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Pinewood Derby Racer: The first father and son car project

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Front view. Photography by author.

While digging around in the basement the other day, my first Pinewood Derby racer resurfaced. Upon reading that sentence, those of you who were in the Cub Scouts likely became 8-years-old again, if just for a moment.

For those who weren’t, the Pinewood Derby was an annual rite of passage for Cub Scouts. The Den Mother would provide you with a Pinewood Derby car kit comprised of a rectangular block of pine, black plastic wheels and four nails to act as axles to hold the wheels on.

The idea was for the parent and son to whittle the pine into the desired vehicle shape, paint it any colors desired, add any decals, install the axles and wheels provided and prepare the car to compete in the derby, by ensuring it met the size and weight specifications.

These cars would be lined up on a wooden track with a downhill slope and gravity would carry them down it. Heats would be run to determine the fastest cars and prizes would be awarded.

Pinewood Derby racer

Rear view.

Though it’s pretty beat up 40 years later, with the wheels missing and chipped paint, there are still indications that my Dad and I put some work into this block of wood. Note the somewhat aerodynamic shape—mostly Dad’s doing, as I wasn’t allowed to handle many knives at 8-years old. I did do some of the sanding though, and I applied the decals. They were from a plastic model car if I remember correctly.

I seem to also recall some issue about using graphite on the axles to make the wheels spin more freely. Only a certain amount was allowed or something like that.

Anyway, this Pinewood Derby car is the first father/son car project I can recall doing with my Dad. It performed fairly well against the competition and went a few heats. The next year we built one with a wedge shape, painted it orange and added more decals. I think there were also some rule changes that we were able to employ to make that car more successful. Of course I can’t find that one, but the little kid memories this one provides will certainly suffice.

Were any of you Cub Scouts? Did you participate in the Pinewood Derby? If so, please share some of your recollections.