The Coupe

The Coupe

Pinewood Derby Times
Volume 10, Issue 12
March 9, 2011

In this Edition:

- Editor's Notes

- Feature Article - The Big Rig Kit

- Humor

- Product Showcase - Free Car Plans 2 Booklet

- Car Showcase

- Q&A

Editor's Notes

Reader Feedback
We received the following feedback on the Speed Tip "Adding Brakes to your Car" in the previous edition of the newsletter:

From Dave Noble: Brakes on the cars is a great idea. But it is important to note that the sand paper must be placed at the rear of the car and not more than an inch past the center of balance. Otherwise, the car could flip. Another way to stop cars is to use a "down" pillow as a stop for the cars. This type of pillow is pricey, but it can stop our rocket engine propelled car going over 50 mph.

From Joe Burns: The best stopping system is the foam tape that is used on many commercial tracks. If your stop section is losing its bite, put some lacquer thinner on a rag and do a single swipe. The rag will be shiny from all the graphite and the tape will be really wet and slippery until it dries (allow 1/2 hour). But then it will be the stop section from Hades!

From John Sortman: I read your newsletter about adding brakes. My grandson went to the district race, and I noticed their "Catch Crash Box" at the end of track. I didn't like the looks of it, so I took your advice and added brakes to his car right there at the meet. Lucky for him/us I had all the things to do it. Several of the faster cars easily cleared the stop strip on the track and ended up in the Crash Box, and may have been damaged due to the sudden stop -- we know how fragile these things are. My granson's car stopped about half way through the stop strip. Several of the "Veterans" came up to me after the meet and asked how my grandson's car stopped so quick. I feel we owe you a lot of the credit because one trip to the "Box" can cost you precious time on the next run. By the way, my grandson's car won the district ract that day.

Can We Help?
If we can help you in any way with your pinewood derby project, or if you have any feedback regarding this newsletter, please contact us at:
Maximum Velocity Car Kits
If you are planning a race and are not required to use a specific kit type, our MV Basic Car Kit is just what you need. These attractively priced kits are equipped with:
  • Quality Block - Unlike the blocks provided by some organizations, our blocks are soft, northwestern pine blocks, cut precisely to 7 inches long, 1-3/4 inches wide, and 1-1/4 inches tall. These dimensions, as well as the axle slots accurately duplicate the dimensions of standard pinewood derby blocks from BSA and PineCar.

  • Simple Axle Preparation - Don't worry about filing off flaws, or losing hub caps. Our Speed Axles have no burrs or crimp marks, and install without hub caps. With or without polishing, they are ready to go. We supply five, so you have a spare.

  • Quality Wheels - Forget cheap, out of round wheels. We supply top- quality wheels to give great performance.

So, if your organization does not mandate a particular kit type, consider our Maximum Velocity Car Kits

Feature Article
The Big Rig Kit
by Randy Davis

In years past, BSA offered a unique kit, "The Big Rig - 18 Wheeler". Basically, it was a pinewood-derby style semi-truck and trailer.

The Big Rig

Although they are no longer offered by BSA, occasionally one will show up on eBay. Being curious, I acquired a kit and decided to put one together.1

Immediately upon opening the box, I realized that this would not be a simple pinewood derby car build. The part count is considerably higher than a pinewood derby car kit, and the kit includes my two least favorite types of wood, balsa and hardboard.

The Big Rig Parts

The parts include:

Trailer Parts

Cab Parts
Basic Assembly
Let's begin. First we will need several small clamps and some wood glue. Then glue the trailer together piece by piece, allowing the glue to dry on each part before proceeding. One important point is to make sure that each piece is perpendicular to each other. I used a spare pinewood derby block as a guide to keep the sides square.

Next, we'll move to the cab. The balsa cab is glued to the base, and then the fenders and roof are shaped and attached. This is where I ran into the first hiccup. The templates in the instructions don't really match the photo on the box, nor do they fit well on the cab. So I had to do a little jigsaw puzzle work to make them look right. You can sort of see this in the photo below.

Basic Assembly

After attaching the fenders, the body is complete and ready for sanding.

I mentioned earlier that I don't like to work with balsa or hardboard. Balsa is very porous, so it must be sealed before painting. Hardboard just doesn't sand well.

To seal the balsa, I coated the entire cab with a thin layer of wood filler, and fixed some dings on the trailer with Bondo. After priming, I made further touch-ups with Bondo. Next, I painted the entire assembly blue. Note that the cab and trailer are separate units. I just set them together for the photos.

Painted Big Rig

The paint is not perfect; I think the paint was a bit old and the temperature was really too high for painting (I think we hit 110 during the few days that I was painting -- but I painted in the morning when it was only 90!).

Now it was time to add the details. I used the dowel rods for the fuel tanks (painted silver), but decided to use aluminum tubing for the exhaust pipes. These parts were attached with epoxy. The windows were created with black window material.1

I had some wide yellow pin striping which was used for the side stripe. The letters were problematic until I found out that there are several on-line sign shops that offer custom lettering. I went with Although you can get exactly what you want, it isn't cheap. For two sets of lettering in my font, style and color, the shipped cost was $30.71.

Finally, the wheels and axles were attached and the swivel pin was inserted (to attach the trailer to the cab). I then declared the project complete. I certainly could have done more detail work such as lights, front grill, etc. -- maybe another time.

Completed Big Rig

To get an idea of the type of detail that can be added, here is a Big Rig created by Mark Robison.

Mark's Big Rig

If you really enjoy modeling projects, then give this project a try. Just make sure you have the shelf space to displace your Big Rig.

Addendum - Track Considerations
Due to the length of the Big Rig kit, the vehicle cannot be directly staged on most tracks. So, an extension must be added at the starting line. In addition, the vehicle may be too high to fit under the finish line. So, you may need to manually judge a Big Rig race.

1BSA has reintroduced the Big Rig kit in a 100th anniversary edition. You can find it at: Alternately, semi- truck kits are sold at the following web sites:

2Black window material can be found Here


A sheriff walks into a saloon and shouts for everyone's attention.

"Has anyone seen Brown Paper Jake?"

"What's he look like?", asks one shoddy-looking cowboy.

"Well", replies the Sheriff. "He wears a brown paper hat, a brown paper waistcoat, a brown paper shirt, brown paper boots, brown paper pants, and a brown paper jacket."

"So what's he wanted for?", asks the same cowboy.


Product Showcase

Car Plans 2 Booklet: Free with Shippable Order
Jackal Decals
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Jackal Decals
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Get three of our winning car designs in one booklet. The Wedge GT, Racer, and Dragster are proven winning designs to give you the edge in your race.

Through March 22, 2011, you can add one Car Plans 2 printed booklet to your order at no charge. To take advantage of this limited time offer, Click Here.

Car Showcase

Some additional Big Rigs from Andy and Noah Holzer.

Knight Rider - Noah Holzer

This was my last year of Cub Scouts so I decided to build one of my favorite cars for my last Pinewood Derby. KITT was from an old television show called Knight Rider, the car is an '82 Firebird, Trans Am.

My dad found a website that sells a scanner (the light in the front of the car). It was for a larger scale car but we made it work with my pinewood derby car. I had to learn to solder to get all of the small wires connected to the circuit board. KITT came in second place in the Webelo II race, it also got an award for Coolest Looking Car.

My dad worked to get a Big Rig race this year so we built two Big Rigs for the race. We made mine look like the FLAG Mobile Unit 01, the semi that fixed KITT on the television show.

Not only did I beat every derby car in the stock category, I took my car over to the pro stock track and had an informal race with the fastest cars of the night (all gravity driven). The winning pro stock car was owned by a man who said his car had never been beaten in a single heat in years of racing. We raced twice... I beat him twice!

The King - Andy Holzer

I knew what my first Big Rig would be, the King Hauler. I had never built a Big Rig, but the first time I saw one I thought they were very cool. So when BSA released their version for the 100th Anniversary of Scouting I needed to get one to build.

The only trouble with the BSA kit is that one of the cardboard boxes that the kit comes in is also used for the trailer box; that would just not do. I built a box that could actually house The King. It turns out that all of the five entries in this year's Big Rig Race had built their own trailers out of wood.

Building a Big Rig is not much different than building a car (a lot more wheels and axles to prepare), but the weight seems to sneak up quicker (our max weight is 25 ounces). In any case, I would highly encourage your group to have a Big Rig race.

Share your car with our readers!
Do you have a car you would like to 'show off' to our readers? If so, send us a photo of your car along with a brief description of any special features. Also, please include your full name. If selected, we will include the photo and description in this newsletter.Please e-mail photos to:

Photos must be sent by e-mail in JPG format (minimum size of 640x480, maximum size of 1280 x 960). Please shoot photos from the front left of the car, similar to the orientation of this car:

Send only one photo per car, unless an additional photo is needed to adequately show a feature. Also, only one car per subscriber per year please. Thanks!


Our Royal Ranger district just approved the use of the BSA kit -- in addition to its own kit -- for the first time.

Royal Ranger (RR) Kit


Some of the commanders think that the BSA kit is faster. Other than the precise alignment of the axle rod, I think it makes no difference in race performance. Is there any evidence that one car type is better or faster than another?

As long as the weight and length specs are the same for both cars (sometimes the Royal Ranger rules allow cars longer than 7 inches and heavier than 5 ounces), then the differences that would affect speed are:

  1. The RR kit has a longer wheelbase. This tends to produce a faster car mainly because you can locate the COG further back on the car. If you are allowed to change the wheelbase on the BSA kit, then the difference is negated.

  2. The RR kit has narrower, but heavier wheels than the BSA kit. The BSA wheels are also more accurately made. So, I believe that the BSA wheels would be faster than the RR wheels. However, if you can use weight reduced wheels, then you might be able to make the RR wheel faster than the BSA wheel.

  3. The RR kit wheels have a 1/8 inch (.125) bore, while the BSA wheel bore is about .096. So, on each wheel revolution, there is less plastic contact on a BSA wheel/axle. However, the RR wheel is 1.25 in diameter while the BSA wheel is 1.185. So the RR wheel will rotate fewer times on its trip down the track.

  4. The BSA kit uses axles slots. It can be a challenge to get the axles in straight, but there are tools (Pro-Body Tool and Pro-Axle Guide) available to simplify this task. The RR kit has dowel rods that must be glued to the body in an accurate way. Also, the pilot holes for the screw axles are not generally centered on the dowel rod. So, these holes must be re-drilled (Royal Ranger Pro-Body Tool).

So, there are several factors to trade off. But, I would tend to go with the BSA kit, as it would eliminate the issues with the dowel rods.

Can you tell me where to find information on how to set up the races so that each boy races against each other.I know that at one time someone in our pack found a program that let you put in all of that information, but they are gone now.

There is a nice software package called Grand Prix Race Manager which will do this for you. We offer it on our Web Site It does a lot more as well.

The basis of chart generation is a technique called Partial Perfect-N. This method gives the best distribution of heats when a perfect chart cannot be generated (which is a Perfect-N chart, but Perfect-N charts only exist for a few cases). There is a Partial Perfect-N generator Here

One of the pack members bought an axle polishing kit that does not have fine sandpaper (like your Axle Polishing Kit which we have) but instead has 800 grit paper and pumice. Will Pumice work better than your finest paper (2500 grit)?

Pumice is generally about 1500 grit, so I would use our axle polishing kit and skip the pumice.

Do You Have Questions that Need Answers?
Do you have a pinewood derby-related question? If so, send your question to: We answer all questions by e-mail, but not every question will appear in the Q&A section of the newsletter.

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Randy Davis, Editor, Pinewood Derby Times

Copyright ©2010, Randy Davis. All rights reserved. Please do not reprint or place this newsletter on your web site without explicit permission. However, if you like this newsletter we grant permission, and encourage you to e-mail it to a friend.

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