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Pinewood Derby


Pinewood Derby History:

Interesting Fact: The Pinewood Derby was started by Don Murphy, a resident of Manhattan Beach. One of his original wood tracks is housed in the El Segundo Scout House.


"I wanted to devise a wholesome, constructive activity that would foster a closer father-son relationship and promote craftsmanship and good sportsmanship through competition."

Don Murphy, 1953
Cub Master of Cub Scout Pack 280C
Founder of the Pinewood Derby
Manhattan Beach, CA

The story of the pinewood derby starts with Don Murphy, Cub Master for Pack 280C in 1952. Don Murphy wanted to create a new father-son Cub Scout activity he could do with his 10 year old son who was too young to race in the Soap Box Derby, which requires the boy to drive a home made car down a hill. Don's young son couldn't wait 2 years to race in the Soap Box Derby, so "Dad" Murphy wanted to invent another activity to do with his son and the younger boys in his Cub Scout Pack. The ideas started percolating in Don Murphy's mind. His dedication to family values and Cub Scouting ideals, drove him, as stated in the quote above, to develop the idea of racing miniature pinewood derby cars down a track. He just needed to figure out a basic kit for these cars and design a track to race them on.

Don had been a model maker all his life, so the idea of racing small cars down a track came natural to him. It would be a fun and safe father-son activity for younger boys. He presented his idea of racing miniature pinewood derby cars to the Management Club at North American Aviation where he worked. They sponsored the Soap Box Derby, so perhaps they would also sponsor the first pinewood derby car race. The Management Club was excited about Don's new idea and agreed to sponsor the very first Pinewood Derby Car racing event for Pack 280C by donating trophies along with funds to make the car kits.

"I'd made models of airplanes, cars, boats, and any number of other structures and remembered the pleasure I got out of doing it," Don said.

Read an interview with Don Murphy



Official 2012 Pinewood Derby Rules:

Attendance: This is a Scouting event, so all participants (and all Scouting Leaders) are expected to be in their full scout uniform.

Inspection: Each Car must pass an inspection by the Pinewood Committee before and/or after the race. The Inspectors have the right to disqualify those cars which do not meet specifications. Inspections might involve removing a wheels to inspect an axle.

Rule 1: Have fun! As with all Cub Scout events, the first rule is always to have fun! Note to Parents: This is your sons’ car; let him help in the building process! Please resist the temptation to ‘take over’ as the point of this is for the scout to participate fully in the process!

Kits: Only cars built entirely from the official Pinewood Derby kit (Grand Prix Car Kit #17006) shall be eligible for competition. If kits are obtained through other sources, be sure that they are official BSA kits. Cars used in previous years are ineligible.

Width: Overall width shall not exceed 2.75 (2¾) inches.

Length: Overall length shall not exceed 7.0 inches.

Weight: Weight shall not exceed 5.0 ounces. Weight shall not be added to or removed from the car once it is registered

Height: Overall height shall not exceed 2.75 (2¾) inches.

Details: Details such as a steering wheel, driver, decals, painting, and interior details are permissible as long as these details do not exceed the maximum length, width, height and weight specifications and they are securely fastened with no moving parts.

Attachments: The car must be free-wheeling with no starting and or acceleration devices.

Springs: The car shall not ride on any type of springs.

Bearings: Washers and bushings of any type (including paper) are prohibited.

Lubrication: The only lubrication that may he applied to the car is Dry Graphite. This may be applied only to the axles, wheel hubs, and contact points between the wheels and the car body. Graphite may not he applied once the car has been registered. Use of liquid lubrication is prohibited. Note: It you plan to lubricate your car, please do so at home. Graphite which spills on the floor is both difficult to remove and potentially dangerous.

Axles: Only the axles (nails or the “new” BSA axle kits) provided in the kit may be used. Chroming, or any other type of special technical process, may not be used to apply a smooth finish to the nail or axle kits. Axle spacing of 4 3/8” inches must be maintained on all cars.

Eligibility: Only registered Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, or Webelos Scouts are eligible to compete. Only one entry per boy is allowed. Multiple entries made by the same boy will result in a disqualification of all his entries.

Responsibilities: It is the sole responsibility of each participant to pick up his car at the end of the race. The District Pinewood Committee is not responsible for lost or damaged cars.

Wheels: Wheels must be full width, as provided in the “Grand Prix Kit.” Wheels cannot be shaved or reduced in diameter or width. Sandpaper may used to remove burrs created in the manufacturing process. The original wheelbase must be maintained using the pre-cut slots. Wheel bearings, washers, and bushings are prohibited

Staging: Cars shall have a leading edge which is flat and parallel with the axles. The leading edge should be between 0.5 (½) and 0.75 (¾) inches above the track. Cars which “ride-up” on the staging pegs may be run backwards, or disqualified, at the judge’s discretion. An electronic finish line will be used; therefore, it is recommended that extreme needle-nose designs be avoided.

Adjustments: Once a car is registered, nobody may tamper with the car, except to repair broken parts or to correct rule violations at the repair station. An adult is permitted to make the repair and/or correction. Any adjustments must be made under the supervision of one of the race officials.

Note: You will not see your car after the weigh in as you will be leaving it with us and we will deliver it to the race site, so make certain that your car is lubricated to your satisfaction before you leave!


Race Day Rules:

If a car leaves the track, runs out of its lane, interferes with another car, loses an axel or other problem as determined by the race judge, the heat will be rerun. If the same car gets into trouble on the second run, the contestant will be disqualified. If on the second run, another car is interfered with, the heat will run a third time but without the disqualified car.

If a car suffers from a mechanical problem after a pass, the participant may ask the race official for time to make a repair. The participant will have up to five (5) minutes to repair the car. No additional lubricant may be added during the repair process. The previous pass will not be re-run unless the race official rules that interference occurred with another car.

The electronic timer on the track will select the order of finish.

In the interest of fairness to all participants, any parent, or scout who ignores or disobeys the Pinewood Derby rules set forth above or disobeys appropriate Scouting behavior will result in disqualification.

Any challenge to the results or disqualification will be reviewed by the Pinewood Committee. All decisions by the Pinewood Committee are final.

Please remember that the purpose of the Pinewood Derby is to have each Scout enjoy the process of designing and making his car with the help and assistance of parent/guardian.


derby trophy

Hints & Suggestions

Start early and unless your son is a pro, keep the design real simple – a wedge works well.

Weight and wheel preparation appear to be the most important considerations; you want the weight to come in as close to 5 ounces as possible. Cylindrical weights are the easiest to use since you can just drill the correct size hole at the end, saw the cylinders to the right length, and then slide it in (they can be made to look like exhaust pipes, and can be any length to get the desired weight).

Plain enamelon type spray paint works surprisingly well and dries very quickly; the "official" model paints are complicated, require primer, and have a long drying time.

Decals, driver models, etc are easy add-ons.

More info:
BSA Pinewood Derby

Tips on Organizing the Pinewood Derby event

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