Sports Car

Sports Car

Pinewood Derby Times
Volume 10, Issue 2
October 20, 2010

In this Edition:

- Editor's Notes

- Feature Article - Cheater Bars - Do They Work?

- Humor

- Product Showcase - Get Vaccinated Now!

- Car Showcase

- Memory -

- Q&A

Editor's Notes

Guinness World Record Track
Chicago Tribune - 6/7/10

Screamin' Eagle Breaks Guinness World Record for longest Pinewood Derby Track By dpsabato

Pinewood Derby Cars setting a new Guinness World Record!

With checkered pennants and a large "Welcome Race Fans" sign greeting visitors at the entrance to Camp Crown nearly 2000 Cub Scouts, parents and siblings from Northern Illinois knew they were in for a different kind of Cub Scout event. What they may not have known was that they would become part of a new Guinness World Record.

After several months of planning and five weeks of construction, the Screamin' Eagle, the World's Longest Pinewood Derby track sponsored by The Home Depot was ready for racing. When the first cars crossed the finish line at 8:45 a.m. on June 5, having traveled 263 feet 2-1/4 inches on the Screamin' Eagle, they became part of history as a new record holder.

The world record was a highlight from an event called "A Race Through Time" which featured five "time portals" inspired from history. Each portal consisted of several activities that taught, enhanced or reestablished the leadership skills, teamwork, citizenship and sense of discovery that has made Scouting the nation's preeminent youth program for character development and leadership. The event was presented by the North Star District of the Northeast Illinois Council, Boy Scouts of America in celebration of Scouting's 100th Anniversary.

Cub Scouts landed in the Space Portal and carried a shrunken Earth through a constellation course and later observed an alien. "Howdy, y'all" was the greeting at Fort Wilderness, before the scouts climbed up and over Rattlesnake Pass to search for gold and wrangle snakes. At the Pirate's Portal, a climb up the ropes to the crow's nest was followed by a Raingutter Regatta where human wind moved sailboats down the course. At Swiss Family Robinson, scouts worked together to cross a river on a raft then climbed up a hill to set up camp.

When scouts and parents reached the Screamin' Eagle portal, scouts were almost speechless. "Whoa", "Oh-Ho", "Wow." The starting grid was far up the hill -- two stories above them and more than 263 feet away. One scout parent said, "Oh my gosh. That is unbelievable." Racing lanes were color coded and scouts knew in advance what lane their car would be traveling. When the homemade five ounce wood cars left the starting gate, some wobbled down the track, others screamed and some even lost a wheel or two. All cars crossed the finish line and it was sheer delight. "Mine finished!" said one scout. A parent was overheard saying to himself, "That's awesome!" followed with a child-like giggle.

Burlington, Wisconsin based independent engineering firm Baxter and Woodman surveyed the track and determined the start to finish distance to be 263 feet 2-1/4 inches. That far exceeded the previous Guinness World Record of 206 feet and made the "Screamin' Eagle" the official title holder. Lake County, Illinois County Board Chairman, Suzi Schmidt and Wilmot, Wisconsin business owner Dwayne Darwood signed off as official witnesses. Guinness World Record official notification is pending approval of all documentation in a couple weeks.

Dubbed the "Screamin' Eagle" because of the speed of the cars and Scouting's highest rank, the all-wood track was constructed entirely off site in 8 x 4 foot sections and transported to Camp Crown in Trevor, Wisconsin for the final installation. Each section consisted of twelve lanes. The entire track surface covered more than 1100 square feet and the entire distance traveled by the 1500 cars that raced was just under 75 miles -- just about the distance from Chicago to Milwaukee!

The entire track will be dismantled and the wood will be donated to charity for reuse in the local community.

Michele Bauman, the event chairperson, lauded the more than 250 volunteers, "I am honored to be surrounded by so many amazing people that believed in this event. It was more than the Pinewood Derby track, it was the whole event! The boys and the parents will always remember June 5th as the day they raced through time."

A sentiment echoed by many was summed up by a Wolf Scout from Pack 90, "This is the best Cub Scout event I've been to." There were lots of happy campers and a World Record to take home.

Editor: I believe there have been other attempts this summer to break the record. If another track has surpassed the "Screamin' Eagle", please send me the article documenting the feat.
Inventory Clearance Sale
We continue to clear inventory on several items including tools and car plan booklets. Click Here to find our clearance items.

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:

Feature Article

Cheater Bars - Do They Work?

Many years ago, the predominant commercially available track was equipped with a simple starting mechanism. The starting pins were attached to a board which was held in place by rubber bands. To start the race, the operator would rotate the board. Thus, the speed of the operator's movement determined the speed at which the pins would drop. Of course, this speed varied from heat to heat.

Figure 1 - Vintage Starting Gate
Source: blog . robinsonmaites . com

It wasn't long before some clever derby car builders realized that by having the car contact the starting pin at a higher point, the car would start more quickly. In fact, this advantage would be significant whenever the operator rotated the board slowly. So, the "Cheater Bar" (also known as a "Spoiler") was born.

Today, starting gates are spring loaded. So, the pins fall rapidly, with a consistent speed, and the speed of the operators hand is not a factor. However, the Cheater Bar concept has continued to be viewed as a way to gain an advantage. In fact, many races ban cars which have a starting pin contact point higher than a set value.

Considering that most racers will run on tracks with spring-loaded gates, and the pins on these gates drop very rapidly, is there any benefit to a Cheater Bar? Let's find out.

Implementation Of A Cheater Bar
A cheater bar is normally a metallic attachment to the front of a car that causes the car to contact the starting pin at a higher than normal location. This can be implemented in several ways. One way is to form the bar out of a piece of coat hanger wire.

Figure 2 - Cheater Bar
(Opaque material removed for clarity)

Note the notched front end on the car. This is necessary to ensure that the car only contacts the pin on the bar. Also, the Cheater Bar in the above photo is missing a vital piece. In order for the bar to trip the sensor on an electronic finish line, some opaque material (usually tape) would be wrapped around the bar.

A similar technique is to design the car with the wood creating a high front end (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 - High Nose Car

Although the High Nose will provide the same theoretically fast start as a Cheater Bar, the aerodynamics will be somewhat compromised.

Experiment Setup
For this experiment a Cheater Bar was implemented in a different way. To minimize the number of factors that could affect the results, an adjustable Cheater Bar was attached to a car. The Cheater Bar was fashioned out of a piece of aluminum plate, two pieces of coat hanger wire, and a small segment of rubber tubing. The metal plate was held in place by rubber tubing, so it could be slid up or down. During the experiment, nothing was changed on the car except for the height of the metal plate.

Figure 4 - Cheater Bar at High Position

Figure 5 - Cheater Bar at Low Position

The car was equipped as follows:

Tests were run on a thirty-two foot Aluminum Freedom Track. The car was staged identically for each run. Five runs were made with the Cheater Bar set at 1-1/2 inches above the track (maximum for the starting pin). Then five runs were made with the bar set at 13/16 inch (low as possible on the car). These tests were then repeated, for a total of ten runs per configuration.

Experiment Results

The results were as follows:

High Position - 2.556 seconds average, Standard Deviation at .0037

Low Position - 2.555 seconds average, Standard Deviation at .0030

Thus, the experiment shows that the position of the Cheater Bar did not affect the heat times. (The one-thousandth deviation in average times was well within the Standard Deviation of the data).

So, if you will be competing in a race that will be run on a track with a spring-loaded starting gate, don't bother with a Cheater Bar. It won't give you any advantage, and may cause your car to receive greater scrutiny or to be disqualified.

On the other hand, if you are in charge of a race that will be run on a track with a spring-loaded gate, then don't worry if a car has a Cheater Bar. It won't provide any advantage.


A young lad and his mother were walking down the street one day when suddenly the boy yelled out excitedly,

"Mother, Mother, Look at that bowlegged man!"

His mother immediately hushed him explaining it was not polite to make fun of bowlegged people.

The next day the same thing happened,

"Look mother, there's that bowlegged man!"

The mother grabbed the lad by the arm saying,

"When we get home you'll be punished for this outburst."

When they got home, she gave her son a work by Shakespeare,

"Go to you room and read this book. You can't come out until you have finished it. Maybe you will learn something from this punishment."

Two days later they are walking down the same street when the boy again spots the person he had been making fun of:

"Hark! What manner of men are these, Who weareth their legs in parentheses?"

Product Showcase

    Get Vaccinated Now! - Vaccinator Kit Sale    
$4.00 off

Get the latest kit from Maximum Velocity at a great price. This CNC machined body has a great look and performs even better.

Through November 2, 2010, you can purchase an extended wheelbase Vaccinator Kit for $4.00 off the regular price. To take advantage of this limited time offer, Click Here.

Car Showcase

Silver Streak - David Smith

My grandson and I built this car for this year's Cub Scout race. He won 1st place in his den and 1st overall in the pack. There is nothing very different from the standard wedge shape, except for the fact that careful planning and tweaking every detail pays off. I got the design idea from your site. The size and weight was the standard BSA specs. The paint was Rust-oleum silver and the navy blue and red stripes are cut from sheets of stick-on sign vinyl. This was our first year to win 1st place overall! Thank you for tips and supplies from your site.

Outlaw Cars - Elaine Morita

All our pinewood derby efforts culminated at the Oahu Makahiki Pinewood Derby this last Saturday. I made a Raptor kit for the Outlaw race. Joshua decided he wanted to be in the Outlaw race as well, so he made an extended Predator. It worked out great and he still was able to throw in some style.

Race results? Well there are 2 families (Nakano & Oshiro) who usually have the fastest speeds in the regular Cub races as well as the Outlaw race, so for our first Outlaw race, we are happy to have placed 4th & 5th out of 19 participants. We've always tried to find a winning combination of speed and "cool" designs. After all when the race is over, the cars (and memories) will be kept for a long time!

Thank you for your help and advice. The newsletters on your site have been helpful too. Also, I must thank you for your reliably quick shipping or Joshua would not have had time to make his entry. We were scrambling to get his done in a week!

Fishbone - Ralph & Keirsten Sharpe

This is the car I built this year with my granddaughter for her powder puff derby in Girl Scouts. We call it Fishbone. It is only 1/4 inch thick (less after sanding), weighs in at 5.0 with a balance point of 3/4 inch and is setup for rail riding. It has 3.9 ounces of tungsten cubes hidden inside. We used ultralight wheels and grooved axles. It was very fast. Nobody even came close to us. Our best time was 2.516 seconds on a 35 foot aluminum track. This is only our second car and she won grand champion again, two years in a row, using mostly your tips, your tools and your parts. We will be a customer for many more years as I have a new grandson who will be in the scouts too. Thanks for all the help.

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!

Pinewood Derby Memory

Help! We are out of Pinewood Derby memories, but I am sure that our readers have many memories to share. Please jot down your humorous, unusual, sad, or heart-warming pinewood derby tale and send it to:

If your memory is used, you will receive a $10 coupon in May of 2011.

Don't worry about literary polish. We will edit as needed. Also, please read our Submission Policy


I sometimes see a car come from behind to win a race, sometimes very close to the finish line. My car came from behind twice to win in the pack race which we eventually won. I understand why we maintained our speed but I can't figure out how those other two cars got ahead of us in the first place. Is there an absolute, ideal weight for a 32 foot track or will a five ounce car always beat a lighter car (all other things being equal)?

Cars can get ahead for many reasons. But the most common reasons are:

On a track with a slope, followed by a flat section, running at the maximum weight (usually 5 ounces) is generally best. But if you race on a track with a continual slope from start to finish, the best weight may be different.

I have a question about the treatment of the current BSA wheels. Why does recessing the wheel's collar where the axle head touches it, improve performance? It seems to me that by increasing the contact area between axle head and wheel we are increasing friction. Please set me straight.

Removing the outer ring on the hub assumes that the axle head is beveled. If you don't remove the outer ring on the hub, then the wheel hub will contact the beveled axle head at the outer rim (not desirable). But if you remove the outer ring on the wheel hub, then the hub will contact the beveled axle head near the shaft (desirable).

If you don't bevel the axle head, then you can leave the outer ring of the wheel hub intact.

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.

Back Issues

Are you a new subscriber, or have you missed some of the previous newsletters? Don't miss out! All of the issues for Volume 5 through Volume 9 are posted on our web site and can be found using our Newsletter Index.

Issues from Volumes 1 to 4 are available in four formatted documents, ready for immediate download. To find out more, Click Here.

Newsletter Contributions

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Please read our submission policy.

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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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The Pinewood Derby Times is not specific to, and is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts, YMCA, Awana, or any other organization.

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Pinewood Derby, and Space Derby are registered trademarks of Boys Scouts of America. All other names are trademarks of their respective owners.

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