Pinewood Derby Page
The Pinewood Derby is one of the most popular events in Cub Scouting. Every year more than a million boys and parents team up to carve, decorate, weigh, adjust, fret over, and finally race a Pinewood Derby car. The first Pinewood Derby was held in 1953 by Cub Scout Pack 280 of Manhattan Beach, California, and as of 1991, more than 81 million Pinewood Derby model car kits have been sold. The purpose of the Pinewood Derby is to help the Cub Scout build a team relationship with their parent or helper, experience the sense of accomplishment and the excitement of competition, learn good sportsmanship, and to have fun.
Refer to the Cub Scout Leader How-To Book, pages 9-39 through 9-44, ISBN 0-8395-3832-4.
Suggested Pack Rules
Open to all Cub Scouts, Tiger Scouts, parents and leaders.
A Scout’s primary goal in Pinewood Derby should be to:
Work together with a parent on a joint project
Acquire a healthy attitude about competition and sportsmanship
Become more proficient at woodworking
Survive the experience with all ten fingers
Registration and Inspection
All cars must pass inspection to qualify for the race. Each car must pass inspection by the race officials before it will be allowed to compete. The officials have the right to disqualify those cars that do not meet specifications. Cars not passing inspection for minor infractions, i.e., weight, wheel width, loose body trim, will have an opportunity for re-inspection 10 minutes before close of registration.
Officials decisions are final. The car will be impounded when registered until the races are complete. After being impounded, repairs will be limited to replacement of axles/wheels that are broken/lost during the race. Any other piece of the car that is broken/lost during the race can not be replaced.
The car must have been made during the current scout year.
The body in the Official BSA Pinewood Derby Kit must be used. The body may be shaped, hollowed out, or built up from the original block, as long as it meets all other specifications. Any additions to the original body, i.e. steering wheels, drivers, decals, paint, weights, etc., must be firmly attached.
Axles, wheels and body wood shall be as provided in the official BSA Pinewood Derby kit. No straight, one piece axles.
WIDTH: The car width at the wheels may not be modified, it must be the same as the original kit. Width must not exceed 2 ¾".
LENGTH: Overall length may not exceed 7".
WHEELBASE: Wheelbase may not be modified, it must be the same as the official kit. It must clear the ground by at least 3/8 inch.
WHEELS: Wheels and axles must be as furnished in the official kit. NO washers, bushings, bearings or springs are allowed. Wheels may be sanded to remove the flashing only. NO reductions in width or diameter, or changes in shape are allowed.
WEIGHT: The weight of the race-ready car must not exceed five (5) ounces as measured on the official scales.
LUBRICATION: Use dry powdered graphite ONLY. You may not use any other lubricant, especially oils and silicone sprays. No graphite may be applied after car inspection or between races.
OTHER: The car must be freewheeling, with no starting devices. No loose materials of any kind (lead shot, marbles, etc.) are allowed inside or outside the body of the car.
Racing and Awards
The car whose nose is over the finish line first is the winner of that heat.
If a car leaves the track, runs out of its lane, interferes with another car, etc., the heat will be rerun. If the same car gets into trouble on the second run, the contestant is disqualified and automatically looses the race.
During racing, repairs will be limited to replacement of axles/wheels that are broken/lost during the race. Any other piece of the car that is broken/lost during the race can not be replaced or reattached.
Cars are raced head to head. You should run double elimination races, so that imperfections on the track are eliminated. Best two out of three wins the heat.
Awards will be announced shortly after all heats have been run. The drivers and their partners will report to the winners circle for their awards as their names are called.
There will be four divisions; Tiger Cub, Wolf, Bear, and Webelos, with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners in each division. All 1st place winners will race for the pack champion as well as 2nd, and 3rd place awards. The top three finishers in each division will race in the district Pinewood Derby.
There can be judging for additional pack awards in the categories such as MOST UNIQUE, and MOST SCOUT SPIRIT.
There can be an adult/sibling division race held as an exhibition race before the cub scout Derby starts.
Tips and Hints
FRICTION: One of the best ways to eliminate friction is graphite. A good dosage may not do wonders for the paint job, but it will for your axles (hopefully you didn't glue the axles too far in or that will impair the wheel). Most axles in the kits have burrs on them around the head. De-burr the axles with a small file.
WEIGHT: It boils down to this, the closer you get to 5 ounces without going over, the better off you will be. The placement of the weight on the car (front or back) is an item which has been argued for years. Weight toward the rear seems to work best, along as the front wheels track straight. Just remember – gravity is the only power these cars use.
AERODYNAMICS: There are just about as many arguments on this topic as there are Pinewood Derby racers. It has been tried, several times, to race a car, as is, straight out of the box with no cutting, shaping or painting of the wood. These cars seem to perform, on average, just as well as the low, sleek, aerodynamic models. The bottom line is: Let the boy design the car, and help him achieve his design! If the adult wants to tinker with the car, tinker with the wheels and axles. The car design has almost no bearing on the outcome of the race.
ALIGNMENT: Make sure that the car's wheels are placed as straight as possible. Place the car on the floor and roll it about 8 to 10 feet. The car should go in a straight line. Adjust with the axle placement to make double sure the car will roll straight.
WHEELS and AXLES: Make sure that the axles are glued securely to the wood. Also ensure that the wheel is not glued to the axle. The wheels are single most important part. Make sure the wheels are on straight and turn freely.
DESIGN / SHAPE: The finish line uses electronic infrared sensors to detect the car moving across the finish line. These sensors are directly centered in each lane of the track. The starting gate of the track uses a bolt in the center of the track. This is to ensure that the length of roll each car will have to the finish line sensors will be the same for each car no matter what the shape of each car is. Keep a high track clearance so that nothing has a chance to rub on the underside of the car. Remember that the cars straddle a wood lath as they roll down the track.
PAINT: Let your imagination run wild!! Whether you use 50 coats of hand rubbed lacquer, olive drab or no paint at all, all it will do is affect the looks of your car. It will not run any faster or slower whether it's red, blue, green, yellow, flames, no-flames, or pink polka-dots!! Let the boy paint the car. Drips of spray paint don't slow the car down.
ACCESSORIES: Glue those Lego and Pokemon characters in! Anything that falls off in the race stays off. This can lighten you car enough to slow it down.