Displaying Your Pinewood Derby Car

Displaying Your Pinewood Derby Car
By Randy Davis

The sawdust has settled, the race is over, and now you must decide what to do with the car. Whether or not your car won an award, you put a lot of effort into building it, and you want to display it proudly. But how can you display the car and at the same time provide some level of protection? This article will explore the various display options available to you so that you can pick the method that best fits your situation.

The most common method for displaying a car is to simply put the car on a shelf in your room. The method is free and allows easy access to the cars. However, the problem with this method became very evident one day when our youngest son was changing his clothes. Instead of placing the dirty clothes in the basket, he decided to throw them upwards towards the spinning ceiling fan. I am sure you can imagine what happened; the clothes hit the fan, flew across the room, and wiped out a few cars. We managed to glue things back together, but realized then that the shelf method of storing cars is not the safest. Not only can cars be knocked off easily, but since cars roll very easily, any bump to the shelf or furniture can cause a car to roll off.

Another common method for storing pinewood derby cars is to build a pedestal to hold the car. The pedestal doesn’t eliminate the “flying object” problem, but does eliminate the “rolling problem”. An advantage to the pedestal (and other non-shelf methods) is that a label can be placed on the pedestal noting the car owner, date of race, any awards, etc. Building a pedestal is fairly easy, but if you would like some inspiration, a simple plan for a pedestal is given Here.

An alternative is to build a wall plaque. Typically, the car is attached to the plaque with screws into the bottom of the car, or with a patch of Velcro. A plaque may be a bit more difficult to make than a pedestal since the lettering is generally larger. For inspiration and plans, take a look

Note that making a pinewood derby pedestal or plaque can be a great craft project for your pack or club.

Maybe you don’t have the time or tools to build a pedestal or plaque to display your car. Not to worry, these items are available for sale. Below I have listed some options available on the Internet. The current retail price and the web site are also provided.

PineCar Pedestal – $6.99
This unit consists of a wood base with a curved metal arm to which one
car is attached.

Scout Stuff Pedestal – $10.49
The unfinished stand holds one car, and includes an engravable brass plaque.

Derby Gurus Pedestal – $34.95
The pedestal holds four cars and optionally mounts on a wall. Price shown is for the pre-finished version, but an unfinished version is available for a lower price.

All of the options listed above have two inherent problems: 1) The car will collect dust, and 2) the car is not fully protected from flying objects (clothes, elbows, baseballs, etc.). A display case solves these two problems. If you have many cars, then you may want to consider building or purchasing a trophy case. But for a few cars, the DerbyDome display case is a nice solution.

DerbyDome – $10.95
(Click on “Car Stand”)
The DerbyDome is a sturdy case for displaying a pinewood derby car. The product has a clear, protective dome, and a black base with a no- tools-required mounting system for holding the car in place. A custom plastic label is available from the manufacturer.

You and your child have made an investment of time in a pinewood derby car. Once the race is over, don’t put the car in a box. Instead, display your car proudly and safely.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 4

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Fan Powered Cars


Some fan powered cars…

Elsa – Brian Taylor

My daughter and I had a great time making the car with your kit and enjoyed showing it off at the girls’ pinewood derby activity night at the church. She went with an Elsa Frozen theme (not my choice :)). We wired lights to a separate tiny battery and they looked great. Thanks for your help!

Blazing Bus – Dusty Bradford

I built a school bus with a small brushless ducted fan and some RC parts. I made it so that the back door was hinged for the exhaust. The first run was unpowered and completely unnoticed, but it still posted a time of 3.4 seconds. When I turned on the fan, it raced across the finish line with a time of 2.2 seconds! It weighed less than 4.5 ounces.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 3

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The Valuable Lesson My Father Taught Me

By C.J. Marshall

A while ago, I attended a Cub Scout Pack meeting, in which the group was holding a Pinewood Derby.

For those of you who were never in the Cub Scouts, a Pinewood Derby is a small wooden model race car.

However, it is not a toy car that you purchase ready-made in the store. Instead, it comes as an unfinished block of pine wood in a vague shape of a car. It also comes with a set of plastic wheels and a few other items necessary for assembly.

The whole idea of a Pinewood Derby is the person involved must carve the wood into the proper shape, sand it, paint it, and properly assemble the rest of the provided materials.

Once completed, the car fits on a wooden rack, along with other Pinewood Derby cars carved and put together by other competitors. The track is an elevated one, with a bumper or a stop that holds the car in place. Once the bumper is removed, the cars, propelled by gravity, race down the track to the end.

The first car to arrive is the winner. Cars are usually raced in heats, and at the end of the competition, the car that wins all the heats is the grand prize winner for the proud Cub Scout who owns it.

It’s nice to know that even in this age of flash-and-thunder video games and technology, some things have remained the same, and kids can still obtain thrills from simple carved pieces of wood on an elevated track.

Let me tell you about my personal experiences creating my own racer.

I was 8 years old when I got my Pinewood Derby. I was so thrilled when I looked at that piece of wood, wondering what kind of car was going to be produced by it.

My father helped me, of course. He did so by tracing the outline of a car on the block of wood, then telling me to carve it down to the line. He also warned me not to get impatient and go too deep,otherwise I’d ruin the car.

Well, I took my Cub Scout knife, went outside in the back yard and began to carve. I don’t think five minutes passed before I went back in the house, told my father how hard it was, then asked him if I was finished.

“You’re not even halfway done,” my father said, after looking at the car. “Go back outside and continue until you are finished.”

This continued several times, with me whittling a bit more, then bringing it back inside and my dad saying I wasn’t finished and to keep going. When I suggested he give me a hand with the carving, he said, “No, it’s your project; you do it.”

Eventually, after dogged persistence, and the fact I wanted that car done, I finally got the car whittled down to the point where my father had indicated. But it wasn’t over at that point, no sir.

Dad handed me some sandpaper, told me to go back outside, and sand it down until it was smooth.

You’re probably ahead of me by now, aren’t you?

Yes, I came back in several times and said, “Am I finished yet?” And each time Dad replied, “No, keep going.”

By this time, I had begun to learn a few things, so I didn’t ask Dad for any help as far as the sanding was concerned.

Sage advice he was free with, but the actual physical labor was my job.

I did have an inspiration and asked Dad about the possibility of using his portable hand sander to do the task.

“If you use my portable hand sander,” Dad said, “you’ll have nothing but a pile of sawdust.”

It seemed to me that Dad was deliberately making it tough. There I was, rubbing the wood over and over, seeming to get nowhere, when that sander could have done the job in seconds.

But I finally did get the car sanded down to the point where it was acceptable.

Then came the painting part, which was fun. Dad even made a few suggestions, such as putting a screw at the top of the car to make it look like a radiator cap.

Finally, it was complete. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was very proud of the fact I had put the car together myself. I had also learned a very valuable lesson, although it would be a number of years before I fully realized what it was.

When I raced my Pinewood Derby against the other kids in my Cub Scout Pack, I noticed there were a small number of cars which had been beautifully carved, painted and assembled.

I looked at the cars and at the kids who “owned” them and knew immediately, even in my 8-year-old mind, that they could never have done such an expert job at creating their racers.

I knew that either their parents had done all the work, or an older relative had done the job of creating their racers.

As I grew older, I began to realize the importance of my dad insisting that I do the lion’s share of the work in creating my Pinewood Derby. He showed me that there’s just no substitute for hard work to get what we want. In addition, those that obtain something via hard work take much more pride in their projects and cherish them much more highly than things which are merely handed to you.

Originally published March 1, 2015 at thedailyreview.com. Used by permission

C.J. Marshall is a writer/columnist for The Daily/Sunday Review. He can be reached at:

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 3

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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – December 11, 2015

Today’s cars were submitted by Stacy Bodder.

Raspberry Rocket – Lydia Bodder

My daughter called this one the Raspberry Rocket, and so it was. It received first in speed.

Crazy Fast – Lydia Bodder

This car that my daughter and I made together was crazy fast. She went on to the regional races where she took first place there as well. Simple design, but it works!

Peterbilt – Isaac Bodder

My son and I had lots of fun with this one. It was made to look like a Peterbilt Daycab which I had been driving at the time. It was pretty fast, but didn’t take first place. It did get best in show. The smoke stack broke off during the race. Fun times.

IMSA GTP – Isaac Bodder

This was the first pinewood derby car my son and I ever built. It was the start of some fun years building cars together. This car was made to look like an IMSA GTP car from the late 80’s. It took first place in speed even though it had a very short wheelbase.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 2

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Staging Cars – Don’t Lose Speed with Bad Staging

By Randy Davis

Several times I have had people tell me that their car did great in preliminary events, but then in the finals the car lost speed. They asked me why that happened. I then offer several possible reasons:

– Loss of lube (response: “It didn’t run very many times.”),
– Car damaged (response: “Didn’t see any mishandling.”),
– Different track (response: “No – same track.”),
– Temperature change (response: “No – climate controlled room.”),
– Different person staging (response: “Uh – yes, I believe a different person staged the cars.”).

I can’t say for certain that staging accounted for the lower speed, but it is certainly a possibility.

But how much does staging affect car performance? Certainly it has to have some effect, but is the amount of the effect really measurable? Let’s find out.

Six staging variations were tested:

Figure 1 – Car Staging Variations

– Straight, centered, wheels pulled out to axle heads.
– Straight, centered, wheels pushed in to car body.
– Car shifted left as far as possible, wheels pulled out.
– Car shifted right as far as possible, wheels pulled out.
– Car angled, pointing to the left, wheels pulled out.
– Car angled, pointing to the right, wheels pulled out.

The car from “Shifting the Wheelbase” in V14, I11 was reused.

The car is equipped with Pro-Stock Speed Wheels and Polished BSA Speed Axles. These wheels and axles were cleaned, and then the car was re-lubed with Krytox 100.

On this car, the front-left wheel was raised, and the front right axle was bent for aligning. The car was set to rail-ride, by drifting left five inches over eight feet.

Figure 2 – Test Car

Each staging variation was tested once, and then the cycle was repeated five times for a total of 30 heats.


Wheels Out – 2.549
*Wheels In – 2.547
*Shift Left – 2.547
Shift Right – 2.551
*Angle Left – 2.547
Angle Right – 2.556

The results were a bit surprising. I expected more variation, but to my astonishment the three starred results were the same, while the “Wheels Out” number was very close (this could just be statistical noise as the standard deviation was just over 2ms).

Clearly, the worst performance was attained when the car was shifted or angled right. This can be readily explained due to the raised wheel contacting the guide rail at the start. This contact would result in some energy loss, and thus reduce performance.

So, what we can draw from these results is that with a raised wheel, make sure that the raised wheel is not in contact with the guide rail at the starting line. This clearly is detrimental to performance. But otherwise, you don’t need to get too fanatical about perfect staging.

Now, I guess I’ll have to come up with some other reasons for slow performance in the finals.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 2

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Pinewood Derby Memory – Third Place for Perseverance

I was not very enthusiastic about my son’s first pinewood derby. But I pitched in and helped him create a very basic (ugly) car. We simply cut a wedge shaped piece of wood off the front and back of the car (resulting in a trapezoid for those of you that remember your basic geometry). It was then painted military green with some black animal spots. The car weighed less than 5 ounces, the axles weren’t polished, but we did put a drop of silicon oil on each axle. Thus, in less than an hour of work, the car was finished.

The night of the derby came, and I could quickly see that we were outclassed. But the race was organized in (what seemed to me) an unusual way. Although the track was four lanes, the race leader decided that the double elimination format could only identify the first and second place cars. So, a primary race to identify first and second place was held for each of the four classes. Then setting the winners aside, each of the four classes was raced a second time to identify 3rd place. During the primary race for our class, our entry finished somewhere in the lower half of the 25 or so entrants.

Since there were well over 100 cars total (and since the race procedure had quite a few wrinkles) it was getting rather late by the time the 3rd place races began. Many people had become frustrated (with the race procedure and with the antics of their kids) and had picked up their cars and left. So when the time came for our class to race there were only a few cars remaining in the staging area. Amazingly, my son’s car took 3rd place!

Although I realize that the result was a fluke, I must admit that I did get “pinewood derby fever” as a result of that race!

Randy Davis
Peoria, Arizona

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 1

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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – November 20, 2015

Today’s cars were submitted by Dennis Pemberton.

Red Car

Yellow Car


These three cars were entered in our Awana GrandPrix. The fenders were made of poplar. The Red car won design for kids, the Corvette won for adults, and the Yellow car was fast as snot, but did not place due to a timer error.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 1

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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – November 13, 2015

Red Snake – Steve Truver

This car was built by my grandson, Nathan and me in 2008. It took first place for speed in his pack, and placed in the top five in the regionals.

Mater – Jeff Trush

This car was my son, Nicholas’ idea. It actually won first in his den (it was a lot faster than I expected). While it was not quite as aerodynamically competitive in the overall pack derby (over 80 cars) he did end up winning the “Best Overall Car” trophy, and the kids loved watching Mater run down the track — it was quite funny to watch to say the least.

I am a big fan of details, and we tried to stay pretty true to Mater from the movies. We used Play-Doh for the top lights, teeth, and headlight. The Play-Doh was swabbed with super glue to firm it up. We also used several Dremel Tool sanding drums and grinder wheels for the air cleaner and the rollers for his tow hook. The structure in the rear is just pieces of cardboard painted and glued together. For the faded paint effect, we dabbed the colors with a paper towel. It was great fun building it together, and we hope you enjoy it.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 9, Issue 8

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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – November 6, 2015

Road Grader – Rob Knapp

This is my 2009 Pinewood Derby car, entered in the adult division. As a Cub Scout Den leader, I try to show the boys what is possible to build from a block of wood. This road grader started life as an official BSA kit. The grader is all wood except for a few pieces of copper wire and part of a pop can I used for the cab roof overhang. This was a very challenging build, but I think the results are favorable.

Queen Bee – William Lund

Every year my boys were in Cub Scouts I had to build extra cars for my daughter and me to race in the Open class. Well, one year my mother-in-law wanted a car to race. I thought and thought … then I remembered that I had always called her “The Queen Bee” of the family. So I went to work making her a car. I cut the shape on a band saw, added a little extra wood to the top to make the body of the bee taller. I hand-sanded the round shapes, found some balsa wood for the wings, added the antennae and crown, and painted it to look like a bee. It was the hit of the pinewood derby. It did not win, but came in second in all of its races — I couldn’t let my mother-in-law’s car beat mine!

Hot Wheels – Randal Veenker

It was my last year as Cubmaster of my pack. I ran the pinewood derby race for the pack as well as being the chairman for our district race. I wanted to have a show car for the last pack race in the open class. I found a Hot Wheels car that gave me the inspiration for this car. It was a looker as well as fast, but not quite fast enough to win.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 9, Issue 7

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Shop Talk – Drilling With Accuracy

If you were reading a book and the phrase “drill bit” was used, what mental image would you conjure up? Most people would think of a standard high-speed steel (HSS) drill bit that is part of the drill bit set in most people’s toolbox. This type of drill bit is certainly the most popular, but it is not the best drill bit choice for many woodworking tasks.

Today, we will discuss the various drill bit types available for woodworking, and how they apply to pinewood derby cars.

Regardless of the drill bit type, make sure to know the chuck size of your drill. The chuck size determines the maximum shaft diameter of the drill bit that can be used. Most drills today have a 1/2 inch chuck, but there are some drills that have a 3/8 inch chuck. If your drill has a 3/8 inch chuck, make sure to purchase bits with a shaft no larger than 3/8 inch.

Drill Bit Types

For woodworking, you will find the following drill bit types at your local hardware store:

Forstner – Produces a flat-bottomed, clean edged hole with no chipping. The center point ensures that the hole is drilled where desired. For drilling holes over 7/16 inch, Forstner Bits are generally a better value than Brad Point bits. Some Forstner bits have a saw tooth edge (as seen in the photo) while others do not. Either type works well for pinewood derby use.

Forstner bits are commonly used for creating wheel wells for attaching to the side of a pinewood derby block. They are also used for creating holes for tungsten rounds.

Figure 1 – Forstener Drill Bit
Photo Source: www.rockler.com

Brad Point – Produces a clean edged hole will no chipping. The center point ensures that the drill bit doesn’t wander. For drilling holes between 1/8 and 7/16 inch, Brad Point bits are usually a better value than Forstner bits and do a better job than HSS bits.

Brad Point bits are commonly used for drilling weight holes in pinewood derby blocks

Figure 2 – Brad Point Drill Bit
Photo Source: www.rockler.com

Auger – Produces a clean, accurate hole. The screw tip causes the bit to “power feed”, and the auger shape helps in chip removal, so this type of bit is beneficial for drilling very deep holes.

Although Auger bits can be used for pinewood derby cars, Brad Point or Forstner bits are usually a better choice. The screw tip on the Auger bit is not desirable for pinewood derby cars as it makes the hole too deep, and the power feed action can be a bit unwieldy for novice woodworkers.

Figure 3 – Auger Drill Bit
Photo Source: www.toolbarn.com

HSS – A general purpose drill bit for use in wood, metal, plastic, etc. Especially in larger sizes, HSS bits often chip the edge of the hole, and can “wander”.(1) But for holes in a pinewood derby block under 1/8 inch, these are the only real choice.

To minimize chipping, keep the drill speed high, but the feed speed low. To minimize drill bit wander, make a small dimple in the wood at the drilling location with a nail or a punch.

Figure 4 – HSS Drill Bit
Photo Source: www.rockler.com

Spade – Also known as a “Paddle Bit” this type of inexpensive bit is used for rough boring. Typically they are used in carpentry where a clean hole is not necessary. I strongly recommend avoiding Spade Bits for pinewood derby use.

Figure 5 – Spade Bit
Photo Source: www.drillspot.com

(1) For drilling axle holes, a cobalt “split point” drill bit is desirable. The split point prevents drill bit wander, and the cobalt material keeps the bit from flexing. You can find cobalt split point drill bits for standard axle holes (#44) Here.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 9, Issue 7

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