Bitterroot Valley Pinewood Derby

This year at the Second Annual BitterRodders Street Rod Car Show – held in conjunction with the Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce Annual Daly Days Celebration in Hamilton, Montana – there was a pinewood derby event open to racers of all ages. The event was the idea of one of the Main Street merchants, where the activities centered for two days in late July. There were four awards: Fastest, Slowest, Best Design & Best Decorated.
The Merchant, ‘Me & Moms’, along with the Chamber of Commerce offered 48 Pinewood Derby Kits to any entrant for a $5.00 donation. The BitterRodders Car Club provided the use of their old 28 foot long, constant incline, valve cover racing ramp (two lanes with side rails, no center guide) as a track. Rules were as provided in the kits – weight, length, width, etc.
There were race cars of all description; everything from super sleek, to a block with wheels right out of the box, to a block wrapped inside a shortened plastic beer bottle! There weren’t any like those we helped our son and grandson build years ago. Building our race cars stirred up some really fond pinewood derby memories and sent us scrambling to the Internet for current information and tips.
As 66 year-old members of the BitterRodders Car Club my entry was the beer bottle, designed with friction brakes to win the slowest trophy. It never saw the finish line I am told. My wife’s entry was a super sleek racer with a rear wing and American Flag paint job (actually decal), a Yellow Ribbon on the nose for our troops abroad, and a Kokopelli riding atop the wing going for the win.
Unfortunately for us, due to a death in our family that week, we had to go out of town. However, we left our entries in the capable hands of a couple of children of club members to race for us in our absence.
On race day the ramp was set up early in front of the Post Office on Main Street and opened for trial runs. The business portion of Main Street in Hamilton, Montana is four blocks long. Reports have it that my beer bottle racer was ‘soooo’ slow it actually came to an embarrassing halt before crossing the finish line and was disqualified. It is really harder to build a car to go slow, although I understand a number of first timers were in the running!
My wife’s entry, however, is another story. Without a center guide strip, the young lady who raced it for her had to line the racer up aimed at the left side rail about half way down the ramp. The mis-alignment gave the built for speed racer a long gradual right hand slice. With practice and perseverance the car made a lightning dash from start to finish, making it the “fastest by a long shot” the proud racer proclaimed. She got the fastest trophy to take home with her.
We are sorry we had to miss the first annual event, but it was well received and they plan on having it again next year. We hope it remains uncompetitive, and open to all for the sheer fun of it! My wife sure plans on being there to defend the title, and I am going to back off the brakes on the beer bottle a bit. Who would have ever thought at our age we would be so excited about Pinewood Derby racing again.
Jimmy & Patsy Maddox
From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 5, Issue 7
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