Last year I overheard our secretary telling a co-worker about her son’s (Jeff) first pinewood derby experience. She said she had no idea how serious pinewood derby racing was. At check in, Jeff thought all the other cars looked much nicer than his. And during the races, Jeff’s car had trouble going down the track because his wheels kept falling off. He was pretty upset by the experience. I told her that next year after they get their kits that she could bring her son to my house and he could work on his car while my son worked on his.
After we had received our pinewood derby kits this year I asked our secretary if her son had received his yet. She said he had and that he had also remembered that I offered to help him this year. He was pretty excited about working on his car. We set up a time on a Saturday afternoon for our sons to get together and work on their cars. I also thought since my secretary’s son’s pack race was a month before our pack race, this would help my son to get motivated and finish his car early.
When Jeff came over, I asked him what kind of car he wanted to build. He said he wanted a tank. I tried to convince him that a lower profile car would go faster but he still wanted a tank. So I told him we would make a fast tank. I cut out the pieces to make the gun and turret for a simple tank, and he sanded them before we glued them together. I told him that our goal was to reduce as much of the friction as we could on any of the moving parts. He worked on the axles to remove the burrs and pinch marks and polished them. He then worked on the wheels to get rid of the mold mark. I kept the car overnight to let the glue dry, and took it to his mom at work the next day so Jeff could paint it. When they painted the car the paint ran and bubbled. She was upset that the car that Jeff had worked on so hard had a bad paint job. But Jeff liked the paint job. He said that it looked like it had been in a battle and was perfect for a tank. He painted more ‘battle scars’ on his tank and then brought it over for assembly. We put the wheels on and lubricated them, weighed it, and checked wheel alignment. We ran it down my test track a few times. I told him that his tank would not have any problems going down the track this year and that it should be competitive.
My son and I decided to go watch ‘The Tank’ race. We arrived at the end of the Wolf races, and ‘The Tank’ would be racing next in the Bears. I noticed that they had the day’s fastest time posted below the race results on each heat.
Jeff was wearing a camouflage hat to go with his tank. When they put ‘The Tank’ on the track, the announcer commented that the tank was really cool but would have its work cut out for it to beat the sports cars. The gate dropped and the tank started out slower than the other cars but easily passed them all on the flat section. Jeff had won his first pinewood derby heat and was so excited. I glanced at the race results to see that ‘The Tank’ had also set the track’s fastest time by over 0.2 seconds. The tank won the remaining 5 heats. Jeff was so excited.
During the awards ceremony, ‘The Tank’ got the 1st Place trophy for the Bears. Then they announced the overall pack results starting from 5th Place. When they announced the pack 2nd Place winner, Jeff smiled from ear to ear and could hardly contain his excitement. The 2nd Place winner was the boy who also got 2nd in the Bears and Jeff realized that he was the Pack Champion. Then they called Jeff’s name as the Pack Grand Champion and he got another trophy and some goodies. Jeff was so excited; he came over and thanked me many times for helping him with his car. His parents thanked me as well. Then the scoutmaster came over to congratulate Jeff, and commented that he remembered how his car the previous year did not even make it down the track, but this year he was the Pack Champion. Then the scoutmaster said, “What a difference a year can make.”
Jeff was so gracious that he later sent me a thank you card that he had drawn of his tank. To me it was worth it just to see the smile on his face when he won his first race.
From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 6, Issue 5
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