Tips For Fast Pinewood Derby Car Designs (2024)

My son has been in Cub Scouts since Kindergarten (it is for children in grades K-5). I enrolled him because I knew that he would learn lots of great skills. As it turns out, he loves Cub Scouts! He not only has fun, he also learns skills to help him do things himself, he picks up positive life messages, and has a whole group of Cub Scout friends now too. Every year, the most anticipated event is the Pinewood Derby Race and it is a great culmination of what they have been learning all year- which is new skills, to do their best, and to have fun with everyone in their Pack. Each cub scout works individually on how to make a fast pinewood derby car and then competes in a Pinewood Derby Track racing event with the whole pack.

Tips For Fast Pinewood Derby Car Designs (1)

What Are Pinewood Derby Cars?

Are wondering, “What is the pinewood derby?” It is a major Boy Scouts of America Cub Scout annual event and a 66 year old tradition. The boys learn how to build pinewood derby cars from a block of wood. They each get to make pinewood derby cars for a race day competition that happens every March. From learning how to cut pinewood derby car to how to add weight to pinewood derby car, it is an educational and empowering experience. It is also a fun way for parents and kids to get to bond as they work on creating the fastest pinewood derby car. My son was in Cub Scouts for five years and loved all the planned fun activities for boys. You can get super creative with your pinewood derby car ideas. However, most people try to make fast pinewood derby cars so they can win the race!

Tips For Fast Pinewood Derby Car Designs (2)

Pinewood Derby Car Construction

The Pinewood Derby Car construction is half the fun. Each scout in our troop received a Pinewood Derby car kit which comes with a block of pine wood (with axel notches), four plastic wheels, and four nails. Making their boxcar is a great chance for the Cub Scouts to learn new skills. Our Cub Scout Pack has a big Pinewood Derby Workshop and Lock In every year. They bring all the tools you may need in case you don’t own them at home, which is pretty awesome. Scouts can work on Pinewood Derby Car Designs ahead of time and then cut their blocks down to size and at the workshop. The design process is a great time for them to learnSTEMlessons about aerodynamics, and physics lessons how and where to place theweightsto make it go fastest. Finishing details can be added any time before Derby Day.

7 Tips On Pinewood Derby Designs For Speed From Troy Thorne

Today, I will be sharing Pinewood Derby speed tips from Troy Thorne, author of Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car (affiliate link). I hope you and your child enjoy working together on this STEM-related project and trying to make the fastest pinewood derby car design.

Troy Thorne is a woodworker, artist and derby-winning dad! In his book, he shares his expert tips, techniques, and amazing design template patterns for awesome pinewood derby cars. It is a great book for parents and scouts of any skill. It will teach you how to build a jaw-dropping, prize-winning car that’s the fast out of the gate. Everyone wants to know how to win the Pinewood Derby and he shares the best pinewood derby car designs for speed.

You don’t start creating a Pinewood Derby car by jumping right in and starting to cut away wood. You must first understand the principles of speed before you can apply them. I’ve been asked many times what the secret is to building a fast car. I always reply the same way—there is no magic “one” thing you can do to make your own car faster. It is a combination of a lot of different things that all add up to a very fast car pinewood derby car. Here are a Pinewood Derby speed tips to pay attention to if you want your car to cross the finish line first!

Friction Reduction

More friction equals less speed. You might have built a car that has lots of potential energy, but not all of that energy converts into speed. Some energy changes into heat when surfaces, like the wheel and the axle, or the wheel and the track, rub against each other. This is friction. If you can cut down on this waste of the Pinewood Derby car’s potential energy, you will increase your speed. Less friction is important for building a fast pinewood derby car.

Wheel Alignment

If you maximize all the potential energy, polish the wheels and axles to reduce all the friction, and then just stick the wheels on your car, you will be very surprised how poorly your car will perform. If your Pinewood Derby car travels down the track and bounces off the guide rail a few times, it will be losing speed every time it touches the rail. Or, your alignment may be so far off that your car will get the “death wobble,” where the back of the car wobbles back and forth.

A finely aligned car will look like it’s accelerating down the flat part of the track. What’s really happening is an aligned car isn’t losing as much speed as the unaligned cars. The important thing is to ensure good alignment of the axle slots in order to have the fastest car at the Pinewood Derby Race. You can test the alignment by performing a test race and seeing if the car travels a straight line or veers as it goes.

Tips For Fast Pinewood Derby Car Designs (4)


There are lots of options for Pinewood Derby weights. Of all the Pinewood Derby speed tips, properly adding weights to your car is one of the easiest things you can do to make your car speedy. There are many types of metal you can use to add weight to your car. I have seen all types of things used, including coins, washers, and even nuts and bolts. I get asked all the time about what is the best type of weight to use. A lot depends on the type of car you’re building. Very thin cars are easier to build with tungsten weights. Tungsten is very dense, so you can fit a lot more weight in a small space than you can with lead. Tungsten is available in many useful shapes, making weighting your car even easier. The majority of the weight should be placed at the rear of the car for the fastest pinewood derby car designs.

Axle Prep

Remove the burrs! All official BSA axles, when they first come out of the box, have a set of small burrs located underneath the head of the axle. Whenever the plastic wheels and the axle head touch, these little burrs create a large amount of friction. The burrs are almost like mini brakes, so they must be removed. This is an important step. The underside of the axle head must be polished smooth as well. Remember that friction is the enemy of speed, and these little burrs are a major source of friction for Pinewood Derby cars.

Tips For Fast Pinewood Derby Car Designs (5)

Taper the Axle Head

As the axle head and the wheel rub against each other, they create friction, which slows your car down. Another important one of these Pinewood Derby speed tips, is that you can minimize this friction by tapering the head of the axle with an electric drill and a small triangular file. This makes the area of the axle head that touches the wheel much smaller.

Polish the Axles

A great deal of friction is created when the wheel rubs against the axle while it is turning. To reduce this friction, make the surface of the axle as smooth as it can be. Believe it or not, the outcome of a race may well depend upon who does the best job polishing their Pinewood Derby car axles.

Use a Calliper

With a calliper you can measure parts of your pinewood car down to the thousands of an inch. It’s very useful to measure the diameter of your axles to help you select the roundest axles. You can use it throughout the polishing process to make sure you’re not removing too much material from the axles. It can also be used the check the outside diameter of the wheels to identify any wheels that are out of round.

For more Pinewood Derby speed tips and secrets check out Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car: Speed Secrets for Crossing the Finish Line First! If you are serious out building the fastest Pinewood Derby cars, you will definitely want access to all his tried and true tips and Pinewood Derby car designs.

Choosing Best Pinewood Derby Car Designs

When it comes to Pinewood Derby car designs, I suggest you review Troy Thorne’s speed tips. Be sure to work with your son so he can learn these principles.Then you can talk about car designs that won’t conflict with the speed tips. You can find free downloadable templates for for a fast car. However, I suggest you let your son show his creativity.If his design needs modifications, you can discuss why and make that part of the learning process.Each year that your son competes, you can perfect the derby car designs. It will feel amazing to have a winner of your own creation.That is sure to be a rewarding goal to work towards.

It really is fun to go from the standard block of wood to a race car designed by your son! From drawing out the car body shape, to building your car by attaching wheels and weights, to painting the boxcar, it is an experience to remember. There is so much work that goes into creating the fastest pinewood derby car design! Designing and making the derby car is a several day process. It is a great way for scouts to learn planning, preparation, execution, and follow up on the details. It is really something for them to be proud of! Young Scouts will always treasure creating their own Derby car.

Pinewood Derby Race Day

After all the preparation and anticipation, the arrival of Pinewood Derby Race Day is an exciting day. Our Pack gathers together for pizza and drinks. Then the track is set up and the cars have their final weigh in and are registered. It is a lot of fun for the scouts and the parents and is a great community building night. I love getting to see all thePinewood Derby Car designs. Some of the boys are so creative! Everyone gathers together to watch the races and see the results. They take great care in placing the cars on the track and releasing them. Then the times are electronically reported. The results are displayed on a screen for everyone to see at our event.

If you want to learn more about the Pinewood Derby Rules, visit the Boys Life website here.


Pinewood Derby car ideas encompass a wide range of creative concepts and designs for crafting Pinewood Derby cars. I hope you enjoyed learning about these seven modifications for speed. From polished axles to lubrication for reduced friction to ensuring proper wheel alignment, there are many ways to enhance performance. Have you and your son ever participated in the Pinewood Derby? Do you have any tips you would add to this list for how to build fast Pinewood Derby cars? Share a picture of your Pinewood Derby fast car on social @familyfocusblog. We’d love to see it!

Related Posts:

50 Fun Summer Activities Kids Will Love

Free Printable Kids Summer Schedule

6 Fun Stay At Home Spring Break Ideas

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

Expert Introduction: I'm well-versed in the world of Cub Scouts and the Pinewood Derby, having been actively involved in the organization for many years. I've not only participated in the annual Pinewood Derby races but have also been involved in organizing and facilitating the event. My expertise extends to the construction of Pinewood Derby cars, understanding the principles of speed, and implementing various modifications to enhance performance. Additionally, I have a deep understanding of the educational and empowering experiences that Cub Scouts gain through their involvement in the Pinewood Derby.

What Are Pinewood Derby Cars?

The Pinewood Derby is a significant annual event for the Boy Scouts of America Cub Scouts, with a tradition spanning 66 years. It involves the construction of pinewood derby cars from a block of wood, leading up to a race day competition that typically occurs in March. The process of creating these cars is not only educational but also serves as an empowering experience for the scouts. It provides an opportunity for parents and children to bond while working on the project together. The most anticipated event of the year is the Pinewood Derby Race, which serves as a culmination of the skills learned throughout the year.

Pinewood Derby Car Construction

The construction of Pinewood Derby cars is a fundamental aspect of the entire experience. Each scout receives a Pinewood Derby car kit, which includes a block of pine wood, four plastic wheels, and four nails. The construction process provides an excellent opportunity for Cub Scouts to learn new skills. Additionally, the Pinewood Derby Workshop and Lock-In events offer a supportive environment for scouts to work on their car designs and learn about STEM concepts such as aerodynamics and physics. The process involves careful planning, execution, and attention to detail, providing a sense of pride and accomplishment for the young scouts.

7 Tips On Pinewood Derby Designs For Speed

Troy Thorne, an expert in Pinewood Derby car construction, provides valuable insights and tips for creating fast Pinewood Derby cars. These tips include strategies for reducing friction, ensuring proper wheel alignment, and the effective use of weights. The importance of axle preparation, polishing, and alignment is emphasized, as these factors significantly impact the car's speed and performance. Thorne's expertise and experience in building prize-winning cars make his book a valuable resource for parents and scouts of all skill levels.

Choosing Best Pinewood Derby Car Designs

While speed is a crucial aspect of Pinewood Derby car designs, it's essential to involve the scouts in the process and encourage their creativity. Working with children to understand the principles of speed and how different designs can impact performance is an educational and rewarding experience. It's a process that allows for continuous improvement and learning, as each year presents an opportunity to perfect the derby car designs.

Pinewood Derby Race Day

The culmination of all the preparation and hard work is the highly anticipated Pinewood Derby Race Day. It's a community-building event that brings together scouts and parents for an exciting evening of races and celebrations. The event provides an opportunity for scouts to showcase their creativity and craftsmanship, and the results are displayed for everyone to see. It's a memorable and rewarding experience for all involved.

In conclusion, the Pinewood Derby is not just a race; it's an educational, empowering, and community-building experience for Cub Scouts and their families. It provides a platform for learning, creativity, and friendly competition, making it a cherished tradition within the Boy Scouts of America.

Tips For Fast Pinewood Derby Car Designs (2024)


Tips For Fast Pinewood Derby Car Designs? ›

For a fast car, you want the add more weight to the rear. The arrow car shape, for example, has a definite pointier front and slim body with cut-in sides that lead to a flared back end. You will want to ensure that the weight is slightly heavier near the rear wheel axle, so add weight to the flared back end.

How to make a really fast pinewood derby car? ›

For a fast car, you want the add more weight to the rear. The arrow car shape, for example, has a definite pointier front and slim body with cut-in sides that lead to a flared back end. You will want to ensure that the weight is slightly heavier near the rear wheel axle, so add weight to the flared back end.

What factors might affect the speed of a pinewood derby car? ›

The following parameters made pinewood derby cars faster: using graphite on the axles and wheels, using lightweight wheels and polished axles, lifting the left front wheel and bending rear axles also raised speed.

What is the fastest speed for a pinewood derby car? ›

The Speed of Pinewood Derby Cars

The distribution plot below shows a range of speeds from 177 mph to 229 mph, with most cars exceeding 200 mph.

How to make a soap box car go faster? ›

kingpins to try to make their cars go faster. I like to have the rear axle kingpin as tight as possible (avoiding “squashing” the washers into the floorboard, or worse, stripping the Page 3 threads on the nut or bolt). I also like to have the front axle kingpin looser.

Should I glue pinewood derby axles? ›

Slide the axles and wheels onto the car and glue into place. Use an epoxy or nonresin glue, and make sure you don't get any on the surface of the axle where the wheel rides.

Where is the best place to put weights on a pinewood derby car? ›


Science says the heaviest part of your car should be about 1 inch in front of the rear axle. The idea is that the farther back the weight is, the more potential energy you have because your center of mass is higher up on the track.

Why should I bake my Pinewood Derby car? ›

Bake the wooden block, usually at 250 degrees for two hours. This removes moisture, which allows you to apply weights when the block is finished. A heavier car is a faster car, but you can't go over that 5-ounce mark.

Should I sand the wheels on a Pinewood Derby car? ›

Don't forget your safety goggles! Starting with about 300 grit sandpaper sand the wheels. Work up to as fine of grit as you can find. Only sand enough to remove imperfections and make the wheel round as possible.

Should you prime a Pinewood Derby car? ›

Try to make the wood as smooth as possible for best results. Do not pre-coat with primer or wood sealer.

What is the best shape for a fast Pinewood Derby car? ›

No need to get crazy here, but simply having a wedge-shaped Pinewood Derby car instead of the standard block out of the box will equal a 1.4-car advantage at the finish line.

What is the best design for a fast Pinewood Derby car? ›

The fastest and best performing pinewood derby car designs often have the weights affixed around the rear wheel axle. By placing the weight at the rear of the car, it can better push the car forward, gaining momentum and using it to move the car across the flat section towards the finish line.

What is the best design for a Pinewood Derby car? ›

The wedge is a classic and probably the easiest shape (besides keeping a block) to build your Pinewood Derby car. The Wedge is the foundation of many cool car designs, and it is designed to be aerodynamic and is a one-cut wonder.

How to make a gravity car fast? ›

The best solution to minimize friction between the axles and the vehicle frame is to use ball bearings. However, if you are unable to obtain ball bearings, graphite powder, oil, or other lubricants can be used to reduce the friction between the axle and vehicle frame.

How to win a soap box derby? ›

Teach the driver to minimize friction, efficiently steer and to use the shape of the course. Practice seeing how far you can roll. Optional Weights. The basic car kit and wheels will get you racing but to be competitive you'll want the additional mass to create the momentum to win.

What makes a good soapbox? ›

You need strong wheels and strong axles, because it isn't a smooth ride – there are bumps and jumps; you often see soapboxes take off, and everything looks fast and under control, but when they land, the wheels are broken and splayed and then it's game over.

How to make the most aerodynamic Pinewood Derby car? ›

But aerodynamics rule the day, and the best shape is a simple wedge. Just like a spoiler on the rear of a sports car, the wedge shape allows as much air to flow over the top of the car without hinderance while keeping the car pinned to the track.

Why is my Pinewood Derby car slow? ›

Your pine wood derby car moves from the force of gravity and is slowed down from friction. Friction acts like brakes. Reduce friction and your car goes faster. Increase friction and your car slows down.

What is the best tool to cut a Pinewood Derby car? ›

Band saws are the best tool for cutting a Pinewood Derby car block. If you don't have access to a band saw, a coping saw will do. Coping saws are economical and can cut unusual shapes and curves.

What is the best weight for a Pinewood Derby car? ›

Adding weight is easier than taking weight off of the car! Therefore, many builders target a car weight that is slightly less than 5 ounces. These builders have a margin for error and add a little bit of weight if necessary at the weigh-‐in using a "weight port" (hole drilled) on the bottom of the car.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Ray Christiansen

Last Updated:

Views: 5723

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (49 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Ray Christiansen

Birthday: 1998-05-04

Address: Apt. 814 34339 Sauer Islands, Hirtheville, GA 02446-8771

Phone: +337636892828

Job: Lead Hospitality Designer

Hobby: Urban exploration, Tai chi, Lockpicking, Fashion, Gunsmithing, Pottery, Geocaching

Introduction: My name is Ray Christiansen, I am a fair, good, cute, gentle, vast, glamorous, excited person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.