Expat: Our first Pinewood Derby


Last weekend brought another first for us: a Pinewood Derby!

The pinewood derby is a racing event for Cub Scouts in America. Cubs (with a little/lot of help from their parents!) make wooden cars to race on a special track.

The cars are (usually) made from kits, which consist of a block of wood, plastic wheels and metal axles.

Making the cars was great fun. Our Cub Scout pack also ran races for siblings, so the 4yo was able to make a car too. The boys loved it, as did their dad :) Firstly the boys designed their cars; there were various dimensional requirements/restrictions, so daddy checked that the designs fitted within the outer dimension and then cut the cars to the shapes that had been requested… The 4yo went for a wedge shaped car while the 7yo designed a raft…! They then painted their cars, the 4yo going for bright stripes; the 7yo continuing the raft theme :)



The cars can be a maximum of 5oz in weight, and as the cars are powered by gravity on the sloping track, the conventional wisdom is to get the car as close to this upper weight limit as possible to give them a good start! The raft ended up with moshi monster passengers and ‘hot rods’… The 4yo’s car had a driver and then screws for ‘exhausts’ :) Various other modifications can be made to the shape of the cars and to wheels and axles to reduce drag and friction; designs of the cars vary from the sublime to the ridiculous and the adults can get quite competitive! You can buy ready-made cars online, and at the time of writing the most expensive one I could find on eBay was $475..!

After all their designing and building, at last it was time for race day!



Each car races multiple times, in different groupings determined by the race software, with the aim of each car winning at least one race!






There were prizes, ribbons and trophies, for first, second and third places in each of the race groups (siblings, dens, adults…). There were also design prizes for the cars: most patriotic, most Boy Scouty, most ‘made by a child’ and funniest, which the 7yo won with his moshi raft!

He had no idea, no expectations; so he was genuinely shocked when his name was called out. I have never seen him look so surprised and pleased at the same time. He was thrilled; a moment to treasure, for all of us. His Best Funny Car trophy has pride of place in the living room at the moment :)



[Background: The first pinewood derby was held in 1953, in California, the brainchild of Don Murphy, a Cubmaster. His son was too young to take part in the Soapbox Derby races, so he developed the idea of racing miniature wooden cars. The Boy Scouts of America then made it a regular part of their annual calendar. Pinewood Derby was registered as an official trademark by the Scouts in 2005. The winners of individual pack events can go on to compete at a District level and beyond. Source: Wikipedia]

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34 thoughts on “Expat: Our first Pinewood Derby”

  1. Oh this is so cool – even I would love to design my own car! T would absolutely love this. She has a favourite car and it’s red and shiny, at least it isn’t pink! :) #WhatsTheStory

  2. Caroline (Becoming a SAHM)

    This is so cool! Bless him for winning the funny car category, his car looked fab! All of the cars looked great actually and I can well imagine that some parents get really competitive with this! Great fun though and you can tell how much he enjoyed it :) #magicmoments xx

  3. Oh wow this is just brilliant Sara. What a great idea and all taken very seriously too by the look of the kit. Must have been so much fun and what a superb event to be involved with. That trophy is so well deserved, it’s a brilliant car! Thank you so much for sharing #whatsthestory

    1. Thanks Charly, it was a great morning, all the Scouts had such a good time, really well organised. And, building the cars was enjoyed by all three of my boys :)

  4. How brilliant! I can imagine that there were a fair few cars there that may have had a little more input from grownups shall we say? I love his little face, and very well done. My daughter who is a Beaver Scout would be very impressed with the Moshi car indeed :)

  5. Brilliant idea and the look on your boy’s face shows what a great thing it is to take part in. I really liked that he wasn’t expecting an award and got one.

  6. I’ve never heard of Pinewood Derby, but it looks like great fun. Well done to your boy for his funny vehicle :)

  7. I really like this concept because I’m sure the designing was as fun as the race itself. Congratulations to the young man, that’s an original design!

  8. Pingback: Expat: Our first Pinewood Derby

  9. Pingback: PODcast | What's The Story? | 24th March 2014

  10. What a fabulous sounding idea, my hubs is a scout leader here and I have a cub & a beaver so going to tell them all about it – although not paying $475 for a car – loopiness!! xx

    1. It’s crazy! The basic kits are about $20, and the fun is in making them :) Some of the parents do get quite competitive though… :)

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