The Rocket

The Rocket

Pinewood Derby Times
Volume 6, Issue 14
April 4, 2007

In this Edition:

- Editor's Notes

- Feature Article - Car Collection on the Move

- Speed Tip

- Newsletter Subscriber Specials

- Car Showcase

- Memory - I'll Take the Checkered Flag

- Q&A

Editor's Notes
Reader Feedback

From Gary Holewinski regarding the comment on magnets in the front of cars:

Having ran our pack's derby, and helped at district for a few years we actually tested cars for magnets. It was just like testing for size, weights, clearance, etc.

Newsletter Index

We have just added an index of all newsletter articles since the first edition in October of 2001. We hope this helps you find information more quickly. To view the index Click Here

Maximum Velocity Car Kits

It's time to plan for late spring and summer derby events! Our Maximum Velocity Basic Car Kit is just what you need to help have a memorable event.

  • 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, PineCar-brand wheels to give great performance.
So, if your organization does not mandate a particular kit type, consider our Maximum Velocity Car Kits

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

Car Collection on the Move
By Todd Paxson

Hello, my name is Todd and I'm a pinehead. I've been collecting derby cars for over 10 years. My addiction began innocently enough with some boxes of my stuff that my parents had packed up when they moved. It was mostly junk. Then I found my three derby cars and a couple of trophies I had won. Thank goodness I hadn't blown them up like most of my other toys!

I started reminiscing about the fun times I had in scouts, and how much fun we had during derby season. My mom and dad got a little crazy, and I had to wrestle the cars away from them from time to time. Anyway, after remembering the good times, the cars and trophies went up on the shelf for a couple of years. One day, my mom and I were at an auction and there was a nice old derby car there. I bought it and put it on the shelf next to the others. One day when I was looking at the cars it popped into my head that these things would be fun to collect!

I was hooked. After my first year of garage sales, I had about 35 cars. After the second year, I had 75. Then I got on the Internet and the hook went in a little deeper. Before I knew it, I was up to 175. My wife told me I had to slow down, so I had my mom buy some for me on the side. My wife wasn't happy when she found that out - I think she knew I had a problem.

Lately, I have let more more cars go than I have bought. I haven't gone cold turkey, but I have gotten a little picky. I'm still a pinehead.

As if the collecting wasn't bad enough, I started buying kits at the local dime store and building them just for the enjoyment of it. One fun car I built was an Elmo car for my daughter, Hanna. I even built cars out of scraps of wood that I found. As if that wasn't bad enough, I needed power tools. I now have a scroll saw, band saw, belt sander, disk sander, drill press and a full set of carving tools. My wife put her foot down, so I didnít get a wood lathe.

My son, Chris, and I built our first car together when he was four. He loved to work the drill press. He is twelve now and out of scouting, but he had fun while in scouts. I still keep up with my scout friends as I have made my collection portable by making folding cases to hold the cars (Figures 1 and 2). I take the collection to local pack and council events. Most of the cars I get now are from donations from packs where I show the cars. I have over 700 cars and derby memorabilia on display. I also have about 200 cars that were used in the movie "Down and Derby". My cars have also been featured on a pinewood derby web site, but my friend and fellow pinehead has since passed on to 'Derby Heaven'.

Figure 1
Car Collection on Display

Figure 2
Close-up of Left Display Cases

I donít really have any one car that is my favorite car, but I do have some special cars. Two are cars made for a vintage race in California, signed by Don "The Creator" Murphy and Craig Breedlove (Figures 3 and 4). I also have a car that belonged to the brother of the Olson Twins (Figure 5).

Figure 3
Signature Cars

Figure 4
Signature Cars, Bottom View

Figure 5
Olson Twins' Brother's Car

Thatís enough for now. If anyone has questions or would like to see pictures, I can be contacted at 'toddpaxson (at) yahoo (dot) com'. Also, if you are close to southern Wisconsin and are interested in having me display my collection at your event, you can contact me at the above email address.

Speed Tip
Car Break In

If you have a treadmill, you can use it to break-in your car. Either hold the car on the treadmill, or attach a string to the front of the car and tie to the front frame. Run the treadmill on a normal walking speed for no more than 60 seconds (equivalent to about 10 heats).

Speed Tips, Web Site or Product Reviews?
If you have a speed or construction tip, a web site review, or a product review that you would like to share, please send it to:

If your submission is used, you will receive a $10 coupon in May of 2007. Don't worry about literary polish. We will edit it as needed before publishing. Also, please read our Submission Policy.

Special Offers for Newsletter Subscribers

Awana Speed Wheels
$2.00 off

Are you looking for an edge in your Awana race? Then look no further! These Awana Speed wheels are perfectly round and smooth to give you a fast ride. In addition, the tread is narrowed to reduce the contact patch and weight. Finally, the inside hub is shortened (to compensate for the narrowed tread) and the hub is beveled to reduce contact with the car body.

For more information, Click Here

but make sure to Purchase Here

$1.00 off

The DerbyDome is a high-quality case for safely displaying pinewood derby cars. It uses a patent-pending mounting system to keep the cars in place. The DerbyDome works with standard wheelbase cars (BSA and PineCar) with stock wheels. A custom label is available from the manufacturer.

For more information, Click Here

You can Purchase Here

These specials are valid through April 17, 2007.

Car Showcase

Police Cruiser: Jeff & Jack Jouett

Once again Maximum Velocity came through for Jack's derby car, and we didn't really hold to speed specs. Jack had never lost a head to head race in the past two years, collecting 1st Place in speed in his category at the pack meetings, and winning 1st Place in district. After last year's race he told me that he wanted to go for style this year. This is what he came up with. He got 1st Place in style and will be entered in district in the style category. He also got 2nd Place in speed. He was very close to collecting top honors in speed and style, but he is mostly proud of his 1st Place style finish. I really like this car because he designed it and put it all together - I didn't have to do much this year.

What, me win?: Chris & Greyson Skafidas

My son and I set out to make our 2006 cars stand out from the crowd. My son wanted to have a car that was barely there. We worked on the design on an 'as it goes' basis. Originally we were going to put the weight in the back upper portion of the car, but thanks to a Dremel incident we had to chop out the space. The car was only 3.5 ounces. It ran sharp, but did not win anything. Regarding my car, I love Mad Magazine, ever since a fateful day in 1977. Alfred was fast but not a winner.

Flintstones: Susan Hanna

When I sent you the info on my son's great experiences at the pinewood derby using the fantastic info you have provided, I was so excited that he had taken first in every race, set a track record and was on to Districts that I forgot to include the 2 cars that I had built for the adult/sibling race.

The idea for these cars came from our local Halloween parade. Our pack had entered a float (the Flintstone mobile), as the theme this year was cartoon characters. We took Grand Prize with the float. I decided at that point I would make a Flintstone car and a Rubble mobile to enter in the race.

The cars were a big hit with all the men and the kids alike. Wilma and Betty didn't win - heck Wilma barely made it to the finish line - but we laughed so hard and had such a good time. The Flintstone mobile used all scrap wood from the workshop, and the Rubble mobile was a limb I cut from my brother's burn pile. The only thing 'official' on either car was the BSA wheels and axles.

Share Your Pinewood Derby Car Creation
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 the cars shown above.

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

Pinewood Derby Memory

I'll Take the Checkered Flag

My seven year old grandson was in his first pinewood derby race this year. He was very proud of his car, as he and his dad had worked long hard hours getting it just right (his dad builds and races real race cars at different race tracks in our state). My grandson wanted it to be perfect.

The race started, and with all of the excitement of a seven year old and an avid race fan of NASCAR he watched as his car went down the ramp. He came in first place 2 times and second place two times. Each race he would look over at me and give me a thumbs up sign.

At the time, we did not know they would select the fastest car by time. At the end, as the leaders were calling out winners, his name was not called. I saw the sadness and the tears, and then he ran to a table and put his head down sobbing. We all tried to comfort him. His dad told him, "Son, I've lost a lot of races, but I always went back on the track. Next year you will get another chance." At this he looked his dad in the eyes and said, "Yea dad, next year I won't be black flagged; I'll take the checkered."

Nan Phillips

Share Your Pinewood Derby Memory!
I am sure there are many stories 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 2007.

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


Do you have any experience with trying to suspend graphite in a liquid for easier application to the wheel shaft?

I have tried to use graphite in suspension (isopropyl alcohol), but with no success. Graphite needs to be in a powdered form to work best, and it will self-regulate to the amount needed. If you get too much graphite in the bore, the wheel will spin slowly until the excess graphite is shed. So the key is to keep adding and spinning until the wheel spins at peak performance. Generally, we add graphite 3 times, spinning at least 10 times by hand after each application. Graphite suspension puts too much graphite in the bore, and since it is essentially 'caked' into the bore, it takes quite a while to shed the excess.

Many of the current BSA axles (nails) have an off-center head. Do you think this would cause problems with performance?

Since the axles don't rotate, the out of round head generally causes no problems. The only issue would be if the head was so off-center that the edge of the head contacted the faux-spokes on the face of the wheel. In this case, the head would need to be trimmed down, or the axle replaced.

Does angling the axles (head higher than the tip) help performance?

There is a lot of debate on angled axles.

Theoretically, if the wheel/axle system is running perfectly (minimized friction, dead straight mounting, perfect alignment), then straight and flat is best. But in practice, perfect is impossible to achieve. So, some believe (although all the test results I have seen are to the contrary), that slightly angling the axles (generally the rear axles) will compensate for some slight deviation in alignment. So, the bottom line is that it is your choice.

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!

We have just added an index of all newsletter articles since the first edition in October of 2001. We hope this helps you find information more quickly. To view the index Click Here

All of the issues for Volumes 5 and 6 are posted on our web site:

Volume 6

  1. Volume 6, Issue 1

  2. Volume 6, Issue 2

  3. Volume 6, Issue 3

  4. Volume 6, Issue 4

  5. Volume 6, Issue 5

  6. Volume 6, Issue 6

  7. Volume 6, Issue 7

  8. Volume 6, Issue 8

  9. Volume 6, Issue 9

  10. Volume 6, Issue 10

  11. Volume 6, Issue 11

  12. Volume 6, Issue 12

  13. Volume 6, Issue 13

  14. Volume 6, Issue 14
Volume 5

  1. Volume 5, Issue 1

  2. Volume 5, Issue 2

  3. Volume 5, Issue 3

  4. Volume 5, Issue 4

  5. Volume 5, Issue 5

  6. Volume 5, Issue 6

  7. Volume 5, Issue 7

  8. Volume 5, Issue 8

  9. Volume 5, Issue 9

  10. Volume 5, Issue 10

  11. Volume 5, Issue 11

  12. Volume 5, Issue 12

  13. Volume 5, Issue 13

  14. Volume 5, Issue 14

  15. Volume 5, Issue 15
Issues from the four previous seasons are available in four formatted volumes, ready for immediate download. To find out more, Click Here.

Newsletter Contributions

We welcome your contributions! If you would like to contribute an article, a web site review, or a speed tip, please send it to:

Please read our submission policy.

Subscription Information

The Pinewood Derby Times is a free e-newsletter focused on the Pinewood Derby. It is published bi-weekly from October through April.

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Randy Davis, Editor, Pinewood Derby Times

Copyright ©2007, 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.

The author disclaims any personal loss or liability caused by utilization of any information presented in this newsletter.

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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