Pack 800 Pinewood Derby

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About Pinewood Derby
Official Rules
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What is it and why do we do it?


The Pinewood Derby is an annual event of the Cub Scouts. It is the most popular event for many Scouts and is probably the best known Scouting event among non-Scouts.

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 five ounces, must not exceed the length of the original block and must fit on the track used by Pack 800.

Description of the event

Other than the previous basic design rules (more detail rules will be passed out before the race), the Cub Scout is able to carve and decorate the car as he chooses. Many Cub Scouts also add weights to the final design to bring the car to the maximum allowable weight of five ounces (highly recommended). Cars typically vary from unfinished blocks to whimsical objects, to accurate replicas of actual cars. The fastest cars tend to resemble low doorstops, with weight at the rear. Graphite is the only lubricant allowed, as it often helps to polish the provided nails.

The Pack 800 track has four lanes and slopes down to the ground as the cars are powered by gravity. The race is run in heats, giving every car the chance to run on each lane. The racers compete against the Pack as a whole.

The first, second, third and fourth place winners receive trophies. Pack 800 also awards trophies on the basis of car design. The top four race winners get to go on to race winners from the entire District and Council at the Blackhawk 500, usually held in April.

The idea behind the pinewood derby is for the parent, but occasionally grandparent, to spend time helping the child design, carve, paint, add weights, and tune the final car. However, it is often the case that the parent takes over the construction of the car, an aspect of the event that was lampooned in the 2005 film Down and Derby. The quest for a fast car supports a cottage industry that supplies modified wheels, axles, and blocks as well as videos and instruction books. While a pinewood derby car kit costs around $5, a set of modified wheels and axles can sell for more than ten times that amount. These aftermarket items are illegal under Pack 800 rules.

History of the Race

Cubmaster Don Murphy organized the first pinewood derby, which was raced on May 15, 1953 in Manhattan Beach, California, by Pack 280c. 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.

In the 1980s, the design of the block was changed to a solid block. The tires were also changed from narrow, hard plastic, to wider "slicks". Blocks can be whittled with a hand knife, but this is considered dangerous for young boys. It is usually better for a trained adult to use a band saw or Dremel carving tool for major shaping. Decals can be bought at Scout Shops or Hobby Shops. It is also possible to use standard model decals to replicate actual racing cars. 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.

Since 1953, millions of young people have built pinewood derby cars. The competitive Pinewood Derby race remains very popular and is a highlight of Pack 800 each year.