Why More People Should Build Pinewood Derby Race Cars


Two of my fastest cars. Don't let their simple looks fool you. These are high performance racers.

I got introduced to pinewood derby racing when my grandchildren asked me to help them build cars for their AWANA Grand Prix race. (AWANA Grand Prix is a church-based variant of the Boy Scouts of America Pinewood Derby race program.) What I discovered is that building a high performance version of these simple 7-inch long wood cars has enough challenge to satisfy an adult yet is simple enough so that the construction is totally enjoyable, not a chore. If you visit the main page of my website you'll see that I've explored many hobbies. None has provided as much joy and satisfaction of building a high-performance pinewood derby race car.

Having said that I must also say that performance isn't everything. Cars can also be whimsical and even downright silly, as exemplified in some of the following examples:


In concept, pinewood derby race cars are as simple as it gets. They are 7-inch long blocks of pine with plastic wheels designed to roll down a straight race track as fast as possible. Power tools help a lot, but simple hand tools can also produce great cars. What makes pinewood race cars intriguing is that there are so few options available to optimize performance it's very easy to comprehend all the factors that influence them. In these complicated times, there aren't many endeavors where people can embrace the entire scope of a task at one time. Being able to do so, even if it's just a hobby, is refreshing. But that doesn't mean it's easy. Building a high performance car for yourself, or helping a youngster do so, has enough challenge for anyone to really get their teeth into. Where is the best place to put most of the weight? How should the wheels and axles be prepared? What shape is the most aerodynamic? And so on. Designing a pinewood derby car is an enjoyable exercise in juggling a few simple constraints to produce a car that flies down the track... and looks great doing it. Building pinewood derby cars is just demanding enough to take your mind away from the daily worries that haunt us all yet easy enough so that it doesn't feel like another chore has been added to our already full plates.

It's even possible to make money making pinewood derby race cars. Top-quality cars sell for $200 or more on the Internet.

Unless you know of a club that has a pinewood derby race track you can use, you'll need to get one for yourself to be able to test your creations. While they can be purchased they can also be made at home for as little as $20 and are things of beauty in their own right.

My 40-foot long, 4-lane track with electronic timer.

To see how to make them please take a look at this page: HOW TO BUILD A PINEWOOD DERBY TRACK. Purchasing a track is much easier but can be expensive. Either way they can lead to some great family experiences, as the following video shows when my grandchildren decided the cars they had built and won several championships with were fast enough to challenge my cars:

If you enjoy woodworking, you'll enjoy building pinewood derby cars. If you like models, again, pinewood race cars will be a nice change from what you've done in the past. Are you passionate about how design affects performance? Pinewood racing is right up your alley. Does helping youngsters win races give you satisfaction? Then assisting them to build pinewood derby cars is a great venue to explore. The list of reasons goes on and on. I love designing and building them and am certain that if you give it a try, you will as well.


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