The Secret to Winning?

My step-son is in Royal Rangers, and we built a car for their derby race. Instead of axle slots cut in the wood block, Royal Ranger cars are equipped with two 3/8 inch dowel rods that are placed in slots on the bottom of the car. The wheels are then attached to the ends of the dowels with screw axles.

The night before the race I was making final wheel adjustments. I was having some problems getting the wheels aligned so I lost a lot of the graphite that had been put on the axles. On race day I added some graphite before check-in and was spinning the wheels to get it worked in. I slapped the wheel too hard, knocking the car out of my hands and onto the ground!!

Our worst fear … I cracked the front dowel. Luckily the crack was by the wheel that we purposely lifted off the ground. We had to realign the car, and we got it as close as possible. We were expecting that this was going to kill us on the track.

But surprisingly, the car performed great, winning the age division race and then taking second place in the finals.

We consider ourselves very fortunate that the car performed well. After the race our Pastor joked that dropping the car was the secret. Maybe we’ll have to drop next year’s car as well!?

Patrick Mulligan
Sylvania, Ohio

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 12

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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – March 25, 2016

Godzilla – Eric Rascoe

We built this car for my five year old to race in our “Me Too” class. It’s the new Godzilla and painted by my son. He wanted tiny army men, but we could not find any so we found a toy train from a doll house accessory kit. Godzilla did not place in the race. However he did get a lot of attention. My boys are more interested in making cool cars than winning trophies. They just want the car.

Caleb’s Car – Casey Lear

My son found this design online and helped cut it out for the 2015 races. He never named this car so I call it Caleb’s Car. I think the design can be found online for free and is called Mad Max, however we made some upgrades. After drawing out the design on a typical pinewood block he drilled new extended axle holes 5/8 inch from each end of the car. Additionally, the right front axle was raised. He then drilled weight holes so that the center of gravity was exactly one inch in front of the rear axles. He used tungsten to reach 5 ounces. After hand sanding the car, a wood sealer was used multiple times and sanded in-between applications. I wish I had a photo to show you the car at this stage. The wood was transformed into a work of art. The car actually appeared and felt like a smooth wood toy from the 80’s. I was sorry to see it painted. He then put eight coats of Black Dupli-Color automotive paint, making sure to wet sand between application. Dry-transfer decals were used for the flames, then four coats of Dupli-Color Clear Coat were applied. Finally, Turtle Wax was applied and buffed to a shine. The car took first place in the Tiger Cub speed group, and fourth in the pack for speed.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 11

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Finally Located – My Vintage Pinewood Derby Cars

By Andy Holzer

(Today, we have a combined Article and Memory from Andy Holzer)

I was a Cub Scout back in the early 70’s. At that time, Cub Scouts was a 3 year program. You started out as a Wolf in 3rd grade, became a Bear in 4th grade and a Webelo in 5th grade. So, I made three pinewood derby cars.

Ever since my son Noah received his first pinewood Derby car to build in December of 2005 I had been looking for my old pinewood derby cars to share with him. Sometime back in 1992 I had packed them away when we were moving to our new house, and they were never to be seen again.

Every year I spent a couple of nights looking through some old boxes in the basement for the cars. Probably at that point, I had been through all of the boxes multiple times looking for the cars. So last week I was again looking through the same boxes (for the same cars), and I had an idea; maybe the cars were in the attic over the garage.

When I finally got a chance to look up in the garage attic, I found an old printer box that seemed kind of out of place. I was thinking, “this might be the box,” but I had thought that before about some other boxes.

But this time there was success. There they were, thrown in with some other junk. So I brought the box down and took some pictures of the cars.

WOLF CAR


This was my first pinewood derby car.  Apparently my dad and I didn’t worry about the 5 ounce weight limit as it only weighs 3.43 ounces. But of course the cars were measured on a spring type postal scale that wasn’t very accurate.

The car looked as if it could have been sanded better before the paint was applied; and the rear body is not very symmetrical. But it was my first pinewood car, and to me it is great! It was decorated with plastic model decals that my dad had and has a thumb tack as a steering wheel.

BEAR CAR

The Bear car is finished better (could maybe have used some better detail sanding on the edges).


The Bear car has additional weights on the bottom of the car to bring up the weight (maybe a little too much – it weighs 5.35 ounces). This was the year when we moved into our new house and I moved to a new Cub Scout pack. I remember we needed to paint the bottom of the car black so the finish line sensors would pick up the car crossing the finish line (the new pack had one of those “electronical” sensors to determine the winner). On the car, the thumb tack accessories continue.

WEBELO CAR

The Webelo car is a lot smoother. I think I remember painting this car in a cardboard box with model spray paint. This car is way “advanced” as it actually has a wooden Fisher Price driver in it (back when they were made of wood). But it is also way underweight (3.63 ounces). And yes, the steering wheel cannot be seen so the thumb tack accessory is headlights.


None of these cars ever had a chance at winning a trophy, but that is all right. Just looking at them today makes me very happy.

It is good to finally have my original pinewood derby cars back. Noah can’t wait to put them with all of the other family pinewood derby cars.

I just want to thank my dad for helping me to build these cars (and all of the memories that go along with them). I guess that is indeed what this pinewood derby stuff is for. I guess winning is something, but it is definitely not everything.

Now a P.S. to the story …

On March 15, 2014, I left early in the morning to help run the Pack 306 Pinewood Derby. This derby was for a new pack at a new location. We were at breakfast before the derby and I used my phone to see where the church was located. It was at this moment when I realized what this church was – back in 1972 it was an elementary school named Crystal Heights Elementary. At the time I was a fourth grade student at the school and a Bear in Cub Scouts. The Bear car and the Webelo car were both raced in the same building and in the same room as the pinewood derby that was held that day.

Here is a picture of the track set up in the multi-purpose room; notice how the track fills the room.

Here is a picture of my Bear and Webelos pinewood derby car on the track.

It was great to be in the same building; I even stopped by my old fourth grade classroom. What a great day!

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 11

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The Thirty-Minute Car

Two years ago we held a pinewood derby workshop as we do every year on the eve of our race. A boy named Chris came in with his car kit untouched. So we helped him cut out the design he wanted. He then took about ten or fifteen swipes across his newly formed car with sandpaper, and added some stickers. We helped add weight, install the wheels and axles, and lube the car. In all, he spent about 30 minutes on the car (in contrast, my two sons and I had about 15 hours in our cars).

The next day at the derby we all watched in complete astonishment as Chris’ car raced down the track. It was very fast and was beating almost every car it raced! When the dust finally settled, he came in fourth place and was sent on to the district derby.

For that one young boy it was all he needed to feel like he was the greatest pinewood derby racer. Seeing the look on his face when he was handed the 4th place trophy, and his ear-to-ear smile was more than enough for me to want to help as many boys as possible in the years to come.

John Henderson
Garrett, Indiana

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 10

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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – March 3, 2016

Pretty in Pink – Rob Wagner

My daughter Lucie (9) picked this design out after seeing something similar online. She sketched out the template we used to cut it. The car took 2nd place in a combined Cadets and GEMS (like girl scouts) race. The kits we use have dowel rod axle struts that the screw axles mount into. We used the 5148-Pro-Body Tool on new dowel rods. It made all the difference. The car went straight and true the first try.

Scooby-Doo – Tony Grim

This car is one of your propeller car kits with a Scooby-Doo “Mystery Machine” model over the top. It raced the top leaders’ cars and won by three car lengths. The kids at our race loved it.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 15, Issue 10

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Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies