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Pinewood Derby Times
Volume 8, Issue 5
November 26, 2008

In this Edition:

- Editor's Notes

- Feature Article - Unusual Tracks

- Humor

- Product Showcase

- Car Showcase

- Memory - Highest and Longest

- Q&A

Editor's Notes

Reader Feedback

From Dave Mikulka: I have been the Pinewood Derby Chair for our pack for a few years and have also been very active in our district and council races. My youngest son is now a Wolf Cub, so I have four racing seasons left before I will regretfully hand over the reins to the next volunteer.

My feelings for the derby are different then most people that are heavily involved in it. I personally feel that the derby should be held at a pack level only. I think it is much too competitive these days. The council races are a nightmare to work. There are far too many parents trying to do whatever it takes to win their son a trophy. In our council, the top four pack cars in each class, Tiger, Cub, and Webelos, are eligible for the district races, and then again, the top four are eligible for the council race.

Before a council race, we will get e-mail telling us who will be trying to enter an illegal car. We have disqualified cars for illegal wheels and the parent would just open their little kit and take out a set of "legal" wheels and axles and put them on the car. They knew they might get caught cheating and were ready to correct it.

The term "cheating" may be a bit harsh, but we all know that is what they are doing. They don't seem to care what kind of example they are setting for their very impressionable youngsters. We have even had parents that took their disqualified car outside and then brought in a different car to register. There are times when we hear that somebody has entered a different car than was at their pack or district race. Unless a pack or district leader can step up and verify that it is a different car than what was eligible, we are powerless to do anything about it.

It is a shame that even in scouting, there are parents that will lie and cheat just to win a trophy for their son. I resist the urge to tell these people just how much easier and cheaper it would be for them to go to a local trophy shop and buy their son a trophy if that is what is so important to them.

We try very hard not to disqualify cars from the race. The race is for the kids, and they are not the ones trying to cheat. People are always given the chance to make their car legal if they wish to do so. Occasionally, someone will take their car and go home mad. Then we get e-mail and letters complaining about how badly the derby was run. These people are then offered the chance to come out next year and help us do it the "right way". We get very few takers.

A few years ago, I was all in favor of the higher levels of competition and was even wanting a national race for council winners. Then, a couple years ago, I was helping run a race for a new, very small pack with only about 7 boys. Some leaders from our pack took a band saw to one of their meetings and helped cut out some car shapes for them. I don't believe any of the boys or parents had ever seen a derby race as we know it.

On race day, it was clear that very little sanding or other work had been done on the cars, There were some very unique paint jobs that were all obviously done by 6 to 10 year olds. Yes, the cars were very crude, but it made me realize just how beautiful they really were. Those of us that were there to help them run their race were trying to keep the boys from playing with their cars on the tables and the floor. You don't "play" with a pinewood derby car! Well, they did play with them, and they had a blast. They also raced them when it was their turn. They did have a winner, but no trophy. None of the boys cared who won and who was last. They all had more fun than I have seen boys have at the "regular" races. That is when I realized what Don Murphy must have envisioned when he created the derby years ago.

Yeah, I don't like where the pinewood derby has gone, but I know it can never go back to where it once was. So I intend to be there to make sure each boy has the best time possible. I want to help reduce the amount of parent involvement (and interference) and try to give the race back to the boys. I will paraphrase the words of Mr. Spock from one of the Star Trek movies. The needs of the many boys, outweigh the needs of the few parents."

Editor's Comment: I certainly understand the issues raised by Dave, but I can also see the other side. Much of the problem at the district and council races is the vagueness of the rules. Oftentimes, packs, districts and councils do not have their rules in synch, and the rules that are given leave many things in doubt. So a parent that wants the best for their child is in a quandary. I get many calls from parents in this situation: "If we take a car that will certainly be acceptable, it will likely lose badly if the race leaders interpret the rules loosely. But if we do some extra things to the car, and the leaders interpret the rules tightly, then the car will be disqualified. What do we do?" This is where people build two cars (or have two sets of wheels), one considering a strict enforcement, and another a loose rule enforcement.

To solve this, there needs to be a clear, crisp set of council rules that lay out what can and cannot be done to the car. These rules need to be widely distributed, and preferably adopted at all levels. Then, the rules need to be strictly enforced by the inspection team. If this is done, then the first year will still likely be a bit rough, but the following years will run smoothly.
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Feature Article

Unusual Tracks

Whether homemade or purchased, most groups today race on a 32 to 50 foot track, starting on a slope and transitioning to a long flat section. These tracks are made from aluminum or wood, and have from 3 to 6 lanes. Some variation exists, but other than length, ramp angle, transition radius, and composition, they are essentially of the same style.

But there are some groups with unusual tracks. These can have curves, loops, an extreme length, or an unusual composition. In todayís article, I'll share a few of these with you.

In most cases, I include the source of the photo. However, in a few cases, I do not know the source. If the source is not listed, and you know the source, please let me know.

If your group races on an unusual track, please send me some photos and I'll include them in a future edition of the newsletter.

Curved Tracks
Generally, pinewood derby tracks do not have curves because the carís rigid axles do not readily negotiate turns. But that doesn't stop people from adding them to the track.

The first track is unusual in that it not only has a big sweeping curve, but it also has a continuous gradual slope from start to finish (no rear- weighting on this track).


The second track could be included in all of the categories in this article. Named, "Goliath", it is an attempt at the longest and tallest track. Unfortunately, there was no David around to defeat this giant, as no cars completed the track. Sorry, but I couldn't find a photo of the assembled track.

Source: /biggest/largest_pinewood_derby_track_world_record_set_by_Goliath_80156.htm

Since BestTrack is now offering a loop, tracks with loops will likely become more common. Here is a track with not only a loop, but also a jump. The second photo shows the main problem with loops.


Long Tracks
The first long track I ran across is used by an Awana group. It starts on the stage of a gymnasium and runs almost the length of a basketball court.

Source: Unknown

Not to be outdone, the Indiana State Museum hosted a pinewood derby event for the BSA Crossroads of America Council. At two stories high, and 125 feet long, it was claimed as the tallest, longest and fastest known track.1


S-shaped tracks were at one time more common, but are now rare. The unusual ramp and short run-out require a different weighting scheme.

Source: Gary Kunschaft

Unusual Composition
I have ran across many tracks of unusual composition including Plexiglass, Formica, etc. Unfortunately, I don't have photos of these tracks, so I'll share the following tracks with you.

The first is from Pack 38 in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. This track appears to be wood, but it really stands out for beautiful construction.


The second track is apparently made from thick aluminum plates. It was used at a council race. I'm not sure why it only has two lanes when a third lane would clearly fit. If you look carefully, you will see two strips going up into the air at the end of the track. These are the braking lanes. Apparently, some cars fell off the strips.


1The memory in this newsletter is from a family that participated in the Indiana State Museum pinewood derby event.


A young boy had just gotten his driver's permit, and inquired of his father if they could discuss his use of the car. His father said, "I'll make a deal with you. You bring your grades up from a C to a B average, study your Bible a little, get your hair cut and we'll talk about the car."

Well, the boy thought about that for a moment, and decided to accept the offer.

After about six weeks they went in to the study where his father said, "Son, I'm very proud of you. You've brought your grades up, and I've observed that you have been studying your Bible and participating a lot more in the Bible study groups. But, I'm disappointed that you haven't gotten your hair cut."

The young man paused a moment, and then said, "You know, Dad, I've been thinking about that; and I've noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair and there's even a strong argument that Jesus had long hair."

To this his father replied, "Did you also notice they all walked everywhere they went?"

Product Showcase

Christmas will be here before you know it, and I am sure many of you are looking for bargain gifts. So, here are three relatively inexpensive gifts that I'm sure you pineheads would enjoy receiving. If you want to receive one of these as a gift, make sure to give your loved one the hint by showing them this newsletter!

Until December 23, 2008 you can purchase one or more of these three products at a discount. To take advantage of this limited time offer,
Click Here.

    Axle Extraction Pliers    
$2.00 Off

The Axle Extraction Pliers greatly simplify removing nail or pin axles. The curved and grooved jaws of the Axle Extraction Pliers provide strong but even gripping power on the axle head, minimizing the risk of damage to the axle, and giving maximum leverage to the user. Just grasp the axle head and gently remove the axle with a twist-and-pull motion.

$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 unmodified wheels.

    Drill Mount    
$2.00 Off

A convenient way to clamp your drill to a work surface when working on wheels and axles, the Drill Mount is adjustable to fit virtually any hand drill. It supports Dual Mounting Positions for flexibility to meet your work environment, and has a Swivel Base to allow the drill to lock in at any angle.

Until December 23, 2008 you can purchase one or more of these three products at a discount. To take advantage of this limited time offer, Click Here.

Car Showcase

To the Rescue: Chris & Kaycie Tufaro

This is the car my daughter, Kaycie (age 10), and I built for her 2008 Powder Puff Derby. It is a basic wedge design with a few special add- ons. In front is what is left of a car after a large "boulder" had fallen on it. Behind are emergency vehicles coming "to the rescue". The "Falling Rocks" sign was another creative touch. Although she did not win a ribbon for any of the "best of themes" (most colorful, favorite food, sporty, girl scout values, etc.) the car ran fast and we had a blast making it.

Two-wheeler: Bob Weaver

After seeing my two-wheeled car, Bob dropped by Maximum Velocity to show me his version. Modeled after a car that was entered at his pack's race many years ago, it runs on the right-front, and left-rear wheels; the other wheels are off the ground. Unlike my car which is center-weighted, Bob's car is rear weighted (balance point at 1-3/4 inch in front of the rear axle) by offsetting an underbody lead plate to the left. It is possible that this design could be made faster by using tungsten plates and shifting them further back. Nevertheless, the car is very fast; it has taken first in several races.

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

Highest and Longest

We had heard about the upcoming World's highest and longest Pinewood Derby track event, so we decided to go. We picked out some cars from my son Patrick's, collection, and I took him and his friend downtown to the museum. Patrick chose the car that he made as a Tiger Cub, an Indy-style racer. His friend, Bryce, picked out a car loosely based on the Dragonfire car plans that were part of a design booklet we had purchased. I got greedy and took two cars, a car based on a 60's Indy Watson Roadster that I made for myself when Patrick was a Cub Scout (so I could keep my hands off of his car), and a vintage "skinny wheel" car made in the 1960's.

We had seen the track on TV, so we knew it was going to be high and long, but it was even more impressive in person. There were lots of friendly volunteers helping out with the racing. We quickly got our cars inspected, and were ready to roll.

The aluminum track was four lanes suspended from the ceiling. The starting gate was perched over the second floor railing, and the track made a graceful arch down to the main floor and the finish line. The scoring results were recorded and displayed on a big screen TV near the finish line. Each car was allowed three timed runs. The fastest ten cars would be eligible to compete for one of the top five trophies that were being awarded for the event.

All of our cars ran nicely, but not near the top ten times. The top times were in the 4.5 second range; the best any of ours did was 4.6 seconds. Still, it was awesome to see the cars from below, rocketing down two stories of Pinewood Derby Race track right down to the finish line. You don't always have to win to have a good time.

I was surprised to see the vintage Pinewood Derby car, made in the 1960's, holding its own racing against the newer models. It brought back fond memories of my son's Cub Scout enjoyment of the Pinewood Derby. I found this reflected in the faces of all the kids who were having the time of their life racing their cars on this day.

In addition to the kids, there were several "Old Timers", like me, who brought their boyhood creations down for one more taste of Pinewood glory.

Two kids that we met that day stood out the most. One boy was there with his Mom. The boy's dad was out of town, so Mom got Dad's old Pinewood car for the young man to run. It was probably a seventies car. The builder used the wider 70's tires for the back and a couple of older skinny wheels in the front. It gave the car a very distinctive look. The son was having the time of his life "driving" daddy's car.

The other youngster who caught my attention was probably 6 or 7 years old. His car was one that he had made "All by himself"... with a little help from Mom. The car, was nicely painted silver, and had a Lego driver in the cockpit, with horns on it's helmet, and he had found a matching sticker to decorate the back. It was really neat to see the joy and pride on the face of that little boy -- it brought back lots of fond memories of Pinewood Derbies past.

All in all, we had a really great day taking part in a bit of Pinewood Derby History. I heard from one of the volunteers that they may make this into a yearly event. I sure hope so.

Bob & Patrick Henderson

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 2008.

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


I always look forward to the mold characteristics table and I always get a bunch of wheel/axle kits to do some of my own testing. My question is, why are molds 17 and 18 not included in your tests? Were they any good this year?

Molds 17 and 18 disappeared - we haven't seen any wheels with that marking in quite a while. They may have been removed for retooling, and will show up again.

Should I paint the wood where the wheels contact the wood, or is the bare wood a better surface for lube?

I like to paint the area, as long as the paint has time to completely dry. A clear coat helps as well. The paint will usually provide a slicker, harder surface than bare wood. But don't use enamel paint. Enamel takes a long time to cure, and then seems to soften if the wheel hub rubs against it enough.

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 ©2008, 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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