Pinewood Derby Memory – Dad’s Car

Our son joined the Tiger Scouts in the fall of 2002, so January 2003 was our introduction to “Pinewood Derby Racing.” We were excited about the idea of building a car together (well I was), but we did not know a whole lot about what we needed to do. Other than the few lines of information that came on the sheet that came with the block of wood, four nails, and wheels, we were pretty much left on our own. The pack we belong to is pretty loose on structure and strong in the boys having good safe fun, and a lot of it. As the weeks went by we found out about the weight limit, length, width, and lubricant requirements.
Austin drew out his design on paper complete with guns, a jet turbine, and a device that extinguished the fire from the jet. We then transferred the design to the wood block. I carved and chiseled, he sanded and was constantly asking, “Are we done yet?” Along with his Mom telling me, “Let him do a lot of the work, it’s his car.” I carved and chiseled and he sanded some more.
He helped put on the first coats of paint and sanded some more and continued with, “Are we done yet??” And Mom, “Let him do a lot of the work, it’s his car.”
He picked out the stickers and helped put them on with the constant resonance of (you guessed it), “Are we done yet???” And Mom, “Let him do a lot of the work, etc., etc.”
We finally got the wheels on, and it was all I could do to keep him away from the car until race day in fear of it getting broken (you know I’m old and wise and know that I would be the one with additional work – that I did not need – when it got broken).
I then went on to build my own car. Our Pack, to encourage the parents to, “Let them do a lot of the work, it’s their car”, have an open race for the parents and siblings.  This gives them an outlet for their creative streak and competitive juices. My car was going to be the envy of all the Dad’s and would she be fast!!!!!
The evening before race day came, with cars packed in individual boxes, the whole family took off to the weigh-in and impound. Those around were ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ at our cars.  The smoothness of the finish and the shine sparked constant comments such as, “How do you do that?” and, “Those are the best paint jobs we’ve ever seen.” My head was getting so big, and I was very proud of our accomplishments so far.
Race day starts with the scouts voting on the cars for ribbons in a number of categories including, most creative, best theme, most original, etc.  Austin’s den – the Tiger’s – were the first den to run. Austin finished second in the den, not bad for our first build, and he also received the ribbon for best paint job.
When all the scouts were done it was time for the Open race.  Not too long after the start I was standing off to the side holding my car with what must have been a sorry look on my face, because one of the officials came over to me and said,
“It’s a good looking car, but the speed’s in the axles.”
It was a great day and we had a lot of fun building, and I was already thinking about next year – “Speed’s in the axles.”
Boy does time fly.  It was about time for the Pack’s 2004 running of the Pinewood Derby. We did a lot of reading during the year and I had that comment,  “Speed’s in the axles.”  running through my head all year long. Our daughter wanted to participate in the event this year, so we had to build three cars (didn’t think I was going to be left out did you?).
Just like last year Austin, and now Shannon, drew out their designs and we transferred them to the wood block. I carved and chiseled; they sanded and put on the first coats of paint. Not a lot of noise – “Are we done yet?” – this year; I think they were preoccupied with other issues. So I took the time to really work on those axles and wheels; polishing, polishing, and more polishing.
On the night before the race the family set out with cars packed for the weigh-in and impound. Again, a lot of comments on the finish of all three cars and the same official (“Speed’s in the axles.”) said:
“They not only looked good but I think they will go good. We will see in the morning.”
The same routine as last year:  the boys voted on the cars and then the racing began. Austin, now a Wolf, proceeded to finish in first place for his den and was now eligible to compete against the first place finishers from the other dens.
After all the Scout dens had finished their events, it was time for the open race. Shannon proceeded to win every heat in the open with no losses. I was so proud, but the event was far from being over.
After the Open race was finished and the crowd settled down, it was time for the day’s climax, the bid for Grand Champion. All den first place finishers now raced for the title and the trophy. Yes, you guessed it, Austin won! I could not believe it, what a day.
The event then concluded with the results of the boy’s votes. Austin won the ribbon for best paint job again.
Now I am thinking about next year; how my kids can retain their titles. What happened to Dad’s car? He did okay, you should see his smile!
Fred Wesstrom
From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 3, Issue 12
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