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Cub Scout Pack 157
(Clinton Township, Michigan)
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What is a pinewood derby?

The Pinewood Derby is by far one of the most fun times of the year for our Pack.  We make our Derby Race a big deal pack with BIG awards, a seperate race for the parents and lots of fun steps that the boys take in order to get their own Pinewood Derby Racing license complete with a photo and signature on the front!

What is a Pinewood Derby Race? 

It is a racing event for Cub Scouts. Cub Scouts, with the help of parents and or den leaders, build their own cars from wood, usually from kits containing a block of pine wood, plastic wheels and metal axles.


Cubmaster Don Murphy organized the first pinewood derby, held on May 15, 1953 in Manhattan Beach, California by Pack 280c.[2] 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. After Don Murphy’s first race in 1953 the Los Angeles County Department of Recreation copied the pinewood derby with Murphy’s permission.

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 (usually five ounces), must not exceed a certain length and must fit on the track used by that particular scout pack.

Blocks can be whittled with a hand knife or a bandsaw or Dremel carving tool for major shaping. Decals can be bought at scout shops or hobby 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.

The track usually has two to six lanes and slopes down to the ground, since the cars are powered by gravity.  The race is run in heats, giving every car the chance to run on each lane. The racers can be grouped with others from the same rank (Tiger Cubs, Wolf Cubs, Bear Cubs, etc.), or can compete against the pack as a whole.

Pinewood Derby



Pinewood Derby Sportsmanship


  1. Step 1  First be a good example. If you act like a crazed person so will your kid. Watch your language and your body expressions.            

  2. Step 2 Tell your kids upfront you only expect them to do their best Nobody is getting a contract with if they win the race.

  3. Step 3  Cheer them on.  Everyone not just your scout!
    Remember to tell the other children they did a good job. These are after all just a bunch of kids.

  4. Step 4 Just have fun! Remind your kid that even if they did not win
    how much fun it was to work together building the car.



Lastly, when making the car follow the PWD rules listed below.

We do not want to disqualify anybody's car!!

For additional help building your car you can check out this link:







A. The car must have been made during the current year.

B. The width of the car shall not exceed 2 ¾”.

C. The length of the car shall not exceed 7"

D. The bottom of the car should be flat and smooth with no protrusions, and must have 5/16” clearance from the bottom of the wheels to the bottom of the car. Bottom clearance between car and track is 3/8”.

E. The weight of the car shall not exceed 5 ounces (141.75 grams/.3125 lbs.).

F. You are to use the pre-cut grooves in the model body for your wheelbase.


G. You need to use axles, wheels, and body only supplied in Cub Scout Pinewood Derby Kits.

H. Wheel bearings, washers, and bushings are prohibited.

I. Car shall not ride on any type of springs.

J. Car must be freewheeling, with no starting devices.

K. Wheels may be sanded flat, but not be sanded thin or have angles, grooves, or points. All four wheels must be flat and touching the racing surface. Wheels may not be modified in any other way besides sanding flat. For example: No weights, no additional holes drilled, no hubcaps allowed. Outside of wheel may be painted for looks.

L. The ONLY type of lubrication that is allowed will be dry powered graphite. Oils and sprays are prohibited.

How-To Resources

There are valuable books and handy guides with detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to build a winning racer available at your local Scout shop or at, including Cub Scout Grand Prix: Pinewood Derby® Guidebook, Pinewood Derby® Designs & Patterns, and Pinewood Derby® Speed Secrets.

Step 1: Design the Car's Body

Choose your favorite design. Outline it onto your paper template or graph paper. Remember to maintain a width of 1-3/4 inches where the metal axle is to be inserted. Then outline the bare block of wood onto the paper. Keep the design simple enough to avoid overly intricate or detailed cutting.

Step 2: Shape the Car's Body

  1. When deciding how detailed you want your car to be, keep in mind the tools you have available: saws, drills, sanders, etc. Consider safety as well. Usually, the adult makes the major cuts with the power tools and then lets the youth file and complete the sanding.
  2. Check the axle grooves to ensure that each is at a perfect 90-degree angle to the car body. A car with untrue axles tends to steer to one side or the other, causing it to rub up against the side of the lane strip, slowing it down.
  3. Cut away the large sections of waste wood to get close to your etching of the final design. This makes it easier to shape and detail your design. It’s much harder to add wood if you overcut your original design.
  4. Do not forget to have a place for weight if you need it. Weight may be placed anywhere as long as it is not taped on and does not exceed the specifications.

Step 3: Inspect the Wheels

  1. Only the official wheels are acceptable.
  2. Wheels can be sanded to remove surface imperfections, but the treads must be left flat.
  3. Inspecting the wheels is important. Make sure all wheels roll freely and smoothly around the axle. Get a drill bit that fits just inside the wheel where the axle fits. This cleans out the roughness and burrs that cause wheels to not spin freely.

Step 4: Insert Axels

  1. Check each axle for a burr on the underside of the head.
  2. To let the wheels run as freely as possible, place an axle in a hand-drill chuck to hold it steady, then smooth the burrs with a fine emery cloth or file.
  3. To fine-tune your axles, polish them with jeweler’s rouge or fine emery paper. These items can be purchased at a local hardware store.

Step 5: Paint

After shaping and sanding your car to your satisfaction, prime it, sand it with fine sandpaper, and add additional coats of paint or a "skin". Do not glue details on yet.

Step 6: Install Wheels and Axles

Put the axles and wheels on the car, but don’t glue axles on at this point. Weigh your car, being sure to place the car and the accessories (driver, steering wheel, roll bar, etc.) on the scale.

Step 7: Add Weights

  1. The car may not weigh more than five ounces. Get your car as close to that weight as possible.
  2. If you do not have a scale, the U.S. Postal Service or a supermarket might weigh your car for you. Your pack leaders may have identified official scales for you to use. Also, some Scout shops offer free weigh-ins (not considered an “official” weight, but a good guide while designing your car).
  3. Weight must not be taped on. The car may be hollowed out and weight inserted to build it up to the maximum weight. Make sure it is securely attached or built into the body of the car so as to not fall off the car and onto the track.

Step 8: Test the Car

  1. Once weight is securely mounted, slip wheels back on. Place car on a long, flat surface, such as a floor, and give it a gentle push. The car should travel in a straight line for a reasonable distance (five to ten feet).
  2. Practice tracks are also available.

Step 9: Lubricate the Car (Check your pack's rules on lubing cars)

  1. Lube and mount the wheels permanently. Dry, fine powdered lube works best. Dust a little powdered lube in the hole of the wheel where the axle is inserted, some on the axle where the wheel rides, and a little at the axle head.
  2. Slide the axles and wheels onto the car and glue into place. Use an epoxy or nonresin glue, and make sure you don’t get any on the surface of the axle where the wheel rides.

Step 10: Accessorize the Car

Make sure accessories are securely mounted on the car. Add stripes and decals if desired.

For more info on this and other scout racing:

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