Pinewood Derby
February 4, 2013

BLOGpinewood-openYou ever have a moving box of miscellaneous stuff that just never gets unpacked? I’ve had one that’s travelled with me to multiple homes. Ever time I look at it I get irritated because I’m kind’uv an anti-packrat. Finally the other day I decided enough was enough, the box was getting unpacked even if it meant throwing away all the contents. Much of it did get tossed. But one item in particular captured my attention: an old Pinewood Derby car.

I wasn’t a Boy Scout for terribly long. A few years, at most. And I don’t know if we just had a lame troop, but I don’t recall ever going camping or learning how to tie cool knots. But I do remember the Pinewood Derby. The Pinewood Derby is a Cub Scout event where a kid is given a block of wood, four plastic wheels, and four nails (this kit is produced by Revell, by the way). Along with his parent, the scout uses these materials to construct a vehicle. You can whittle and paint and add decals. You can put graphite on the axles. You can even add some melted lead to get your car to the exact weight limit. The derby track has around six lanes. It starts high and slopes to the ground so that the cars run solely on gravity. The winners are the ones with the fastest cars. Usually.

Some scout troops also give awards based on originality and creativity. Thank goodness.

I had to laugh when I came across my old Derby car in that perpetually-unpacked box. It reassured me that, despite the pressure to create the fastest car and the general wholesomeness of scouting, pop culture was my first and foremost priority! Turns out I made a camouflage M*A*S*H jeep. I do have a vague recollection about inquiring whether or not two blocks of wood could be used. ‘Cause, ya know, I’m always about pushing boundaries. Apparently I got a green light on that. Now, this sucker did not win any speed contests but I did bring home the gold for most original. And, in my world, that’s the coveted prize. Before you post any ridicule, know I’m well aware of the overall clumsiness of this project!


The timing of coming across my old derby car was coincidental. For Xmas this year my mom got me a vintage M*A*S*H jeep to go along with my collection of 3 3/4″ M*A*S*H figures. The generic driver is a good reuse of parts. Its just a Hawkeye with blonde hair!



I’d love to hear about your Pinewood Derby stories. Please post if you have one!

Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann
Action figure anthropologist, Professor Cantina Dan Neumann has been a scholastic contributor to the online community studying the complex world of parumplasticus populus {little plastic people} since the turn of this millenium. His primary focus is the visual cataloging of species exhibits through photo-journalism.
Read other articles by Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann.





  • Brian says:

    I did an Inspector Gadget pinewood derby car one year. Won my local PD 3 years running with a non Inspector Gadget design… helps when your father is an airline/auto mechanic.

  • Bnjmnrlyr says:

    My son will be doing his first pinewood derby car this year and I can’t wait!

  • demoncat says:

    believe it or not my pinewood derby car was the batmobile.but seemed to have low batpower the day of the race but still was fun making it

  • Daniel Pickett Julius Marx says:

    I actually don’t remember ANY of the designs for my Pinewood Derby cars and I know I did at least 3 of them. I know a did a couple of the “Rain-gutter Regatta” boats too.
    The ones I remember were the rockets. It was the same idea- 2 chunks of balsa wood, a “hanger/connector” a rod, a rubber band and a propeller. They would connect to a holder on a string, you’d wind up the propeller and they would race to the fare side of the gym.
    I’ve still got one of those in a box somewhere. All black with fire on the side named “Firefox”


  • gl666 says:

    My Pinewood Derby days were from 1969 to 1972 (?) and back then you couldn’t use graphite, couldn’t sand the axles/nails, couldn’t remove burrs on the plastic wheels, and couldn’t add weights. We had a lot of slow, boxy cars with mediocre paint jobs. Best I did was 5th place.

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