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Pinewood Derby Cars

For other activities, see the Activities Chapter.

In my opinion, the Pinewood Derby is the greatest activity for a boy and his parent to participate - if it is done properly. It encourages the adult to work with his/her son to plan, construct, and decorate a car. Each car that my sons built had at least ten hours of work involved in it. We used hand tools like saws and hammers; power tools like drills and Dremel™ tools.

The boys should be doing as much of the work as possible. I would always build a car at the same time so I wouldn't be as temped to do things for my son. We would work together in the garage. I'd show him techniques on my car so that he could do them on his. Keep a careful watch on him to make sure he isn't doing anything dangerous (for him or the car).

When he's done, the car may not be perfect, but it will be his and he will be proud of it because HE made it. He will remember it for the rest of his life. Some of the sad things I've heard boys say are "I forgot what my car looked like" or "See the car my dad made?" These boys won't remember the experience for very long.

There are many resources that tell you how to build a car and how to run the race (see the resources at the bottom of the page). So what I am putting here are some of those extras that make for a better event.


Make a list of things needed for all the different activities: games, crafts, registration, decorations, track, race, awards, judging, and food. Sheets and signs made up ahead of time for judges, the accuracy race, food cost, etc. will make things run much smoother.

This is probably the most complex event in Cub Scouts because of all the different activities that are going on at the same time and in rapid succession. Don't forget "Plan B" in case something goes wrong. BE PREPARED!

Idleness is the Devil's Workshop

There is usually a lot of free time before the race while everyone is putting the last minute touches on their car and getting checked-in. During this time if you have some activities for the boys (and siblings) to participate in, things will be less hectic. Here are some ideas.

Information to get to Parents

One to two months before the race, send out flyers announcing the check-in time, and race time. Also include on this the rules and hints to parents on how to help their son build a car. Make kits available for families to purchase.

General Construction Rules

Every vehicle will be inspected on race day, and must comply with the rules below or be disqualified from the race competition. Worktables will be available on race day to allow modifications to meet the rules. All modifications must be finished by race time, and the vehicle inspected and passed, or it will be disqualified. Vehicles entered only for design and appearance competition must comply only with requirements 2, 3, 10, and 11 below.

  1. Official kit wheels and axles must be used. These come ONLY from Scout Pinewood Derby kits. Wheels or axles from hobby shop or Boy's Life kits may not be substituted. The plastic mold flashing on the wheel "road surface" may be removed by sanding or by knife, but the resulting outside surface must be absolutely flat (not rounded or V shaped), in the same plane as that of the axle (not tilted), and of the full official kit width.
  2. The pinewood block supplied with the official kit or an equivalent block of pine must be the major structural component of the car.
  3. Overall measurements may not exceed 2.75 inches wide, 7 inches long, 3.5 inches high.
  4. Overall wheelbase must be 4 7/16 inches. This is the wheelbase of the official Scout kit.
  5. Weight may not exceed 5 ounces. No loose materials of any kind are permitted. The car may be hollowed out, and additional material (lead, washers, plaster, …) added, provided it is firmly attached (glued, screwed, etc.).
  6. Clearance under the vehicle may not be less than 3/8 inches. Otherwise, the car will not run on the track.
  7. Bearings, bushings, springs, and washers are prohibited.
  8. The only permissible lubricant is dry powered graphite. Other lubricants may damage the wheels or the track. Graphite cars before check-in. After cars are given to the officials, you cannot retrieve them unless you withdraw from the race.
  9. The vehicle must be free-wheeling, with no starting devices.
  10. Purchased detail items such as steering wheels, driver, or decals may be applied, so long as the overall rules are followed. Catalog or store-bought details will NOT be rated as highly as Cub-created details.
  11. Only one entry per Scout. The car must have been made during the current calendar year.
  12. These rules and no others shall apply to these races. The Race Committee will resolve all questions regarding interpretation of these rules. Decisions of the committee are final.

Procedure Rules

  1. Registration begins date, time, and location and lasts until time sharp.
  2. There will be an accuracy contest during registration but before you officially register for the downhill track race. A ramp will be provided for the cars to roll down. The scout may place his car anywhere on the ramp. Once the car has been released, no interference is allowed. If interference occurs then that run is voided and cannot be repeated. The winning car is the one that stops closest to the target point as measured from the center of the target to a point in the middle of the front of the car. Each scout will be given two attempts.
  3. You may unofficially check the car's weight and measurements before officially registering. When you are satisfied that your car will pass, take it to the official inspection and check-in station. It will be checked for compliance with the rules and if it passes, it will be put in the staging area until race time. Cars may not be handled again without specific direction from a race judge after being turned in. Cars may not be re-lubricated or modified in any way once they have been registered. Repairs may not be made without specific Race Committee ruling and supervision.
  4. If a car leaves the track, runs out of its lane, interferes with another car, or looses an axle, then that heat will be rerun. If the same car is responsible for a fault in the repeat run, that car will automatically be disqualified. The heat will be rerun for the other cars if interference affected the finish.
  5. All spectators and racers are expected to keep the race area reasonably orderly. Repeated excessive un-Scout-like activity will result in disqualification and ejection from the race area.
  6. Three awards will be presented to the best crafted cars (see rule 10 above), all other scouts will be awarded a ribbon. The car that stops closest to the target in the accuracy contest will be given an award. First through fourth place trophies will be awarded to the winners of the downhill track race.
  7. There will be an open class downhill race for all non-Scouts. The same rules will apply with the exception of rule 11 above.

Coaching Hints for Parents

The schedule for race day might look something like this.


Every boy should go away with an award. We have trophies for the four fastest cars, one for the accuracy race, and one or more for best crafted (these are chosen by the boys). Everyone else gets a certificate or ribbon with one of the awards listed below or make up your own - make it something positive that he will be proud to say "My car was the blank award!" A committee of 2 or 3 judges to assign the awards is best. If you use a sheet with the car numbers, then a number for an award from the list below can be written next to the car number making it easy to record. The real payoff comes if the judges put a little special effort into choosing extra special award names for those cars that may not have performed well in the speed race.

  1. Best Driver Award
  2. Best Paint Job
  3. Most Aerodynamic
  4. Most Accessorized
  5. The Indy 500 Award
  6. Best Decals
  7. Most Eye Catching
  8. Best Off Road Design
  9. Most Patriotic
  10. The Blue and Gold Award
  11. Most Unique
  12. Most Looks Least Like As Car
  13. Most Colorful Award
  14. The Red, White, and Blue Award
  15. Best Looking
  16. Most Classic
  17. Best Overall
  18. Most Inventive
  19. Most Artistic
  20. Best Body
  21. The Sharpest
  22. The Flashiest
  23. Most Futuristic
  24. Most Antique
  25. The Rainbow Award
  26. Most Streamlined
  27. The Sleekest
  28. Most Awesome
  29. The Big D Award
  30. The Coolest
  31. Most Original
  32. The 110% Award
  33. The Texan Award
  34. Most Incredible
  35. The Keenest
  36. Most Souped Up
  37. Most Stealthy
  38. The Lone Star Award
  39. The Monster Car Award
  40. The Mean Machine Award
  41. Most Dazzling
  42. The Knock Your Socks Off Award
  43. The Show Stopper Award
  44. The Razzle Dazzle Award
  45. Most Excellent
  46. To The Max Award
  47. Most Ultimate Award
  48. Most Surprising
  49. Most Marvelous
  50. Most Amazing
  51. Most Fascinating
  52. Most Phenomenal
  53. Most Sensational
  54. Most Stunning
  55. Most Extraordinary
  56. Most Stupendous
  57. Most Fantastic
  58. Most Exceptional
  59. Most Outlandish
  60. Most Exciting
  61. The Neatest Award
  62. Most Excellent
  63. The Hottest Award
  64. Most Ultramodern
  65. The Slickest Award
  66. Most Exquisite
  67. The Super Duper Award
  68. Most Terrific
  69. Most Like an Animal Award
  70. The Heavy Weight Award
  71. The Darth Vader Award
  72. The Red Baron Award
  73. Most Stripes Award
  74. The Funniest Looking Award
  75. Most Humorous
  76. The Strangest Looking Award
  77. Best Craftsmanship
  78. Most Cub-Like
  79. Most Unusual
  80. Most Ingenious
  81. Best Looking Driver Award
  82. Best Motor Award
  83. Best of Show
  84. Best Automobile Design
  85. Best Finish and Detail
  86. Fastest Looking
  87. Most Attractive
  88. Most Creative
  89. Most Creative use of Material
  90. Most Realistic
  91. Sportiest
  92. Best Vegetable

The Ultimate Pinewood Derby Site

Copyright © 2004 Vincent Hale