Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – July 27, 2017

The Outlaw – Tim Schneider

My goal for this car was to make an extended wheelbase car, with front and rear airfoil shapes (teardrops). I found the wood to be too thin in the middle, so two carbon fiber rods were used to help reduce body flex. The car was wrapped with 3M Damping Tape. This gave the body a brushed metallic appearance, and additional strength/vibration damping ability.

Outlaw Orange – Chris Kostik

I raced this outlaw car to 1st place in the adult unlimited division! The competition continues to get faster and faster in this division every year. I have already begun work on prototypes for next year’s race!

’32 Deuce Coupe – Michael Pecora

My ’32 Deuce Coupe was built for my pack’s open race. It was built for show, not speed.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 11, Issue 14
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(C)2017, Maximum Velocity, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Sorry, We Will Not Be Participating Because …

Do you have difficulty getting decent participation in your organization’s pinewood derby race? Do families make excuses because of fear of failure or intimidation (I don’t have the tools and/or skills, or, everybody else is too good)? Do you sell a lot of kits, but many of these kits never get made into a car?

In order to increase participation, race organizers need to eliminate the roadblocks to participation, thus eliminating the common excuses. So let’s take a look at the common reasons for not participating.

We Have No Woodworking Skills, Or We Have No Woodworking Tools
In the not too distant past, virtually every family had the basic tools required to make a pinewood derby car (and some level of skills). But that has changed. Today, many families have virtually no tools, and very few woodworking skills. As an example, I was recently at a house helping with a swimming pool problem. I asked the dad what tools he had, and found that the household tools consisted of a screwdriver and a pair of pliers – not exactly a robust pinewood derby tool box!

So what are families supposed to do when they are confronted with a wooden craft project? Clearly, the event organizers must provide one or more opportunities for the families to use woodworking tools.

At our event, we have an open workshop on two consecutive Saturday mornings before the check-in event. Families can use whatever tools they need – we only restrict access to the band saw (and other powered saws). We also provide as much assistance and guidance as is requested. Generally, we get a  small turnout the first Saturday, and then get swamped the second Saturday (typical procrastination). If we did not offer these workshops, our race participation would be greatly reduced.

There Is Too Much Work Involved
Part of this issue can be addressed with workshops. However, much of this problem stems from the type and quality of the car kit. Some kits require more work than others due to poor wood quality, flawed axles, and/or cheap wheels. Simply moving from nail axles with burrs and crimp marks, to clean axles; and from cheap, out-of-round wheels, to precision-molded wheels, greatly reduces the amount of work required to prepare a car. So, consider upgrading your kits to one of nicer quality(1), or at least replacing cheap axles with clean axles.

There Is Too Much Time Involved
Again, part of this issue can be addressed with workshops, and by providing nicer kits. However, another aspect of this excuse is that many people do not have the time (or want to take the time) to shape the wood block. There are two options to address this:

  1. Offer wedge-shaped blocks as an alternate to the regular block (we offer both types at our race). People that want to spend less time can choose the wedge-shaped block, and then just sand and paint.
  2. Allow the use of pre-shaped car bodies. In our race, we allow pre-shaped kits, but the resulting cars are not allowed to participate for the design awards. This opens up a lot of options for people that are squeezed for time.

We Don’t Know How To Make A Fast Car
With a little time research, anyone can find the basic tips for making a pinewood derby car go fast. But as the race leader you don’t want to leave any excuses available to potential participants. So, provide a list of basic speed tips with the kit. We provide a brief set of speed tips along with the race rules in each kit. Of course, not every family reads then, but they are there for anyone that is interested.

The Competition Is Too Stiff, So We Don’t Have A Chance
People don’t like to lose, and they certainly don’t want to come in last place. But this issue is not so much of a concern with having a slow car, but with having a fast car that cannot win because the event is dominated by one or more families that know all the tricks and take the time to implement them. This is not something that can be eliminated (nor do you necessarily want to eliminate this), however, there are a few steps that can be taken to level the playing field:

  1. If your derby has rather flexible car design rules (e.g., allows modified wheel bases, machined wheels, or similar), then likely the event will end up with some high-performance cars leaving the more traditional cars in the dust. Consider tightening the rules to eliminate techniques that are not readily available to most families (extended wheelbases, modified wheels, etc).
  2. Alternately, consider offering different entry classes. How about a “Stock” class race for cars with standard wheel bases, unmodified wheels, etc., and an “Open” class race for cars with extended wheel bases, modified wheels, etc? This will require more awards, and a little more time. However, I believe you will find the increased competition and excitement will more than compensate for the additional cost.

Conclusion
There is no excuse! You can increase participation by addressing the common concerns of potential participants. If you have other ideas for increasing race participation, please send me an e-mail and they will be included in a future newsletter.

(1) Maximum Velocity offers a basic block and wedge kit with high quality (unflawed axles), precision wheels, and nice blocks. You can find these kits Here.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 12, Issue 1
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(C)2017, Maximum Velocity, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – July 13, 2017

SoCal Coupe – Nathan Paul

I built this car the SoCal Coupe because I always liked the look of the car. The finished product was okay; I just need to work on the smaller wood items next time (front struts and axle mounts). They were a little tricky to keep from cracking when installing the axles and the brass starting rod on the front of the car. I didn’t race this one on race day but did put it through some runs on testing day and it did okay.

Nimbus 2000 – Bob Hodgeman


My son Sam, a Bear this year, is a voracious reader. He recently finished the Harry Potter series, and his mom voiced the idea of making a Harry Potter themed derby car this year. Thus, the idea behind the Nimbus 2000 was born! We drilled a hole in the back for lead wire, I did the rough cuts on the scroll saw, and he did the rest with a Dremel. He picked a shade of polyurethane stain that worked well, and we pulled bristles out of some glue brushes I had in the tool box for the broom bristles, which are attached with rubber cement. For finishing touches, we wrapped gold thread (tacked in place with super glue) around the bristles and used hot glue to attach Harry. I surprised him a couple of days before the derby with my hand-painted “Nimbus 2000” logos, painted with a super fine artist brush with about 2/3 of the bristles removed. He was absolutely thrilled with that small detail! While the car didn’t finish at the top of the standings, he was just as happy with his “Cub’s Choice” design award!

Semi Cab – Bob Hodgeman

My son Jacob, now a Tenderfoot Boy Scout, built this car for our pack’s Outlaw Division, so he was able to go with an extended wheelbase. The original block was supplemented with another partial block on top to form the cab, as well as 3/8 inch basswood sides to fill out the cab and form the fenders. Jacob did everything, from the rough cutting on the scroll saw, to working with the Dremel, to the paint job (I did help with the masking). From concept to finish, this one is absolutely HIS car (a fact that he’s rightly very proud of). A neighbor with a vinyl cutter supplied the Autobot logo. Next up, he wants to build the matching trailer and add starting-gate-activated sound & lights!

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 11, Issue 14
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Pinewood Derby Car Showcase – July 6, 2017

King of the Road – Monte & Bryson Evans

Here is Bryson’s car that took fourth place. My son and I built two cars from the ground up – together. This year, we hope to do even better!

Wedge GT – Travis Burkhardt

This Wedge GT took first place in the den. We used Krylon Orange Glitter Blast and many coats of clear.

Silver Bullet – Layton & Brian Grissom

This is my son Layton’s first pinewood derby car.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 11, Issue 13
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(C)2017, Maximum Velocity, Inc. All rights reserved.
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