Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – January 29, 2013

PINEWOOD DERBY CAR SHOWCASE

1969 Dodge Charger Daytona – Andy Holzer


For his 2012 car, my son Noah decided to build one of his favorite
cars, a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona. While we were attempting an
alignment we found the dominant front axle hole was not drilled deep
enough and we had compromised the hole when removing weight from the
bottom. I tried to clean up the hole using the pin vise with a #44
bit, but this did not help. We decided to over bend the dominant
front axle and run with it. We got the drift set and were ready to
run.

The Charger Daytona was quite fast, but the alignment held it to
seventh place in the open race at his old pack. A couple of weeks
later we attended a pinewood derby sponsored by a local motorcycle
shop. Before the race we took out the bad axle, fixed the axle hole
and re-aligned the car. The Daytona placed 3rd in that race. Not a
bad car for a five day build!

Lil Deuce Coupe – Joe Bowen


After I had almost completed this car, my son said it would look
better with headlights and tail lights. I used a Dremel tool to carve
out all the wood possible to squeeze in the wiring, batteries and
lights. It won Best Design in the Open Division.

Can-Am Racer – Joseph Baron


On the Can-Am Racer, weight and weight distribution rapidly became a
factor with the addition of fenders. So, the car and windscreen were
completely hollowed out with a roto-tool, filled with spray-in foam,
and then skinned over and painted. The stock wheels were lightened by
drilling and then checked for balance and trueness. The car has not
raced yet, but following your tips on axles, wheels, lubrication,
etc., it should be a winner. We’ll let you know…

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 12, Issue 9

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Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies

Pinewood Derby Tips

By Michael Uretsky

Tip #1 – Always build two cars at a time. Why?

1. Requires an early start well in advance of race day (Always a good thing).

2. Teaches the child to be prepared in case there are “mess ups”.

3. Allows for a better selection of wheels and axles (you need to prepare more than 4 – we usually prepare four sets).

4. Allows for alignment issues if one car is off slightly.

5. Allows for creativity and experimentation.

6. Keeps your child engaged, as there is always a part of one of the cars he can work on while you are power tooling the other.

Tip #2 – When using wood filler, to get a smoother finish with less sanding dip your finger in water and rub the filled area. This will produce a smooth finish and minimize the need for sanding.

Tip #3 – Schedule a regular time each week for you and your child to work on the cars together. We call it ‘Shop Time’. My son truly looks forward to this time, as it’s just the guys hanging out in the shop! Usually we tune in to sports radio and listen to ‘Reds Sox’ talk or (3 time Super Bowl Champs) New England Patriots talk while working on the cars.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 5, Issue 8

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Pinewood Derby Memory – The Heart of a Champion

As the Awana race of 2005 approached, my work schedule became increasingly busy. Longer hours, more deadlines, and high-visibility projects crowded into the weeks and days preceding the race. As we approached the week before the race, we still hadn’t even cut our cars. Our church has a workshop open to the parents/kids so they can use their equipment to cut/drill cars, so we went down before Awana club, and made our cuts.

I reminded our boys (Matthew 12 and Caleb 10) that I wouldn’t have a lot of time to help them get their cars ready. In fact, I had no time before the race to really do anything except help put the wheels on their cars Saturday morning. But, I also stressed that these were their cars, they would be sanding, painting and building them. No matter how they placed, they could be proud that they did the work on their own cars.

They did a great job sanding, painting, and preparing their cars during the week. When I was putting in their axles on Saturday morning, the axle slot on Matthew’s car split. There wasn’t much I could do at that point except put it back together with some wood putty and hope it held during the race. I explained what happened to his car, and encouraged him that it would still do well.

Both boys were very excited as race time was about to begin. As we always do before a race, I reminded them that there were a lot of great cars out there and they may not win their races. In previous years, they have always either won or placed in the top three for their divisions. My parting words were, “The heart of a champion is not measured by your victories, it’s how many times you get up after you fall” (which, I’m sure is a version of a sport’s quote). They gave me that, “Yeah, we’ve heard this speech before, Dad” look, and off they went.

As the races began, I could see that Matthew’s car might have trouble. The church had bought a new, very long track. A longer track favors a more center balanced car and we had weighted ours towards the rear. The club was also going with double-elimination rather than a timer. So if their cars were matched up with the top cars first, they could be in trouble. In the double elimination, it was starting to become clear that some lanes were faster than others.

In the first heat, his car wobbled as it went along the track. I counted the cars as they crossed the finish line and knew he was already in the “2nd chance” bracket. My younger son’s car (Caleb) was in the same division, but matched with the second set. His car did fine although it slowed as it approached the distant finish line. Matthew’s car went for its second race with the same results. Although he beat several cars, it still bumped and rubbed its way down the track and did not finish high enough to advance. Caleb’s car continued to do well and he finished 1st in his division. Matthew had placed 4th and was out of the finals for the first time since we’ve been racing (2001).

I could see the disappointment in his eyes and his hurt expression in the way he walked. I went to talk to him, but he wanted to turn away. I just gave him a big hug and let him know how proud of him I was, that he worked hard on his car and it had done well overall. He was still not convinced and I reminded him again that the heart of a champion is not determined by their victories, but how they react to defeat.

He went back to the track and asked to help with the rest of the races; bringing cars from the pits and taking them back up after the end of the races. Since Caleb had made the finals, I recommended that he not handle his brother’s car, as that might be seen as an unfair advantage. Caleb’s car did great and made it to the finals and was just edged out by three-thousandths of a second! He was very excited and congratulated the winner.

We stayed to help tear down the track and clean up the gym. Both boys jumped in whenever they were asked and did a great job. We finished and headed to the cars, Caleb with two trophies, Matthew with none; but both with the heart of a champion.

James Sedlak

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 5, Issue 8

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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – January 15, 2013

Road Hog – Chuck & Ryan Williams

My son Ryan and I built this truck last year when he was a Wolf scout. This is a modified version of the truck plan that you were giving out for subscribing to the e-mail newsletter. Ryan loved the idea of building a truck instead of a car because we had gone to see a monster truck show recently. So, we started with the basic truck and carved out an ‘Old style’ front end, kind of like the Grave Digger monster truck. Then we were trying to decide on how to weight the truck and started stacking some tungsten in the bed but it looked kind of plain. We just happened to have some engine parts left over from the year before, and they made the perfect fit to create a ‘Tungsten Hemi’ for our little truck. The look was perfect! Ryan was elated, and it was a hit at the race – it even runs as good as it looks. Ryan finished 1st in his den, 2nd in the pack of 63 boys, and 9th at the district race out of 120 cars! I was proud of Ryan, and was happy just to see him so excited, the winning was nice, but we had a great time just designing the truck and then building it.

Jedi Knight – Rob & Robby Roper

The Jedi Knight is an extended wheelbase Flex design with H-Wheels and speed axles. The blue container is actually a small plastic pencil sharpener with the cutter removed to hold the weight. This car was built by my 9 year old son, Robby. It won two pinewood derbies: his own Cub Scout 2005 Pinewood Derby and the following week he was a guest at another, larger pack’s derby! The Flex design was perfect for our hand made wooden track. The surfaces were always rough, but had warped over the years and the joints didn’t line up well. Other cars making the run made loud “clack-clack” sounds as they traversed the joints, but the Flex design seemed to glide almost noiselessly over the rough spots.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 5, Issue 8

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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – January 11, 2013

PINEWOOD DERBY CAR SHOWCASE

Cobra – Jim White

My grandson, Aaron Shain, and I built this car that we named “Cobra”
for the 2012/2013 racing season. We hope the front and rear fenders
produce favorable air flow and high speeds.

Street Rod – Jim White

My grandson and I built this car to compete in the “Street Rod” class
of a Pinewood Derby Racing League. The basic car is a stretched wedge
shaped car, and the body shell is from a 1 to 25 scale AMT model kit.

Following the rules for the “Street Rod” class, the car is 9 inches
long and weighs 6 ounces. There are two sets of front axle mounting
holes to allow for shortening the wheel base. In our first race the
car ran in the middle of the pack for times, but it sure was an eye
catcher.

Corkscrew – Wess Eslinger

The Corkscrew is completely impractical (the only place to put weight
is behind the rear wheels) but I thought it would be funny. I had the
idea several years ago, but didn’t think I could actually make it. But
this last summer I got bored on a Saturday morning, and decided to
give it a try. It was easier than I thought to get the basic shape,
but because I thought I would ruin it, I had used a really awful block
of wood that I was going to throw away. So, it took a lot longer than
I would have liked to get it looking even respectfully smooth. The
gold paint was also tricky to get right. Since I spent a LOT more
time on this than I ever anticipated, I hope it will get some laughs
at our next race.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 12, Issue 8

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Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies

Advice to the Beginner – Keep it Simple!

Countless times I have had the following phone conversation: “Hi, my son just got a pinewood derby kit, but when we opened it all we found was a block of wood, four wheels, and some nails. What the heck are we supposed to do with it? I expected it to have a car that looked like the photo on the box!”

It can be very daunting to participate in your first pinewood derby race. The event demands some woodworking skill, some understanding of physics, and access to some basic tools and supplies. For many people one, two, or three of these requirements are missing.

So, let me share some advice for those of you that are participating in your first race.

CAR BODY

Unless you have some experience with woodworking and the tools of the trade, then I suggest going with a basic wedge-type design. Not only is it a simple shape to cut, it also simplifies sanding and finishing. All that is needed to build a wedge is a saw and a hand drill. If you are missing these items, then you can purchase wedges already cut and drilled from several sources.(1)

I recommend recessing weight into the car body. With a wedge, the easiest way to do this is to use lead wire(2), placing it into holes drilled into the car (see the next section). Holes drilled into the side or back of the car can be covered with wood plugs or with wood filler before finishing.

Note that on many kits – including BSA kits – one axle slot is closest to the end of the block. I recommend using that closest slot as the rear slot (the opposite of the car pictured on the BSA kit box).

WEIGHT AND PLACEMENT

To ensure that the car performs well, you will need to add weight to bring the completed car to the maximum weight (usually 5 ounces). An easy weight to use is lead wire. This product is 3/8 inch in diameter and can be easily cut into pieces and reshaped. Note that this product is not typically available in hobby shops, but is available from some on-line stores. Generally, you will need between 2.5 and 3 ounces of weight for a wedge-shaped car.

On most tracks, best performance is attained by locating the added weight towards the rear of the car. For a wedge-shaped car, a good rule of thumb is to place 1/3 of the added weight behind the rear axle, 1/3 on top of or just in front of the rear axle, and the final 1/3 about 1-1/2 inches in front of the rear axle.

CAR FINISH

If you are unfamiliar with painting models, and you are making a simple shape (like a wedge), then consider using a Body Skin.(3) These are full body decals that work well on simple cars. If you decide to paint, then consider using Acrylic hobby paints. They generally work well and clean up with water.

WHEELS

Although the wheels can be used directly from the box, some preparation is recommended. This includes sanding the tread surface and inside edge (with the wheel mounted on a wheel mandrel and spinning on a drill), squaring or coning the inside wheel hub, and polishing the bore. Tools are available from on-line stores to assist in these preparation steps.(4) As an alternative, prepped wheels are available from many on-line stores.(5) Just make sure to check your local rules to find out what is allowed/disallowed in your race.

AXLES

If your kit uses nail-type axles, then you certainly want to remove the flaws by placing the nail in the chuck of a drill, point first, and then applying a small file to the spinning axle. Then polish the axles with sandpaper and/or other polishing materials.(6) As in the case of wheels, prepped axles are also available from many sites.(7)

LUBRICANT

The wheels and axles must be lubricated. Unless restricted by your local rules, go with graphite. It is the number one lube used, and is readily available.(8) Be sure to work the graphite into the wheel hub by spinning a wheel on an axle multiple times. To keep your car clean, lube the wheels and axles before attaching them to the car.

FINAL ASSEMBLY

Mount the wheels and axles onto the car by inserting the axles into the axle slots or axle holes. A new tool, the Pro-Axle Guide (9) is available to help with this step. But in a pinch, you can use a dime as a gap gauge to keep the proper spacing between the car body and the inside wheel hub.

With axle slots, the axles will need to be glued in place (a dab of white glue spread over the exposed axles works well – just keep the glue away from the wheels). However, before gluing the axles in place, check the alignment of the car (see Volume 5, Issue 6, Wheel Alignment: Make It Straight!).

CONCLUSION

I hope that this break-down of the car building steps will ease your mind as you build your first car. Just remember, take your time, make sure your child is fully involved, and enjoy the process. Good luck!

(1) www.maximum-velocity.com/pinewood_derby_kits.htm
(2) www.maximum-velocity.com/pinewood_derby_weight.htm
(3) www.maximum-velocity.com/pinewood_derby_decals.htm
(4) www.maximum-velocity.com/pinewood_derby_tools.htm
(5) www.maximum-velocity.com/pinewood_derby_wheels_axles.htm
(6) www.maximum-velocity.com/pinewood_derby_speed_supplies.htm
(7) www.maximum-velocity.com/pinewood_derby_wheels_axles.htm
(8) www.maximum-velocity.com/pinewood_derby_speed_supplies.htm
(9) www.maximum-velocity.com/pinewood_derby_tools.htm#axleguide

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 5, Issue 8

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Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies

Bitterroot Valley Pinewood Derby

This year at the Second Annual BitterRodders Street Rod Car Show – held in conjunction with the Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce Annual Daly Days Celebration in Hamilton, Montana – there was a pinewood derby event open to racers of all ages. The event was the idea of one of the Main Street merchants, where the activities centered for two days in late July. There were four awards: Fastest, Slowest, Best Design & Best Decorated.

The Merchant, ‘Me & Moms’, along with the Chamber of Commerce offered 48 Pinewood Derby Kits to any entrant for a $5.00 donation. The BitterRodders Car Club provided the use of their old 28 foot long, constant incline, valve cover racing ramp (two lanes with side rails, no center guide) as a track. Rules were as provided in the kits – weight, length, width, etc.

There were race cars of all description; everything from super sleek, to a block with wheels right out of the box, to a block wrapped inside a shortened plastic beer bottle! There weren’t any like those we helped our son and grandson build years ago. Building our race cars stirred up some really fond pinewood derby memories and sent us scrambling to the Internet for current information and tips.

As 66 year-old members of the BitterRodders Car Club my entry was the beer bottle, designed with friction brakes to win the slowest trophy. It never saw the finish line I am told. My wife’s entry was a super sleek racer with a rear wing and American Flag paint job (actually decal), a Yellow Ribbon on the nose for our troops abroad, and a Kokopelli riding atop the wing going for the win.

Unfortunately for us, due to a death in our family that week, we had to go out of town. However, we left our entries in the capable hands of a couple of children of club members to race for us in our absence.

On race day the ramp was set up early in front of the Post Office on Main Street and opened for trial runs. The business portion of Main Street in Hamilton, Montana is four blocks long. Reports have it that my beer bottle racer was ‘soooo’ slow it actually came to an embarrassing halt before crossing the finish line and was disqualified. It is really harder to build a car to go slow, although I understand a number of first timers were in the running!

My wife’s entry, however, is another story. Without a center guide strip, the young lady who raced it for her had to line the racer up aimed at the left side rail about half way down the ramp. The mis-alignment gave the built for speed racer a long gradual right hand slice. With practice and perseverance the car made a lightning dash from start to finish, making it the “fastest by a long shot” the proud racer proclaimed. She got the fastest trophy to take home with her.

We are sorry we had to miss the first annual event, but it was well received and they plan on having it again next year. We hope it remains uncompetitive, and open to all for the sheer fun of it! My wife sure plans on being there to defend the title, and I am going to back off the brakes on the beer bottle a bit. Who would have ever thought at our age we would be so excited about Pinewood Derby racing again.

Jimmy & Patsy Maddox

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 5, Issue 7

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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – January 1, 2013

Today we have a selection of ducted fan pinewood derby cars.

Red Bull – Travis Burkhardt

I added substantially more efficiency with the addition of a thrust tube. A Red Bull can is a perfect fit for the 40mm fan unit, 9V battery, front nose switch included. Total car weight of 5.0 ounces and all dimensions, axles, and wheels stayed within BSA standard rules. First Place finish and track record at 2.2 seconds.

Batmobile – Brian Amato


I decided to go for both form and function with my version of the propeller car kit. Of course I won the parent’s outlaw race!!!

Blown Away – Dennis Bjorn

I wanted to build a ducted fan car that didn’t show all the components. So I built “Blown Away”. The capacitors are inside the body. The car weighs 3.6 ounces. Running on a 35 foot Best Track my best time was 1.56 sec at 315 mph (scale speed).

Outlaw – Mike Henkelman

The “Outlaw” car was built for demonstration heats in the upcoming pinewood derby season. It features a ducted fan jet engine with a functional hood scoop, eight side air scoops, a mesh windshield (air scoop), and lithium polymer 11.1 volt batteries.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 12, Issue 7

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Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies