Pinewood Derby

The Pinewood Derby is one of the most popular and successful family activities in Scouting when Cub Scouts race small wooden cars they made with help from family.

How It Works

First, Cub Scouts build cars with help from their families or an adult. Cars are made from official kits distributed at the November pack meeting.

Next, cars are brought to the “Impound” event for inspection. Cars are checked to ensure adherence to the rules of the race. In order to race, cars must be registered on this day — there is no registration on race day!

Finally, the big day arrives: Race day. Cars race in heats, once per round. Each car’s track time (speed) is recorded. Each car will race in an equal number of heats based on how many cars are racing.

Award Categories

  • Top #1-4 fastest cars overall (by heat average)

  • Fastest car by rank level (excludes overall top #1-4)

Cars will also be judged in the following categories:

  • Best Design Not a Car

  • Best Represents Cub Scouting

  • Most Original

  • Most Patriotic

  • Most Realistic

  • Parent's Choice (pending)

  • Cub Scout's Choice (pending)

2022 Pinewood Derby Information

Pinewood Derby Impound

Check back for the 2023 impound date and time!

If you are unable to attend the Impound, someone else can register the car for you. Just be aware, they may need to make modifications to your car if it doesn't pass inspection. Cars must be registered at impound!

Pinewood Derby Race Day

Check back for the 2023 race date and time!

We can't wait for race day!

Building a Pinewood Derby entry is a Cub Scout–adult project. Families should help with the cars but it is the Cub Scout’s project. Our recommendation is to keep it simple and have fun!

Pack 406 Official Pinewood Derby Rules

All cars entered must be newly built after September 1, of the current-scouting year, using the materials in the Official Pinewood Derby Racing Car Kit, which is provided to each registered Cub Scout by the pack.

The maximum length of the car shall not exceed 7 inches.

The maximum width (including wheels and axles) shall not exceed 2-3/4 inches.

The minimum width between the inside surfaces of the wheels shall be 1-3/4 inches so that the car will clear the center guide strip.

The maximum height shall not exceed 3-1/2 inches.

All cars will be weighed in and inspected. The maximum weight is five (5) ounces as verified by the official Pack 406 electronic scale. Any car weighing greater than 5.0 ounces will not be accepted. (The Pack uses Amazon Basics stainless steel digital kitchen scales.)

The minimum clearance between the bottom of the car and the track shall be at least 3/8 inch so that the car can clear the center guide strip.

Details such as steering wheels, model drivers, spoilers, decals, painting, etc. are allowed as long as these details do not exceed the maximum length, width, height and weight specifications. Loose materials of any kind are not permitted on the car.

The car or any part of the car may not extend beyond the starting pin. The pin height is 1-1/4 inches.

Pinewood Derby Car Standards

Wheels

  • Wheel diameter cannot be reduced past the ridge (rippled) edge. The ridge (rippled) edge must remain intact on the entire wheel.

  • Beveling, tapering, grooving, or reducing the tread width of the wheels is prohibited.

  • Wheel treads may not be rounded, tapered, grooved, shaped, or positioned at any angle.

  • Wheel treads must run flat against the track surface.

  • Wheel bearings, washers, or bushings are prohibited. The front outside wheel sidewalls and face must remain intact.

  • Wheel or hub covers are prohibited.

  • All BSA mold numbers and markings must be visible. Wheels must have the “BSA” and “Pinewood Derby” showing intact on the sidewall.

Axles

  • You must use the axles supplied in the original car kit (part no. 17006) or the Official Wheel/Axle Kit (part no. 17553, 17554, 17555, 17556, 17557).

  • Axles may not be angled in the car body slots/holes that would cause the wheel not to run flat to the surface of the track.

  • Axles must be mounted in the slots that come in the car block.

  • Axles may not be modified to the point that breakage could occur during the race.

  • The axle head diameter may not be reduced or flattened.

Body

  • No part of the car, including wheels, may extend past the front or rear of the car body.

  • The body of the car, the wheels, or any attachment, must not extend beyond the starting gate. The front of the car must meet the starting pin.

  • All four wheels must touch the track.

  • The car must be freewheeling with no starting device or other propulsion.

  • The wheelbase may not be changed. Wheels front to back must be the same length as grooves provided at 4-3/8 inches.

  • No sticky substances anywhere on the car.

Lubricants

  • Use only a dry lubricant (powered dry graphite is most common). Wet lubricants such as oils are prohibited.

  • Car surfaces must be dry to the touch at impound.

Examples of Allowed Modifications

  • Sanding or shaving the imperfections out of the track surface of the wheels. Be careful not to reduce the wheel diameter or round the tread face. The tread must remain flat.

  • Removing the pinch marks and mold ridges on the axles by sanding and polishing the axles.

  • Straightening axles only if bent.

Pack Rules Addendum

These car dimensions are very important. Each car runs down a track over a guide rail with three other cars. If the car does not fit correctly on the track, it cannot race.

The car should be labeled with the Cub Scout's name, den number, and pack number (usually written on the bottom). We recommend including the year!

  • Cars will run in heats.

      • Each car will race in one heat per Round. Each car will race in an equal number of heats. The number of rounds will be determined by the amount of cars entered. The winner(s) will be based solely on speed and not points. In the event of a tie, the winner will be determined by elimination round.

  • If a car jumps off the guide rail on the track due to its own defect, it will be assigned a fourth place finish.

      • If it hits another car during the run, the remaining three cars will repeat the heat. If any car jumps the guide rail due to a problem with the track, the heat will be repeated for all cars. The cause of the jumping is the sole discretion of the Judges. Any car that breaks or becomes unable to run down the track during the race will be disqualified. No repairs will be allowed after the car is registered during impound.

  • All judges' decisions are final.

  • A panel of judges will be selected to officiate the Pinewood Derby. Cars will be inspected at registration. The cars will remain in our possession after inspection and registration until the race, no exceptions.

  • The top four cars will be invited to run in the Matinecock District Finals and represent Pack 406.

      • This district event is usually held in April with registration in March. Cars qualifying for the district event will remain with Pack 406 after the Pinewood Derby in order to compete. In the event any of the top four cars are not available, the next placing car will be invited to participate.

Rules last modified April 7, 2022.

2022 Matinecock Distrct Pinewood Derby

The top four cars from Pack 406 will compete in the Matinecock District Pinewood Derby!

Saturday, April 30, 2022
Race starts at 10:30 a.m.
William T. Rodgers Middle School, 97 Old Dock Rd, Kings Park, NY 11754

Pinewood Derby Resources

A Few Tips and Techniques

You must use the pre-cut axle slots to mount your wheels. Don't drill holes to mount your wheels elsewhere.

Front wheels cannot stick out further than the front of the car. This example car would not be allowed.

To work with the starting gate, make sure the front of your car does not come to a point.

Pinewood Derby for Beginners

For our new families to Pack 406, Den Leader Scott made a video quickly (but isn't very quick) to help guide you and your scout in making their first Pinewood Derby car. If you have any questions, just ask!

Basic Steps in Building a Pinewood Derby Car

1. Pick a Design

This is the hard part — deciding on a design. Have your Scout think about what kind of car they will make. Do they want a car to be fast? Try for one of the appearance categories?

2. Rough Cut the Pinewood Block

Draw or trace the template on the block of wood. You can get as creative as you want. Keep in mind that intricate designs often sacrifice speed for looks. A basic wedge design often performs very well and is easy to paint and customize.

Using a coping saw by hand or, with an adult’s help, a bandsaw or scroll saw, cut your design just outside the design lines. You will sand down to the actual lines after cutting.

3. Sand and Shape the BodyCar

Using a sanding block or sanding sponges available at any hardware store, sand and shape your car. A basic progression would be starting with 120 grit and ending with 220 grit. If your design is rough, you can start with 80 grit to more easily shape your car — careful, you can easily sand off more wood than you may intend to! For a smooth finish, lightly sand with 320 grit.

4. Add Weight to the Car

Finally, an opportunity to discuss Newtonian physics with your Scout! Cars race down a sloped track, propelled only by gravity. Thus the heavier your car is, the more potential energy it has and the faster it will go! Using a scale, put your car, wheels, axles, and enough weight to be close to (but not over) 5 oz, the weight limit. In my opinion, it’s better to be underweight than over. At impound, you can always glue on a penny if you’re under, but if your car is 5.1 oz it will not be registered until it is 5.0 oz or lighter!

Weights can be placed on the outside of your car (externally) or inside your car by drilling or cutting out holes (internally). Externally is easiest but must be glued firmly and creates resistance. Internally is best but requires drilling holes. A good place to put weights is close to the rear axle — be careful not to overweight the rear, this can cause cars to pop a wheelie!

Weights can be purchased from a hobby store. There are many types. I prefer cylinder types are very easy to install internally: Simply drill a 1/4 or 3/8” hole (check the weight diameter) in the bottom of the car and insert the weight. Fishing weights are good but be careful with lead.

If your Scout is adding decorations, be sure to include these when weighing your car. Even if you’re not aiming for 1st place in speed, your car must weigh ≤ 5 oz!

5. Paint!

Spray paint is fast and gets the job done. Krylon or Rustoleum paints are fine. If your Scout is going for a more elaborate designs, they’ll have to paint it by hand. Nontoxic acrylic paints (like Testors) are great for detail painting.

While at the hobby store, you may find some decals to apply. Basic science has proven that a car with flames on the sides will go faster. Allow the paint to fully dry (up to 24 hours) before applying any decals or detailing on top of the paint.

Finally, you may want to apply a gloss clear coat to really make the car shine. The clear coat will help seal in the decals as well as protect both the decals and the paints. I find the spray variants of gloss clear coat the easiest to use.

6. Ready and Attach Wheels

This is where casual racers diverge from the super serious. The best way for your Scout’s car to go faster is to polish the axles and lubricate the wheels. You will find many tutorials online about polishing the axles (must be mounted in the factory slots!), removing burrs from wheels (do not change the shape!), lubricating and other ‘secrets.’ Always check the official rules first!

Graphite is the most common dry lubricant. Before mounting your wheels, place some graphite in each axle hole and spin the wheel around a few times to ensure that the entire inside of the hole is covered. Be careful, it is an extremely light powder and a bit messy.

Mounting the wheels is a key step. The wheels should be aligned to minimize friction. Thread the axle (nail) through the plastic wheel and place the pointed end of the nail into the axle slot leaving a slight gap (1/8”) between the wheel and the body. Test the car to see how straight it rolls. If it veers, straighten the wheel by pushing on the wheel gently — don’t push very hard! Make lots of small adjustments instead of a few big ones.

Adjustments should be made slowly with repeated trials. A fun activity is to sit on a smooth floor with your Scout and roll the car back and forth while making slight adjustments. Once you are satisfied with your wheel placement, smear a drop of glue (E6000 is great for this) across the axle and the wood to secure it into place — don’t get any glue on or near the wheels!

Good news: You and your Scout are finished (after you check the car’s weight one last time)!

Items Used in These Steps

  • Coping saw (hardware store)

  • 120 and 220 grit sandpaper; 60 for shaping, 320 for smoothing (hardware)

  • Digital scale (online, big box store)

  • Paint, gloss clear coat (hardware, hobby)

  • Decals and accessories (hobby store)

  • Weights (3–3.5 oz, hobby store)

  • Dry graphite lubricant (hobby store)

Remember the Cub Scout Motto: Do Your Best!