Pinewood Derby

The Pinewood Derby is an annual event and it is the most popular event for many scouts and is probably the best known scouting event among non-scouts. Pack 130 holds this event in November.

Overview

The scout is given a block of wood made of pine with two notches for wheels, four plastic wheels and four nails. The finished car must use all nine pieces, must not exceed a certain weight, must not exceed a certain length and must fit on the track used by that particular scout pack. The parent or grandparent often spends substantial time “helping” the child design, carve, paint, add weights, and tune the final car. Judging often goes to the best looking car, but sometimes is awarded to a car that looks like it was assembled by an elementary school child.

Other than the previous basic design rules, the scout is able to carve and decorate the car as s/he chooses. Many scouts also add weights to the final design to bring the car to the maximum allowable weight. Cars typically vary from unfinished blocks to whimsical objects, to accurate replicas of actual cars. The fastest cars tend to resemble low doorstops, with weight at the rear. Graphite is usually the only lubricant allowed, while it often helps to polish the provided nails.

The track usually has six lanes and slopes down to the ground as the cars are powered by gravity. The race is run in heats, giving every car the chance to run on each lane.

Preparing for the race

Please read this section and the car specifications carefully BEFORE your cub scout starts to build the car.

We want to encourage the children to do as much of the work on the cars themselves as they can safely manage. Clearly some of our younger Scouts will need more help than the older children!

No adult and/or sibling races due to the size of Pack 130.

Registration

Come EARLY to register, as it will close promptly at 12:30. If changes must be made to the car to comply with the specifications, your children will be happy to have the sufficient time.

Registration 10:45 to 12:30
10:45 – 11:15…..…Webelos
11:15 – 11:30………Bears
11:30 – 11:45……….Wolves
11:45 – 12:00………Tigers
12:00 – 12:30………Open
BBQ 12:00 to 1:30
Races start 13:00

Staging area

After final inspection and registration of each car, cars will be moved to a staging area off limits to all participants. Cars will be kept in this staging area between races.

Jumping the track

During the course of a race, if a car jumps the track due to a misalignment of the track and NOT due to a design flaw in the car AND provided that the car was in either first, second or third place of the heat at the time it occurred the heat will be restarted. The restart is left to the judgment of the Race Judge. If a car jumps the track due to a design flaw in the car or because of the loss of a loose part or else does so while in fourth or higher position during the heat regardless of the reason, the heat will continue without a restart and the car that jumped the track will be recorded to have finished in the final position. If the car in question interferes with any other car in the race, and the Race Judge thinks it fit, the race will be restarted. The Race Judges’ decision will be final in this matter at
all times.

Awards

Awards will be given to the winners (1st 2nd 3rd) by Rank, Den and Pack and for design. Each Cub Scout will receive a certificate award.

Decisions by Derby Officials on race day are final and cannot be appealed.

Pinewood Derby Car Specifications

Pinewood Derby Car Dimensions

  • The overall length of the car shall not exceed 7 inches.
  • The overall width of the car shall not exceed 2 ¾ inches.
  • The lateral distance between the wheels must be at least 1 ¾” (44 mm).
  • There is no restriction on the wheel base length up to the 7″ (177 mm) total length of the car.
  • The car must have 3/8” clearance underneath the body so it does not rub on the track.
  • The kit is set up with these dimensions. These rules are to discourage any major modifications to the block of wood you start with.

Derby Car Weight

  • The car weight shall not exceed 5.0 ounces or 142 grams. 
  • The official race scale that is used at car check-in shall be considered final.
  • The cars will be weighed and measured before the races begin. Leave some room for adding the last weight to your car at the event. There will be time to do this.

Wood, Wheels and Axles

  • Cars are to be built only from the Official BSA Pinewood Derby kit, using the body, wheels, and axles provided in the kits. Detailing such as Steering Wheel, Driver, Decals, Painting, Interior Details are permissible as long as these details do not exceed the maximum length, width and weight specifications.
  • All four wheels and axles MUST be used on the car (three, two or one wheeled cars will not be entered into the race).
  • Official BSA wheels must be used. The wheels surface may not be cut, beveled, or rounded where it meets the track. You may remove the seams and imperfections from the wheels.
  • The axles may be polished and lubricated. Axles may be lubricated with powdered graphite only. 

Car Modifications Not Allowed

  • Wheel bearings, washers, covers, movable weights and bushings are strictly prohibited.
  • The car shall not ride on any type of spring or suspension system.
  • The car must be free-wheeling, with no starting, launch, or drive mechanisms.
  • No loose materials of any kind are allowed on or inside the car. Any car losing an accessory such as a decorative item will be allowed to continue the race without the item attached. Any car losing a wheel will be allowed to be repaired, but then must be re-inspected.
  • Please don’t be tempted to buy any special items available online. Many of them are for adult races not associated with scouting and may disqualify your child’s car. 

Other Rules

  • Cars are to be built new for each year’s derby. Cars raced in previous years are not eligible to be raced.
  • Once a car passes inspection and is entered into the race, only race committee members can touch it. We want a fair race. We will do whatever is possible to get your child’s car into the race.
  • Each car must pass inspection by the official inspection committee before it will be allowed to compete. These rules apply to all cub scouts worldwide. 
  • The Inspection Committee has the responsibility to disqualify those cars that do not meet these specifications.

A little bit of history…

Cubmaster Don Murphy organized the first Pinewood Derby, which was raced on May 15, 1953 in Manhattan Beach, California, by Pack 280C. Murphy’s son was too young to participate in the popular Soap Box Derby races, so he came up with the idea of racing miniature wood cars. The cars had the same gravity-powered concept as the full-size Soap Box Derby cars, but were much smaller and easier to build.

In the 1980s, the design of the block was changed from including a cutout consistent with a 1940’s style front-engined Indy 500 car to a solid block, and the tires were changed from narrow, hard plastic to wider “slicks”. Blocks can be whittled with a hand knife, but this is dangerous for young boys. It is usually better for a trained adult to use a band saw or Dremel carving tool for major shaping. Decals can be bought at scout shops. The original style is based on open wheel cars, however, fender or body kits are available, or wheels can simply be placed outboard of the body.