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Ready to race - Pinewood Derby

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  • Ready to race - Pinewood Derby

    My grandson Leo is now 7 years old, has joined the Cub Scouts. The Pinewood Derby is on, and parents (and grandfathers) are allowed to "help" complete a car. My problem, of course, is that a 7-year old isn't really up for a long-term project and has a different level of quality expectation in the final result and a different patience level. It's a good reminder to those of us who just might be too anal in our expectations... Just have fun!

    So, I did finally convince him that a Studebaker Indy car could make an acceptable Pinewood Derby car, though he wanted Day-Glo orange as the color. I did direct the creation of the pattern and the rough cutting, but Leo filed, sanded, painted, and put decals on. I used the 1935 drawings from Ray Kuns' article scaled to the 7-inch length of the Pinewood cars, with adjustments for the actual axle locations dictated by the Scouts' rules. I think he's ready to take his Studebaker to the pack meet and show them how a Studebaker can be still be competitive.

    If anyone else wants to use the "Studebaker Spl" or the logo decals, I can supply them for other Pinewood Derby cars at about 1/24 scale. It does make a great grandfather-grandson project.
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    Gary Ash
    Dartmouth, Mass.

    '32 Indy car replica (in progress)
    ’41 Commander Land Cruiser
    '48 M5
    '65 Wagonaire Commander
    '63 Wagonaire Standard
    web site at

  • #2
    We still have a couple of pinewood derby cars that my son raced when he was in the Cub Scouts. He is now thirty-eight years old. His son just turned six, but he already likes Studebakers. We are working on two dioramas to take to the North Carolina Zone Meet in September. Next year he will be able to race the pinewood derby cars. I am so glad my grandchildren are just over on the next ridge from us. I love to hear about Neil Thornton and Josh's projects. Keep us informed about Leo's racer.


    • #3
      "Actual axle locations dictated by the Scouts rules"

      Here in St. Louis(and I think elsewhere) you are not bound by those axle grooves.
      If you want to experiment, go-ahead and flip the block of wood upside down, and drill your own axle holes.
      Pushing the wheels out to the 4 corners gives better stability, and thus less bouncing off of the grooves in the racetrack, and greater speed. Also spend a lot of time on the axle nails. Put your electric drill
      in the vice, and chuck up a nail with the head exposed far enough to lay a Popsicle stick flat between the nail head and the jaws of the chuck. Then press the button for constant running, and work the exposed underside of the nail head and the exposed shaft with a fine file,'followed by rubbing and then polishing compound on the Popsicle
      Stick. The Popsicle stick matches the depth of the wheel hub. HAVE FUN!


      • #4
        Leo will also find it fun if you get lucky and win a race or two. Skyways suggestions will help in that persuit. Also use graphite powder
        to lubricate your nail axles and wheels. In addition to that, weight is very important. Memory says it is limited to about 5 ozs. You want
        your car to weigh every allowable fraction of that limit. Borrow an accurate postal or pharmaceutical scale. Dirll some holes in the bottom
        of the car with about a 3/4" forstner bit. Fill the holes with buckshot or BBs and glue mixed in with them to get just over the limit. At the weigh-in
        you want to be able to pop out 4-5 BBs with a pocket knife to get down to the legal weight. Also do a few test glides down a board or sheet of plywood.
        Try to get it to track straight. Will reduce the drag of the guide rail between the wheels. Most of all enjoy the time with him & have fun. I have good
        memories with both my Grandsons doing the same.


        • #5
          I found that Co2 cartidges made my Pinewood Derby exhibition car quite the conversation maker.
          Too bad it lasted only a half dozen runs....

          Come to think of it, my two IVCRA racers have met the same fate....
          But... Hope springs eternal, right Matthew?
          HTIH (Hope The Info Helps)


          Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. Mark Twain

          Note: SDC# 070190 (and earlier...)


          • #6

            The tips from Skyway and Steve are dead on! It's been a decade since my kids were Cub Scouts but it seems like yesterday and the cars that did best sweated out those details. The straighter the car ran without guides, the less time they spent dragging along the guides, the friction is notable.

            In the end though, the biggest reward is watching it all come together for the kids and their families. When it all wraps up, the competition mixed with good commaraderie, you can't beat it.

            Cheers, Ken


            • #7
              "The straighter the car ran without guides, the less time they spent dragging along the guides, the friction is notable."

              Very true! ...and my friends that still have Cubs report that the best way to guage your tracking is with an (insert drum roll here) excersize treadmill! Apparently you elevate the belt it a bit, and tether the car on a string. Then you just tweak the wheels by hand until the car does not pull to either side.


              • #8
                Some good life moments were had out in the garage as my son and I carved out a Derby car.

                A whale! Was the design of the last one we all worked on. Now don't laugh, the car placed 3rd out of 50 boys.
                Speed tips are plentiful on the Internet, I wish they were available when I was a Scout, but the most beneficial ones that worked this last race were.

                Center of gravity - placement of the weight 1 to 1/2 in infrint of rear axle.
                Straight/true wheels, BUT!... Have one ride slightly high so it DOESN'T touch the track NO FRICTION.

                PICS later

                Good luck. The moments you share will last his lifetime.
                61 Lark



                • #9
                  Yup, lots of graphite, and ChopStu's 3 wheel advice is also good. Just make sure the car is stable and true on those 3.