Pinewood Derby
The pinewood derby is one of the most popular and successful family activities in Cub Scouting. Pinewood derby cars are small wooden models that Cub Scouts make with help from their families. Then they race the cars in competition. The cars are powered by gravity and run down a track. Every boy can design and build his own "grand prix" car to enter in the race.

Test Night 
From 6:30 to 8:00 on the Friday before the Derby is Test Night.  On this night the track is available for anyone who would like to test their Derby Car. This is also a great opportunity to weigh your car on the scale that will be used during inspection on race day.

Race Day 
The Derby will be held at the North Church Parish House on Spinney Road.  Check-in starts at 1:00pm and ends promptly at 1:30 - DON'T BE LATE.  We use a computerized system to manage the race and we're not able to add racers once the check-in period ends.  If you show up after check-in you will not be able to compete.  Snacks, lunch foods, and drinks will be available as a fundraiser.  This is a family event so bring the grandparents, uncles, cousins, and anyone else who might enjoy the race.

Derby Details

The Derby officially begins at 1:00pm with check-in. Derby cars are carefully inspected for weight, shape and other details - see the Inspection and Impoundment sections below.  It's a good idea to show up early to give yourself time to make last minute adjustments.  The fastest car from each scout rank will go on to compete in the District Pinewood Derby a few weeks later.

Please remember that the purpose of the Pinewood Derby is to have each Scout enjoy the process of designing and making his own car with the help and assistance of his parent or guardian. Scouting encourages good sportsmanship.  Cars will be disqualified if the Scout or his parents display unsportsmanlike conduct on the race site.

Derby Kits

All entries in the derby must be built with the official BSA Pinewood Derby Kit which includes the body, 4 axles, and 4 wheels.  The Pack will provide all active Scouts with a kit.  Kits for parents and siblings can be purchased at the Kittery Trading Post, the Scout Shop in Manchester or online.  Cars built by non-Scouts or parents can be used on the track on test night but will not be allowed to race on race day.

Awards & Recognition

Every participating scout will receive a Pinewood Derby patch.  Trophies will be awarded to the first, second and third place finishers.  Several additional ribbons will be awarded for various "appearance categories (e.g. most aerodynamic, most patriotic, etc.).

In addition, there are awards in the following categories:

  • Most Aerodynamic
  • Most Creative
  • Best Details
  • Best Paint Job
  • Most Animal Like
  • Most Patriotic
  • Judges Choice: 1, 2 and 3 

Pack 164 follows the rules published by the Historic District and are described below.  The official rules document can be downloaded from link at the bottom of this page.  Please be sure to read through them BEFORE you start building!

Cars will be inspected a race day check-in for compliance with the Car Specifications set forth below. Each car must pass inspection by the official inspection committee before it may compete. If, at check-in, a car does not pass inspection, the owner will be informed of the reason for failure and will be given time within the official weigh-in time period to make adjustments. Cars that fail to meet specifications will not be permitted to race. After final approval, cars will not be re-inspected unless a car is damaged in handling or in a race. Cars with wet paint or wet glue will not be accepted.

All cars that pass inspection will be impounded at check-in. Cars will not be returned until the end of the race. After being impounded, repairs will be limited to only replacing axles/wheels that are broken or lost during the race. Only race day judges will be allowed inside the racing circle. All spectators must remain outside the racing circle. Once impounded, all cars will be handled by racing officials only. All cars will be on display inside the barrier until released by racing officials. 

Additional Details
All cars must have been made during the current year in which the Pinewood Derby is held.  Each scout may enter only one car in the competition. 

Car Specifications

The body in the official BSA Pinewood Derby Kit must be used. Bodies of other materials will be disqualified. The body may be shaped, hollowed out, or built up from the original block as long as it meets all other specifications. Any additions to the original body (drivers, decals, paint, weights, etc.) must be firmly attached. No precut or pre-made body kits will be allowed to compete in racing or the judging.

The car width at the wheels may not be modified. It must be the same as the original kit (2 3/4"). Overall length may not exceed 7 inches. Overall height may not exceed 2 3/8". Bottom clearance between the car and track must be a minimum of 3/8”. The width between the wheels must be 1 3⁄4”.

Only official Cub Scout Pinewood Derby wheels and axles may be used. No washers, bushings, bearings, rubber tubing, springs, or starting devices are allowed. All four wheels must touch the ground at the same time.  The surface of the wheel that touches the track must not be tapered, grooved, rounded, or ridged. Smoothing of the existing wheel is permitted. The original axle grooves on the car may not be altered or moved except to re-square the grooves. You may use the official Pinewood Derby axle guards if they meet specifications above.

The weight of the race-ready car must not exceed 5.0 ounces. Weight will be measured using the official scales when the car is registered.
 Use of lead weight is not encouraged but if used should be completely covered.  Movable weights are not allowed. All weights must be glued so they do not move. 

Dry lubricant is the only approved lubricant! No lubricants may be applied once the cars are registered and impounded.

Car Numbers
Cars will be assigned numbers at the time of registration using a non-permanent sticker placed on the top of the car. Assigned numbers must be clearly visible (they cannot be on the bottom only). Other numbers may appear on the car, but the assigned number must be visible.

Cars must freewheel with no stored energy, springs, or movable weights. There is no designated front or back to the supplied body: either end may be the front. However the nose of the front must allow the car to be placed in the starting area of the inclined track. No part of the car may extend beyond the nose of the car that rests against the starting mechanism. All cars must have the Scouts name and Pack number on the car (the bottom is okay).

NOTE: The Race Starter will place the car on the track according to axle location.  The back axel is nearest to the end of the car.  The front axel is furthest away from the end of the car.  This determines the direction the car will race unless the contestant clearly marks "Front" on the car.

Car Design Tips 

Heavier is Faster
Pinewood derby cars are gravity driven. Make your car as close to the 5 ounce weight limit as possible. When the car reaches the flat end part of the track, its extra weight means more momentum to continue moving fast.

Axle Alignment
Absolutely straight, perpendicular axles mean a straight-running car with no drift. Every time your car drifts to the side and touches the lane boundaries, it slows down. Use the groove closes to the end of the block of wood as the rear axle.  Do not put the axles in at the top of the groove - put them in at the middle. This lifts the car off the track a bit more and reduces the chance of rubbing on the center strip. Glue the axles in place.  Nothing is worse than having the shell fall off as you cross the finish line.

Historic District rules do not allow for the axle location to be changed so don't change their preset positions.

Dry graphite where the wheels and axles meet reduces friction and results in longer, faster runs.  Remember, dry lubricant such as graphite is the only approved lubricant.

Weight in Back
By moving weight towards the rear of the car, it moves further up the track at the starting point. That means it falls further and propels the car longer. But if there's too much weight in the back, the front of the car will wobble so finding the best location takes trials.

Polished Axles
The standard axles have imperfections that will increase friction with the wheels. Grinding the ridges off and polishing the axles reduces friction.

Smooth Wheels
The standard wheels have ridges and bumps. Sand and smooth them to reduce friction.  Break in the wheels by spinning them with lots of graphite.

Race Day Preparation
Transport your car in a shoebox or similar.  Dropped cars are unfortunately a much too often occurrence.  Have extra axles and wheels on hand if you have them. Have a derby tool kit handy.  It should include superglue, sandpaper, extra screws for your weights, extra weights and a small screwdriver. You may not use it, but it will make you the most popular person at the event.


While everyone will be trying to win, it's always a good idea to start out by remembering the Cub Scout Motto, "Do Your Best," and some of the basic ideas behind good sportsmanship.  Two things the Pinewood Derby requires each participant to learn are 1) the craft skills necessary to build a car, and 2) the rules that must be followed. Even more important, though, is how we act and behave while participating in the Pinewood Derby or any other group activity. This is called sportsmanship.  

The first thing to remember about sportsmanship is that everyone's skills are  a little different. You may be good at something like singing or drawing, but not as good at something else like basketball or computers. Parents have different skill levels, too. This doesn't mean that you are a good person one time and not good another time. You can always be a good person, whether or not you have good car-building skills. Remember, you and your friends are individuals first and racers second. This is often called having respect for others. 
The second thing to remember is to follow the rules. Without rules, there would be  no Pinewood Derby. You will never know if you are really good at doing something unless you follow the rules. This is often called being honest. 
The third thing to remember about good sportsmanship is that there are winners and losers in every competition. You accept this when you choose to compete. There may be times when you win and feel happy, and times when you lose and feel unhappy. Being a winner is easy, and losing is sometimes hard. If you win, you must not brag or gloat. If you lose, you must not feel jealous or bitter. 
To be a good sportsman, you must be able to say "I did my best" and be satisfied with the results. You must also be able to appreciate and feel happy for someone else when they run a good race or build a neat car.

Pack 164 DWC,
Jan 14, 2016, 5:22 AM
Pack 164 DWC,
Sep 16, 2013, 9:48 PM