makes it easier to shape and detail your design. It’s much harder to add wood if you overcut your original design.
- Do not forget to have a place for weight if you need it. Weight may be placed anywhere as long as it is not taped on and does not exceed the specifications.
- Only the official wheels are acceptable.
- Wheels can be sanded to remove surface imperfections, but the treads must be left flat.
- Inspecting the wheels is important. Make sure all wheels roll freely and smoothly around the axle. Get a drill bit that fits just inside the wheel where the axle fits. This cleans out the roughness and burrs that cause wheels to not spin freely.
- Check each axle for a burr on the underside of the head.
- To let the wheels run as freely as possible, place an axle in a hand-drill chuck to hold it steady, then smooth the burrs with a fine emery cloth or file.
- To fine-tune your axles, polish them with jeweler’s rouge or fine emery paper. These items can be purchased at a local hardware store.
- After shaping and sanding your car to your satisfaction, prime it, sand it with fine sandpaper, and add additional coats of paint or a “skin”. Do not glue details on yet.
- Put the axles and wheels on the car, but don’t glue axles on at this point. Weigh your car, being sure to place the car and the accessories (driver, steering wheel, roll bar, etc.) on the scale.
- The car may not weigh more than five ounces. Get your car as close to that weight as possible.
- If you do not have a scale, the U.S. Postal Service or a supermarket might weigh your car for you. Your pack leaders may have identified official scales for you to use. Also, some Scout shops offer free weigh-ins (not considered an “official” weight, but a good guide while designing your car).
- Weight must not be taped on. The car may be hollowed out and weight inserted to build it up to the maximum weight. Make sure it is securely attached or built into the body of the car so as to not fall off the car and onto the track.
- Once weight is securely mounted, slip wheels back on. Place car on a long, flat surface, such as a floor, and give it a gentle push. The car should travel in a straight line for a reasonable distance (five to ten feet).
- Practice tracks are also available.
- Lube and mount the wheels permanently. Dry, fine powdered lube works best. Dust a little powdered lube in the hole of the wheel where the axle is inserted, some on the axle where the wheel rides, and a little at the axle head.
- Slide the axles and wheels onto the car and glue into place. Use an epoxy or nonresin glue, and make sure you don’t get any on the surface of the axle where the wheel rides.
- Make sure accessories are securely mounted on the car. Add stripes and decals if desired.
As Cub Scouts and their families build cars together and share in the excitement of derby day year after year, Pinewood Derby® becomes an annual highlight for many Cub Scout packs. Each Cub Scout pack organizes its own Pinewood Derby®, establishes the rules, and conducts the events. Planning can begin when the Cubmaster designates several volunteers (for small packs) or finalizes membership of a Pinewood Derby® committee (for larger packs) to organize and manage the upcoming event.
Sell the dream! Get the boys excited about it. Help parents and den leaders understand the scope of the event and guide them in a positive direction.
Make the dream fit your unit’s experience. As a pack, you can dream big while still considering your limits and abilities. Evaluate your unit’s resources and the experience of your leaders. If this is your first derby, plan accordingly. If you’ve got leaders with experience, you can make it a bigger event.
Gather your resources. If you don’t have access to experienced leaders, consult with your district and neighboring Cub Scout packs.
We don’t want any boy to miss out on the fun, so the goal is for every Cub Scout to have a car on race day. For the Cub Scout pack, this may involve gathering resources to help the dens – and sometimes individual Cub Scouts as well – to have access to tools and materials necessary to build their cars. Unit leaders might host a “Build Your Car” day at someone’s home or workshop, making help and tools available to all Cub Scouts, especially those who may not have strong adult support.
You need a track to race on. You can buy one, borrow one, or build one. Even if you already have one, it’s a good idea to set it up early and test it to make sure all parts are in working order. Make any necessary repairs.
The following checklist provides a general idea of the steps required to plan and prepare for a successful Pinewood Derby®. Your pack can refine any of the steps and, if necessary, include additional checkpoints to fit the size of your pack and your particular situation.
Here is a planning timeline along with suggested steps for organizers to follow during derby preparation:
- Decide on the Pinewood Derby® location and reserve the space.
- Check to see that the track for the Pinewood Derby® is available and in good repair. (Your pack might already own a track. If not, volunteers could use their planning and carpentry skills to build one. Some packs have agreements with Boy Scout troops where the troops provide a track and run the Pinewood Derby® for the pack as a service project.)
- Begin building a Pinewood Derby® staff by inviting key volunteers to help out. A mix of veterans and newcomers can provide continuity and fresh ideas.
- Put the date and time of the Pinewood Derby® on pack and den calendars.
- Assign responsibilities to derby volunteers.
- Finalize the pack’s rules for the upcoming Pinewood Derby®.
- Arrange to get official Pinewood Derby® kits for all Cub Scouts who will be involved in the derby. Some packs purchase kits and provide one to each Cub Scout. Others inform parents of ways to order the kits themselves. Local Scout shops have Pinewood Derby® kits, or they can be ordered online at www.scoutstuff.org.
- Check out the trophies, ribbons, decorations, and other Pinewood Derby® materials available at Scout shops and from www.scoutstuff.org. Order those that will add color and excitement to your event.
- Provide Pinewood Derby® car kits for den leaders to distribute to their Cub Scouts, or otherwise ensure that all boys in the pack have access to kits. Include with each kit a copy of the pack’s Pinewood Derby® rules, a schedule for the upcoming derby, and any other information parents and guardians will find helpful. Packs that will have “siblings races” and “unlimited races” can offer additional kits for sale to families so that everyone can be involved in the fun.
- Verify that all participating Cub Scouts have received their car kits.
- Consider hosting a car-building day so that Cub Scouts and adults can enjoy working on their racers alongside other teams. With plenty of tools and the guidance of veteran Pinewood Derby® builders, a car-building day can help everyone solve the puzzles of crafting a successful car.
- Visit the derby site to determine where to place the track, check-in center, refreshment venues, alternative activities arenas, and tables for displaying cars and awards. Check with site managers to plan for setup on the day of the derby and for cleanup afterwards.
- Volunteers in charge of refreshments should complete their planning, including confirmation of volunteers/vendors who are providing beverages and food.
- Volunteers slated to register and weigh the cars and to manage a repair center gather the charts, scales, and tools they will need. Consider including glue, spare wheels and axles, and other materials for teams to make adjustments and repairs to their cars.
- With the help of volunteers, the committee sets up the race area and tests the track, timing devices, and derby race tracking programs.
- Register and weigh the cars as Cub Scouts and family members arrive. Assign each car a number and insert the car’s number in the derby scoring system.
- Enjoy a great event as Cub Scouts and their families take pride in the accomplishment of building cars ready to be entered in derby competitions.
- Celebrate the achievements of all Pinewood Derby® entrants.
The real winners of a Pinewood Derby® are all the Cub Scouts and adults working together to build and enter their racecars. Part of the fun can be friendly competition to discover the fastest cars. A derby involving dozens of cars requires careful planning to manage. The scoring system needs to be fair and clear. Many packs use tracks with electronic finish lines that automatically determine the placement of racers for every heat of a derby. Some tracks also have the ability to measure the speed of each car. Among possible methods for organizing Pinewood Derby® races are double elimination, recorded speed, and schedule-free.
This method uses a “winner’s bracket” system that begins with every car filling one spot. At the end of each heat, the winning car advances to the next level of the winner’s bracket while the other cars are entered in the loser’s bracket. Those cars then race against one another, and so it continues, with the winners of each heat advancing. The final car of each of the two brackets competes with the other for first place.
The system is straightforward and moves quickly. Each car has at least two chances to advance.
The system does not take into account the fact that certain lanes of the track might be faster than others. Some fast cars can be eliminated early if they are in the same part of a bracket. Once a racecar is eliminated, the Cub Scout who built it may lose interest in the rest of the derby.
Many Web sites feature brackets that can be printed out to conduct double elimination competitions. Some sites also have downloadable programs that provide computer support during a Pinewood Derby®. In either case, a basic bracket looks like this:
If its track is equipped to record the time it takes for each car to run the course, a pack might use the “recorded speed” method to determine derby winners. Each car is scheduled to race once in each lane of the track. Its time for every run is compiled, and the car completing the heats in the least amount of time is the winner. Other cars can be placed according to their elapsed time, too.
The system finds a clear winner and all the places that follow. Each Cub Scout gets to run his car once on every lane.
Heats that involve running every car in every lane can be more time- consuming than other systems.
If the real goal of a Pinewood Derby® is for Cub Scouts and adults to have the satisfaction of working together to build cars that are ready to race, declaring an ultimate winner might not be important to a pack. The “schedule-free” system allows teams to run their cars on the track against other teams of their own choosing. To manage the races, pack leaders can give each Cub Scout a certain number of tokens, each good for one race.
There is no need to develop a scoring system to oversee the involvement of all the cars. Boys get to race their cars against others of their own choosing. Depending on the number of tokens, boys will have a number of opportunities to send their cars down the track.
If traditions of a pack have always declared a Pinewood Derby® winner, some adults involved in the program might be resistant to changing over to a schedule-free system. For boys, it might also require a shift in how they think about the derby.
- Boys love to run their cars on the Pinewood Derby® track. If possible, arrange time in the days before a derby for Cub Scouts and adults to make practice runs on the track.
- Free time on the track can also be very enjoyable for boys and adults at the end of official Pinewood Derby® competitions. To manage demand, each Cub Scout can be given a certain number of tokens, each good for one run on the track.
Whatever methods are chosen, the goal is the same for every Pinewood Derby®. Encourage Cub Scouts and adults to work and learn together and to have the satisfaction of completing a project as a team. That makes everyone a winner, and every Pinewood Derby® a success.
Members of each den have the opportunity to race their cars against one another. The fastest car represents the den in a final competition with the winning racers of the other dens.
Cars can be built and raced by siblings of Cub Scouts in the pack. Some packs require that siblings must be under age 11. The race is a terrific way to bring families together and increase interest in Scouting.
Unlimited races allow grown-ups to build and race cars against other adults. Some packs insist that the adults follow the same car standards as those of the Cub Scouts. Other units have no limitations other than length and height.
The big race is happening soon. You and your Cub Scout are ready to build the best Pinewood Derby® car ever. The answers to these most frequently asked questions will help get you going-FAST!
Your local Scout shop has them. Scout leaders might arrange ways to provide them to members of your Cub Scout pack. And you can always order kits through www.scoutstuff.org.
A Pinewood Derby® gives a Cub Scout and an adult a project to complete as a team. They design the car together, build it, and then enter it in the race. Each boy can work with one or both parents, a guardian, grandparent, or other responsible adult.
All cars in a Pinewood Derby® must be of a certain size and weight so they have an equal chance to win. Use the official Pinewood Derby® kit to ensure that you start with the correct size. For most derbies, the finished car can weigh no more than five ounces.
Each Cub Scout pack decides its own rules. For most derbies, your car must be built with the parts found in the official BSA Grand Prix Pinewood Derby® kit-the wooden block, official BSA® wheels, and axles. Paint, decorations, decals, and weights can be added as long as the final car stays under five ounces. For a look at sample rules, click here.
No. By starting with identical materials, every Cub Scout has a fair chance in the derby.
Be sure the wheels are straight. Check the axles when you start building the car to be sure they fit correctly. (Your pack’s experienced Pinewood Derby® adults can show you how.) Make any adjustments to the axles before your Cub Scout begins sanding and painting the car, then remove the wheels. After painting the car, replace the wheels and you’ll be ready to race.
Heavier cars are often faster than lighter ones. You can add metal (such as a fishing weight) to your car to bring it close to the five-ounce limit. Before painting your car, drill a hole in the wood a little larger than the size of the weight and glue the weight in place. Cover with wood putty and sand the area smooth. Securing coins to bottom of car is another way to add weight. See Pinewood Derby® products for special coin pockets. Experienced Pinewood Derby® adults can lead you through these options.
Check your Cub Scout pack’s rules. Dry lubricant such as graphite is often allowed, though oil and other fluids are not.
A practice track for testing the speed and balance of a car is available at www.scoutstuff.org; some Scout shops offer free weigh-ins.
Join the ranks of millions of Cub Scouts who have stood in the derby winner’s circle. Cub Scouts just like you have been building their own cars and competing in Pinewood Derby® events since 1953! At the heart of this event’s success is the process itself – bonds are strengthened as the Cub Scout partners with a parent or adult mentor to design, carve, paint, weigh, refine, and race the car. In addition, Cub Scouts build confidence and take pride in their own growing skills and hard work. So enjoy the ride!
While the exhilaration of the actual race lasts only moments, the Pinewood Derby® experience lasts a lifetime. The benefits, for Cub Scout and adult, are discovered through the derby process itself: strengthening bonds, sharing responsibility, developing teamwork, learning new skills, exercising creativity, building sportsmanship, and making new friends.
Racing in the Pinewood Derby® creates a bond between a Cub Scout and all those who have raced before, as well as those who will follow to participate in this same tradition. Walk up to any Boy Scout – youth or adult; if he participated in a derby, his memories will resemble those of all other participants in the history of the event.
The father of the Pinewood Derby®, Donald Murphy, described his vision for the event to Scouting magazine in 1999: “I wanted to devise a wholesome, constructive activity that would foster a closer father-son relationship and promote craftsmanship and good sportsmanship through competition.” As Cub Scouts learn the skill of good sportsmanship, they are better able to recognize and appreciate the new skills they’ve acquired, to show respect to all those involved, and to experience the fun and excitement of competition.
The first Pinewood Derby® was held in 1953 by Cub Scout Pack 280C of Manhattan Beach, California, operated by the North American Aviation Management Club. It was the brainchild of Cubmaster Donald Murphy. The derby, publicized in Boys’ Life in October 1954, was an instant and enduring hit. The magazine offered plans for the track and car, which featured “four wheels, four nails, and three blocks of wood.”
The rules of the very first race stated: “The Derby is run in heats – two to four cars starting by gravity from a standstill on a track and run down a ramp to a finish line unaided. The track is an inclined ramp with wood strips down the center to guide the cars.” The cars still roll that way today.
- A fast Pinewood Derby® car can reach a speed of nearly 20 miles per hour. Pretty good for a little block of wood!
- If a Pinewood Derby® car racing down the track was enlarged to the size of a real automobile, it would be speeding at more than 200 miles an hour. That’s fast!
- The first Pinewood Derby® was run in 1953 at the Manhattan Beach Scout House near Los Angeles when Cubmaster Don Murphy introduced the idea to Pack 280C.
- Over the years, Cub Scouts have built close to 100 million Pinewood Derby® racers. That’s a lot of cars!
- If you lined up all the Pinewood Derby® racecars, bumper-to- bumper, they would reach more than 7,000 miles – far enough to stretch from Charlotte, North Carolina, to the North Pole!
- If every Pinewood Derby® car made this year took just one run down the track, the combined distance would be from the Earth to the Moon and back. That’s out of this world!
- Reader’s Digest magazine included the Pinewood Derby® in its 2006 Best of America list as “a celebrated rite of spring.” Way to go, Cub Scouts!
- No Pinewood Derby® car has ever used a drop of gasoline. Gravity rules!