In this Edition
– Editor’s Notes
– Feature Article: The Pinewood Classic
– Product Showcase: Pro-Axle Bender – 10% Off
– Pinewood Derby Car Showcase
– Pinewood Derby Memory: First Derby Story
In Volume 18, Issue 6 Brad Barnett’s fan-powered car “Danger Zone” was included in the car showcase. After that was published, Brad sent me a link to a video of the car in action:
Call for Photos
Help, we are out of photos for the Pinewood Derby Car Showcase. Please send us a photo of your car along with a description of any special features to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please include your full name. If selected, we will include the photo and description in this newsletter.
Photos must be sent by e-mail in JPG format (minimum size of 640×480, maximum size of 1280 x 960). Please shoot photos from the front left of the pinewood derby car, similar to the orientation of this car.
Make sure the photo is not blurry. If your photos are blurry, try holding the camera four or five feet away from the car, and then use the camera’s zoom to fill the frame with the car. Also, use a solid (preferably white) background for the photo. Printer paper works well as a background.
Send only one photo per car, unless an additional photo is needed to adequately show a feature. Don’t forget to include your name, the name of the car (if it has one), and a brief write up on any design features, inspiration for the design, and how the car performed at the race. Thanks.
MV Basic & Wedge Car Kits
If you are planning a pinewood derby race and are not required to use a specific kit type, our MV Basic or Wedge Car Kit are 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 Pinewood Derby 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. Our MV pinewood derby wheels are top-quality wheels. You will not be disappointed with the quality of these wheels.
Inventory Clearance Sale
We are clearing inventory on several pinewood derby items including:
– Tungsten & Tundra Weights
– Formula One, Barracuda, and Vector car kits
We don’t have many remaining, so don’t delay. You can find these items Here.
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
The Pinewood Classic
For the past five years, Short Leash Hot Dogs in downtown Phoenix, Arizona has staged a community pinewood derby race known as the “Pinewood Classic”. Although you would not know this from the name, Short Leash Hot Dogs is an upscale bistro offering unique hot dogs and other fare. The bistro is in the arts district, so there is an emphasis on car design and “pizzazz”. (1) In the morning a kid’s race is held, and then an adult race is held in the evening. The event has become quite popular and there is a limited number of participants, so you must purchase your entry very quickly after entries become available.
I was not aware of the event until the third year when a few “pineheads” showed up at our shop to purchase supplies. The event sounded intriguing, so my wife and I planned to enter a car the fourth year. But unfortunately, there was a scheduling conflict. Finally, in 2018 we purchased two entries ($25 each) and made plans to attend.
The event used PineCar-brand kits. The rules are rather basic: five ounces, standard dimensions, use wheels/axles in the kit, etc. Obviously, these rules leave a lot of unanswered questions (axle holes versus slots, extended versus standard wheelbase, wheel modifications, etc.). Not having attended before, we chose to go a little conservative.
So, the two cars we used were standard wheelbase with axle slots. But we did go with a raised front wheel and with some partially weight-reduced PineCar wheels. My wife ended up going out of town so my son, Tim, completed the second car. Tim’s car was aligned to run straight with no canting of the rear wheels, but my car had canted rear wheels.
In photos from a previous event, the track had side guides. So, I decided to reverse rail-ride by canting the front right steering wheel upwards and steering to the right. So, the wheel would run the rail on the outside of the wheel.
We arrived early and brought some FlexWeight to help folks get their cars up to weight. As the cars passed through inspection, we saw a wide mix of artistic (some of which were fabulous) cars, as well as cars engineered for speed. The inspection turned out to be just weight and dimensions; we could have used an extended wheelbase car and axle holes as several entries did.
The blue car in the lower-left was too tall and hit the finish line! It turned out to belong to Brad, the co-owner of Short Leash, and it had sparklers that were lit when its turn came to race.
The track was home-made, with three lanes and side guides. But my goodness, what a rough stopping section – the cars basically went into a two-foot-long carpeted area with no guides. Thus, the first car across often got t-boned by the following cars. There were a few cars that were seriously damaged.
The Stopping Section
Adrian Fontes, the Maricopa County Recorder (2) was the emcee and starter, and he kept the crowd entertained. He had a knack for razzing or praising all the cars, and keeping the audience wound up. (3)
Brad (co-owner of Short Leash), managed the double elimination format, with awards for first and second place. Only the winning car of each heat remained undefeated with the two losing cars going into the loser’s bracket. There was no need for finish line judges as there was a Microwizard K2 timer (no computer hook-up).
As the race progressed, both my car and Tim’s car ended up in the loser’s bracket. My car eventually knocked out Tim’s car (which I think would have been the third fastest).
Randy’s Car at the Line
Randy’s Car Winning a Heat
Tim’s Car at the Line
Tim’s Car Winning a Heat
But in the end, my car was in the finals against the no-loss car – an extended wheelbase beauty. My car took the first heat by a car length, which was when I realized that there was a fast lane/slow lane issue with the track. When the lanes were swapped, my car lost by an inch to take second place.
But no sour grapes; the event was great fun. We met a lot of neat people, passed out a lot of business cards, and I’m already planning for the next race.
By the way, if you own a restaurant, bar, or other appropriate venue (or know someone who does), consider holding a pinewood derby race for the patrons and community.
P.S. Brad, of Brad’s Big Adventure participated in the race and posted this short video. At 2:25 you will see my son Tim and me being interviewed by Brad – too bad he edited out my speed tips!
(1) After I wrote this article, Short Leash moved into a larger facility. So, they will have a lot more room for the 2019 race.
(2) Phoenix, Arizona is in Maricopa County
(3) A good emcee is critical to a fun and energetic pinewood derby race. I have attended several races where the announcer was dry and boring, resulting into a lethargic, low-energy audience.
A large company, feeling it was time for a shake-up, hired a new CEO.
The new boss was determined to demonstrate his decision-making ability and wanted to immediately take action to rid the company of all slackers.
On a tour of the facilities, the CEO noticed a guy leaning on a wall. The room was full of workers and he wanted to let them know that he meant business.
He walked up to the guy leaning against the wall and asked, “How much money do you make a week?”
A little surprised, the young man looked at him and replied, “I make $400 a week. Why?”
The CEO then handed the guy $1,600 in cash and screamed, “Here’s four weeks pay, now GET OUTTA HERE and don’t come back.”
Feeling pretty good about himself, the CEO looked around the room and asked, “Does anyone want to tell me what that goof-ball did here?”
From across the room came a voice, “Yeah, he’s the delivery guy from Domino’s Pizza.”
Pro-Axle Bender – 10% Off
The Pro-Axle Bender provides a simple and repeatable method for bending pinewood derby axles. This allows rear wheels to run canted, and/or the front dominant axle to be aligned for rail-riding or straight alignment. Accurate alignment is one of the five keys to producing a fast pinewood derby car.
The Pro-Axle Bender will work with axles from BSA, Awana, MV, PineCar, and many others. The tool will bend zinc and nickel-plated steel axles, as well as stainless steel and titanium axles.
Through January 22, 2019, you can get a Pro-Axle Bender for 10 percent off. To take advantage of this limited time offer, add a Pro-Axle Bender to your shopping cart and use coupon code JAN9NL during checkout.
Pinewood Derby Car Showcase
Sorry, we are out of cars for the showcase.
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 description of any special features to: email@example.com
Please include your full name. If selected, we will include the photo and description in this newsletter.
For better focus, keep the camera four or five feet away from the car, and then use the camera’s zoom to fill the frame with the car. Also, use a solid (preferably white) background for the photo.
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
First Derby Story
My son is involved in the BIC (Brethren in Christ) Boys group at our church. Recently we were informed that they were going to have their annual pinewood derby race. I never participated in one of these races as a child but wanted to help my son to compete in the race. I had no idea where to begin. I searched pinewood derby on Google and found your site. While working on the car we implemented as many speed tips as we were allowed.
After we registered, we were adding some graphite. I remembered you said it takes a few runs for the graphite to get worked in, so I asked my son to spin the wheels. When he went to spin the first wheel it flipped out of my hand and onto the ground. I remember reading somewhere that there is always one car that gets dropped on “Derby Day”. I was a little upset when this first happened, as I could see all our work going slowly down the drain. But when race time came, the car cruised to victory in the first race. One close race out of the four, but success in each. When the awards were being announced, my son’s name had not been called before they announced the 3rd place finisher. I now knew that he had won first or second place. The second-place finisher was announced, and my son was the only name left. I was so proud and shocked when they announced him as the first-place winner! He walked to receive his trophy with a very serious look on his face, as though trying to hide his excitement. I had to fight back the tears as he proudly carried his award back to where we were standing. Being five years old and not “liking to lose” (like anyone actually does), we had talked to him before the race to make sure he knew he may not win even one race and that, win or lose, he had to be a good sport. We think he was just “being a good sport” when he strolled to receive his award.
Afterwards, when we were in the car I asked if he had a good time at the race. He said he had fun and “knew he was going to win.” I then asked how he “knew he was going to win.” He just said, “Because I had the best car.” Later, he held his trophy on top of his head and was kind of bragging. “I won a trophy. I got the big one. Uh, huh, uh, huh!”
It was wonderful that the “kid” finally came out in him and he was joyfully celebrating his victory. The amazing part is that he still was “being a good sport” by celebrating after he was away from the other racers who had not fared as well. I now knew that he had definitely enjoyed the race.
I have been proud of many things my son has done in his five years, but this seemed to be the best. Even though it was hard to keep him entertained and interested in the building, it was very rewarding to have spent the time together. The trophy? The trophy was just the icing.
Do you Remember?
If you have a pinewood derby story that is funny, unusual, sad, heart-warming, etc., please send it to me in an e-mail. Don’t worry about literary polish. We will edit as needed before publishing.
If your story is used, you will receive a $10 coupon in May of 2019.
I would like to know if the Accel fenders can also be used as trailing fenders on pinewood derby cars. If not, are there specific trailing fenders and do you have any to purchase?
On a standard wheelbase (BSA) car, you can put a set of:
- Front Fenders in front of the front Wheels
- Rear fenders behind the front wheels
- Front Fenders in front of the rear wheels
But there is not a set of fenders to fit behind the rear wheels.
I was wondering how much slower my son’s pinewood derby car would be with heavier wheels. Our council rules are pretty open on wheels, so we’ve been getting your lightest BSA ones. The car has been pretty fast. He got 1st in den, 1st in pack, and 1st at a district meet. We are considering going to the pinewood derby in New York City and I know their rules on wheels are pretty strict. He would probably run in the Pro Stock Division since his car fits that division better. What kind of wheels would you recommend?
I haven’t reviewed the rules for that race, but probably our Pro-Stock wheels would work. Certainly, you would want to carefully read the rules on wheels.
Going from a light wheel to a heavier wheel will require removing weight from the car. It will also likely move the balance point forward due to the heavier wheels up front.
Generally, when moving from full-weight wheels to 1.6-gram wheels gives an advantage of 1-2 inches at the finish line. Going from 1.6 to 1.0-gram wheels provides another 1-2 inches. So, the advantage of lighter wheels is significant.
Can you please give me some tips on how to install the wheels and axles on a pinewood derby car body, without the axle slot splitting and breaking? It has happened twice already, any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.
I would recommend one of the following methods, before building the car:
- Use a Pro-Body Tool to pilot drill the slots.
- Use a pin vise and a #44 bit to pilot drill the slots.
- Use a Pro-Axle Guide to assist in installation.
If you don’t have any of these items, then you could try
- Clamp the car body – the bottom – to another pinewood derby block, or a piece of wood, such that one side of the body is firmly resting on a work surface, the bottom is tightly clamped to the block, and the other side is upward.
- Use a spare axle nail, and with a hammer gently tap the axle into place. Remove the axle by twisting and pulling with a pair of pliers.
- Repeat for the other three axle positions.
In all cases, when painting insert round toothpicks into the slots to keep the slots clear of paint.
Do you have a pinewood derby-related question? If so, e-mail us your question.We answer all questions by e-mail, but not every question will appear in the Q&A section of the newsletter.
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 18 are posted on our web site.
We welcome your contributions. If you would like to contribute an article, a web site review, a speed tip, or a pinewood derby memory, please e-mail us.
The Pinewood Derby Times is a free e-newsletter focused on pinewood derby racing. It is published biweekly from October through March.
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Randy Davis, Editor, Pinewood Derby Times
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