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.
- Accuracy Race - Make a large target with concentric circles on a 2'x2' piece of paper. You can make the circles with a piece of string and a couple pencils. Color in the circles. Get this laminated at a school supply store. Tape it to the floor on all four sides. About ten feet away tape one side (the side closest to the target) of a thin piece of wood about 2'x2' to the floor. This will be the ramp. Each boy places his car on the ramp, adjusts the height of the ramp, aims his car, and lets it go. The idea is to see who can get their car to stop closest to the center of the target. Cars may not be interfered with after they are released. Make sure the boundary of the area is secure so other kids won't run across the area and maybe step on a car. Each boy should get two turns. Record all attempts. Measure the distance from the middle front of the car to the center of the target. Hold this race before the cars are officially checked in. Give an award for the boy whose car stops closest to the bull's-eye.
- Neckerchief slides - Make plaster of Paris candy mold cars ahead of time so they can be painted before the race. Make a car from wood moulding and dowel rod. These can be constructed and painted at the event. Have an area or a rack where the slides can be set to dry. Make a checkered flag neckerchief slide. You'll need to have an adult or two supervise these activities.
- Face Painting - Use paints available at craft stores that are designed for use on the skin. Paint the number of the car on the owner's face or get creative.
- Games - These are just for fun games with no awards or prizes. Try beanbag toss, clothes pins dropped into a bottle, or roll a Hot Wheel Cars to see who can make their car stop closest to a wall without hitting it. Any number of games can be used. Make it fun and challenging so the kids will come back again and again to play it. Assign this activity to a couple of adults and let them plan and supervise it.
- Food - Since the event will run for several hours (setup, registration, race, and cleanup), it is always good to have some food available. Our pack's goal was to make enough money to cover the cost of the event (trophies, awards, ...). Some foods that are easy and popular are pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, pickles, popcorn, and flavored drinks. Try not to have a lot of sugar and caffeine - the kids are excited enough they don't need any help. Be sure to rotate parents through here so someone doesn't get stuck there through the whole race.
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.
- 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.
- The pinewood block supplied with the official kit or an equivalent block of pine must be the major structural component of the car.
- Overall measurements may not exceed 2.75 inches wide, 7 inches long, 3.5 inches high.
- Overall wheelbase must be 4 7/16 inches. This is the wheelbase of the official Scout kit.
- 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.).
- Clearance under the vehicle may not be less than 3/8 inches. Otherwise, the car will not run on the track.
- Bearings, bushings, springs, and washers are prohibited.
- 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.
- The vehicle must be free-wheeling, with no starting devices.
- 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.
- Only one entry per Scout. The car must have been made during the current calendar year.
- 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.
- Registration begins date, time, and location and lasts until time sharp.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Cub Scout Motto is NOT “Win at all cost” or “Do your Dad’s best”, it is “Do YOUR best”.
- Help your son plan a schedule to prevent a last minute project and allow time for him to "do his best."
- Help your son understand the rules and specifications.
- As your son chooses his favorite design, help him trace it on the block of wood from the kit.
- Guide him in the use of tools in the shaping of the model, encourage him to sandpaper the model to a smooth finish, and paint and decorate it.
- Help your son understand that this is HIS project, with you assisting him when he needs it. The parent should provide instruction and guidance, not labor.
- Help your son understand that "doing your best" is more important than having the fastest model.
- Feel a sense of pride and satisfaction when the model and race are finished. Share it with your son. You have both earned it.
- When the race is over and the car is on the shelf, you want your son to look at it with pride, thinking “I made that car.”
- Understand that the leaders may need your help. If you have the interest and the time, you might contact the leaders and volunteer to help or judge at the pack's big race.
- Spending time with your son, helping him "do his best" will be remembered by both of you long after the race is finished.
The schedule for race day might look something like this.
- Setup (2 hours) - It may take more time depending on the experience of the leaders, the location of the event, track, ... You have some leeway during the registration time.
- Registration (2 hours) - be sure to have lots of time for those last minute tune-ups. Run an Accuracy Race before the cars are officially checked-in. Food should be available during this time and about half way into the race. Also, have some crafts, games, or other activities to keep the boys and their siblings busy. This takes a lot more effort, but makes for a much nicer environment before the race. Check the size of the car, weight, make sure nothing is added to the bottom, the wheelbase is the same as the BSA kit, and the BSA kit wheels and axels are used.
- Race (30 minutes to 2 hours) - The time depends on the number of cars, the number of times each car runs, time between races, technical problems with the track, cars, or electronics. Time between races is generally the most critical. Consider having an adult and/or sibling race for non-Cub Scouts.
- Awards presentation (30 minutes) - Time will depend on the number of awards, advancements, announcements, ...
- Clean-up (30 minutes) - This is usually easy since you have a lot of folks there. Ask them to help put away tables and chairs. You'll be amazed at how fast it goes. The food can be cleaned up during the last half of the race.
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.
- Best Driver Award
- Best Paint Job
- Most Aerodynamic
- Most Accessorized
- The Indy 500 Award
- Best Decals
- Most Eye Catching
- Best Off Road Design
- Most Patriotic
- The Blue and Gold Award
- Most Unique
- Most Looks Least Like As Car
- Most Colorful Award
- The Red, White, and Blue Award
- Best Looking
- Most Classic
- Best Overall
- Most Inventive
- Most Artistic
- Best Body
- The Sharpest
- The Flashiest
- Most Futuristic
- Most Antique
- The Rainbow Award
- Most Streamlined
- The Sleekest
- Most Awesome
- The Big D Award
- The Coolest
- Most Original
- The 110% Award
- The Texan Award
- Most Incredible
- The Keenest
- Most Souped Up
- Most Stealthy
- The Lone Star Award
- The Monster Car Award
- The Mean Machine Award
- Most Dazzling
- The Knock Your Socks Off Award
- The Show Stopper Award
- The Razzle Dazzle Award
- Most Excellent
- To The Max Award
- Most Ultimate Award
- Most Surprising
- Most Marvelous
- Most Amazing
- Most Fascinating
- Most Phenomenal
- Most Sensational
- Most Stunning
- Most Extraordinary
- Most Stupendous
- Most Fantastic
- Most Exceptional
- Most Outlandish
- Most Exciting
- The Neatest Award
- Most Excellent
- The Hottest Award
- Most Ultramodern
- The Slickest Award
- Most Exquisite
- The Super Duper Award
- Most Terrific
- Most Like an Animal Award
- The Heavy Weight Award
- The Darth Vader Award
- The Red Baron Award
- Most Stripes Award
- The Funniest Looking Award
- Most Humorous
- The Strangest Looking Award
- Best Craftsmanship
- Most Cub-Like
- Most Unusual
- Most Ingenious
- Best Looking Driver Award
- Best Motor Award
- Best of Show
- Best Automobile Design
- Best Finish and Detail
- Fastest Looking
- Most Attractive
- Most Creative
- Most Creative use of Material
- Most Realistic
- Best Vegetable
The Ultimate Pinewood Derby Site
Copyright © 2004 Vincent Hale