The Scouting History of The Pinewood Derby (PWD Racers)

The Pinewood Derby originated in California during the mid-fifties as a Cub Scout Pack activity. Forty-five years later the PWD is probably the most popular event of the scouting year. A scout activity that can involve the whole family. The race fires the spirit of competition. Inspires creativity, Teaches craftsmanship. Reinforces esprit de corps. The opportunity to experience the joy of victory and the agony of defeat. Post the Colors! Recite the Pledge of Allegiance ! Serve up hotdogs-n-chili at the concession table ! and you’ve covered everything that makes America Great .

The First Race. You and your first year Cub Scout attend the monthly Pack meeting. Everyone is extra hyper cause tonight they past out the Pinewood Derby Kits. Oh, Boy ! Junior and you have one month to build a winner. Later that evening Junior pours the contents of the box onto the kitchen table and hollers “Hey Dad”. You go take a look. A course grain block of wood, four nails, and four plastic wheels. That’s the kind of stuff that’ll get the ol’ creative juices flowing.

The night before Race Day. You’ve done everything a hacksaw, scout knife, and sandpaper can do. So much for craftsmanship. It’s time to paint it ! Up until now Junior hasn’t shown much interest Just as well , you were afraid he would whack a finger off with the hacksaw or scalp his self with the scout knife. However, tonight the pinewood derby car has his undivided attention. He has a death grip on that spray can of plum crazy purple paint and is ready to go. Good! Now, you and Mom can say he made a major contribution to the project. Turn him lose! Paint job complete! It’s beautiful! So is the end of the kitchen table, his left hand and the lens of your glasses. He’s one proud scout. “Hey Mom, look what I did”. Great job, son, we’ll let it dry over night and put the wheels on in the morning and be there in time for ten o’clock check-in


Race Day ! The paint is still a little tacky and Junior ask you for the 10K time “Dad, do you think I’ll win ?” Mom and Little Sis say “YES !”. However, you explain to Junior that winning would just be icing on the cake and that what really matters is the two of you had the experience of painting his left hand and one end of the kitchen table plum crazy purple

Check-in and Registration. After standing in line behind seventy-five Cub Scouts and their dads, You, Junior, and the car are at the check-in table. There you’re told “car weighs three ounces” and “it can weight five ounces, you want to add weight, or what”? It’s “or what” on that one. You say “race it”. After all, how tuff can it be ? Junior runs off to play “catch me punch me” with his buddies. Mom’s selling hotdogs-n-chili. Little Sis is in a tug o war over a beanie baby. Dads are pointing out new cars and design features. Esprit de corps is in the air. And you take a slow walk down pit row to check out the competition. Gee Whiz, a bunch of these cars don’t look like kids built ’em and some look like they were made in a factory. What kind of a deal is this, anyway ?

The Agony of Defeat. Junior is crushed. He’s still sniffling, kicked his car across the floor and threw-up his hotdog-n-chili. Mom is indignant and wants to file a protest and if you hear “it should have weighed five ounces” or “didn’t you polish your axles and turn the wheels ?” one more time. You’re goin’ punch someone.

Your car didn’t have a chance, that is, Junior’s car didn’t have a chance. Okay, maybe Junior went a little over the top when he kicked the car and screamed he hated Scouting. But, this Ain’t Fair ! Who do these guys think they are ? The Scoutmaster has four sons, he’s been though this pinewood thing fifteen times, knows all the secrets, and has two boys racing now. That one kid’s Dad owns a machine shop. How’bout that kid in your den, Junior ? Isn’t his grandpa a cabinet maker ? And all of‘em telling how hard their kid worked on designing and building a winning car.

Another great American trait surface:; “Revenge”

So, with these words “Just wait til next year, Son”, in creeps the first stage of addiction. Craftsmanship, Creativity, Esprit de Corps …….. My Backside! We’re going to get some of that “Joy of Victory”. We’ve got a whole year to work this thing out . You just stand back and watch , Son. ……. Key words here: Stand Back . Little did you know, that within the next few weeks you would become known as just another hardcore “Pinehead”.

There you have it. If scouts want to build pinewood derby cars they can grow-up, become a good parent and see to it that their child joins the Cub Scouts. Because there’re no hacksaw, scout knife, kid built Pinewood Derby Cars in the Winners Circle.

Okay Dads, Uncles, Big Brothers, and Grandpas. Let’s Race! And tell everybody who really built the car

No flaming e-mail, please. It’s not really a bad thing. There is a partial solution. Oh, not for PWD Addiction. I mean in keeping adults from building ninety-eight percent of a scout’s car. It’s this: A Central Oklahoma Scouting District created an Open Class Race for the serious and addicted, adult builder/designer . In “Open Class” Anyone can race: sisters, brothers, mothers, dads, friends, neighbors and scout leaders, you can tape 2oz to a den car and race it. The “Open Class” race is a screamin’, yellin’, cheerin’ free for all to determine:


Just follow two simple rules: 1. Maximum weight 7 oz. 2. Use PWD wheels-n-axles, any modification is okay ! Check here for more: Tips for Pinewood Racers.

And here is the largest collection of Pinewood Racers known to man.