How to Design a Pinewood Derby Car - Rockin Mama™ (2024)


{This post is sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America, however, all opinions remain solely that of the author}

As a young girl, my father and I would spend several weeks transforming a block of pine into a sleek racing car. Our school hosted a pinewood derby each Spring and it still remains one of the most memorable things my father and I did together during my childhood. He always got very passionate about our cars, tinkering with designs and strategizing over where to place the weights for speed. When my son joined our local Cub Scout pack and we started planning for his first Pinewood Derby, I pulled out the cars my father and I worked on together which was exciting and nostalgic for both of us.

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The first Pinewood Derby was held by a Cub Scout pack in Los Angeles, California and has now become a tradition. Each Spring, the boys are given a Pinewood Derby Car Kit which includes a block of pine wood, four plastic wheels and four nails.

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Pinewood Derby Rules

  • Each scout must use all of the pieces included in the Pinewood Derby Car Kit.
  • The car must not exceed 5 ounces in weight
  • The car must not exceed 2 3/4 in width and 7 inches in length and fit on the track
  • Scouts may use graphite as lubricant

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How to Design a Pinewood Derby Car

Apart from the rules listed above, scouts are encouraged to use their creativity to design and build their very own car. Having constructed Pinewood Derby Cars with my father and now as a parent, here are my best tips for building a Pinewood Derby Car.

  1. Plan out the design of your car. Various designs can include the traditional racing car, a replicaof a real-life car or truck, or a car/truck used in a TV or film (my son once drew inspiration from Harry Potter?).
  2. Whittle the block of wood with a bandsaw. We found that this was less time-consuming then whittling with a hand knife or hand saw.
  3. Consider using weights to bring the car to the maximum allowable 5 ounces. Coins, lead, and steel are common weights added to the Pinewood Derby Car and can be glued into the bottom of the vehicle.
  4. Finish your design with paint and decals. Scouts can create their own unique design or draw inspiration from their favorite real or imagined vehicles.

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4Lessons Scouts Will Learn From Building a Pinewood Derby Car

My father and I shared many experiences together. But the time we spent creating my Pinewood Derby Car each year was particularly meaningful. Boys, particularly Cub Scouts, still require significant assistance with designing and building their car. Here are some of the things I was able to teach my son as we designed his Pinewood Derby Car.

  1. Planning is essential. Each year, we are given the Pinewood Derby Car Kit several weeks ahead of the pack race. This particular activity requires planning and cannot easily be completed in one day. This is a great way to show scouts that building a car that looks nice and races well takes time, patience and creativity.
  2. There is a science to the fastest car. Because the car is propelled by gravity, it is important to consider the science involved with crafting a car that races to win. While crafting the car, parents can talk to their kids about concepts like friction, drag, energy and inertia and how those factors impact the speed of the car.
  3. Creativity is celebrated. In addition to awarding trophies for the fastest cars, our pack also awards scouts for their creativity. My son won “most realistic car” last year and he was incredibly proud of the fact that his design won him that award. Building a Pinewood Derby Car should be both educational and fun. Scouts should be encouraged to use their imagination to design their own unique vehicle.
  4. Winning isn’t everything. My son learned very early on that he is not going to excel at everything. Crafting a Pinewood Derby Car can provide moments for parents to talk to their children about sportsmanship. I like to celebrate my son’s creativity and efforts. We also talk about supporting other scouts and their designs, even when we don’t win.

In the midst of homework, sports, and life, I appreciate the opportunity to spend dedicated time building a Pinewood Derby Car with my son each year. These moments of brainstorming and creating are unique. There is great satisfaction and a sense of “pride” that comes from my son’s completed Pinewood Derby masterpiece.

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The annual Pinewood Derby is just one of the engaging activities that Cub Scouts participate throughout the year. Through our pack, we’ve camped at our local lake, learned how to use a whittling knife, put together love lunches for the homeless, spent the night on the USS Midway aircraft carrier, and watched a local air show. Cub Scouts take a break during the summer, however, the Boy Scouts of America hosts a number of Cub Scout Day Camps which includenature, sports, aquatics, and crafts.

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To find a local Cub Scout Pack, visit

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Caryn Bailey

Caryn is a NICU nurse by day, blogger by night and mom 24/7. She savors the warm Southern California sun and loves to travel, shopping, baking, reading and frequenting her local tea room. Caryn created the column Lavishly Green for Peekaboo Picks Magazine to share her best tips for going green in style, she is the Former editor for Family Review Network, former OC Family Magazine online contributor, former Orange County Moms Blog contributor, former Evenflo Savvy Parent contributor, former member of the Totsy Advisory Board and former freelance writer for CBS Los Angeles.

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How to Design a Pinewood Derby Car - Rockin Mama™ (2024)


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