Stock Car

Stock Car

Pinewood Derby Times
Volume 9, Issue 11
February 24, 2010

In this Edition:

- Editor's Notes

- Feature Article - Grading on the curve

- Humor

- Product Showcase

- Car Showcase

- Memory - New Track Record

- Q&A

Editor's Notes

Pinewood Derby in Bolivia
Last fall I purchased seven dozen of your basic car kits to take to Bolivia. My children and grandchildren were going to be at a camp in Marana, Bolivia in January. My son-in-law was the camp director. This is the first pinewood derby in Bolivia that we are aware of.

Here are a few pictures of the event. The basic shapes were cut here in the states; the boys decorated and painted the cars as a craft, and raced them at the end of the week. There were 150 boys at this camp. The boy in the red shirt is Alexis Claure, who was the winner of the race. There were funny looks at the car kits in my checked baggage as we came through customs in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

John Van Lester

Inventory Clearance
We have added three decals and NyOil II to our Inventory Clearance Sale.

There you will also find all of the older style BSA wheels, car kits, car plan booklets, and the "Down and Derby" DVD.

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

    Help - We Need Your Car Photos and Memories
    We are in need of cars for the Car Showcase, and we are out of pinewood derby memories. Please send your photos and memories and we'll get them published. Thanks.

    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

    Grading On The Curve

    Does that phrase bring back memories of elementary and high school? For most people, the grading curve brings back bad memories.As you recall, the grading curve was used to assign letter grades. Those on the right side of the curve received Aís and Bís, those on the left side received Dís and Fís, while those in the middle received Cís. In most classes, there were a few "brains" that distorted the curve for everyone else, leaving us with a lower GPA than we would have liked.

    But the Bell Curve itself is not inherently bad. In many data sets, the numbers tend to arrange themselves in a bell-shaped curve. There are always the low and high oddball numbers, and the much larger group of average numbers. In pinewood derby racing, this is often seen. There are a few cars that are very fast, a few cars that are very slow, and the rest are arranged in the middle.

    If we apply the Bell Curve to pinewood derby racing, we might arrive at something like this:

    Pinewood Derby Grade
    A - Trophy winner
    B - Competitive
    C - Middle of the pack
    D - Crossed the finish line, but generally last
    F - Didn't cross the finish line

    Just like in school, the challenge is how to move up one or more letter grades. Not surprisingly, the methods available to move up a grade level are the same in both school and in pinewood derby racing: study, tutoring, and practice.

    To help with the tutoring aspect of this, I'd like to share some ways that you can improve your pinewood derby letter grade. The tips are cumulative, so if you want to move from an F to a B, you will need to implement all of the F to D, D to C and C to B steps. I have not provided the implementation details; most of them are available in past newsletters, or in our speed tip booklet "Speed to the Finish".

    From F To D
    Cars that don't cross the finish line generally suffer from one of the following problems:

    1. The car is not lubricated, or is lubricated with a substance that is detrimental (Powdered Teflon, grease, soap, etc).

      Resolution: Lubricate with graphite

    2. The wheels are restricted from spinning due to paint or glue.

      Resolution: Paint before mounting the wheels, and make sure the paint is dry. Be careful with glue; I recommend against using Super Glue to attach the axles, as this type of glue commonly locks up wheels.

    3. A wheel gap is too small, resulting in a wheel that doesn't spin freely.

      Resolution: Set the wheel to car body gap with a gap gauge (or a credit card).

    4. The car is much too light weight.

      Resolution: Make sure to add weight to your car.
    From D To C
    Once your car crosses the finish line, there are several more steps that will move your car up to the middle of the pack:

    1. The car is shy of five ounces (or the maximum weight for your race).

      Resolution: Design the car so that you can readily add weight so that the car weighs five ounces.

    2. The axles have flaws that prevent smooth spinning.

      Resolution: Remove axle flaws with a small file, and then polish the axles.

    3. The tread and inside edge of the wheels are not smooth.

      Resolution: Lightly sanding the running surfaces with a fine grit, wet sandpaper.

    4. The wheels are not mounted accurately.

      Resolution: Verify that the axle slots are square before building the car, and then mount the axles squarely in to the slots.
    From C To B
    Now that your car is starting to perform, letís step it up a notch. Here are some tips to help you run with the big boys:

    1. The wheels are lubricated, but not thoroughly, and not with a high- quality lube.

      Resolution: Before mounting the wheels and axles on the car, thoroughly lubricate the wheels with a top-quality (99 percent pure) graphite, such as Max-V-Lube.

    2. The car weighs five ounces, but the weight is not properly located.

      Resolution: Locate the weight towards the rear of the car. The final balance point should be between 1 and 1-1/4 inches in front of the rear axle. Make sure to use the axle slot that is closest to the end of the block as the rear axle.

    3. The car does not roll straight.

      Resolution: Adjust the alignment until the car rolls fairly straight over eight feet.

    4. The wheels are smooth, but not "trued" (i.e., they are not perfectly round).

      Resolution: If allowed by your local rules, use wheels that have been trued on a lathe, or true a set with the Pro-Wheel Shaver XT.

    5. All four wheels are (more or less) touching the track.

      Resolution: If allowed by the local rules, lift a front wheel off of the track.

    6. The inside wheels hubs are making full contact with the car body.

      Resolution: If allowed by the local rules, cone the inside wheel hubs, then make sure they are coated with graphite. Note that the hubs are already coned on the new BSA wheels.
    From B To A
    Okay, you have a competitive car, but are just shy of winning a trophy. Here are some techniques to gain some milliseconds:

    1. The car has too much wood mass, leading to poor aerodynamics.

      Resolution: Remove wood mass, leaving a low-profile car.

    2. The car has weight spread over a large area, increasing the moment of inertia of the car.

      Resolution: Remove wood mass, leaving a low-profile car. Then use tungsten to focus the added weight in a small area.

    3. The alignment is not optimal for top performance.

      Resolution: Use the rail riding technique.

    4. The wheels have full weight.

      Resolution: If allowed by the local rules, use weight-reduced wheels.
    Now you are armed with some tips to improve your pinewood derby letter grade. So, get to studying and practicing, and you will be ready for that next pinewood derby test!


    A scout master was teaching his boy scouts about survival in the desert. "What are the three most important things you should bring with you in case you get lost in the desert?" he asked.

    Several hands went up, and many important things were suggested such as food, matches, etc. Then one little boy in the back eagerly raised his hand. "Yes, Davey, what are the three most important things you would bring with you?" asked the scout master.

    Davey replied, "A compass, a canteen of water, and a deck of cards."

    "Why is that, Davey?" asked the scout master.

    "Well," answered Davey, "the compass is to find the right direction, and the water is to prevent dehydration."

    "And what about the deck of cards?" asked the scout master impatiently.

    Davey replied, "Well, sir, as soon as you start playing solitaire, someone is bound to come up behind you and say, 'Put that red nine on top of that black ten.'"

    Product Showcase

    $1.00 off

    The DerbyDome is a high-quality case for safely displaying pinewood derby cars. The DerbyDome has the following features:

    • Heavy duty, clear dome fits snuggly with the black pedestal to keep cars dust free while providing a complete view of the car,

    • No-tools-required fastening system keeps the car in place - fits BSA, Awana, and other wheels,

    • Car may be mounted horizontally or tilted to either side,

    • Product includes: dome, pedestal, 2 mounting brackets, blank paper identification labels, and assembly instructions,

    • Custom printed label is available from the manufacturer for an additional fee.
    Until March 9, 2010, you can purchase a DerbyDome for $1.00 off the regular price. To take advantage of this limited time offer,
    Click Here.

    Car Showcase

    Coffin: Ken Temple

    This is last year's winning car in our Awana Grand Prix, open division at Maranatha Baptist Church. It is an old style pine casket. It has narrowed wheels, holes in the side walls to lighten them, and I was able to successfully use your wheel balancer, along with all the other speed tricks I learned from your book. All weights were hidden under the lining at the head end. It looked like a pillow. The end of the casket reads, "Ashes To Ashes, Eat My Dust".

    International Harvester Crew Cab: Joe Bilyeu

    This is an International Harvester crew cab tractor hauler, the tractor is an Ertl International. The truck weighs 4.9 ounces and is legal to race. Everyone who sees it just loves it. The bed is a piece of stainless steel; the tractor is attached to the stainless with fishing line and a couple of drilled holes, I added a little extra weight under the bed.

    Vintage Cars:

    My two sons and I built these three cars about 20 years ago. So our Pinewood Derby days are well in the past. While cleaning up in my pole barn, I ran across the cars. One of them had lost a wheel along the way, so I ordered a set from you. I'm amazed at the technology available for these cars today!

    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

    New Track Record

    Three years ago, after using your web site, downloads, etc., my son Jackson and I were able to slap together a car for him. The night before the race during the final prep, Jackson broke the wood trying to get the axle in. But we got it done.

    Since it was my first year as a Pinewood Dad, another Dad invited me over to the local "Guru's" house to weigh the cars. Well immediately upon arrival, they pointed to Jackson's car, and said, laughing hysterically, "That's his car?"

    Fast forward to race night. Jackson's first race. "New Track Record"

    Funny thing, the Guru had told me the night before the only thing his son had never done was set a Track Record.

    In the end, Jackson won the Pack race, and got to go on to the district race to represent our Pack.

    Michael Onieal

    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 2010.

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


    With the extended wheel base our front wheels are now flush with the nose of the car. My concern, however, is that when the car hits the foam rubber stopper after the finish line the wheels (more so the axles) could be damaged and the alignment changed. I'm considering moving the axles back, but with the majority of work already complete I'd rather not risk creating more problems with that move. What do you think?

    If your car will contact a foam stopper, then it is certainly possible that the alignment could be affected. When we drill extended wheelbase cars, we inset the front wheels a little to avoid this problem. But at this point you may want to let it ride, and take it as a lesson learned for the next car.

    I ran into last year's champ and he mentioned the secret was burning the graphite? Do you have any clue what this means?

    I believe he was saying "burnishing" the graphite. One way to burnish is to use a wooden or metal rod, about the diameter of an axle. Insert graphite into the wheel, insert the rod, and roll the wheel back and forth with moderate pressure applied to the rod. This basically helps create a coating of graphite inside the wheel bore.

    I have read the outer hub on the 2009 BSA wheel is detrimental when a nail with a tapered head is used, but I have not read why. Can you tell me how to correct the problem?

    The problem with the extra ring in the outer hub is that it contacts the axle head near the outer part of the head. This increases the braking effect when contact is made. It is better to have contact near the shaft.

    You can remove the step with the
    Pro-Outer Hub Shaver (part 5115)

    Note that the Pro-Hub Tool (part 5110) is required to use the Pro-Outer Hub Shaver.

    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

    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.

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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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