GarageLove: The New Generation of Racer

by Per Schroeder

“You can look at a Pinewood Derby Race in a variety of ways. You can make your project look cool, you can make it look like your favorite car or you can make it fast. Which do you want to do?”

I want to win.”

According to the Boy Scouts of America, since the inaugural race in 1953, over 100 million young people have received that block of wood, four plastic wheels and four shiny nails to serve as axles. The goal is to build the car and race it on a sloped track with just the force of gravity for power. Considering that the best selling full-size car in the world, the Toyota Corolla, has sold less than half that amount of units, the Pinewood Derby car fills an important role in the automotive landscape.

There are plenty of teachable moments in life—play fair, play well and be respectful of others are some of my favorites as a dad. The Cub Scouts have packaged many of these moments into a pretty solid program that helps parents and kids bond together. My son joined this past year and we’re hooked.







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Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Friday, May 15, 2015 1:12 AM
As a Pinewood Derby loser and Finals Champion, the thing my Dad and I learned was getting the wheels and axles right was the path to championship status.
Sure, I could get competitive for you and suggest making sure your weight is as close to 5oz., debur and smooth all contact between axle and wheel and MOST importantly, bring graphite! But.....I'm not getting competitive ;-)

PS Shape doesn't matter and you're better off keeping all 4s on the track.
Friday, May 15, 2015 6:06 AM
I loved Pinewood. Even when I graduated into Boy Scouts, I always returned to the Pack for the Derby. When I was a Cub, my dad would always buy a second kit so he could build his own car while I built mine. It was fun for him and helped prevent him from getting too involved with my build. He could show me how to use the tools on his cars and then have me do the same things (cut, sand, chisel, etc.) on mine so I would learn myself. He always went for the real cars. He's built a Schumacher F1 Ferrari, a few Indy Cars, a Pantera, and his pride and joy, a Pinewood version of his own Morgan +4. Every one of those cars was built to Pinewood rules too and on occasion he would race them.

I actually found body shape to make a difference. I did a Hummer one year and it was dog slow, even with buttery smooth wheels and axles. My best car had a pointed nose (to force the starter to line the car up square to the rail) and a low, flat body. We also put a center fin on it to act like a rudder and keep the car straight going down the track (it worked!). Funny enough, we built that car for speed and it finished in the Top 10 in council, but it also got an award for best looking car.

You should encourage your boy into TSA when he's in Middle School. Sounds like he'd be a natural for CO2 dragsters.
Friday, May 15, 2015 7:30 AM
Ah... good ole TSA. I competed in high school. Best I ever did in the CO2 dragsters, called Metric 500, was 4th at Nationals my junior year. I think I made top-10 my senior year, but I made a poor styling choice over aero.
Micah McMahan
Micah McMahanlink
Friday, May 15, 2015 8:40 AM
Put some graphite on those polished axles...tip from a former pine wood derby champ. It was always me or my brother. Safe to say that we're of a competitive nature ;)
Per Schroeder
Per Schroederlink
Friday, May 15, 2015 8:44 AM
Ha--yea, I forgot to mention in the article how grey my son's hands were after I told him to just go nuts with the graphite and spread it everywhere, including the backseat of the Mazda3. Oh wait, I actually just said, "Here, just carefully squirt a bit hereā€¦here here and here." The six year old took care of the rest :-)
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