Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – September 30, 2016

Funny Car & Streamliner – Rick Voegelin

These two cars were my entries in the Hell’s Belles Car Club Charity Pinewood Derby. The Belles is an all-female car club in San Francisco, and this year’s annual derby raised more than $1,500 to benefit the Bay Area Women’s and Children’s Center.

At age 60, I decided to race in my first Pinewood Derby. The Belles sell the basic car kits to raise money, and require that entrants use the supplied wood blocks, wheels, and nails. I thought I would put together my cars on a Saturday afternoon, but it quickly turned into a week-long project.

I built a Funny Car inspired by “Jungle Jim” Liberman, the Bay Area’s legendary Funny Car driver; and I built a Streamliner inspired by equal parts Mercedes W196 and Don Garlits’ dragster. I used a full complement of Maximum Velocity parts and information. The bodies were painted with Tamiya lacquer and clear coated with Duplicolor. A plastic model kit donated a supercharger and injector for the Funny Car.

The Funny Car was the overall winner, and the Streamliner was awarded Best in Show. The Streamliner was a little quicker, but when my cars raced each other in the semi-final round, the Streamline scrubbed off just a bit of speed on the bumps.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable project, to turn a block of wood into a race car, and I’m already planning my entries for next year’s Hell’s Belles Pinewood Derby race.

Vaccinator – Stephen Davis

This is the prototype of our Vaccinator kit, which was designed by my son, Stephen, and raced in the Outlaw division in our local race held in April of this year. The car ran on X-Lite Needle Axle Outlaw Wheels (white version that were dyed yellow – white wheels are a special order item). The tungsten canopy was painted black, and yellow pinstriping was used for the accent stripe.

Thanks in part to the X-Lite Needle Axle Outlaw Wheels, the Vaccinator easily won every heat to take first place.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 10, Issue 6

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(C)2016, Maximum Velocity, Inc. All rights reserved.

Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies

Pining for a Derby Track

by Steve Smith

Every year when derby season comes around, scout packs that don’t own a Pinewood Derby track think, “Should we buy or keep borrowing?” After years of borrowing a derby track or begging to use a track after another pack used theirs, we decided it was time to buy our own. So, we assembled a three person committee of parents. Our first decision was that no pack money would be used to purchase equipment or to run upcoming derbies. The initial equipment purchase would come from donations, and future derbies would be self sufficient from food sales. Now we needed to raise the money to make the big purchase.

After using various wood tracks we knew we wanted something different. There were always problems with wood tracks in matching up the sections and having lanes clearly faster than others. One year the track was so rough that wheels were cracking and parts were popping off.

After talking to the packs that had plastic and aluminum tracks, it became apparent; the best tracks were made of aluminum, and also carried the largest price tag.

We shopped the Internet to see what was available, and settled on the BestTrack brand. We added a Smart Line timer, encased with aluminum by BestTrack. With our goals on paper, it was time to come up with a fundraising plan.

We decided to ask pack parents to take a corporate donation request letter to their employer and see what those companies would do. We also developed a tier system of donation levels, Green Flag Level was $100, White Flag level was $200, and the Checkered Flag level was $500.

Each level came with a different recognition for the sponsors. The green level received a certificate of donation, the white level received a framed certificate and their company logo on the race banner, while the checkered level received the banner recognition along with a trophy display by BestTrack (a special certificate attached to a small section of aluminum track) and a custom built derby car with their company logo.

The pack parents asked for some incentives for themselves, as several wanted to pitch in a few dollars. We came up with a $50 and a $100 level. All donors received a framed certificate, and the larger donors had their name engraved on a brass plate attached to the track side. Some parents gave $25, and they too received a certificate.

Our plan was to raise funds for one month and then see where we were at. Overall, it took two months to reach our goal of $3,500.

With our money in hand, we placed an order from BestTrack for a six lane, forty foot track with a two foot stopping section, and their six lane timer with race management software. We also purchased an electromagnetic starting gate system. In addition, we bought an SKB storage case (3R2817-10B-CW) from CSN Stores. It’s deep enough for two levels, one for the timer and the other for all the cords. It comes with cubed foam so it looks custom inside, and protects the investment for a long time. To protect the track, one of the pack’s dads built a storage box at no charge.

This month we will hold the grand unveiling when we give the pinewood derby kits to the kids. The track will be all set up and there will be several race cars ready to show off the track and timer.

One of our sponsors was a hobby store, and we have since developed a great relationship. In the spring we will have a race at their store, open to all kids that buy their kit and pay a small entry fee. We will get the fee plus all the proceeds from food and drink sales. The store will get the kit sales, and sales of accessories and supplies needed to build the car. We plan on having a “Best of Show” trophy to encourage more paint, decal, and sandpaper sales. It sounds like a win-win to us.

One of our goals is to reach out to a local hospital with children to do a day of racing, one for those walking or in wheel chairs and one for those that are bed ridden. We will have the scouts build six identically prepared cars (but with different colors) for the kids to race. Ribbons would be awarded to everyone that participates.

I encourage everyone to reach out to their local “Mom and Pop” hobby store and do something similar. Maybe that’s why I like doing business with Maximum Velocity; it’s a Mom and Pop business, and you can talk to the owners any time. In fact, Randy, the owner of Maximum Velocity, gave us several tips to make our fundraising endeavor successful.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 10, Issue 6

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(C)2016, Maximum Velocity, Inc. All rights reserved.

Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – September 16, 2016

Speedy the Turtle – Derek & Scott Bobbitt

This is my son, Derek’s, first Pinewood Derby car. It is named “Speedy the Turtle” (his idea for the name — it would be “sneaky” and no one would suspect his car was fast, because “turtles are slow,

To prepare for the race, we read Pinewood Derby Speed Secrets together and shared many discussions about basic physics (his Pinewood Mantra became, “Friction: The Enemy of Speed,” was echoed for weeks around the house) as well as numerous tips about how to gain the precious time down the track. Tips we learned, including weight placement for ideal center of gravity, three wheels on the track, block treatment to further reduce weight (like baking for almost 2 hours in the oven), and the addition of weight with Tungsten Putty to idealize the final weight at weigh-in, were all incorporated into the final design concept for his sneaky turtle. The turtle’s head was his idea for an adaptation of the “fast start” secret — including the Wolf scout cap!

Our agreement was simple: you design it and I will carve it — and design it he did! I did not allow him to use any power tool with a blade, nor any chisels or knives. I taught him to use my pen lathe to polish axles with sandpaper all the way up to 2000 grit — a mirror shine. He spent 4 1/2 hours sanding the carved block from 60 to 220 grit, learned how to spray paint, and then hand painted the final touches with a Q-tip and toothpick.

In the first heat, Speedy the Turtle generated a track record, and he ended up taking 1st Place. But the best part was watching Derek at the finish line cheering on his den-mates, totally oblivious to the fact that “track record” means “1st Place.” Despite winning every heat holding the track record for the entire event, he was blown away that he had won the race.

Geico Car – Brian Keezer

My son, a Webelos II, decided that since we had been pretty inconsistent over his first four years of racing with trying to win the speed category, he wanted to try for best design in his final year. He came up with the idea of the Geico stack of money that you see on the commercials. He built it and painted it entirely on his own. It came out looking great, and he ended up winning for best design in his Pack. He then went onto the District race and took first place for design there as well. The car wasn’t very fast, but he certainly accomplished his goal in his final year of Cub Scouts, and couldn’t have been happier with the two large trophies he walked away with.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 10, Issue 5

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Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies

Top Fuel Cars – Improved Propeller Car

(The eighth in a series of articles on cars that “stretch the rules”)

Several years ago Maximum Velocity introduced a “Propeller Car Kit”, which is a car with propulsion assist from a ducted fan.

Propeller Car Kit from Maximum Velocity

The kit is typically used as a “crowd pleaser”, but there is an occasional race where propulsion (other than gravity) is allowed.

Last year we introduced an upgraded ducted fan, which provided the kit with additional speed. But can the Propeller Car go faster? Certainly! But to understand why, let me share a little technical information.

First, a ducted fan requires a specific voltage and amperage to run at its top RPM (revolutions per minute). The fan is typically used on RC planes, supplied with power by R/C-type, rechargeable batteries, typically lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries. LiPo batteries are very light weight, and readily supply the required voltage and amperage to run the fan at its top RPM.

However, LiPo batteries are somewhat expensive, require special charging equipment, and can explode if improperly used. Alternate types of RC batteries have considerable weight, which doesn’t work well with a propulsion-assisted car.

So, to stay on the safe (and less expensive) side, we use a standard, 9 Volt alkaline battery with the Propeller Car. This battery will supply the required voltage, but will not supply enough amperage to run the fan at top RPM.(1)

So, how can we get more amperage without resorting to LiPo batteries? That question was answered by Rod Shampine. He came up with a novel way to get more amperage to the fan while still using an alkaline battery. His solution was to use a pair of capacitors with a high amperage rating.(2) The capacitors store up power from the battery, and then at the flip of a switch, release the stored power quickly to the fan. So the fan has ample voltage and amperage to run at top RPM for a brief period of time (until the capacitors are discharged).

Rod Shampine’s Car

Rod left the battery off the car, made it very light weight, extended the length, and used needle axles. His car was very fast, but he found out quickly that propulsion-assisted cars need some structure and solid axles, as his car took a beating (note the bent front axles). As you can see in the photo, to charge the capacitors between runs, Rod applied a battery using wire clips.

To simplify matters, I decided to keep the battery on the car and modify the Propeller Car Kit to accept a pair of 5 volt capacitors. The capacitors were acquired from Mouser Electronics (part #504- PM-5R0V305-R) for just over $14 each.

I decided to eliminate the toggle (kill) switch) and make full use of the front contact switch. In the kit, the front contact switch is a SPDT (Single Pole, Double Throw – basically two switches in one), but only half of switch is used. In the capacitor version of the kit, when the switch is not in contact with the track’s starting pin, the capacitors discharge to the fan and the battery is disconnected. After the capacitors are fully discharged, the car is fully inactive. When the car is placed on the track and the switch is depressed, the capacitors are disconnected from the fan, and the battery is connected to the capacitors. As long as the car sits at the starting gate for at least five seconds, the capacitors will be fully charged for the run.

By removing the toggle switch, room was made to recess the capacitors into the body of the car. I milled a pocket completely through the car, and then glued a 1/16 inch thick piece of basswood to the bottom of the car to support the capacitors.

Capacitor Propeller Car – Top View

Capacitor Propeller Car – Side View

The wiring of the Capacitor Propeller Car is a bit more complicated than on the standard version. Note in the wiring diagram that the capacitors are connected in series. This doubles the voltage capacity to 10 Volts, so that the 9 Volt battery will work.

Capacitor Propeller Car Wiring Diagram

On our 32 foot aluminum track, a standard Propeller Car with a new battery crosses the finish line in 1.89 seconds. The Capacitor Propeller Car crosses the line in 1.73 seconds. Not only is the capacitor version faster, but an added benefit is that it turns itself off, since the fan quits turning after the capacitors fully discharge (in about ten seconds).

Just for fun, I removed the battery and battery holder, and taped down the connecting wires. This considerably reduced the weight of the car. At the starting gate I charged the capacitors with the battery, and then let her rip. The car was much faster at 1.52 seconds.

However, there was a disadvantage. The car was so light that the spring on the switch wanted to push the car up the hill and start the fan. By being very careful, I could make it work, but if the car was any lighter, it would not have staged properly. Rod ran into the same problem on his car. He had to set a lead weight against the back of the car for proper staging (can be seen in the photo). When the car took off, the lead weight was left behind.

Using capacitors with a 9 volt battery is generally less risky than using LiPo batteries. However, there is some risk, so if you are not comfortable with basic electronic wiring, then this project is probably not for you.

1. Soldering is required. Wear safety glasses and be very careful to avoid getting burned.

2. Capacitors do not react nicely if they are wired backwards (they can rupture). Be careful with the polarity. On the capacitors specified in the article, the long wire lead is positive, while the short wire lead is negative. The risk increases if you choose to leave the battery off of the car and perform manual charging. An inexperienced person could easily connect the battery backwards. 3. Do not charge the capacitors for an extended period of time. When not in use, allow the capacitors to discharge.

4. Do not touch the leads of the capacitors after they are charged. They will deliver a much stronger shock than a 9 Volt battery. For safety, apply electrical tape over the capacitor’s connections after the wiring is complete.

(1) One way to picture voltage and amperage is by thinking of voltage as water pressure and amperage as the water flow. Even with a lot of pressure (Voltage), if the pipe is small, the flow of water (amperage) is restricted. Alkaline batteries essentially limit the flow of electricity (amperage).

(2) To continue the analogy, think of a capacitor like a water tank with a large release valve. Even with a small flow of water into the tank (amperage), as long as the pressure is high enough (voltage), the tank (capacitor) will fill up and build up pressure. When the release valve is opened, most of the water inside will quickly rush out.

Editor’s Note: If you are interested in one of these cars, but don’t want to do it yourself, Maximum Velocity offers a kit with all of the soldering completed. It has several improvements beyond what is described in this article. You can find the kit

Current Propeller Car Kit

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 10, Issue 5

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Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies

Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – September 1, 2016

Land Speeder – Martin Zeppetello

My son wanted an X-Wing fighter, but we settled on a Land Speeder with Yoda as pilot. As you can see by the paint job, this Land Speeder has seen some Imperial action! I somehow miscalculated the lead in the jet pods and had to remove 1/2 ounce of wood after we had already removed a considerable amount. But we got to 5 ounces, and then took 2nd overall out of 54 cars (and our design was enjoyed by all).

’49 Mercury – Don Hales

This is my 1/24 scale 1949 Mercury Coupe (Lead Sled) “Door Slammr” that I entered in the Sunset Speedsters Cup Race. The basic premise of a “Door Slammr” is to marry a 1/24 or 1/25 scale plastic model car body (your discretion) to a pinewood frame and use BSA, PineCar, Awana, etc. standard wheels. The maximum car length is 8 inches unless the plastic body is longer (like a ’59 Cadillac Eldorado) and the maximum weight is bumped up to 6 ounces. There are many ways that you can choose to attach your car body to the frame; I chose to use three pieces of square wood rod for body supports. Then I used Velcro pieces on the top of the supports and on the inside of the body to firmly hold the body in place. The windows are painted black on the inside to give the windows that “Tinted Limousine” look. The car setup and weight placement are similar to standard pinewood derby cars.

The “Door Slammr” division has been a hit with the parents at our races. I encourage all you men and women who have the urge to race in a derby to build a “Door Slammr” of your all-time favorite car and start a “Door Slammr” division for Adults; or start your own racing league (like I did) and run four or five times throughout the rest of this year!

Model “Tea” – Brandon, Dawn, & Michael Jones

Our Model “Tea” was a play on words of the Model “T” car and a “Tea” Spoon. My son, Brandon came up with the idea when I showed him a tungsten canopy. We placed it in different positions and then he thought of it being the underside of the bowl of a spoon. Brandon’s mother, Dawn, came up with the name. The design of the car was to keep it narrow and thin, like a spoon, while having the bend where the bowl is. The weight is a 3-1/2 ounce tungsten canopy, plus a 1/2 ounce tungsten cylinder, and some tungsten putty and beads. It was very difficult to get the car to five ounces considering how thin it was. The Model “Tea” placed 1st in den and 2nd Overall for speed, and “Most Aerodynamic” for design.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 10, Issue 4

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Maximum Velocity Pinewood Derby Car Plans and Supplies